CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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September 27, 2017

Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan (permalink)

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From A Voyage of Consolation:


Brother Eusebius, when he found Demetrius in bed, also took it for granted that we had gone on ahead. He did not inquire, he said, because the virtue of taciturnity being denied to them in the exercise of their business, they always diligently cultivated it in private. My own conviction was that they were not on speaking terms.


"Perhaps I jump rather hastily to conclusions sometimes. It's a family trait. We get it through the Warwick-Howards on my mother's side."

"Then, of course, there can't be any objection to it."


A note of momma's occurs here to the effect that there is a great deal too much fine art in Italian hotels, with a reference to the fact that the one at Naples had the whole of Pompeii painted on the dining room walls. She considers this practice embarrassing to the public mind, which has no way of knowing whether to admire these things or not, though personally we boldly decided to scorn them all.


Dicky and I took it with the more moderate appreciation natural to our years, but it gave us the greatest pleasure to watch the simple and unrestrained delight of momma and poppa, and to revert, as it were, in their experience, to what our own enjoyment might have been had we been born when they were. "No express agents, no delivery carts, no baggage checks," murmured poppa, as our trunks glided up to the hotel steps, "but it gets there all the same." This was the keynote of his admiration--everything got there all the same. The surprise of it was repeated every time anything got there.


At this I opened my eyes inadvertently--nobody could help it--and saw the barometrical change in poppa's countenance. It went down twenty degrees with a run, and wore all the disgust of an hon. gentleman who has jumped to conclusions and found nothing to stand on.


I offered him sandwiches, but he seemed to prefer his moustache.


Leaving out the scenery--the Senator declares that nothing spoils a book of travels like scenery--the impressions of St. Moritz which remain with me have something of the quality, for me, of the illustrations in a French novel.


Mr. Malt declared himself so full of the picturesque already that he didn't know how he was going to hold another castle.


[Patron saints, jesters, and harmless oaths]:

In connection with Heidelberg I wish there were something authentic to say about Perkeo; but nobody would believe the quantity of wine he is supposed to have drunk in a day, which is the statement oftenest made about him, so it is of no consequence that I have forgotten the number of bottles. He isn't the patron saint of Heidelberg, because he only lived about a hundred and fifty years ago, and the first qualification for a patron saint is antiquity. As poppa says, there may be elderly gentlemen in Heidelberg now whose grandfathers have warned them against the personal habits of Perkeo from actual observation. Also we know that he was a court jester, and the pages of the Calendar, for some reason, are closed to persons in that walk of life. Judging by the evidences of his popularity that survive on all sides, Mr. Malt declared that he was probably worth more to the town in attracting residents and investors than half-a-dozen patron saints, and in this there may have been more truth than reverence. The Elector Charles Philip, whose court he jested for, certainly made no such mark upon his town and time as Perkeo did, and in that, perhaps, there is a moral for sovereigns, although the Senator advises me not to dwell upon it. At all events, one writes of Heidelberg but one thinks of Perkeo, as he swings from the sign-boards of the Haupt-Strasse, and stands on the lids of the beer mugs, and smiles from the extra-mural decoration of the wine shops, and lifts his glass, in eternally good wooden fellowship, beside the big Tun in the Castle cellar. There is a Hotel Perkeo, there must be Clubs Perkeo, probably a suburb and steamboats of the same name, and the local oath "Per Perkeo!" has a harmless sound, but nothing could be more binding in Heidelberg. Momma thought his example a very unfortunate one for a University town, but the rest of us were inclined to admire Perkeo as a self-made man and a success. As Dicky protested he had made the fullest use of the capacities Nature had given him, it was evident from his figure that he had even developed them, and what more profitable course should the German youth follow? He was cheerful everywhere—as the forerunner of the comic paper one supposes he had to be—but most impressive in his effigy by his master's wine vat, in the perpetual aroma that most inspired him, where, by a mechanical arrangement inside him, he still makes a joke of sorts, in somewhat graceless aspersion of the methods of the professional humorists.


"My dear Dick, Isabel thinks you're engaged. So does her mamma. So does Mr. Mafferton."

"Who to?" exclaimed Mr. Dod, in ungrammatical amazement.

"I looked at him reproachfully. Don't be such an owl!" I said.

Light streamed in upon Dicky's mind. "To you!" he exclaimed. "Great Scott!"

"Preposterous, isn't it?" I said.

"I should ejaculate! Well, no, I mean—I shouldn't ejaculate, but—oh, you know what I mean——"

> read more from Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan . . .
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