27 April 2021

Essay Questions and Austro-Hungarian Bankers

C S Lewis describes Mark Studdock as "a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge" who "always does well in Essays and General Papers". 

As I have observed before, there must have been times when Lewis was a less than comfortable college tutor.

I will dangerously generalise: in writing 'general' essays, women are often businesslike, hate to waste time, and are incisive without being flashy. They get to the point. Substance means more to them than stylish woffle. We chaps, on the other hand, are adept at concealing our chronic idleness behind a facade of mannered, or even dilettante, glibness. Readers may feel that this is a temptation from which I have not yet entirely, er, struggled free.

Back in those sun-lit days of Harold Macmillan and General Papers, the Spoof Quotation figured large. It was followed by the peremptory instruction Discuss. You could tell that the quotations were mostly Spoof, because no amount of detergent can entirely wash away an aroma of donnishness. 

But I have recently spotted, in a Times obituary, a genuine quotation ... I'm sure of it ... which could give candidates, all sorts of them, scope galore to spread themselves in innumerable different ways. And how revealing their answers might be! Perhaps every girl to whom Marriage has been proposed should require of her suitor(s) a response to this question (write only on one side of the paper and use only alternate lines).

The subject of the obituary was a wealthy bachelor, of Jewish, Austro-Hungarian, background but whose forebears on becoming Catholics had sacrificed the euphonious name of 'Guttmann' for the bathos of 'de Gelsey'. He was extremely generous to the Brompton Oratory (indeed, one of the most deserving causes in all the Three Kingdoms). Like me, he enriched his own life with Caviare and White Lady cocktails. He led an agreeable social life ... surrounded, often, so reports have it, by glamorous women. He evidently enjoyed their company, and they his. 

Somebody once enquired of him (a disgustingly impertinent question but that's Third Millennium degeneracy for you) why he had never got married. Here is his (unspoof) reply:

"Why buy a book when you can go to the library?"

Orate pro anima Gulielmi de Gelsey, 1921-2021, qui obiit die 28 Februarii. C A P D.


frjustin said...

De Gelsey has a counterpart in the American actor Paul Newman. In an interview in July 1968, Newman was asked about his 10-year marriage to the American actress Joanne Woodward and the temptation of other actresses. Newman said: “There’s no reason to roam. I have steak at home. Why should I go out for hamburger?”

Banshee said...

The classical American formula is "Nobody'd buy a cow if he could get milk for free."

Nancy said...

Or, "why pay for the milk if you can have the cream." My father used to say that, quietly, of men of whom he disapproved. In fact he never said it in our hearing, it was only later that my mother repeated it, with the shushed explanation, "You know your father was never a vulgar man, but he did say that."

By the way I like the idea of a girl submitting the question to her fiancé, and giving him very little space to reply. Nice!.

IanW said...

The Telegraph obituary recounts that his father offered him three pieces of advice, the first of which might or might not have a bearing: "never propose marriage to an English girl unless you mean it; beware English dentists; and in any awkward situation, change the subject to sport".