Of Publishers: With an African Fable

Not the Life of Sir Roger Bloxam



I am but a green fellow, Mr. Putnam, Scribner, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin, Mr. Podder and Spouton, Mr. Lousebrain? I am no novelist, I, Mr. Poop the Publisher? I do not know how to tell a story, ye dewlapped sow-bellied munchers of milk-toast, ye gross-butted itchy-palmed exploiters of Arnold Bennett and Marie Corelli and Elinor Glyn and Mrs. Humphrey Ward and Victoria Cross and Hall Caine? Why do not I take advice? I am young yet; I might learn, perchance? Learn your trade, ye snuffling, toads, ye gorbellied live stenches that poison the wells of the King’s English before the Hanoverian turnips with their German brute gutterals and grunts. Oh! nothing right in England since we lost Plantagenet and Tudor. Take advice? Hear the tale of the Love of the Hippopotamus und the Tsetse fly. You see the difficulty. So did they. Thus they took counsel of the Puff-adder. Paint me the river-horse, tears streaming from his eyes, his fat soul melting in him from hoggish love, like a middle-class Englishman, a tradesman of the Petty Cury! Ha! quoth the wise Puff-adder, cocksbody, here’s a knavish coil. Zounds; little sister Tsetse, dear, deadly little sister, eternal flit and fatal sting, more sinister than all thy kind because so silent, surely thou art True Woman. (True Womanhood, the Glory of the Nation. Insert in American edition.) But his thy raw Romeo, thy lard-Lothario, thy Georgie-Porgie, hath no scent of aught but grossness. Purge him with Krafft-Ebing, for diaphoretic let him swill Schrenk-Notzing, a barrel a does, flush well his kidneys with the works of Havelock Ellis. Then crown the labour with a gift of price — Venus in Furs of Sacher-Masoch. So then, gramercy, an thou sting him, sister, it shall be Luv. Most willing, most assiduous, the hippopotamus applied his pinbrain to the work. Last of all, rapture filled his eyes — now sting, cried he, that I may enjoy Luv!

Alas! Alack! Woe! Misery! Wretched Me! Ai! Ai! Mierda! Ay di mi! Hilas! Govno! Sister Tsetse, that had stung horse, ass, mule, Englishman, and many another beast, could not get through the hide of her belovid. For know, the Hippopotamus comes of chapel folk, and hath been ‘prenticed to the Northcliffes, the St. Doe Stracheys, and the Austin Harrisons, from whom that shell which pierceth three feet of Harveyized nickel steel battleship armour should rebound all merrily, methinks.

Then went this loutish lover, mewling and puling more hideously than before, until he seemed like an American clergyman, so sweating and so maudlin was he, back to the wise Puff-adder. O call up on Sir Crocodile, the good chiruggeon, says Puff-adder briskly, when the state of the case is made known; he shall perform epidermotomy, neurocalypsis; thou shalt have a tender part whereon thy love may sting thee.

But Sir Congo Crocodile F.R.C.S., M.C., was modern, the last word in surgeons, phallectomy his specialty; Monsieur Coupetout was his father in anatomy; he had deceived pedants when he studied at Bart’s, for they confused his operations with the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew — ho! one, two, three, nurse! give me the sponge; four, five, damn it, there’s the jugular vein gone; six, tie that artery, you fool; seven, eight, calm, my friends, I’ve but perforated one lung; nine, bang goes the aorta, stitch him up, somebody; ten, he’s dead, blast him, bring me another.

So Sir Crocodile made Mr. Hippopotamus as holy as Origen, as lorn as Abelard, alas! he made him not so lyrical as Atys. For he squeaked out, the British pig, the greedy, grocery, cottonseed-oily, dissenting-parsonious, Tennyson-reading, blubberly, Wiltshire, Dossetshire, chaw-bacon, covenanting, cow­mooing, creature, none of God’s! —

Ah! (he pronounced it like the Arabic Gha’in) I shall write to the Times about it. Speaking as a masochist, I am irrevocably wedded to good Sir Crocodile; speaking as an ex-hippopotamus, war is hell! And sister Tsetse laid a loving kiss on Brother Puff-adder’s nose, and away! Who said I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier?

Now — conceive if I in like case would take advice! Nay, I am sister Tsetse; but though I sting the world, I give the Sleeping sickness only to horse, ass, mule, or Englishman, oh cattle! cattle! cattle! Now I’ll not stop to print the many words of my story, the story of my tale, how ‘tis against the vice of pandering, against the folly of love out of one’s sphere, and the rest; I’ll flit on, to the tune of Tipperary, beauties o’ mine, God bless you, dart on with the newest, the sweetest, the deeviest, most charming, most exciting, cocaineish, cantharidian, Peggy O’Neilish installment of — Not the Life and Opinions (or was it Adventures?) of Sir Roger Bloxam.

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