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An essay by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

Of Seasonable Numbers

Title:     Of Seasonable Numbers
Author: Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch [More Titles by Quiller-Couch]

A Baconian Essay

Dec. 26, 1891.

That was a Wittie Invective made by _Montaigny_ upon the _Antipodean_, Who said they must be Thieves that pulled on their breeches when Honest Folk were scarce abed. So is it Obnoxious to them that purvey _Christmas Numbers_, _Annuals_, and the like, that they commonly write under _Sirius_ his star as it were _Capricornus_, feigning to Scate and Carol and blow warm upon their Fingers, while yet they might be culling of Strawberries. And all to this end, that Editors may take the cake. I know One, the Father of a long Family, that will sit a whole June night without queeching in a Vessell of Refrigerated Water till he be Ingaged with hard Ice, that the _Publick_ may be docked no pennyweight of the Sentiments incident to the _Nativity_. For we be like Grapes, and goe to Press in August. But methinks these rigours do postulate a _Robur Corporis_ more than ordinary (whereas 'tis but one in ten if a Novelist overtop in Physique); and besides will often fail of the effect. As I _myself_ have asked--the Pseudonym being but gauze--

"O! Who can hold a fire in his hand
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?"

Yet sometimes, because some things are in kind very Casuall, which if they escape prove Excellent (as the man who by Inadvertence inherited the throne of the _Grand Turk_ with all appertayning) so that the kind is inferiour, being subject to Perill, but that which is Excellent being proved superiour, as the Blossom of March and the Blossom of May, whereof the French verse goeth:--

"Bourgeon de Mars, enfant de Paris;
Si un eschape, il en vaut dix."

--so, as I was saying (till the Mischief infected my Protasis), albeit the gross of writings will moulder between _St. John's_ feast and _St. Stephen's_, yet, if one survive, 'tis odds he will prove Money in your Pocket. Therefore I counsel that you preoccupate and tie him, by Easter at the latest, to _Forty thousand words_, naming a Figure in excess: for Operation shrinketh all things, as was observed by Galenus, who said to his Friend, "I will cut off your Leg, and then you will be lesse by a Foot." Also you will do well to provide a _Pictura_ in Chromo-Lithography. For the Glaziers like it, and no harm done if they blush not: which is easily avoided by making it out of a little Child and a Puppy-dog, or else a Mother, or some such trivial Accompaniment. But Phryne marrs all. It was even rashly done of that Editor who issued a Coloured Plate, calling it "_Phryne Behind the Areopagus_": for though nothing was Seen, the pillars and Grecian elders intervening, yet 'twas Felt a great pity. And the Fellow ran for it, saying flimsily:--

"Populus me sibilat. At mihi plaudo."

Whereas I rather praise the dictum of that other writer, who said, "In this house I had sooner be turned over on the Drawing-room Table than roll under that in the Dining-room," meaning to reflect on the wine, but the Hostess took it for a compliment.

But to speak of the Letter Press. For the Sea you will use Clark Russell; for the East, Rudyard Kipling; for _Blood_, Haggard; for neat pastorall Subjects, Thomas Hardy, so he be within Bounds. I mislike his "Noble Dames." Barrie has a prettier witt; but Besant will keep in all weathers, and serve as right _Pemmican_. As for conundrums and poetry, they are but Toys: I have seen as good in crackers; which we pull, not as meaning to read or guess, but read and guess to cover the Shame of our Employment. Yet for Conundrums, if you hold the Answers till your next issue they Raise the Wind among Fools.

He that hath _Wife and Children_ hath given Hostages to _Little Folks_: he will hardly redeem but by sacrifice of a Christmas Tree. The learned Poggius, that had twelve Sons and Daughters, used to note ruefully that he might never escape but by purchase of a _dozen Annuals_, citing this to prove how greatly Tastes will diverge among the Extreamely Young, even though they come of the same geniture. So will Printed Matter multiply faster than our Parents. Yet 'tis discutable that this phrensy of _Annuals_ groweth staler by Recurrence. As that Helvetian lamented, whose Cuckoo-clock failed of a ready Purchaser, and he had to live with it. "_What Again?_" said he, and "_Surely Spring is not come yet, dash it?_" Also I cannot stomach that our Authors portend a Severity of Weather unseasonable in these Muggy Latitudes. I will eat my Hat if for these twenty Christmasses I have made six Slides worthy the Mention. Yet I know an Author that had his _Hero and Heroine_ consent together very prettily; but 'twas in a _Thaw_, and the Editor being stout, the match was broken off unblessedly, till a Pact was made that it should indeed be a Thaw, but sufficient only to let the Heroine drop through the Ice and be Rescewed.

Without _Ghosts_, we twiddle thumbs....

[The end]
Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch's essay: Of Seasonable Numbers