3 AUGUST 1985, Page 35


In Competition No. 1380 you were asked for an imaginary conversation between two famous people who know or knew each Other, beginning with the remark: 'Have You any adequate excuse to make us for not being drunk?' Chesterton's reply in the Hesketh Pear- Son version was: 'I am desperately drunk. There is only one form of drunkenness that I acknowledge — the drunkenness of sobriety. As a consequence of not having tasted a drop of wine or ale today, I am suffering from delirium tremens.' To which Shaw naggingly retorts: 'In that case Perhaps you will please tell us why you are Sober?' Pearson's invented conversation was widely quoted at the time as if it was authentic, and 47 years later (a long life for a jape) it was treated as a prime source in a holarly work on both men by William B.

Press, (Pennsylvania State University rress, 1970). The five winners printed below get £10 each and the bonus bottle of Veuve Clic- cl, uot Gold Label 1979 Vintage Champagne (the gift of NERA) goes to Jonathan Fernside.

Wilde: The perfect one. I have been to the Royal Academy, Whistler: That is, indeed, a most sobering .!,5•Perience.

So much so that Burlington House could soon become a clinic for inebriates.



Whistler: My health is far too rude to survive such an ordeal.

Wilde: Only a magnum of iced Bollinger enabled me to do so.

Whistler: Alma-Tadema in his usual form? Wilde: Alas, yes. Poor Sir Lawrence! He must have been disappointed in young love by a brewery. His canvases would compel even Bac- chus to sign the pledge.

Whistler: And Leighton?

Wilde: As ever — the febrile in pursuit of the nubile.

Whistler: The only man to make purity look positively indecent. Wilde: Ah, I knew there must be some reason for his peerage. Then Burne-Jones — Whistler: By all means, Oscar, the sooner the

better. (Jonathan Fernside)

Branwell: I am drunk.

Emily: 1 think not; excited perhaps, but not with drink.

Branwell: Anyway, Father doesn't like it. Emily: That never used to worry you before. . . all this.

Branwell: I don't know what you mean. Emily: Don't be evasive, Branwell, you know perfectly well what I mean. You've been at the laudanum again. You were so much nicer when you were drunk.

Branwell: Well, what do you expect? Stuck out here in the howling gales; even when the wind

drops there's nothing to hear but the scratching of pens.

Emily: You have your work.

Branwell: Aye, clipping tickets at Luddenden Foot. I used to have dreams of travelling to far Cathay. (Crosses to window). Cathay! Cathay! where have you gone?

Emily: Excuse me a moment; 1 think you've

given me an idea. (Noel Petty)

Waugh: I abstain from wine in Lent. Your ignorance of Christian practice befits a slum child rather than an adult Etonian. Your school was founded by a saintly king. Unless the ushers neglected their duty, your inquiry is therefore impious.

Connolly: Come, Evelyn, have you never broken your resolution?

Waugh: Often. Particularly in irksome com- pany. I console myself that gluttony is less culpable than anger.

Connolly: Is it? Do you? 1 really am a pagan, you know. Petronius, not Paul, was my educa- tion.

Waugh: That is abundantly evident from your journalism.

Connolly: Do you think I would do better to write novels?

Waugh: You might do better. You would make less money.

Connolly: Then I couldn't afford to drink. Waugh: I can afford to drink but not to jeopardise my soul. The effect is outwardly

identical. (Charles Mosley) Every excuse. When, Harold, you keep on calling emergency Cabinets late at night, how on earth can any of us get any really serious drinking in?

I only ask because on the twenty-nine pre- vious occasions this year that you've threatened your resignation, you've always been in a state of total intoxication.

When I'm sober, working for a little shit like you seems absolutely farcical. When I'm drunk, it seems even more ridiculous.

We're worried about sterling.

F— sterling.

Precisely what the Yanks appear to be doing. Then go to the country!

We've only just been.

Then go again!

I'll get Marcia to mix you an Alka-Seltzer. Or would you prefer Mary to come and read you one of her poems? (Andrew McEvoy)

GKC: My dear Shaw, only a true ale-quaffer can be as sober as 1 am. The teetotaller is more dangerously intoxicated than anyone, because he cannot trust himself to indulge a simple vice. Take yourself for example.

GBS: I always do. And I confess that eschewing pathologically fermented cereals and the flesh of dead animals has given me a lively step that you might mistake for a drunkard's. But my brain isn't so pickled that I can mistake an executed criminal for divinity incarnate.

GKC: Then it's not the draught from the bottle you're missing, Shaw; it's the wine of exaltation. The man who talks common sense is the worst lunatic alive, ready to kill us all to keep us healthy.

GBS: Mankind has done well enough to wipe itself out of existence without my help. But creative evolution will set that right.

GKC: When you turn science into a religion, you lose the benefits of both.

GBS: And since you understand neither, you may as well go on drinking to dissolve your confusion. Drink up, and we'll go and bait

Wells. (Basil Ransome-Davies)