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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October 17, 2017

Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan (permalink)

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Some highlights from An American Girl in London:


Poppa was as disappointed as could be that he wasn't able to go with us to the lecture; but he said that politics were politics, and I suppose they are.


'And I'm very sorry I can't go with you to Madame Tussaud's, but you know I've been trotting about the whole morning, and all those wax people, with their idiotic expressions, this afternoon would simply finish me off!'


[Doing the math...]

Both our young gentlemen friends were fractional parts of the Eights, and were therefore unable to meet us.


One lady left us at half-past six in the afternoon, almost in tears, because she had failed to persuade me to take a few lessons, at a guinea a lesson, from a French lady who made a specialty of debutante presentations. I think I should have taken them, the occasion found me with so little self-reliance, if it had not been for Lady Torquilin. But Lady Torquilin said No, certainly not, it was a silly waste of money, and she could show me everything that was necessary for all practical purposes as well as Madame Anybody.


But I do not wish to be thought impertinent about the development of this particular English dress ideal. It has undoubted points of interest. I had a better opportunity of observing it at the Academy Soirée in June, when it shed abroad the suggestion of a Tennysonian idyll left out all night.


[Nonsense dept.]

I wanted to see Mr. Oscar Wilde very especially, but somebody told Lady Torquilin he was at the Grosvenor—'and small loss, I consider!' said she; 'he's just like any other man, dear child, only with more nonsense in his head than most of them!'


I did not get on well with Mr. Bangley Coffin. He seemed to mean well, but he had a great many phrases which I did not in the least understand, and to which he invariably added, 'As you say in America.' It was never by any chance a thing we did say in America, but nothing could make Mr. Bangley Coffin believe that.


After Lady Torquilin's expression of interest in how they behaved, I had been wondering whether the Maffertons had any idiosyncrasies, and I did not waste any unnecessary time in final touches before going down to see. I like people with idiosyncrasies, and lately I had been growing accustomed to those of the English nation; as a whole they no longer struck me forcibly. I quite anticipated some fresh ones, and the opportunity of observing them closely.


Perhaps Mr. Mafferton did not know how his family had intended to behave to me. At all events, he offered no apology for their conduct. I may say that the only thing of any consequence that resulted from our drive was the resolution which I am carrying out on board the s.s. 'Etruria' to-day.

*  *  *  *  *  * [N.B. These are her asterisks, not mine. She will account for them presently.]

The ladies' steward of the 'Etruria,' a little fellow with large blue eyes and spectacles and a drooping moustache, is very polite and attentive. His devotion, after Mr. Mafferton's, seems the embodiment of romance. I shall hesitate about tipping him. He has just brought me some inspiring beef-tea, which accounts for those asterisks.

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