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Sir Charles Maxwell-House – on professional jealousy

Sir Charles Maxwell-House

I was honoured by an invitation to an exclusive literary gathering recently. The room was crowded with the dignitaries of literary world, all shrewdly eyeing one another over their brimming wine glasses, or alternatively, talking loudly about esoteric academic matters.

My Church’s sank comfortingly into the plush cream carpet as I effortlessly worked the room, oozing charm; dropping a wry word here, a hilarious anecdote there. But then I heard a horribly familiar, booming voice behind me: ‘Ah, Maxy House, isn’t it?’ I spun round on a well-shod heel and found Sir Cecil Montgomery Huntington – my old Oxford rival! ‘Ah, Cecil,’ I replied with scrupulous politeness. I could see the old walrus had well and truly tumbled off the wagon. He put a sweaty paw round my shoulder and introduced me to his little gang – a huddle of low-grade poets and academics.

‘Jolly bad cheese you didn’t get your study of postmen’s reading habits published, old boy,’ started Walrus at once. His cronies tittered on cue.

‘Why,’ I said breezily, ‘I’m flattered you take such a keen interest in my work, Cecil.’

‘Oh, very keen, dear boy, very keen.’

‘And what have you been up to?’

‘Well, I’ve just received a prestigious scholarship to continue my work on, well I think you may know a little on the subject, the literary persuasions of Victorian housemaids in the nineteenth century.’

I had to stop myself form gasping out loud. He continued, ‘Fascinating, dear boy, fascinating. And a book will of course follow.’

‘Of course,’ I answered calmly. Yet my mind was in tumult. I too was working on such a study. I racked my brains – had I let the idea slip at the club when he was lurking? Surely not. I had learnt my lesson after the famous bus reading habits debacle. (Unless dear Major Cholmondley Chase-Hound had been babbling again – rather likely, I fear.) Damn him! I felt colour rising to my cheeks. How did this fat imbecile always seem to prosper?

‘Oh, so you didn’t know, old fellow? Bad cheese, bad cheese.’

I was choking with rage, but seeing a girl walk past carrying a platter of stuffed capers, an old Spanish proverb suddenly sprang to my mind: ‘Envy is thin because it bites but never eats.’ Hmm, I mused, I’ll soon remedy that…


[Sir Charles was later found slumped in the corridor having apparently overdosed on cuttlefish and BBQ Wotsits. He is recovering well at home – Ed.]