St. Scandalbags

"A thick-witted, evil-minded snapshot of spleen" - A. M. R., hitting D. B. Wyndham Lewis clear over the pavilion in St. Scandalbags

The excellent Mr. T. S. Mercer produced a number of small volumes of rare and previously unpublished Rosiana such as this one, produced in a limited edition of 150 in 1954. Inevitably it is very hard to obtain now, so snap up a copy if you find one. (The odd-looking leather spine is original by the way).

It contains the following items: Meet Irene, by D. B. Wyndham Lewis, originally published in the Daily Mail, November 17, 1926; St. Scandalbags by Amanda McKittrick Ros, never previously published; An extract from Books for the Morning-Room Table by F. H. Partington, from Vogue, Early November issue, 1926; At the Sign of the Harrow by F. Anstey, originally from Punch, February 22, 1911; notes throughout by T. S. Mercer.

Meet Irene and St. Scandalbags were also reprinted in the compilation Thine in Storm and Calm, but the other pieces remain unique to this collection and their original sources.

Meet Irene is a piece of broad mockery posing as a review of Irene Iddesleigh: in particular Wyndham Lewis makes great sport of the woodcuts by W. M. R. Quick which were added to the Nonesuch Press edition, depicting Irene and Sir John Dunfern. He is greatly exercised by the way that Dunfern's trousers were drawn, the bagginess of which he finds "simply incredible". He explains the superior attractiveness of Irene's lover, Oscar Otwell, by presuming that Oscar "pressed his trousers under the bed".

This last jest at her expense aroused Amanda's wrath and inspired her epithet for Wyndham Lewis, "St. Scandalbags". For some reason she had understood him to mean that Oscar's allurement lay - not as Lewis intended, in the uncreased condition of his trousers - but in their temporary absence, under the bed. (She had a dirty mind, did Amanda). Worse, Wyndham Lewis had also, to strengthen his argument, dragged in Disraeli, who wore dandified, decidedly unbaggy, canary-coloured trousers, and "everybody knows what influence he had over the Queen". Amanda read an even greater scandal into this - a suggestion that Disraeli had played the role of Oscar Otwell to Victoria's Irene!

In her response, Amanda wrote some of her most impenetrable prose, of which the following sentence is typical:-

Is it not then one of the gravest and grossest of scandals that ever appeared or was permitted to be printed in any paper, public or private, decent or fringed with decency, for a man sexed or unsexed -and posing as a critic by the bye ! - such as D. B. Wyndham Lewis, to proceed by a train of thought driven thither by an engine charged with the foul steam of a mind pregnant with capsules of corruption of the rottenest filthy types, to Frogmore (where this Queenly Death-Diamond of the first and purest water reposeth in her Royal Cradle of Calm, made more calm because of her cleanly and blameless life, her duty towards God and her countless subjects, her unflinching love and her rigid reverence for all things associated with a true Christian life) enter its holy portals, to view this Great and Good Queen who lay within its Hallowed walls, in order to tear into scrags her chilly unstained death-robes and riddle her lifeless form with his deadly pellets of scandal?

The remaining items in this volume are of lesser note: a modestly entertaining review of Irene Iddesleigh from Vogue and a Punch mock examination-paper on Amanda's works.


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