Saturday, 5 March 2011

Deuced Clever

More advice from Pick Me Up (1890), this time aimed at young men. Although satirical, it gives an idea of the 'fast' youth of the day:

Just now there are a lot of interfering people who go about saying that a young man who wants to get on in the world should put in a good deal of his spare time reading useful books and cultivating the acquaintance of sober and respectable people. What extraordinary nonsense, isn't it? What does a healthy-minded young man want to do but to read a reliable sporting paper, and try to become acquainted with cultured people who have got a good tip for the next horse-race to sell cheap? Many a young man who has begun in this modest, unassuming way, has risen to he position of faking the books at his office, and doing seven ears for fraud.
    It may happen that a young man in reading the paper comes across an advertisement saying that a clerk is wanted, of gentlemanly appearance and good address, to complete the furniture of a great merchant's office in the City. Now, you can't be too careful in answering an advertisement like that. Don't rush off at once to the place, because you will only mix with a lot of inferior fellows who are always trying to shove themselves in where they're not wanted. Take your time. You know that the merchant is bound to engage you directly he sees you, so that there's no need to hurry. Besides, it would look as if you were running after the place, and you don't want that, naturally. The first thing to do is to get your light summer suit out of — that is, from your tailor's. Take your silver-mounted cane ; and be careful to wear only one glove, so that you can show to advantage your real diamond ring that cost no less than two-and-six, second-hand. When you get to the merchant's office, above all, preserve a genial demeanour. If he makes a joke, let him see that you are not too proud to laugh at it. Great men like these little attentions. Refer to him cordially as "old cock" occasionally in the course of the interview; and if he says anything particularly smart, slap him on the back and indulge moderately in profanity. Ask first of all what the holidays are, and if there is a billiard saloon near at hand, and whether the clerks are allowed beer. If you are an expert whist-player it might be useful to mention it among your qualifications. Considering the low price of this paper, it is really wonderful how we can afford to throw in all this good advice for the money.
    The new kind of fashionable coffee-and-cake shops that have sprung up all over the City of late years have come as a ray of light into the existence of the modern young man. Here, you can have some coffee and a piece of cake, say something rude to a good-looking girl, and break the handle off a cup—all for threepence. You generally go there with a friend who is a very decent sort of fellow, and all that, but not nearly so smart as you are. If the waitress who attends to you should be a quiet, well-ordered girl, you say something across the table to your friend that will make her blush. If your friend laughs loudly and brings all the eyes in the place to bear upon you and your victim, it makes you appear "doosid" clever, don't you know. When you have finished your frugal meal, don't hurry away like a low-bred fellow who can't stick up for himself, but sit in some exposed position and pick your teeth with a bent pin. If you are in a shop where smoking is not indulged in, on no account omit to light a cigarette in the doorway as you go out, and cough a good deal over it just for a lark, to annoy the people in charge. It shows at once that you are at your ease in any society—the hall-mark of good breeding, you know.
    If you should be travelling anywhere by rail, young man, don't attempt to get into the train so long as it is standing still. No self-respecting man would do that. Wait till it has fairly started, and then scramble in at the door and sprawl over the knees of the nearest passengers with the remark, "Close shave, that," or some other apposite quotation from Shakespeare. Then you make your way to your seat, and after smiling genially around the compartment, you remark to the man next to you that you were only just in titre. He will, of course, be very glad to know this, because, being quite a stranger, he naturally takes a great interest in you, and would have felt it keenly if you had missed the train. After that you cross your legs, clasp your hands at the back of your head, and whistle softly all about Little Annie Rooney. Railway travelling is very monotonous, and the other passengers will enjoy being so agreeably entertained. In case you should find yourself accidentally seated opposite to a young couple in the first wild fling of early love, do your best to catch the young lady's eye. She will then be able to see what a fine thing she has missed in taking the other fellow and not waiting till you came along before she gave herself away, so to speak. You will naturally feel sorry for her ; but it wasn't your fault, was it ?
    I think it was Horace Greeley who gave the sententious advice : " Young man—go West" ; but now-a-days it almost seems as if the young man were steering due South—if the popular theory as to the position of the region of uncomfortably high temperature is in any way correct.

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