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PALACE LIGHTS, CLUB CARDS, AND BANK PENS
A CAPITAL article might be written on "Things one
can't make out." How many enigmas stare one in the
face every day in the ordinary routine matters of life?
Among other things that I can't make out, is her Majesty's
dreadful extravagance in the matter of wax-candles. Not a chandler's can one pass in London without seeing piles
of spermaceties ticketed "Palace Candles;" their wicks
just singed to give them a second-handish look. One
naturally asks, what can be the meaning of this? Is
Prince Albert practising Herr Dobler's trick of blowing out
a couple of hundred lights at a time with a percussion-cap;
or has the Master of the Household the perquisite
of the grease-pot? The number of ships her Majesty has
at sea, doubtless, justifies a pretty liberal illumination in
the palace; but how comes it that so many of them find
their way to Mr. Sperm's and others in the chandlery
Another thing that I can't make out is, where all the Club Cards come from? Order as many hundred dozen as you like, and the supply never appears to get lower. [-227-] It is insinuated that they are the rejected packs of club gamblers, never having been used but once for fear of fraud; but all the hells in London, if they were to try for it, could not supply as many as you could obtain in the next street. The cardmakers, I suspect, must have a workshop for their manufacture in some concealed den, where the artizans, dressed as gentlemen of fashion, play furiously away for enormous imaginary stakes, until they sit up to their knees in rejected packs, which are then taken away, after having undergone the due ordeal previous to sale. I have heard people of imaginative turns of minds, sometimes when they have been gently gliding out the deals, with one of these packs, paint a picture of the estate that has been lost, perhaps, by its very pips, and of the ruined man rushing from the hell with frenzy to Waterloo-bridge, and a great deal more of the like fancywork, that the maker would have smiled to have heard.
Bank Pens, again, are called upon to explain themselves. Where do they come from in such quantities? Are we to believe, as the stationers would have us, that they are the discarded quills of Threadneedle or Lombard Street? It certainly gives us a vast idea of the profuseness of Bank stationery. Merciful clerks, no doubt, like not to exhaust the willing pen, by "carrying forward" such heavy sums from page to page, and so have many relays for the work. Be that as it may, Bank Pens always seem to have been oppressed with too much calculating, for they manage to split right up in the head by themselves, after the slightest exertion. Inspecting a bundle of them that now lies before me, I find that they are all dipped into the ink exactly the same depth, so that the [-228-] clerk who last used them must, in some momentary frenzy, have gone to work with the whole quarter of a hundred.
These three things are a puzzle to me as great as the Chinese nest of balls. I have turned them over and over in my mind without even hitting upon their rationale, and so I shall go on perplexed, I fear, to my grave.
source: Andrew Wynter, Our Social Bees; or, Pictures of Town & Country Life, and other papers, 1865