Sunday, 16 August 2009

Umbrella

Back in London after a peaceful, sunny holiday. Reading the passage below, I feel I'm in real need of an umbrella:
Oh, what a good friend to a man is an umbrella in rain time, and likewise at many other times. What need he fear if a wild bull or a ferocious dog attacks him, provided he has a good umbrella? He unfurls the umbrella in the face of the bull or dog, and the brute turns round quite scared, and runs away. Or if a footpad asks him for his money, what need he care provided he has an umbrella? He threatens to dodge the ferrule into the ruffian's eye, and the fellow starts back and says, "Lord, sir! I meant no harm. I never saw you before in all my life. I merely meant a little fun." Moreover, who doubts that you are a respectable character provided you have an umbrella? You go into a public-house and call for a pot of beer, and the publican puts it down before you with one hand without holding out the other for the money, for he sees that you have an umbrella and consequently property. And what respectable man, when you overtake him on the way and speak to him, will refuse to hold conversation with you, provided you have an umbrella? No one. The respectable man sees you have an umbrella, and concludes that you do not intend to rob him, and with justice, for robbers never carry umbrellas. Oh, a tent, a shield, a lance, and a voucher for character is an umbrella. Amongst the very best friends of man must be reckoned an umbrella.'
An upswelling of enthusiasm, which appears apropos of not much at all (well, rain), in George Borrow's 'Wild Wales'. He must have felt his 'eulogium' needed a bit of explanation, footnoting it as follows:
As the umbrella is rather a hackneyed subject two or three things will of course be found in the above eulogium on an umbrella which have been said by other folks on that subject; the writer, however, flatters himself that in his eulogium on an umbrella two or three things will also be found which have never been said by any one else about an umbrella.
Rather bizarre - endearingly so - but I'm convinced. Must try not to lose it.

3 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

I wasn't sure if this quote was serious or surreal; now I've seen the provenance, I suspect both :-) I wonder what Borrow would have made of modern, compact, collapsible umbrella.

Gaw said...

Borrow is terrifically likeable, once you get to know him.

Regarding compacts, I suspect he would have been sceptical: a club is a less suitable weapon for the respectable than a rapier-like brolly, I would guess.

BTW 'dodge the ferrule into the ruffian's eye': what a lovely phrase, despite its meaning.

worm said...

Umbrellas are brilliant. I posted a little while back on the combat deployment a gentleman may find for his umbrella:

http://ruminantics.blogspot.com/2009/06/bartitsu.html