Written by Hilary Barnes
My old friend Artemus Ward drifted through a few days ago to size up the Paris scene, but he is a bit distraught these days. He still thinks Mr Punch is the man who carries weight on the London publishing world and, to boot, he forgot his notes, which I am passing on to you here.
Dear Mr Punch,
Notwithstanding I haint rit much in the papers of late, I dont want you to think that my mantle has fallen into the hands of some 2nd hand close dealer, who cant sell it.
Goakin apart, Mr Punch, things in Paris aint what the used to be. You’d never believe that in this grate city the government has decided that gents who have the sort of fun with the ladies that Edward Albert enjoys so much will be fined fit to bust for honouring the ladies with their attentions, although all the ladies that I ever heard of in this line of commerce were very pleased if they was remoonerated. Corse, Victoria may have had a hand in this.
Natrully, as you’d expect, this has made the government here the most unpopular that France has had since poor King Louis lost his head.
As the barman at the George Sank said to me, the president, Francois Hollande, as I always calls Dutch (I mean, it’s obvious, aint it), is so unpopular that the last of the Bourbons is thinking of giving up the whiskey business and goin into politics, so he can rule France as France was always ruled from the time the Romans went back to Rome, by an all-wise King, sage as stuffing, and much more sooted to the taste of the French than these new fangled republicanes.
And the barman flashed a copy of a paper called ‘Le Figaro‘* at me, and there he was, Henri VII Count of Paris,
Duke of France, flaunting his manifesto.” Faire Force pour defaire la France “. Sounds to me he picked up a line from Henry V, -” Fair stands the wind for France, and it’ll blow France away “, but my French may have got that a that bit wrong. Spect, with your good French, you can sort it out, Mr Punch.
Well, here’s a go, I says to myself, and send my keerd up to the Prints and I was immejitly ushered in before him. He received me kindly and axed me to sit down. “
” I’ve come to pay my respecks to you, Dook, and hopes to see you hale and hearty,” I ses.
” I am quite well. And air you well, sir ? “
” Sound as a cuss. “
He seemed to like my ways and we fell into conversation at onct. I said I had seen his manifesto and thought it just a touch on the strong side.
” None too strong, Mr Ward. The way this government is selling the soul of the country, it won’t just change France, it’ll drown it as surely Atlantis was drownded all those years ago. “
” So Atlantis was drownded, was it ? “
” I may interrupt, Mr Ward. You, in the presence of royalty, speak when you’re spoke too. “
” Hoity-toity, Dook. I’m an American. “
” Could I ever doubt it ! You see, Mr Ward, the President is so unpopular that I think the people of France will soon rally to my flag and ask me and my descendants to bring sanity and wise rule back to the country once more. “
” Well, gosh, Dook, that would sure be a turn up for the book. “
” I am the embodiment of the family that ruled France for more than a thousand years and I cannot remain silent any longer.”
” I hear you, Dook. “
” These people want to rewrite our history without all the things they don’t like, like Christianity and Kings. “
” Can see that hurts, Dook “
” They would have France excuse itself for being France and the French to blush to have confided their destiny to white men and heterosexuals. “
” Well, darn it, Dook : who else should it be? “
” In complete confidence, Mr Ward, I think they aim to keep themselves in power for ever by currying favour with the Afro-Arab community and the feminists, but if you put that in print they’ll have me strung up as a racist. So you see, I am obliged to shout my indignation at this monstrous project forged in secret in the anti-chambers of the ministries. “
” They do tell me, Dook, that indignation is all the rage these days. Think I shall ask Mr Punch to warn Victoria and Albert Edward they will soon be having some competition in the tourist line when the Bourbons return in all their pomp. Must leave now Dook, or I shall miss Mr Punch’s deadline. “
And with that Artemus drifted off, and if you want to know if he ever came back again, you’ll have to keep reading this column.
* ‘”Faire France” pour défaire la France‘, Henri, Comte de Paris, Le Figaro, December 18, 2013 (paywalled).
Editor’s note: Artemus Ward was the pseudonym of 19th century American humorist Charles Farrar Browne who was a strong influence on Mark Twain. See Encyclopedia Britannica.