assessment objectives, Blue Badge Guide, Camelot, Clueless, Colin Firth, Dr Johnson, Elinor Dashwood, feretory, Harriet Smith, Jane Austen, Keats, Lady Bertram, Mary Tudor, Occam's razor, Ockham's Razor, Ode to Autumn, ossuaries, Philip of Spain, St Cross, Winchester Cathedral, Wykeham Arms
The third and possibly penultimate excerpt from Jane Austen’s musings from beneath the floor of Winchester Cathedral.
Today an insolent hussy stood on my stone and shrieked to her companion:
Wow! Get a load of this! We are standing on that woman whose book we had to read for GCSE. Except that our teacher just let us watch the DVD. We had to compare it with “Clueless”, to show evidence of certain assessment objectives, but I got mixed up and was marked down. It was the teacher’s fault. She shouldn’t have confused me. My mum appealed, though, and I re-wrote that bit where Mr Thingy exits the lake in a wet t-shirt. Mum said it was really cool. Later she came here to give thanks for my success and slipped in a couple of prayer requests to The God of Camelot and a personal one that she might meet Colin Firth, with or without his wet clothing.
All of this was expressed in spite of a metal contraption which was attached to her teeth, so that I was as showered with saliva drops and my stone wetted, as if the Bishop had sprayed me with the rosemary twigs he uses at baptisms. It isn’t always the best spot here, near the font.
But, at least we haven’t sunk to those adult total immersions yet.
Then the young woman proceeded to light a candle for me, muttering about there being no vanilla or blueberry-scented ones available.
Before I could utter the immortal phrase: It is a truth universally.. she was off, determined to see the feretory, as she loved those furry little creatures- or were they meerkats? Simples is not the word.
Sometimes I raise my eyes to the metal hooks on the vasty pillars whose original function was to display the nuptial banners of Mary Tudor and Philip of Spain. Since I cannot suspend myself thereby, I resort to turning over in my grave. Someone should remind these youngsters of the motto of their local college: Manners Makyth Man. (And that is a generic, inclusive term.)
I try not to mind when tourists seem more interested in where Keats precisely commenced his walk to St Cross, before composing Ode to Autumn.
I could easily interrupt the Blue Badge Guide and inform them that he first procured nuncheon and a pint of porter at The Wykeham Arms. However, like my creation, Elinor Dashwood, I feel like commenting on his Romantic versification:
It is not everyone who shares your passion for dead leaves!
But, maybe this is somewhat scathing, even for me.
I still feel that a sermon well delivered is as rare as hens’ teeth. The Evangelical varieties seem livelier, though hardly calculated to earn their exponents a succession to a stall in Westminster.
Some of the homilies could do with a firm shave by the venerable Occam’s razor, since they can be as mangled as the regal bones in the choir ossuaries and as dusty as the said receptacles themselves. They might do well to remember the less intellectually endowed Harriet Smiths of this world, who do not always decipher obscure riddles and charades. As Fielding said, however:
Clergy are men as well as other folks.
Personally, I have been able to touch and affect a heterogeneous audience and consequently often have more than half a mind to rise and preach myself, though I heed Dr Johnson’s astute aphorisms regarding the fairer sex and sermonising:
A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well: but you are surprised to find it done at all.
I know that I can be eloquent on points in which my own conduct would have borne ill examination. However, greater opportunity for inward reflection has led me to direct more of my sense of irony towards my own failings. As the good doctor also said:
As I know more of mankind, I expect less and less of them and am ready now to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly.
However, I who have gently mocked the aspirations of others have been glad to be sheltered in the bosom of this place, as comfortably as Lady Bertram’s pug upon her chaise, but- prenez soin! I am sometimes yet inclined to bare my needle sharp teeth and to sink them into some unsuspecting ankles- metaphorically, of course!