Thursday, January 15, 2009


It goes without saying that to successfully rake ones way through society, it is important to be (or at least appear to be) cultured. When hobnobbing with the monied, it should be remembered that while a rake may be poor in wealth, he should always be rich in knowledge. In conversation, you must be able to draw them so far into your web of charm and wit that when it comes time for a tab to be covered or an account to be settled, they will dip into their own pockets instead of expecting you to dip into yours.

One of the best topics to discuss in these situations is music. How many times have I successfully expostulated on Rodolfo's Che Gelida Manina aria from Puccini's La boheme thereby capturing the affections of a prominent society matron? Well, too many times to remember at this point.

One must have a more than cursory knowledge of the operas by the French, the Germans and of course the Italians. Knowledge of classical music should be more discriminating. Pick one of the more obscure Romantic composers, memorize his entire catalogue and be prepared to dismiss all his contemporaries as mere poseurs. It can be very useful in delicately and charmingly offending the sensibilities of young women who are only versed in the three B's.

The rake is by nature a creature of the city where so often "swing" dancing has replaced the waltz, quadrille and mazurka as the step of the day. It is therefore necessary to have encyclopædic knowledge of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller so that one may very publicly call for a tune at the next society event.

Knowledge of musical instruments is unnecessary, but it is worthwhile to invest a few hours into learning a minor work for the piano that can be played only in front of an intimate circle of acquaintances. Alisdair, for instance, is a master of tickling out "Slow Boat to China" while staring into the eyes of another man's wife. The effect is often hypnotizing.

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