Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: W.S. Gilbert’s guide to wedded bliss

Spectator competition winners: W.S. Gilbert’s guide to wedded bliss
‘I am the very model of a guide to conjugality…’: Andrew Shore as Major-General Stanley in Mike Leigh’s 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance [Vibrant Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo]
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In Competition No. 3208, you were invited to submit a recipe for marital bliss on behalf of an author of your choice.

Pausing only to give an honourable mention to Simon Hunter, I pass you over to this week’s terrific winners who each nab £25.

I am the very model of a guide to conjugality

Advising every blushing bride to face up to reality.

If you can follow my advice and act with due humility

You’re guaranteed a life that’s spent in unalloyed tranquillity.

While testing your endurance when he uses the ‘facilities’,

The seat’s still raised, but don’t complain; it might invoke hostilities.

Be sure he always has his way and don’t be argumentative,

Massage his ego every day, you know he’s hyper sensitive.

He’ll air his views on anything, both social and political,

Regardless of the facts — but curb your instinct to be critical,

The same with countless stories, told with numbing regularity,

And well-worn jokes that must be met with resolute hilarity.

And if, upon reflection, you can face with equanimity

The chance of a supporting role with virtual anonymity

And still comply with all the rules, responding with acuity,

Your union’s blest for years and years and into perpetuity.

Sylvia Fairley/W.S.Gilbert
You see, what you need, I mean, what a man and a woman need, well… there’s almost no telling, I can tell you. My Uncle Ned swore by a charabanc. Jasper, my boy, he said, he called me Jasper then, get yourselves down to Whitstable, he said, and have yourselves a winkle or two. Slice of lemon, smattering of salt, it’s a feast, what is it? Worcestershire sauce, a dab, maybe. Honeymoon all over again. (Pause.) I mean you can go about it other ways, Folkestone, Margate, even the Isle of Thanet. Every other week, he said, husband and wife, deep breath, salt air flaring your nostrils, a whiff of fish, what marriage wasn’t saved at the sea-side? I had a friend who was happily wed. Yes. I tell you what, she had a vacant cartouche. Vacant. Or at least so she told me. I took her at her word.

Bill Greenwell/Harold Pinter

You may talk o’ Aphrodite

When you’re Brassoin’ in Blighty,

An’ paradin’ for the punters at the Palace:

But when a man’s campaignin’,

An’ ’e needs ’is chatelainin’,

Then ’is queen should be Athena — like my Alice.

Oh, she loves ’er darling troopee

In ’is Blanco’d solar toupee,

Or out of it, post fall-out and libations,

An’ for all ’er endless prattlin’

She’s a demon with the Gatling

When the pony-lines are subject to predations;

But our path to bliss o’ course is

She’s my C in C ’ome forces…

And a soldier ’olds his ’orses

For superior formations.

Nick Syrett/Rudyard Kipling

To keep a blissful marriage state,

Stoop not to criticise your mate.

Be winsome, helpful, kindly, sweet,

Kiss laughing lips, rub weary feet.

Pour cups of tea, tell happy news,

Aspire to be each other’s muse.

Be patient, listen, never rush,

On Valentine’s, make roses blush.

Share tasty meals and tender dreams,

Dress handsomely in silken seams.

Take carriage-rides in Central Park,

Pen notes to make the paper spark.

Drown anniversaries in champagne,

Smooth frowning brows to smiles again.

Then, kid, once you’ve regained your wits,

Tear all your wedding vows to bits.

Janine Beacham/Dorothy Parker

1 The world is everything that is the case.

2 The world is everything that is in the case.

2.01 This is why the case will not admit of closing.

2.011 Therefore it is necessary to exclude some objects from the case.

2.012 But all objects are equally necessary, and justify inclusion in the case.

2.013 Open-toed gold stilettos.

2.014 On a walking tour of Iceland.

2.0141 Well, you never know.

2.1 Such objects occur naturally in pairs.

2.11 There is no limit to the number of pairs of such objects it is possible and necessary to possess.

3 Some objects appear naturally to occupy different positions, depending upon the identity of the observer.

3.1 Lavatory seats for instance.

3.2 Or glasses in dishwashers.

3.3 Or towels.

4 And another thing.

4.1 Some objects cannot fulfil their function unless definitively fixed in space.

4.11 Yes, I do mean that shelf.

5 Whereof he cannot speak, thereof he must be silent.

David Shields/Ludwig Wittgenstein

Of marriage-Melancholy much hath been writ, yet I add this truth, that men most Idle in the home are wont to toil diligently and late in ale-houses. But ite domum, Comesator! Your goodwife waits there on your hearth, as keen-tongued Xanthippe awaited Socrates. Cold Melancholy is your welcome, and labor omnia vicit must be your remedy. For consider ye — Homer himself commended the industry of Eumaeus. That worthy swineherd kept house all cleanly and his board well-filled, and the great Odysseus made him comrade.

Marriage is not made for Idleness, nor yet for Solitude. Did not Philemon make glad with Baucis? And the gods blessed Philemon. I say, that if a man will often take his wife abroad, and relish her discourse, applaud her wit, be liberal as to gifts, and soberly but opportunely share cups of wine — then Melancholy shall evaporate. And so I conclude.

Rosemary Sayer/Robert Burton

No 3211: sing a song of covid

You are invited to compose a nursery rhyme inspired by the pandemic. Please email entries of up 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 11 August.