Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Let him drink, and forget his poverty and remember his misery no more."


As Thursday has again come to pass, I’m sure many of you are expecting some little shred of wisdom from Alisdair and me to alleviate the crushing boredom and cretinous ignorance that surely characterizes most of your lives. Now, I am usually not so deluded as to presume that there are hundreds of you out there marking the days on your calendar in anticipation of a new lesson from us. On second thought, maybe I am. Anyways, tonight I will satisfy your ravenous hunger for more knowledge -- if only to demonstrate my vast command of all matters rakish.

Summer, with all her charms and temptations, is again upon us. It is beautiful days like today – breezy, sun-drenched, 19º* -- that always enkindle in me only one sort of emotion: the blackest depression imaginable.

To the rake, such a fate is inescapable. Yes, Alisdair and I write often and freely of our jolly adventures among the well-heeled, but for the gentleman-scoundrel of leisure, life is not all wine and Roses.** For every story that we relate to you about a night on the town, there is the story of the next morning - a story that typically involves a pounding head, an empty wallet, and a heart bereft of any and all joy. Now, I can hear the head-scratching of the witless among you: "Gaspard, you live the life we all dream about living! What could possibly be the problem?"

You're right, I do. However, as we probably should have made clear when we founded this institution, the life of the rake is indescribably difficult. One must possess a stomach and liver that can withstand a lifetime of brutal alcoholism, a set of lungs capable of holding a bucket of tar, and a libido - and its physical embodiment - that will not fail to sate the most wanton of women (of which there are many). The slightest deficiency in any of these respects--one free drink refused, or one hussy claiming she took more out of you than vice-versa --and your reputation will be dashed on society's rocks. You will no longer merit the title of rake, but will instead be a third-rate pretender, a misbehaved child playing in adults' games.

But beyond that which is physically required of the rake, and perhaps even most importantly, his mind must be strong enough to weather the violent emotional storms that torment it night and day. For you see, just as the rake's lifestyle exposes him to physical ailments not suffered by the normal man, thoughts that no normal man could ever think constantly assail his booze-addled brain. As Steele tells us, the rake, most agreeable of all bad characters, "is a man always to be pitied; for his faults proceed not from choice or inclination but from strong passions and appetites, which are in youth too violent for the curb of reason, good sense, good manners, and good-nature: all which he must have by nature and education before he can allowed to be, or to have been of this order."

He continues, "Thus, with all the good intentions in the world...this creature sins on against heaven, himself, his friends, and his country. There is no being under the sun so miserable as this; he goes on in a pursuit he himself disapproves, and has no enjoyment but what is followed by remorse; no relief from remorse, but the repetition of his crime."

What a disturbingly accurate description! Am I really so two-dimensional that I can be described by a man who has been dead for 200 years? Apparently so. But my rakish fate is one to which I never aspired . No, I have been uncontrollably drawn to hedonism from an early age - spurred on by ungodly passions whose provenance I cannot place. Maybe it was the fact that my mother drank and smoked heavily while I was in utero, or perhaps it was all of the all-night masquerade balls my father forced her to attend. More likely, it was the hours I spent in my Oncle Alph's arms as he used me as a tool to seduce fawning women. Whatever the case, Je suis qui Je suis.

The lesson to be learned here is that if you are truly a rake, you will experience crippling pangs of regret and despair that can last anywhere from a few minutes to several years. Do not off yourself in some grisly bridge-jump or gallows-mimicry - losers we may be, but quitters -never! Also, do not dream of "going straight;" a glance at Steele's article will show how fruitless this will be.

Instead, draw the shutters, crank up the phonograph and play a bit of Brahms. Revel in your sadness. Drink a bottle of red wine. Glare at passersby in the street from your 5th floor window, hating them with every ounce of your being. Pick out the especially insipid, moralistic-looking among them, and imagine the intricate revenges you would perpetrate on them, if only you knew who they were. Drink another bottle of red wine, and then nap. When you wake up, shake yourself up a nice gimlet and prepare for a night on the town. Trust me. You will feel better.

Your fate as a rake, for better or worse, is inescapable. Embrace it and stay true to yourself.

* ºRé, of course. I find the subtleties Réaumur's thermometer pleasant. Alisdair, on the other hand, champions the system of his countryman, Rankine. To him, today would have been a balmy 535ºRa. (71ºF for all you philistines.)

** Rose's lime juice™.


  1. Too much of what has been said is sac-relig. Being a man of rags without riches, you may assume I have only uncouth misunderstandings of your ways. However, in the same selection of yerman Steele, drawing on his motivations, he said they were: "to expose the false arts of life, to pull of the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behavior." It seems that much of what you said is contrary to such aspirations. Requiring the weather of emotional storms is no corollary to a life followig a path of "general simplicity."

  2. Indeed it is contrary! G. did not mean to suggest the we are devotees to Steele and his Tatler simply by mentioning them, and we apologize for the confusion. In short, the aims of the Rakish Life and the Tatler are quite different. While Steele attempts to expose the false arts of life, cunning, and vanity, we seek to preserve them and if possible, proliferate them. What he views as false arts and cunning, we view as the most natural way of expressing our inescapable passions and the most charming effusion of our inner turmoil, some effusion being necessary and quite inevitable. Thus, though his description of our torments and our motivations is accurate, Steele is a bit of a prig, and therein lies the difference. You will notice, though, that Steele agrees with the necessity of our actions, though he does not approve the actions himself, and the ones who come in for real criticism are the cheap imitators of the rake, who suffer no emotional ills but yet seek the same medicines as we.

    How could Gaspard agree with a man who refers to him and me as "characters which [are] the most object of pity in the world?" No, he merely mentions Steele because unfortunately (or fortunately, depending who you are) the rake is quite poorly documented throughout history despite being ubiquitous in it (hence the need for the Rakish Life). This article is one of the few that makes mention of him explicitly, albeit in a most derogatory manner.

    Monsieur Umlaut, I do not believe we are acquainted. May I inquire as to your person and habits? I am very glad to have entered into some discourse with you, and I hope we will have opportunity of the same again soon.