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Fumes of Formation

This inventive production was hatched within a mind fringed with Fumes of Formation, the Ingenious Innings of Inspiration and Thorny Tincture of Thought.


The paradox about Amanda's writing is that her prose was so much more poetic than her verse. Compare the sentence above, from the title page of Fumes of Formation, with this short piece of doggerel from within:-

A Fragment of Folly.

Watch and don't get fed upon
Your great importance - this is wrong ;
If you hoist your flag of power
Wonders worked are in an hour:
If you feel you're lord of all,
One day how great will be your fall;
Go and prove yourself a fool
At Philosophic's grand old school.

It would seem that the constraint of metre inhibited her from exercising the sort of linguistic freedom she displayed in her novels. This is not to say that there is no pleasure to be found in her verse, just that it is engendered by a more earthbound kind of absurdity. There are two poems in particular in this collection which possess this quality in the fullest measure: one is the infamous On Visiting Westminster Abbey, an extract from which can be found in the biography page of this site, and the other is this:-

The Old Home.

Don't I see the old home over there at the base
Of a triangle not overcrowded with space:
'Twas there I first breathed on the eighth of December,
In the year of Our Lord the month after November.

I've been told it was snowy and blowy and wild
When I entered the home as a newly-born child,
There wasn't much fuss, nor was there much joy
For sorrow was poignant I wasn't a boy.

I felt quite contented as years flitted on
That I to the coarser sex did not belong
Little dreaming that ever the time would arrive
That of female attire I would be deprived.

By a freak of the lustful that spreads like disease
Which demanded that females wear pants if you please,
But I stuck to the decentest style of attire
And to alter my " gender " I'll never aspire.

During that hallowed century now dead and gone
In which good Queen Victoria claimed to be born
From childhood her modesty ever was seen
Her exalted position demanded when Queen.

She set an example of decency rare,
That no English Queen before her you'd compare
Neither nude knee nor ankle, nude bosom nor arm
Dare be seen in her presence this Queen to alarm.

She believed in her sex being loving and kind,
And modesty never to march out of line
By exposing those members unrest to achieve,
Which pointed to morals immorally grave.

But sad to relate when she bade " Adieu "
To earth and its vanities tainted with " rue,"
That centre of fashion, so French in its style,
Did its utmost to vilify decency's smile

And mock at these garments which proved in their day,
At a glance-who was who-and wherein gender lay,
But alas ! Since the death of our great and good Queen
That attribute " Modesty " 's ne'er to be seen.

It wasn't long after till modesty grew
A thing of the past for me and for you;
Last century's fashions were blown quite aside,
The ill-advised folk of this age now deride.

The petticoat faded away as we do
In circumference it covered not one leg but two,
Its successor exposes the arms, breasts and necks,
Legs, knees and thighs and too often-the ---.

There must have been some terrible outbreak of near-nudity, not to mention cross-dressing, in rural Ireland in the early nineteen-thirties, to provoke this lavishly condemnatory outburst.

There are many other delights here: a lot of deaths; some Christian sentiments including a piece about Easter which starts "Dear Lord the day of eggs is here"; some vilification of the Kaiser and her late arch-enemy Barry Pain; and a grand piece of self-justification called "My Favourite Flower" - Narcissus, though Amanda's self-regard was too fearsome to be called narcissistic - which includes this passage in which she imagines the aftermath of her death:-

Alas ! When I resign my right
Those "critic-crabs" who bark and bite
Will drop a tear and say "Well, well,
Our conscience is a smouldering hell ..."

Finally, here is a short piece that will tell you why Amanda was never employed as an 'Agony Aunt':-

Advice to Lady Lucy

Ah Lady Lucy - rare and rich
I never dreamt there was a hitch !
The only course you now must run
With that deceiving father's son :
Nurse your sorrow - then starve - then die,
Leaving him alone - to sigh.

Reproduction of the poems on this page is by the kind permission of the copyright holders, Belfast Public Library.

Nestling alongside this page of the Oasis of Futurity you may find the Shelf of Classic, the Rocks of Regard and other Matters Miscellaneous.