In an age when every standard of decent behaviour has either been torn down or is threatened with destruction; when every newspaper is daily reporting scenes of violence, divorce and arson; when quite young girls smoke cigarettes and even, I am assured, sometimes cigars; when mature women, the mothers of unhappy children, enter the sea in one-piece bathing costumes; and when married men, the heads of household, prefer the flicker of the cinematograph to the Athanasian Creed – then it is obviously a task, not to be justifiably avoided, to place some higher example before the world.
So distressed has Gert been by events in America this week that she feels, more than ever, the need of Augustus Carp. If you’re not already a Carpite, beg, borrow or steal a copy. If you are, you’ll agree with Anthony Burgess that it’s “one of the great comic novels of the twentieth century” – It has been, for too many years, a book for private discovery, family gloating, coterie adoration.
Augustus, described by himself as a really good man, is ceaseless in his struggle against all forms of licence and depravity, and devotes himself to the Peckham Branch of the Non-Smokers’ League, the Society for the Prohibition of the Strong Drink Traffic, and, above all the Anti-Dramatic and Saltatory Union, founded by Ezekiel Stool,the most persistent and unflinching opponent that the theatre and dancing saloon have ever known.
Follow Augustus through the crisis of the charwoman’s son’s toy cannon, the consequences of his treatment for ringworm, the loss of his posterior trouser buttons and the terrible incident of the hypnotic brass eagle on the church lectern. Learn how to descend from a moving omnibus without losing equilibrium or dignity. Shudder at his public humiliation at the hands of a vicious woman and a drink known as Portugalade, and rejoice as he climbs out of this abyss to well-deserved acclaim as sidesman, churchwarden, Sunday School superintendent and secretary of the Glee Club, no less than as president of the St Potamus Purity League.
If only there were more men like him in public life.