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, 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 11, 2017

Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan (permalink)

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From A Voyage of Consolation:


There was a delay, during which I listened attentively, with one eye closed--I believe it is the sign of an unbalanced intellect to shut one eye when you use the telephone, but I needn't go into that--and presently I got New York.


I heard a whistle, which I cannot express in italics.


We stayed over two or three trains in London, however, just long enough to get in a background, as it were, for our Continental experiences. The weather was typical, and the background, from an artistic point of view, was perfect. While not precisely opaque, you couldn't see through it anywhere.


"Did I get the four tickets--or two of them--or one? No, sir, I got a letter in the third person singular saying it wasn't a public entertainment!"


[Precursor to Judy calling Howard "Steve" in What's Up, Doc?]

"Don't you think we might be silent for a time, Alexander," she said.

Momma does call him Alexander sometimes. I didn't like to mention it before, but it can't be concealed for ever. She says it's because Joshua always costs her an effort, and every woman ought to have the right to name her own husband.


"When Emmeline leaves us," said her father, "I always have a kind of abandoned feeling, like a top that's got to the end of its spin."


There was something very unexpected about Miss Callis; momma complained of it. Her remarks were never polished by reflection. She called herself a child of nature, but she really resided in Brooklyn.


As we stood looking at the Eiffel Tower, poppa said he thought if he were in my place he wouldn't describe it. "It's old news," he said, "and there's nothing the general public dislike so much as that. Every hotel-porter in Chicago knows that it's three hundred metres high, and that you can see through it all the way up. There it is, and I feel as if I'd passed my boyhood in its shadow. That way I must say it's a disappointment. I was expecting it to be more unexpected, if you understand."

Momma and I quite agreed. It had the familiarity of a demonstration of Euclid, and to the non-engineering mind was about as interesting. The Senator felt so well acquainted with it that he hesitated about buying a descriptive pamphlet. "They want to sell a stranger too much information in this country," he said. "The meanest American intelligence is equal to stepping into an elevator and stepping out again." But he bought one nevertheless, and was particularly pleased with it, not only because it was the cheapest thing in Paris at five cents, but because, as he said himself, it contained an amount of enthusiasm not usually available at any price.


We saw our first Italian shrug. It is more prolonged, more sentimental than French ones.


"It takes the breath. What splendid revenue must be from that!"

The Senator merely smiled, and played with his watch chain. "I should hate to brag," he said, but anyone could see from the absence of a diamond ring on his little finger that he was a person of weight in his community.


Presently uprose a great and crumbling arch and a difference, and as we passed it the sound of the life of the city died indistinctly away and a silence grew up, with the smell of the sun upon grasses and weeds, and we stopped and looked down into C├Žsar's world, which lay below us, empty. We gazed in silence for a moment, and then Emmeline remarked that she could make as good a Forum with a box of blocks.


"You so often remind me of Punch, Mr. Mafferton."

I shouldn't have liked anyone to say that to me, but it seemed to have quite a mollifying effect upon Mr. Mafferton. He smiled and pulled his moustache in the way Englishmen always do, when endeavouring to absorb a compliment.


"One question at a time," said Mr. Mafferton, and I think he smiled.

"Now you remind me of Sandford and Merton," I said, "and a place for everything and everything in its place. And punctuality is the thief of time. And many others."

"You haven't got it quite right," said Mr. Mafferton with incipient animation. "May I correct you? 'Procrastination,' not 'punctuality.'"


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