Tuesday, April 20, 2021

'The kitchen Perpetually Crowded with Savages'

I find complaining amusing, even laugh-out-loud funny. People are never so serious as when they complain about something, and self-centered seriousness triggers the comedy latent in any human situation. Comic writers know this. Take Evelyn Waugh, a world-class complainer and comedian. In his first and best travel book, Labels: A Mediterranean Journal (1930), Waugh spends his first night in Paris in the Crillon, a comfortable but expensive hotel. Complaints about money – real or parodied -- are always funny. Next day, Waugh moves to a cheaper place: 

“My next hotel was remarkably less comfortable. It was exactly facing into the Metro, where it runs very noisily above ground, and the bed was, I think, stuffed with skulls.”


Jonathan Swift, whose biography Waugh threatened to write, often stayed at Quilca, the country home of his friend the Rev. Thomas Sheridan in County Cavan, Ireland. There he wrote portions of Gulliver’s Travels. On this date, April 20, in 1724, Swift began writing a brief prose piece, “The Blunders, Deficiencies, Distresses, and Misfortunes of Quilca.” It amounts to a grand catalogue of complaints, including these:


“The kitchen perpetually crowded with savages.”


“The dean's bed threatening every night to fall under him.”


“Every servant an arrant thief as to victuals and drink, and every comer and goer as errant a thief of every thing he or she can lay their hands on. ‘


“A proverb on the laziness and lodgings of the servants: The worse their sty — the longer they lie.”


Swift later wrote a poem, “ToQuilca,” subtitled “A Country-House in no Very Good Repair, Where the Supposed Author, and Some of His Friends, Spent a Summer, in the Year, 1725,” which concludes:


“The Goddess Want in Triumph reigns;

And her chief Officers of State,

Sloth, Dirt, and Theft around her wait.”


The house-guest from hell, Swift also wrote a series of epigrams about Quilca, including “The Plagues of a Country Life”:


“A companion without news,

A great want of shoes;

Eat lean meat, or choose;

A church without pews,

Our horses astray,

No straw, oats, or hay;

December in May,

Our boys run away,

All servants at play.”

1 comment:

Faze said...

I followed the link to “The Blunders, Deficiencies, Distresses, and Misfortunes of Quilca". It is hilarious.