Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Old Knock in Love

The concepts of "The Old Knock" and "Love" do not easily meld.  I am afraid to say that the Old Knock, in general, is not particularly adept in the art of love.  It is unsurprising to find that most Old Knocks are not wed, or if they are, they did not participate in the Holy Act of Matrimony until well into their later years.  (Once has only to consider the grand C.S. Lewis, pictured above, with his wife Joy.)  The fact that some Old Knocks actually have been known to reproduce is nothing short of extraordinary.

The cause for this lack of romantic excellence is due, almost entirely, to the primary focus of the Old Knock’s life: their field of study.  Lest we forget, an Old Knock is defined almost entirely by his (or her) devotion to intellectual pursuits.  This does not leave one much time to master the finer graces required for wooing.

Take for instance P.G. Wodehouse’s Gussie Fink-Nottle.  Here is a young man devoutly committed to his beloved newts.  Is it any wonder that at the moment he hopes to, as they say, “seal-the-deal” with his beloved, he hopelessly flubs it?

Here, the Inimitable Jeeves is speaking with his employer, Bertie Wooster:

"Mr. Fink-Nottle is not quite himself, sir. He has passed through a trying experience."
I endeavoured to put together a brief synopsis of previous events.
"I left him out here with Miss Bassett."
"Yes, sir."
"I had softened her up."
"Yes, sir."
"He knew exactly what he had to do. I had coached him thoroughly in lines and business."
"Yes, sir. So Mr. Fink-Nottle informed me."
"Well, then----"
"I regret to say, sir, that there was a slight hitch."
"You mean, something went wrong?"
"Yes, sir."
I could not fathom. The brain seemed to be tottering on its throne.
"But how could anything go wrong? She loves him, Jeeves."
"Indeed, sir?"
"She definitely told me so. All he had to do was propose."
"Yes sir."
"Well, didn't he?"
"No, sir."
"Then what the dickens did he talk about?"
"Newts, sir."
"Yes, sir."
"Yes, sir."
"But why did he want to talk about newts?"
"He did not want to talk about newts, sir. As I gather from Mr. Fink-Nottle, nothing could have been more alien to his plans."
I simply couldn't grasp the trend.
"But you can't force a man to talk about newts."
"Mr. Fink-Nottle was the victim of a sudden unfortunate spasm of nervousness, sir. Upon finding himself alone with the young lady, he admits to having lost his morale. In such circumstances, gentlemen frequently talk at random, saying the first thing that chances to enter their heads. This, in Mr. Fink-Nottle's case, would seem to have been the newt, its treatment in sickness and in health."
"And how long did this nuisance continue?"
"For some not inconsiderable time, I gather, sir. According to Mr. Fink-Nottle, he supplied Miss Bassett with very full and complete information not only with respect to the common newt, but also the crested and palmated varieties. He described to her how newts, during the breeding season, live in the water, subsisting upon tadpoles, insect larvae, and crustaceans; how, later, they make their way to the land and eat slugs and worms; and how the newly born newt has three pairs of long, plumlike, external gills. And he was just observing that newts differ from salamanders in the shape of the tail, which is compressed, and that a marked sexual dimorphism prevails in most species, when the young lady rose and said that she thought she would go back to the house."

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