Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: William Shatner

There is in America a Mr Shatner, a renowned Thespian of some ninety summers. More than a half century before, this Veteran of the Playhouse had delivered, to resounding and universal admiration, the role of a Captain Kirk, who patrolled the Heavens in a vessel ingeniously adapted for the undertaking of hazardous voyages toward distant Planets and mighty Constellations. In this fictive Enterprise, the Captain was assisted by a crew of resourceful Lieutenants, their task to avert the numerous catastrophes that scheming Aliens, the scaly denizens of inhospitable Planets, perpetually sought to wreak upon the general Order of the Universe. Having repeatedly vanquish’t these Reptilian predators in the course of innumerable adventures, Mr Shatner withdrew gracefully from the Stage, to a tumultuous cadence of applause from both Pit and Gallery. At length, the gentle twilight of this affable Personator’s years was enlivened by a communication from a Mr Musk, a powerful merchant who had built a conveyance aptly equipped for the exploration of the Caerulean Zone. He offered that Mr Shatner should with no delay ride skyward in the Celestial Contraption, an invitation to which the ever-intrepid Player most readily assented. The hour of elevation was duly set for Mr Shatner to be ceremoniously installed at the Helm of the Rocket. Mr Musk’s Scientific attendants having ignited its massy Engines, the Ancient Thespian would in an instant be propelled with vertiginous speed into the Heavens, there gleefully to marvel at the sudden proximity of the Planets, Stars and Meteors he had in his youth so skilfully delineated within the Terrestrial limitations of the Stage.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Police Corruption

Civil Order was maintained in those days by a general assembly of Constables, most of them distinguished by their Valour, and readiness to give even their lives in the cause of general Security. However, just as the Costermonger’s Barrow, glistering with wholesome Hesperidin bounty, might be poisoned by a single blemish’t Globe that lay conceal’d within, so also was the Constabulary contaminated by hidden and scheming Malefactors. These would place a desirable object, be it either a luxurious Pocket-Watch or a negligible Turnip, by stealth within their innocent quarry’s Hovel. Then, in the presence of marveling Witnesses, they would Theatrically discover it, feigning glib astonishment, with such dark Rhetorickal utterances as “What have we here?” or “Thou shalt likely endure no fewer than Ten Years Servitude for this.” Having convey’d their bewildered prisoner to the Gaol, such spurious confessions as they could not obtain by civil Interrogation, they would wrest from him by means of brutish Coercion. At length, the unfortunate ruffian would emerge from the Dungeon, wearing the crimson Stripes and sooty Contusions of undeserved chastisement. If challenged upon this by the concern’d Chaplain or indignant Advocate, the Constables would lightly say, “He hath fallen upon the stairs.” or “He hath by unhappy accident collided with a Door.” Further, such Inveterate Reprobates as had riches within their grasp, were cordially invited to dispense portions to the Constables, in exchange for continuing indemnity from Arrest. This shameful bounty the Constables would solicit not through outright entreaty, but rather through subtle observations, such as “I would winter upon the shores of Spain…” or “The Ruinous cost of Meat is redoubling apace!”

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on the ethnic minorities in Johnson’s Cabinet

As though he were a Mogul or Ottoman potentate, the Prime Minister kept a menagerie of Jamodars, Moorish and Oriental officials he had elevated to high degree. To him that cried: “Fie! Thou lovest not the poor Baboo or Negroe!”, Mr Johnson would say, “Behold my splendid Jamodars, and eat thy words!” The most ornamental of these was Kwarteng, a strapping Moor, that had been tamed by Provost Anderson at Eton College, and spake Latin and Greek. Next came Zahawi of Baghdad, that knew Chymick and was formerly kept in Lord Archer’s retinue. The Mob marveled at Sunak, an Oriental Croesus who, though wreathed in smiles, and possessing coffers o’erflowing with the treasures of Ind, pluck’t pence from the poor man’s purse at his Master’s bidding. Next came Javid, feared by the sick and halt, for he would force them to pay for Physick, formerly gratis, and have them throw themselves on the mercy of their kinsmen. Most feared of all was Patel, a Kali to her devoted, for like that terrifick Hindoo Deity, she fashion’d pretty necklaces from the Skulls of her adversaries. This menagerie of Jamodars formed a bastion for the cunning Prime Minister, for he knew that in a final reckoning, if the Mob were to storm Durbar Court in Whitehall, it would likely practise retribution upon his Dusky Jamodars, not upon him. Such as were not cut down by Saxon yeoman with stones and staves would face a faction of their own kind, beturbaned Dervishes and Thuggees, armed with scimitars and garrottes, learnèd in the infliction of a thousand-and-one agonising methods of despatch. Meanwhile the Principal Miscreant might slip away disguis’d, to cower in the precincts of White’s club, while fire and destruction reigned in the thoroughfares without.   

If Enid Blyton had written The Magnificent Seven… an excerpt.

Rebecca Hutson, a British TV presenter, mistakenly said that Blyton had written The Magnificent Seven. What if she had? An excerpt:

When Chris, Chico and the other chums arrived at the village, they helped the villagers put up special walls and fences to protect them against the bandits. The villagers were only simple Mexican folk, but goodness me how hard they worked and how quick they were to learn.
Chico thought it funny that all the ladies wanted to stay indoors. He laughed when he found out they were afraid Chico and his chums might dirty their dresses and make their hair untidy. The Mexican children were cheerful, barefooted little scallywags, and had the most dreadful table manners. Even so, Chico and the chums shared their food with them. It was good to see them squat in the dusty street and tuck into the delicious lashings of beans that had been roasted on the campfire. One of the ladies, called Petra, liked Chico very much and showed him her castanets.

Katharine MacGregor “Pipehitter” Email

I don’t suppose it’s of much interest, but following the recent Mike Pompeo “Pipehitter” story I looked the word up on archive.org, idly hoping to find some early usages. Only one result – and that was a single appearance of the word in a collection of emails relating to Katherine MacGregor. See above, and the link below. Seems to be all related to the Department of the Interior. God knows how it ended up on archive.org!