HERMIT OF GRUB STREET
Henry Welby was a gentleman of fortune, education and popularity in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth who suddenly secluded himself from all public life – not as a hermit off in the wilderness but right in the middle of London. His irrevocable resolution to live a solitary life followed an incident in which his younger brother, displeased over some trifle or another, attempted to shoot him at close range, certainly with the intent to kill.
To fulfill his resolution, Henry took a house at one end of Grub Street, known primarily for bohemians and impoverished hack writers. He occupied three rooms himself – one for dining, one for sleeping and one for study. The rest of the house was given over to his servants. A technical quibble here perhaps: can a man truly be a hermit with servants? But it would seem that he managed. While his food was set on his table by his cook, he would wait in his bedroom. And while his bed was being made, he would retire into his study, and so on – thus avoiding any actual contact with his servants.
He ate only a salad of greens and herbs in the summer and a bowl of gruel in the winter. He drank no wine or spirits, only water or an occasional cheap beer. Occasionally, on a special day, he might eat an egg yolk, no white, or a piece of bread, no crust. Yet he provided a bountiful table for his servants.
And in these three rooms, he remained – for forty-four years, never ever leaving them until he was carried out on a gurney. Not one of his relatives or acquaintances ever laid another eye on him – only his elderly maid Elizabeth ever saw his face. And she didn’t see much of it because it was overgrown by hair and beard. Elizabeth died just a few days before Henry’s death on October 29, 1636.
Books were his companions for those forty-four years, and not once did one of them shoot at him.
Alice in Donaldland, Part 8: Stipulations and Legal Briefs
“Is this the Queen’s court?” Alice asked the two funny-looking men blocking the big iron gate.
“Who wants to know?” they chimed together.
“I’d like to join the Queen for some golf,” answered Alice.
“She’d like to join the Queen,” they taunted, looking at each other. “Do you have a nondisclosure agreement?”
“I’m afraid I don’t, but I’m not the sort of person to disclose things. Are you the Queen’s guards?”
“Guards?” They looked at each other and laughed. “Do we look like guards? We are the Queen’s personal lawyers — Tweeedledum and Tweedledumber, attorneys-at-law. Here, sign these.” They each pushed a pile of papers at Alice.
“What are these?”
“Sworn statements that the Queen didn’t grab you, wouldn’t grab you, and was miles away when the grabbing occurred.”
“But the Queen probably won’t — ”
“Of course he will. The Queen has big hands and — ”
“– a big heart. I know, I know.”
“You also stipulate that grabbing isn’t a crime if the Queen grabs,” said Tweedledum.
“It’s not even naughty,” added Tweedledumber.
“And Collusion isn’t a crime if the Queen colludes. Obstruction isn’t a crime if the Queen obstructs. Subtraction isn’t a crime —
“Okay, I stipulate,” said Alice impatiently. “And the Queen isn’t a witch, and doesn’t grab girls and is making Donaldland great again.”
“I think she’s got it,” said the twin lawyers. “And what about the White Knight?”
Alice began to recite: “The White Knight and his nefarious throng of 98 — ”
” — 125 — ”
” — 125 dastardly democreeps are out to destroy the good Queen.”
“And the Queen is cooperating fully with his witch hunt and is willing to answer any number of questions. As a matter of fact, we have provided a list of answers to the questions the Queen is willing to answer.” Tweedledum handed a piece of paper to Alice.
She read: “Yes. No. Maybe. I couldn’t say. Fourteen. Uruguay. 1492. None of your damn business. Never. Maybe tomorrow. Gilligan’s Island. Wayne Newton. Crooked Hillary.”
“What more could we possibly do?” said Tweedledum.
“Legal is as legal does,” said Tweedledumber.
“Hand me the briefs, said Tweedledum.
“No,” said Tweedledumber. “It’s my turn to wear the briefs.”
“No, it’s my turn.”
“I’ll sue first.”
“I’ll counter-counter sue.”
And off they went, arguing and leaving the gate for Alice to enter. Which she did.