Several months ago we began an indefinite hiatus from answering any of the thousands of questions submitted to us regularly. It is not that we do not care about you*, but rather that, as our familiar reader will know, it was just too taxing to continue. However, our familiar reader should also know that we frequently make exception to all of our self-imposed rules, such as only drinking dark liquors during Lent (the last time I went 40 days without gin I was in grammar school).
Thus, when we received this latest letter, we were only too eager to answer it. Not only is the subject matter (as you shall see below) exactly the type of vital question debated here at The Rakish Life, but the inquiry comes from an old family friend of mine, one Herr Raghnall von Mücke in Bavaria. Old Raghy and I--comment on dire--go way back. His great-great-uncle and mine competed against each other at the very first contested Olympic biathlon, at Chamonix in '24. As this year's Winter Games are fast approaching, I have often reflected that it is a shame that this cherished event is now known as the biathlon rather than its original Norwegian name: "militært patruljeløp." More than our family ties, however, what binds Raghnall and me together is our shared time at boarding school. Actually, it wasn't so much a "boarding school" as it was a penal colony for the wayward sons of ancient families. Located in the depths of a secret vale in the Swiss Alps, St. Buonfiglio assured parents around the Continent that their child would be completely rehabilitated of any undesirable behaviour in 2 years. Ha! Let's just say that I was asked to leave after my second month, and my legacy to St. B's is that female staff are no longer employed there.
Anyways, my old chum Raghnall recently wrote to A and me with the following:
Montesquieu wrote in his Persian Letters:
"I have travelled for six months in Spain and Portugal, where I lived among people despising all nations except the French, whom they honour with their hate. Gravity is the distinctive characteristic of both nations: it has two chief methods of manifestation—spectacles and moustaches.
Spectacles demonstrate clearly that the wearer of them is an accomplished man of science, who has injured his sight by the extent and profundity of his reading; and every nose which they adorn or burden, may pass, without contradiction, for the nose of a savant.
As regards the moustache, in itself it is respectable, independently of results; although sometimes it has been of great use in the service of the king, and in the maintenance of national honour, as appears from the case of a famous Portuguese general in the Indies: for, being in want of money, he cut off one of his moustaches, and offered it to the inhabitants of Goa as a pledge for the loan of twenty thousand pistoles, and the money was advanced at once; afterwards he redeemed his moustache with honour."
My question clearly is: do you agree?
Raghnall von Mücke
Well Raghnall, Montesquieu certainly addresses some notable issues. The first and foremost being the hatred that those Iberian dogs harbor towards the French. Let me make it clear that the feeling is mutual, and any Frenchman worth his weight in vin rouge would agree. In fact, despite the vast differences in membership qualifications at city clubs around Paris, the one hard and fast rule observed by all is "No Portuguese, No Spaniards, No Apologies."
Moving on, I do not doubt that the peoples Montesquieu writes about manifest their "gravity" with the use of eyeglasses and the growing of moustaches, so yes, I can agree with this observation, but I will now offer my opinion of these facial accessories.
Fortunately, neither Alisdair nor I have ever needed any sort of ocular aid, although we have at times been known to employ monocles or lorgnettes at balls and opera glasses when attending the theater. At large social functions like these , it is crucial to be able to spot a lonely lass from across the room, accurately size up a particularly large wedding ring, or take in the view of les embonpoints in the orchestra pit during the more boring largo passages at the symphony. Advertising yourself as "an accomplished man of science, who has injured his sight by the extent and profundity of his reading" immediately brands one as a bore with whom no one would want to spend any time. Of course, one must be a prolific reader, but one needn't be a scholar of Castiglione to know that such self-aggrandizement violates every rule of sprezzatura. It is unforgivable and is considered quite bad form.
As far as moustaches go, Montesquieu is quite right by positing that they are in themselves respectable. Indeed, I spend the first hour of every day alternately trimming and waxing my own. For my moustache endows me with Samsonian strengths and appetites; without it I would be nothing more than the shell of a man. However, the fervor with which the inhabitants of the Peninsula tend to their moustaches is nothing short of fanatical. All Spaniards, including the women, have beautiful moustaches that they spend most of their time massaging and grooming. Indeed, the Spanish Siesta is merely an excuse for these zealots to spend a few hours each day with their precious Impériales or Conquistadores. While I can admire the vanity in such an undertaking, it seems like this time might be better spent building a civilisation that is worthy of respect from the rest of the Western world, but I digress...
If you are not a Spaniard and find yourself thinking that you might look more dashing with a moustache, remember that while it is growing in, you must not leave the house. Plan accordingly: depending on your racial disposition, this stage could take months.
So, while Montesquieu makes some valid points, he made the mistake of wasting precious ink and paper discussing the lower races of the Basque, Castilian, Catalan and Galician provinces . I mean no offence to any Spaniards - I simply do not like you, and think that you are the scourge of Europe. I hope this answer is satisfactory Raghnall! Will I see you at this years anticipated Buonfigilo reunion party?
* we don't