AFTER the 32nd chapter of TREASURE ISLAND, two of the puppets strolled out to have a pipe before business should begin again, and met in an open place not far from the story.“Good-morning, Cap’n,” said the first, with a man-o’-war salute, and a beaming countenance.
“Ah, Silver!” grunted the other. “You’re in a bad way, Silver.”
“Now, Cap’n Smollett,” remonstrated Silver, “dooty is dooty, as I knows, and none better; but we’re off dooty now; and I can’t see no call to keep up the morality business.”
“You’re a damned rogue, my man,” said the Captain.
“Come, come, Cap’n, be just,” returned the other. “There’s no call to be angry with me in earnest. I’m on’y a chara’ter in a sea story. I don’t really exist.”
“Well, I don’t really exist either,” says the Captain, “which seems to meet that.”
“I wouldn’t set no limits to what a virtuous chara’ter might consider argument,” responded Silver. “But I’m the villain of this tale, I am; and speaking as one sea-faring man to another, what I want to know is, what’s the odds?”
“Were you never taught your catechism?” said the Captain. “Don’t you know there’s such a thing as an Author?”
“Such a thing as a Author?” returned John, derisively. “And who better’n me? And the p’int is, if the Author made you, he made Long John, and he made Hands, and Pew, and George Merry - not that George is up to much, for he’s little more’n a name; and he made Flint, what there is of him; and he made this here mutiny, you keep such a work about; and he had Tom Redruth shot; and - well, if that’s a Author, give me Pew!”
“Don’t you believe in a future state?” said Smollett. “Do you think there’s nothing but the present story-paper?”
“I don’t rightly know for that,” said Silver; “and I don’t see what it’s got to do with it, anyway. What I know is this: if there is sich a thing as a Author, I’m his favourite chara’ter. He does me fathoms better’n he does you - fathoms, he does. And he likes doing me. He keeps me on deck mostly all the time, crutch and all; and he leaves you measling in the hold, where nobody can’t see you, nor wants to, and you may lay to that! If there is a Author, by thunder, but he’s on my side, and you may lay to it!”
“I see he’s giving you a long rope,” said the Captain. “But that can’t change a man’s convictions. I know the Author respects me; I feel it in my bones; when you and I had that talk at the blockhouse door, who do you think he was for, my man?”
“And don’t he respect me?” cried Silver. “Ah, you should ’a’ heard me putting down my mutiny, George Merry and Morgan and that lot, no longer ago’n last chapter; you’d heard something then! You’d ’a’ seen what the Author thinks o’ me! But come now, do you consider yourself a virtuous chara’ter clean through?”
“God forbid!” said Captain Smollett, solemnly. “I am a man that tries to do his duty, and makes a mess of it as often as not. I’m not a very popular man at home, Silver, I’m afraid!” and the Captain sighed.
“Ah,” says Silver. “Then how about this sequel of yours? Are you to be Cap’n Smollett just the same as ever, and not very popular at home, says you? And if so, why, it’s TREASURE ISLAND over again, by thunder; and I’ll be Long John, and Pew’ll be Pew, and we’ll have another mutiny, as like as not. Or are you to be somebody else? And if so, why, what the better are you? and what the worse am I?”
“Why, look here, my man,” returned the Captain, “I can’t understand how this story comes about at all, can I? I can’t see how you and I, who don’t exist, should get to speaking here, and smoke our pipes for all the world like reality? Very well, then, who am I to pipe up with my opinions? I know the Author’s on the side of good; he tells me so, it runs out of his pen as he writes. Well, that’s all I need to know; I’ll take my chance upon the rest.”
“It’s a fact he seemed to be against George Merry,” Silver admitted, musingly. “But George is little more’n a name at the best of it,” he added, brightening. “And to get into soundings for once. What is this good? I made a mutiny, and I been a gentleman o’ fortune; well, but by all stories, you ain’t no such saint. I’m a man that keeps company very easy; even by your own account, you ain’t, and to my certain knowledge you’re a devil to haze. Which is which? Which is good, and which bad? Ah, you tell me that! Here we are in stays, and you may lay to it!”
“We’re none of us perfect,” replied the Captain. “That’s a fact of religion, my man. All I can say is, I try to do my duty; and if you try to do yours, I can’t compliment you on your success.”
“And so you was the judge, was you?” said Silver, derisively.
“I would be both judge and hangman for you, my man, and never turn a hair,” returned the Captain. “But I get beyond that: it mayn’t be sound theology, but it’s common sense, that what is good is useful too - or there and thereabout, for I don’t set up to be a thinker. Now, where would a story go to if there were no virtuous characters?”
“If you go to that,” replied Silver, “where would a story begin, if there wasn’t no villains?”
“Well, that’s pretty much my thought,” said Captain Smollett. “The Author has to get a story; that’s what he wants; and to get a story, and to have a man like the doctor (say) given a proper chance, he has to put in men like you and Hands. But he’s on the right side; and you mind your eye ! You’re not through this story yet; there’s trouble coming for you.”
“What’ll you bet?” asked John.
“Much I care if there ain’t,” returned the Captain. “I’m glad enough to be Alexander Smollett, bad as he is; and I thank my stars upon my knees that I’m not Silver. But there’s the ink-bottle opening. To quarters!”
And indeed the Author was just then beginning to write the words:
Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Went to the NFT production of Treasure Island. A misbegotten abortion. They changed half the parts to females, on grounds of fairness, which meant that any kind of verisimilitude or background was utterly lost. It could have worked if they'd made it into something different but of a comparable value, but the changes were infantile - characterisation at a level where one supernumerary couldn't say a sentence without including the word pie, Billy Bunter on a pirate ship. Stevenson gets no respect; they wouldn't do that to Proust - and how many female parts has Hamlet? Two? The only changes that are called for in Treasure Island is to insert the relevant Fable;
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Stephen mentioned to me the other day that they'd just been on a cruise, complementary drinks: I knew I'd seen something on that - just found it.....
Alan Coren, The Lady From Stalingrad Mansions (a book of his Punch pieces)
'Boozers are being offered the bender of a lifetime: an alcoholiday in the sun. The special attraction is twelve hours' drinking a day, FREE! Tourists will pay £45 for the trip to the island of Majorca, and for their money they will get unlimited supplies of liquor at a three-star hotel. Tours manager Colin Woolf said: "Our 'clients will be able to drink until they fall down. "
Playa de Palma
38th July 1977
DEAR AUNTIE THING, Alice, tall woman, big yellow teeth,
Well, here we are at the, oops, there's a blotty, hallo Blotty!
Who's a pretty Blotty then? at the, you know, and we are all having a wonderful O God Almighty these bloody Spanish pens! THESE BLOODY SPANISH PENS! THESE STINKING BLOODY LONG-HAIRED GREASY SPANISH WOG CHEAP LOUSY ROTTEN
Expen the scusil. Thrown pen over balcony, whee goes pen, hope it sticks in Spanish head, ha-ha, serve them right throwing Norman out of EI Wizzo Niteclub just because Norman sick on bongo, no business having bongo where people can be sick on it anyhow, how they expect Norman do Knees Up Mother Thing with six bottles of vi no sloshing about in him?
Norman lucky didn't get run over, all mad drivers, also hate dogs, don't realise thing running out of EI Wizzo on all fours is man doing brilliant impression of airedale, Norman now got tyre marks all over his nice El Wizzo tablecloth.
And what police doing banging on hotel door in small hours, anyone think it crime to borrow tablecloth, no business grabbing Norman either, man got perfect right to be on top of own wardrobe, paid for room didn't he? Only reasonable Norman lash out with Genuine Old Master showing Majorca at sunset. Man was desperate. As I informed magistrate, 'We did not splash three quid on priceless antique work of art just to have rotten fascist pig stick greasy head through it. '
Norman back now, got lice. Also had to share cell overnight with violent criminal, quantity surveyor from Wimbledon staying at posh place in Palma on fourteen-day gin excursion, went mad when barman tried to close bar, bit barman's ear off. Disgusting putting my Norman in with him, Norman never ate anyone in his life.
Glad I brought up food. OhGod.
Here I am, Auntie, back again! Where was I, oh yes, glad I mentioned food, food quite good, really, except too much paella, trouble with paella is you get shrimps in hair when face falls in it after third bottle, steak days are best except when they overcook it and you bruise your cheek.
Went to see full bight last Monday where is my cigarette and sat in the sun with these gourds Norman bought where you have to squirt the wine into I KNOW I PUT MY BLOODY CIGARETTE DOWN SOMEWHERE where you have to squirt the wine into your mouth, only after the first couple of gourds Norman squirted it into ear of woman sitting' next to him, woman scream blue murders, Norman leap up, woman's husband leap up, sock Norman in his O JESUS AUNTIE PILLOW IS ON FIRE PILLOW IS BURNING, AUNTIE, AUNTIE, I MEAN NORMAN, NORMAN, PILLOW IS ON FIRE NORMAN.
O GOD AUNTIE NORMAN IS ASLEEP ON LOO WITH SOMBRERO ON MUST CLOSE NOW BACK LATER.
Back now, Auntie, it nearly dark, whole place smelling of foam. Not my fault, threw burning pillow off balcony, woman on balcony below leaning out drying hair in breeze, pillow land on head, hair flare up like chip-pan, woman shriek, people upstairs smell burning, call fire-brigade, fire-brigade come, no hydrant so attach pump to swimming pool supply, drain swimming-pool dry and find two English couples lying on bottom surrounded by bottles, police doctor say they dead two days. Funny thing, Norman wondered why conger line shorter than usual at El Wizzo last two nights.
Meanwhile man downstairs put wife's head out with fire-extinguisher, woman now not only burned bald but face all wrinkled up from chemicals and suntan fallen off, woman look like old golf ball. Husband ran upstairs, kicked in door, punched Norman in face, Norman fell off loo, now asleep in bath, so everything a bit calmer now.
Poor Norman, got black eye now to go with cauliflower ear received at bullfight after husband of woman with wine in ear sock Norman in his. Terrible blow, after that Norman see four bullfighters sticking four swords into four bulls every time he look.
Everybody know only two bulls and two bullfighters, clear as nose on thing. Two noses.
Anyway, Auntie, after bullfight met very nice English couple lying underneath charabanc, grocer from Birkenhead and lovely wife Arthur. All went out for dinner together, and Arthur danced in soup.
Arranged to meet on beach next day, and great fun burying Norman, falling down in sea, throwing ice cream at boring Swede families, etcetera, until it was time for lunch. Invited couple back to our hotel for five or six bottles. Only when halfway through second course and Arthur asleep on butter dish that Birkenhead grocer suddenly start counting.
'What is it?' I ask him.
'What is two and one? he reply. We think for a bit.
'Three,' I say finally.
'Thought so,' he comment. 'We never dug up Norman.' Rush back to beach, dragging Arthur by foot, Arthur's arms flailing about knocking things off tables as we cross dining-room, bloody lucky most diners asleep under tables, but one or two Germans, French, etcetera start kicking up fuss when chicken legs start falling in laps, screaming, shouting, terrible thing about foreigners, can't hold their drink.
O GOD AUNTIE I AM SOBERING UP. IF NORMAN COMES ROUND AND FINDS ME HE WILL GO SPARE, HOLIDAY COSTING HIM FORTUNE HE SAYS, MUST DRINK TWELVE BOTTLES A DAY JUST TO BREAK EVEN, WHERE TELEPHONE, WHERE ROOM SERVICE?
Hallo Mummie, Auntie, fat old cow, fancy giving us a wooden toast rack for a wedding present NO I DON'T BLEEDING FORGET EVEN IF IT IS TWELVE YEARS YOU FLY-BLOWN OLD RATBAG, feel a lot better now, nice bog bittle inside me, good idea having spiders walking all over the wallpaper, keep the flies off, especially green spiders, hallo green spiders wherever you are, I hope your troubles are few, all my good wishes go with you tonight, I was a spider, too, hee-hee-hee-hee-hee, O TOOTH ALMIGHTY I HAVE BROKEN A GOD ON THE BEDSIDE TABLE
Norman did not want me to wake him up Auntie he has hit me with the bidet HOW DID YOU GET THE BIDET OFF THE WALL AUNTIE, NORMAN, BELOVED, HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO why are my slippers floating past?
I have to close now Auntie, the manager has ordered a car to take us to the airport YES I AM REFERRING TO YOU YOU SWARTHY DAGO PIG I WOULDN'T STAY ANOTHER MINUTE IN YOUR BUG-RIDDEN RAT-HOLE FOR ALL THE TEA IN IN IN I DON'T KNOW WHERE SO STICK THAT UP YOUR CASTANET AND FLAP IT HAR HAR HAR
You know what it is, Auntie, don't you, you know what it is all right, you know what it is with these bloody people, they're just a load of filthy anti-British bigots, that's what it is!
Hoping this finds you as it as it as it thing,
Your loving niece,
Alan Coren, The Lady From Stalingrad Mansions (a book of his Punch pieces)
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