14 March 2011

Pretending to have read Tennyson

The girl stared at him, dropping her slice of bread-and-butter in her emotion.

'You don't mean to say you read Tennyson, Mr Widgeon?'

'Me?' said Freddie. 'Tennyson? Read Tennyson? Me read Tennyson? Well, well, well! Bless my soul! Why, I know him by heart - some of him.'

'So do I! "Break, break, break, on your cold grey stones, oh Sea..."'

'Quite. Or take the "Lady of Shalott".'

'"I hold it truth with him who sings..."'

'So do I, absolutely. And then, again, there's the "Lady of Shalott". Dashed extraordinary that you should like Tennyson too.'

'I think he's wonderful.'

'What a lad! That "Lady of Shalott"! Some spin on the ball there.'

'It's so absurd, the way people sneer at him nowadays.'

'The silly bounders. Don't know what's good for them.'

'He's my favourite poet.'

'Mine, too. Any bird who could write the "Lady of Shalott" gets the cigar or coconut, according to choice, as far as I'm concerned.'

They gazed at each other emotionally.

'Well, I'd never have thought it,' said April.

'Why not?'

'I mean, you gave me the impression of being... well, rather the dancing, night-club sort of man.'

'What! Me? Night-clubs? Good gosh! Why, my idea of a happy evening is to curl up with Tennyson's latest.'

"Don't you love "Locksley Hall"?'

'Oh, rather. And the "Lady of Shalott".'

'And "Maud"?'

'Aces,' said Freddie. 'And the "Lady of Shalott".'

'How fond you seem of the "Lady of Shalott"!'

'Oh I am.'

- P.G. Wodehouse, 'Trouble Down at Tudsleigh', in Young Men in Spats, London, 1936.

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