Tuesday, September 5

waiting for the train

A station platform at night, the 'Underground-Overground' Steam Railway.
Housman, aged twenty-three, and Jackson, aged twenty-four, dressed as for 'the office', are waiting for the train. Housman has a
Journal of Philology, Jackson an evening paper.

Jackson Wasn't it magnificent? A landmark, Hous!

Housman I thought it was . . . quite jolly . . .

Jackson Quite jolly? It was a watershed! D'Oyly Carte has made the theatre modern.

Housman (surprised) You mean Gilbert and Sullivan?

Jackson What? No. No, the theatre.

Housman (Oh, I see.)

Jackson The first theatre lit entirely by electricity!

Housman Dear old Mo . . .

Jackson D'Oyly Carte's new Savoy is a triumph.

Housman . . . you're the only London theatre critic worthy of the name. 'The new electrified Savoy is a triumph. The contemptible flickering gas-lit St James's –"

Jackson (overlapping) Oh, I know you're ragging me . . .

Housman '. . . the murky malodorous Haymarket . . . the unscientific Adelphi . . .'

Jackson But it was exciting, wasn't it, Hous? Every age thinks it's the modern age, but this one really is.
Electricity is going to change everything. Everything! We had an electric corset sent in today.

Housman One that lights up?

Jackson I've never thought of it before, but in a way the Patent Office is the gatekeeper of the new age.

Housman An Examiner of Electrical Specifications may be, but it's not the same with us toiling down in Trade Marks. I had sore throat lozenges today, an application to register a wonderfully woebegone giraffe – raised rather a subtle point in Trade Marks regulation, actually: it seems there is already a giraffe at large, wearing twelve styles of celluloid collar, but, and here's the nub, a happy giraffe, in fact a preening self-satisfied giraffe. The question arises – is the registered giraffe Platonic?, are all God's giraffes in esse et in posse to be rendered unto the Houndsditch Novelty Collar Company?

Jackson It's true, then – a classical education fits a fellow for anything.

Housman Well, I consulted my colleague Chamberlain – he's compiling the new Index – I don't think he's altogether sound, Chamberlain, he put John the Baptist under Mythological characters –

Jackson Do you know what someone said?

Housman – and a monk holding a tankard under Biblical Subjects.

Jackson Will you tell me what happened?

Housman Oh, we found for the lozenges.

Jackson Someone said you ploughed yourself on purpose.

Housman Pollard?

Jackson No. But they had him in to ask about you.

Housman I saw Pollard in the Reading Room.

Jackson What did he have to say?

Housman Nothing. It was the Reading Room. We adjusted our expressions briefly.

-- Tom Stoppard, from The Invention of Love

about Tom Stoppard