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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 7-8

— 4.7 —

Before the town of York stood King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and some soldiers.

King Edward IV said, “Now, brother Richard, Lord Hastings, and the rest, so far Lady Fortune is making us amends and says that once more I shall exchange my diminished state for Henry VI’s regal crown. Well have we passed and now again passed the seas and brought desired help from Burgundy. What then remains, we being thus arrived from Ravenspurgh Haven before the gates of York, but that we enter York, as into our Dukedom? I am, after all, the Duke of York.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “The gates are firmly bolted against us! Brother, I don’t like this, for many men who stumble at the threshold are well given notice that danger lurks within.”

Superstition held that stumbling at the threshold was an omen of bad luck.

King Edward IV said, “Tush, man. Omens must not now frighten us. By fair or foul means, we must enter York, for here our friends will come to join us.”

Lord Hastings said, “My liege, I’ll knock once more to summon them.”

He knocked, and on the city walls appeared the Mayor of York and the Aldermen of York.

The Mayor of York said, “My lords, we were forewarned of your coming, and we shut the gates for our own safety because now we owe allegiance to King Henry VI.”

King Edward IV said, “But, master Mayor, if Henry VI is your King, Edward at the least is still the Duke of York.”

“That is true, my good lord,” the Mayor of York said. “I know you to be no less.”

King Edward IV said, “Why, I demand nothing but my Dukedom, for I am well content with that alone.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said quietly, “But when the fox has once got in his nose, it’ll soon find a way to make the body follow.”

Lord Hastings said, “Master Mayor, why do you stand there and doubt what you hear? Open the gates; we are King Henry VI’s friends.”

The Mayor of York said, “Do you say so? The gates shall then be opened.”

The Mayor of York and the Aldermen of York descended from the walls in order to open the gates.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said sarcastically, “He is a wise and brave Captain, and soon persuaded!”

Lord Hastings said, “The good old man would fain that all were well, so it were not ’long of him.”

This meant both 1) “The good old man would like that all were well, so long as all being well — opening the gates — were not along — associated — with him,” and 2) “The good old man would like that all were well, so long as all being well — opening the gates — would not belong to him.”

In other words, “The good old man would like that all were well, so long as the blame for opening the gates was not his.”

Lord Hastings continued, “But once we pass through the gates and enter the city, I don’t doubt that we shall soon persuade both him and all his brothers, aka the Aldermen, to see reason — to see that Edward IV is King of England.”

The Mayor and the two Aldermen opened the gates and came out of the city.

King Edward IV said, “So, master Mayor, these gates must not be shut except in the nighttime or in the time of war. Don’t be afraid, man, but give me the keys to the gates.”

He took the keys and added, “For I, Edward, will defend the town and you, and all those friends who deign to follow me.”

The sound of a military drummer was heard and Sir John Montgomery arrived along with the drummer and some soldiers.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Brother, this is Sir John Montgomery, our trusty friend, unless I am deceived.”

King Edward IV said, “Welcome, Sir John! But why have you come in arms?”

Sir John Montgomery replied, “To help King Edward IV in his time of storm, as every loyal subject ought to do.”

“Thanks, good Montgomery,” King Edward IV said, “but we now forget our title to the crown and we claim only our Dukedom until God is pleased to send the rest.”

“Then fare you well, for I will go away from here again,” Sir John Montgomery said. “I came to serve a King and not a Duke.

“Drummer, strike up, and let us march away.”

“No, Sir John,” King Edward IV said. “Stay awhile, and we’ll debate and discuss by what safe means the crown may be recovered.”

“Why do you talk of debating?” Sir John Montgomery said. “In few words, I say to you that if you’ll not here proclaim yourself our King, I’ll leave you to your fortune and leave to keep back anyone who comes to succor you. Why shall we fight, if you claim no title of Kingship?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said to Edward IV, “Why, brother, do you dwell on trivial details?”

King Edward IV said, “When we grow stronger, then we’ll make our claim. Until then, it is wise to conceal our intentions.”

“Away with scrupulous wit!” Lord Hastings said. “Now arms must rule.”

“And fearless minds climb soonest to crowns,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said. “Brother, we will proclaim you King immediately. The report of this will bring you many friends.”

“Then be it as you will,” King Edward IV said, “for it is my right, and Henry VI only usurps the diadem.”

Sir John Montgomery said, “Yes, now my sovereign speaks like himself, and now I will be Edward IV’s champion and defender.”

Lord Hastings ordered, “Blow, trumpeter. Edward shall be here proclaimed King.

“Come, fellow-soldier, you make the proclamation.”

The trumpet sounded, and the soldier read, “Edward IV, by the grace of God, King of England and France, and lord of Ireland, and etc.”

Sir John Montgomery said, “And whosoever denies Edward IV’s right to be King of England, by this I challenge him to single combat.”

He threw down his gauntlet.

Everyone shouted, “Long live Edward IV!”

King Edward IV said, “Thanks, brave Montgomery, and thanks to you all. If Lady Fortune serves me well, I’ll repay this kindness.

“Now, for this night, let’s harbor and lodge here in York, and when the morning Sun shall raise his chariot above the border of this horizon and dawn arrives, we’ll go forward to meet Warwick and his mates, for I know well that Henry VI is no soldier.

“Ah, perverse, obstinate Clarence! How evil it is for you to flatter Henry and forsake your brother! Yet, as we may, we’ll meet both you and Warwick.

“Come on, brave soldiers. Don’t doubt that we will win the day, and, don’t doubt that you will receive large pay once the day is won.”

— 4.8 —

A number of people met in a room in the Bishop’s Palace in London: King Henry VI, the Earl of Warwick, the Marquess of Montague, Duke George of Clarence, the Duke of Exeter, and the Earl of Oxford.

“What advice can you give, my lords?” the Earl of Warwick said. “Edward from Flanders in Belgium, with rash Germans and rough, uncivilized Hollanders, has passed in safety through the narrow seas, and with his troops he marches at full speed to London, and many inconstant, fickle people flock to him.”

“Let’s levy men, and beat him back again,” King Henry VI said.

Duke George of Clarence said, “A little fire is quickly trodden out, but if the fire is allowed to grow, rivers cannot quench it.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “In Warwickshire I have true-hearted friends who are not mutinous in peace yet are bold in war. Those I will muster up.

“You, my son-in-law Clarence, shall stir the knights and gentlemen in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Kent to come with you.

“You, brother Marquess of Montague, in Buckingham, Northampton, and Leicestershire shall find men well inclined to hear what you command.

“And you, brave Oxford, who is wondrously well beloved in Oxfordshire, shall muster up your friends.

“My sovereign, King Henry VI, with the loving citizens, like his island girdled by the ocean, or like modest, chaste Diana encircled by her nymphs, shall rest in London until we come to him.

“Fair lords, take leave and do not delay in order to reply.

“Farewell, my sovereign.”

“Farewell, my Hector, and my Troy’s true hope,” King Henry VI said.

Hector was the foremost warrior for Troy during the Trojan War. London was thought of as Troia Nova, or New Troy, because a grandson of Aeneas, another important Trojan warrior, was believed to have founded it.

Kissing Henry VI’s hand, Duke George of Clarence said, “In sign of my truth and loyalty to you, I kiss your highness’ hand.”

King Henry VI replied, “Well-minded, loyal Clarence, may you be favored by Lady Fortune!”

The Marquess of Montague said, “Take comfort, my lord, and so I take my leave.”

“And thus I seal my truth, and bid adieu to you,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“Sweet Oxford, and my loving Montague, and everyone all at once, once more I say to you a happy farewell,” King Henry VI said.

“Farewell, sweet lords,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Let’s meet at Coventry.”

Everyone exited except King Henry VI and the Duke of Exeter.

“Here at the palace I will rest awhile,” King Henry VI said. “Cousin of Exeter, what does your lordship think? I think the army that Edward IV has in the field should not be able to oppose and defeat mine.”

“The fear is that he will persuade others to desert their allegiance to you,” the Duke of Exeter said.

“That’s not my fear,” King Henry VI said. “My merit has gotten me a good reputation. I have not stopped my ears so I can’t hear my subjects’ requests, nor have I put off their petitions with slow delays. My pity has been balm to heal their wounds. My mildness has allayed their swelling griefs. My mercy has dried their water-flowing tears. I have not been desirous of their wealth, nor have I much oppressed them with great taxation. Nor am I eager for or inclined to revenge, although my subjects have much erred. So why then should they love Edward more than me?

“No, Exeter, these virtues of mine lay claim to my subjects’ goodwill. And when the lion fawns upon the lamb, the lamb will never cease to follow him.”

Shouts were heard from outside: “Protect Lancaster! Protect Lancaster!”

The Duke of Exeter said, “Listen! Listen, my lord! What shouts are these?”

The shouts were due to King Edward IV’s Yorkist soldiers attacking the palace in order to capture the Lancastrian King Henry VI.

King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, and some Yorkist soldiers entered the room.

King Edward IV said, “Seize the shy, retiring Henry VI and carry him away from here, and once again proclaim us King of England.

“You, Henry VI, are the spring that makes small brooks flow. Now your spring stops; my sea shall suck your brooks dry and swell so much the higher by their ebb.

“Take Henry VI to the Tower of London; don’t let him speak.

“And, lords, we will bend our course towards Coventry, where peremptory Warwick now remains.

“The sun shines hot, and if we delay, cold biting winter will mar our hoped-for hay.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Let’s leave at once, before the Earl of Warwick’s forces join, and let’s take the greatly grown traitor unawares.

“Brave warriors, march at full speed towards Coventry.”


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David Bruce: Alcohol Anecdotes

At the Grand Opening of the Denver Press Club, Prohibition was in full force. Since an opening without alcohol is unthinkable for a press club, the reporters began to think about how they could come up with the booze. Red Feeney, a reporter, and Harry Rhoads, a photographer, knew that the District Attorney’s office had seized some bonded whiskey. They also knew that the local police officers had a weakness for publicity, so they arranged a photo session outside with the police officers and the whiskey. At the time, photographs were lit with flash guns which created a lot of smoke. Mr. Rhoads used much more flash powder than was necessary for the photographs, and whenever the scene was filled with smoke and coughing police officers rubbing their eyes, Mr. Feeney grabbed a couple of cases of whiskey and put them in his car. The Grand Opening of the Denver Press Club was a success.

Jim Thornton was an alcoholic; he was also a vaudeville comedian. Once, he went on an alcoholic spree with another vaudeville comedian, George C. Davis. Although both men were alcoholics, they were different kinds of alcoholics. Mr. Thornton could stay drunk for weeks, but still keep himself shaved and clean. Mr. Davis, however, let himself go to seed. The two had drunk up all their money, and they needed more money to buy themselves alcohol, so Mr. Thornton asked to borrow $2 from a vaudevillian they met on the street. The vaudevillian refused to lend them anything, so the clean Mr. Thornton turned to the filthy Mr. Davis and said, “George, throw a louse on him.”

A judge got very drunk, then took off his robe and lay under a tree half-naked to sleep. Mulla Nasrudin came along, saw the judge, and took his cloak. Later, the judge sobered up, returned to his village and saw Nasrudin wearing his cloak. “Is that your cloak?” the judge asked. “No, it is not,” Nasrudin replied. “I saw a very drunk man lying under a tree, asleep, and I took his cloak so that robbers would not steal it. I should like very much to find that man so that I can return his cloak.” Fearing lest his friends and neighbors find out that it was he who had been drunk, the judge replied, “Such a drunken fellow deserves what happens to him,” then left Nasrudin and the cloak alone.

As a young girl, Alicia Markova danced for Sergey Pavlovich Diaghilev. For a long time, she wasn’t allowed to attend the receptions the other members of the ballet troupe attended, but on her 18th birthday, Mr. Diaghilev asked her to come to his table in the ballroom of the hotel the troupe was staying at in Monte Carlo. There, the troupe held a small coming-of-age party for her, she drank her first glass of champagne, and afterward she was allowed to attend the receptions the other members of the troupe attended.

William Frawley played Fred Mertz on TV’s I Love Lucy. He gave a certain panhandler a dollar for coffee each time they met, and one day he asked what the panhandler really did with the money. The panhandler replied that he didn’t buy coffee with the money, but instead bought whiskey. Hearing that, Mr. Frawley said, “At least you’re honest. Come have a drink with me.” They went into a bar, where Mr. Frawley ordered, “Two double scotch-and-sodas.” The panhandler spoke up, “Make mine the same.”

The British tongue-in-cheek spy series The Avengers lasted from 1961-1969. The series was known for its attractive leads, cars, clothes, and champagne. During the series’ run, John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, used 30 bowler hats. In addition, the filming of the series required 19 gallons of champagne. (In the 1967 episode “The Fear Merchants,” the audience learns that Steed’s worst fear is running out of champagne.)

Rabbi Moshe Leib once said that he had learned to love from a peasant. Once he saw two drunken peasants at an inn. One peasant turned to the other and asked, “Do you love me?” The other peasant replied, “Of course I love you.” The first peasant then asked, “Do you know what I need? If you really loved me, you would know.” According to Rabbi Leib, “To know the needs of other human beings, to feel their joy and to bear the burdens of their sorrow—that is true love.”

Ben Serkowich drank too much, and this worried him. While attending a cocktail party, he decided to try a new technique he had heard about—whenever he took a drink, he told himself, “This is not going to affect me.” The technique seemed to work beautifully for a while, but then, he says, “Suddenly I plunged forward to the floor, and when I woke up the next morning … it was four days later.”

In San Francisco, comic singer Anna Russell was invited to a party in a restaurant. The liquor was still flowing at 3 p.m., although by law, liquor was prohibited at that time. When Ms. Russell worried that the restaurant might get busted, the man sitting next to her said there was no chance of that happening. She asked, Why? He replied, “Because I’m the sheriff.”

A bore once sat next to Dr. Samuel Johnson and remarked that there were many reasons for drinking to excess. In making his argument, he said, “Drinking drives away care and makes us forget whatever is disagreeable. Would you not allow a man to drink for that reason?” Dr. Johnson replied, “Yes, sir—if he sat next to you.”

Occasionally, Jackie Gleason flew in airplanes, although there was a rumor that he never flew. Once he took a trip on the Concorde, which flew faster than sound. Asked if he had ever flown faster than sound before, Mr. Gleason replied, “Only a couple of times at Toots Shor’s.” (Toots Shor was Jackie Gleason’s favorite bartender.)

Playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan was once asked what kind of wine was his favorite. His answer: “Other people’s.”

Marc Connelly once sent a postcard to Frank Sullivan: “Guess who I just had a drink with at the Players? Corey Ford. Give up?”


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Edgar Lee Masters: Hildrup Tubbs (Spoon River Anthology)

I MADE two fights for the people.
First I left my party, bearing the gonfalon
Of independence, for reform, and was defeated.
Next I used my rebel strength
To capture the standard of my old party—
And I captured it, but I was defeated.
Discredited and discarded, misanthropical,
I turned to the solace of gold
And I used my remnant of power
To fasten myself like a saprophyte
Upon the putrescent carcass
Of Thomas Rhodes’ bankrupt bank,
As assignee of the fund.
Everyone now turned from me.
My hair grew white,
My purple lusts grew gray,
Tobacco and whisky lost their savor
And for years Death ignored me
As he does a hog.


“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me… were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” — Art of Quotation

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” James Baldwin, writer […]

via “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me… were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” — Art of Quotation

David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose —Act 4, Scenes 5-6

— 4.5 —

Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and Sir William Stanley talked together in a park — a hunting ground — near Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. Some soldiers were with them.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Now, my Lord Hastings and Sir William Stanley, stop wondering why I drew you hither into this most densely wooded thicket of the park. Thus stands the case: You know our King, my brother, is prisoner to the Archbishop of York here, at whose hands he has received good treatment and great liberty, and, often attended only by a weak guard, he comes hunting in this area to entertain himself. I have informed him by secret means that if about this hour he would make his way here under the pretense of his usual entertainment, he shall here find his friends with horses and men to set him free from his captivity.”

King Edward IV and a huntsman arrived.

The huntsman said, “This way, my lord, for this way lies the quarry.”

King Edward IV replied, “No, this way, man. See where the huntsmen stand.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, Sir William Stanley, and the soldiers showed themselves. King Edward IV’s guard, the huntsman, was outnumbered and unable to resist.

King Edward IV said, “Now, brother of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and the rest, do you stand thus close in order to steal the Archbishop’s ‘deer’?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester replied, “Brother, the time and case require haste. Your horse stands ready at the corner of the park.”

“But whither shall we go afterward?” King Edward IV asked.

“To Lynn, my lord,” Lord Hastings replied, “and ship from thence to Flanders.”

“Well guessed, believe me,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “for that was my intention.”

King Edward IV said, “Sir William Stanley, I will reward your zeal.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “But why do we stay here? This is no time to talk.”

King Edward IV said, “Huntsman, what do you say? Will you come along with us?”

The huntsman replied, “It is better to do that than to tarry here and be hanged.”

“Come then, let’s go,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said. “Let’s have no more ado.”

“Archbishop, farewell,” King Edward IV said, facing the direction of the Archbishop’s home. “May God shield you from Warwick’s frown, and may you pray that I repossess the crown.”

— 4.6 —

In a room of the Tower of London, many people stood: King Henry VI, Duke George of Clarence, the Earl of Warwick, the Duke of Somerset, Earl Henry of Richmond, the Earl of Oxford, the Marquess of Montague, and the Lieutenant of the Tower. The Marquess of Montaguehad switched sides and now supported King Henry VI and the Earl of Warwick.

King Henry VI said, “Master Lieutenant, now that God and friends have shaken Edward from the regal seat, and turned my captive state to liberty, my fear to hope, my sorrows to joys, what are the fees I owe you now that I am free?”

Wealthy prisoners paid for their food and keep after being released from prison. Of course, King Henry VI, if he were a different kind of person, could have the Lieutenant of the Tower executed.

The Lieutenant of the Tower replied, “Subjects may demand as a right nothing from their sovereigns, but if a humble person who prays to you may prevail, then I crave the pardon of your majesty.”

“Pardon for what, Lieutenant?” King Henry VI said. “For treating me well? You can be sure I’ll well repay your kindness because it made my imprisonment a pleasure. Yes, such a pleasure as caged birds feel when after many melancholy thoughts, they at last because of the harmonic sounds of the household quite forget their loss of liberty.

“But, Warwick, after God, you are responsible for setting me free, and chiefly therefore I thank God and you. God was the author and instigator; you were the instrument and agent of His plan.

“Therefore, so that I may conquer Lady Fortune’s spite by living low on the Wheel of Fortune, where Lady Fortune cannot hurt me, and so that the people of this blessed land may not be punished with my perverse stars that bring misfortune, Warwick, although my head shall still wear the crown, I here resign my government to you, for you are fortunate in all your deeds while I am unfortunate in all my deeds.”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Your grace has always been famed for being virtuous, and now you may be seen to be as wise as virtuous because you have spied on and avoided Lady Fortune’s malice, for few men rightly conform their temperament with the stars. Few men can rightly react to what the stars bring them. Yet in this one thing let me blame your grace: for choosing me when Clarence is present and available.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “No, Warwick, you are worthy of the position of authority. To you the Heavens in your nativity gave an olive branch and a laurel crown because you were likely to be blest both in peace and in war, and therefore I give you my free consent for you to hold this high office.”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “And I choose only Clarence for Lord Protector.”

King Henry VI said, “Warwick and Clarence, both of you give me your hands. Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts, so that no dissension may hinder government and the proper exercise of authority over Britain. I make you both Lord Protectors of this land, while I myself will lead a private life and spend my final days in devotion to rebuke sin and to praise my Creator.”

“What does Clarence answer to his sovereign’s will?” the Earl of Warwick asked.

Duke George of Clarence replied, “He answers that he consents, if Warwick will also yield his consent, for on your fortune I myself happily rely.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Why, then, although I am loath to wield this power, yet I must be content. We’ll yoke together, like a double shadow to Henry’s body, and occupy his place as his substitutes — I mean, in bearing the weight of government and certainly not as usurpers — while he enjoys the honor of being King and enjoys his ease.

“And, Clarence, it is more than necessary that immediately Edward IV be pronounced a traitor, and all his lands and goods be confiscated.”

“Of course. What else?” Duke George of Clarence replied. “And it is necessary that the succession be determined.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Yes, and therein Clarence shall not lack his part.”

When Henry VI died, his son was next in time to be King. But if both Henry VI and Prince Edward died before Prince Edward had children, then Duke George of Clarence would be next in line to be King because Edward IV was a traitor.

King Henry VI said, “But, with the first of all your chief affairs, let me entreat you, for I no longer command you, that Margaret your Queen and my son, Prince Edward, be sent for to return from France quickly because until I see them here my joy in my liberty is half eclipsed by disquieting fear and dread.”

Duke George of Clarence replied, “It shall be done, my sovereign, with all speed possible.”

Seeing a young man nearby, King Henry VI asked, “My Lord of Somerset, what youth is that, of whom you seem to take so tender care?”

The Duke of Somerset replied, “My liege, it is young Henry, Earl of Richmond.”

King Henry VI said, “Come hither, England’s hope.”

In a traditional gesture of prophecy, King Henry VI laid his hand on the head of the young Henry, Earl of Richmond.

King Henry VI said, “If secret powers suggest the truth to my divining and future-foretelling thoughts, this pretty lad will prove to be our country’s bliss. His looks are full of peaceful majesty, his head by nature framed to wear a crown, his hand to wield a scepter, and himself likely in time to bless a regal throne. Make much of him, my lords, for this is the one who must help you more than you are hurt by me.”

Young Henry, Earl of Richmond, would become King Henry VII. He would end the Wars of the Roses and begin the Tudor Dynasty.

A messenger arrived.

The Earl of Warwick asked, “What is your news, my friend?”

The messenger replied, “That Edward IV has escaped from your brother, and fled, as your brother has heard since, to Burgundy.”

“This is unsavory news!” the Earl of Warwick said. “But how did he make his escape?”

The messenger replied, “He was conveyed away by Duke Richard of Gloucester and Lord Hastings, who waited for him in secret ambush at the side of the forest and rescued him from the Archbishop’s huntsmen, for hunting was Edward IV’s daily exercise.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “My brother was too careless of his charge. He was too careless in doing his duty. But let us go from here, my sovereign, in order that we may provide a salve for any sore that may happen.”

Everyone exited except the Duke of Somerset, young Earl Henry of Richmond, and the Earl of Oxford.

The Duke of Somerset said to the Earl of Oxford, “My lord, I don’t like this flight of Edward IV’s, for doubtless the Duke of Burgundy will give him help, and we shall have more wars before long. As Henry VI’s recent presaging prophecy gladdened my heart with hope concerning this young Earl Henry of Richmond, so does my heart make me apprehensive about what may happen to him in these conflicts, to his harm and ours. Therefore, Lord Oxford, to prevent the worst, immediately we’ll send him hence to Brittany, until the storms of civil enmity have passed.”

“Yes,” the Earl of Oxford said, “for if Edward IV repossesses the crown, it is likely that young Earl Henry of Richmond along with the rest shall fall.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “It shall be so; the young Earl Henry of Richmond shall go to Brittany. Come, therefore, let’s set about doing it speedily.”


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David Bruce: Alcohol Anecdotes

Some American towns are wet (they allow alcohol); other American towns are dry (they don’t allow alcohol). During his 1885 American tour, Colonel James H. Mapleson had the misfortune to stop in Topeka, Kansas, a dry town. His opera troupe had drunk all the wine available on their train, and they were very displeased when water was placed before them while they dined at their Topeka hotel; in fact, Colonel Mapleson’s baritone drew his knife and said that unless he had something suitable to drink soon, he would not perform that evening. Hard pressed, Colonel Mapleson sought a physician and explained the situation to him. The understanding physician wrote a prescription in Latin, Colonel Mapleson took it to a pharmacist, and the pharmacist filled the prescription by giving him three bottles of something much more stimulating than water.

Golfer Walter Hagen had a reputation for partying. According to legend, he sometimes showed up at tee time in a wrinkled tuxedo because he had been partying all night and didn’t have time to change. The truth is quite different. Mr. Hagen was often seen at parties with a glass in his hand, but when he had to play in a tournament the next day, he tossed the drink into a potted plant, then went home to get a good night’s sleep. His tuxedo got wrinkled because he ordered his chauffeur to roll it into a ball and throw it against the car until it was wrinkled enough to carry on the legend.

New Zealanders apparently don’t drink martinis—or at least they didn’t. When comic singer Anna Russell was performing in New Zealand, she threw a party, giving instructions to a bartender to make martinis using Fleischmann’s gin. Halfway through the party, however, the martinis began to be dark brown instead of clear. She investigated and discovered that the bartender had run out of Fleischmann’s gin, so he was using Fleischmann’s whiskey instead. (The party was a success nevertheless.)

Playwright John Mortimer once stopped for gasoline at a station near Covent Garden. The attendant pumping his gas recognized him, saying that he had seen Mr. Mortimer in the seats behind him at a performance of the opera Aida. This surprised Mr. Mortimer, as those seats were very expensive, so he asked the gas station attendant how he could afford the tickets. The attendant explained that he hadn’t spent any more for the tickets than any other pump man would spend getting drunk Friday night.

Some preachers at a restaurant were served the wrong dessert—watermelon spiked with alcohol. Learning of the mistake, the maitre d’hotel asked a waiter to get the dessert back if the preachers hadn’t already started eating it. However, the waiter reported that the preachers had already started eating the dessert. “In that case,” said the maitre d’hotel, “do they like it?” “They didn’t say,” replied the waiter. “They were too busy putting the seeds in their pockets.”

Once there was a friendly rivalry between two composers of operas: Christoph Willibald Gluck and Niccolò Piccinni. In a contest, they were each commissioned to compose an opera based on the same play by Euripides. When the two operas were performed, Gluck’s was the greater success—unfortunately for Piccinni, on opening night his soprano was falling down drunk.

A visitor to the home of painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler made comments on several of Whistler’s paintings, finding fault with each one. Looking at Whistler’s latest painting, the visitor said that it was “not good.” Whistler responded, “You shouldn’t say it is not good. You should say you do not like it, and then, you know, you are perfectly safe. Now come and have something you do like—have some whiskey.”

H. Allen Smith was born in McLeansboro, Illinois, where his father had grown up. When his father had been a young man, McLeansboro had been the home of an undesirable element—rowdies who fought a lot and drank a lot. Mr. Smith once asked his father if he had been one of the town rowdies. “Hell, no,” his father replied. “I was a respectable citizen. But I could lick anybody my size, and I could outdrink all of them.”

Jackie Gleason was known for drinking heavily. Once a friend locked up his liquor cabinet to keep Jackie from getting loaded, but when he came home, he discovered that Jackie was drunk. Remarkably, even though the liquor cabinet was still locked, the booze containers were empty. (Jackie had used a screwdriver to remove the back of the liquor cabinet. After drinking the liquor, he screwed the back of the cabinet on again.)

Opera singer Risë Stevens was being driven to a performance when she noticed that the chauffeur was drunk and driving unsafely. Thinking quickly, she asked the chauffeur to stop to get her a hamburger, and after the chauffeur got out of the car, she jumped behind the steering wheel and drove off, leaving the chauffeur behind.

Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, later to be Pope John XXIII, was a master diplomat. At a diplomatic reception in Paris, an inebriated guest wanted Archbishop Roncalli to talk about a controversial area of religion. Archbishop Roncalli answered, “I never discuss religion at cocktail parties.”

George Frideric Handel was a Lutheran, although early in his career he worked as an organist in a Calvinist church. The Calvinists may have been willing to hire Handel, despite his religion, because the previous organist, Johann Christoph Leporin, frequently showed up to work drunk.

The first date of composer Richard Wagner and his eventual first wife Christiane Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer was memorable; Wagner got drunk, then passed out on her couch.

Don Marquis once quit drinking for a month, then walked up to a bar and ordered a drink, saying, “I’ve conquered my goddamn will power.”

Ken Tynan once said of Greta Garbo, “What when drunk one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober.”

“A Nazarite is called a sinner because he deprived himself of wine.”—Rabbi Eliezer ha-Kappar.

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”—Oscar Wilde.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Edgar Lee Masters: Shack Dye (Spoon River Anthology)

THE white men played all sorts of jokes on me.
They took big fish off my hook
And put little ones on, while I was away
Getting a stringer, and made me believe
I hadn’t seen aright the fish I had caught.
When Burr Robbins’ circus came to town
They got the ring master to let a tame leopard
Into the ring, and made me believe
I was whipping a wild beast like Samson
When I, for an offer of fifty dollars,
Dragged him out to his cage.
One time I entered my blacksmith shop
And shook as I saw some horse-shoes crawling
Across the floor, as if alive—
Walter Simmons had put a magnet
Under the barrel of water.
Yet everyone of you, you white men,
Was fooled about fish and about leopards too,
And you didn’t know any more than the horse-shoes did
What moved you about Spoon River.