The Port Naain Philosophical and Poetical Society has flourished for a number of years, drawing its membership from persons of towering intellect, good taste and considerable wealth. The society holds several meetings a year, normally at the home of a wealthy member. Indeed the summer picnics, held in the grounds of the house of Rasal Peuten are the height of the social season for many.
There were certain peculiarities in the nature of the membership. Poets and Philosophers were not allowed to join; it was felt that this would smack of ‘trade’ and ‘partiality.’ Similarly the membership was entirely male, but young ladies of good character were often awarded ‘associate membership’.
Still, it was normal for the Society to invite poets and philosophers to ‘perform’ at their meetings, and whilst the honorarium was nominal but the food was never less than excellent.
The Annual General Meeting tended to be a short meeting held in the evening as the closing event of one of the picnics. It was rarely controversial, and sometimes would last less than seven minutes.
Yet within the Society there were various factions. Those that interest us are the ‘Poetics’ who felt that it was the poetry that was the most important part of the Society’s work. This was a small group. They were bitterly opposed by the ‘Philosophers’ who felt that poetry was a distraction from the real work of the Society which was to encourage philosophy. The third group was very informal, but larger, and consisted of those who felt that the main purpose of the Society was to allow them to ‘network’ and make useful contacts amongst powerful people within the city to their mutual advantage. The fourth, and largest group, was composed of those who felt that any society which gave them a chance of spending time in pleasant surrounds with young women wearing few if any clothes was to be encouraged.
There was constant bickering between the first two groups, suppressed by members of the third group who didn’t wish divisions to drive members of the Society away, and ignored by the fourth group who were too busy picnicking.
Finally matters came to a head when the Philosophers attempted a coup d’état. This was something that I was warned about by one of the Networkers who was afraid that it might weaken the Society. So I ensured I was invited to the AGM and managed to talk to sundry individuals.
At the meeting itself a motion was proposed by the Philosophers. It stated ‘This meeting believes that whilst Philosophers were gentlemen and deserving of the honorarium, poets were mere tradesmen and should not receive it. The practice is to end immediately.’
This was passed by a considerable majority, and then the second motion was proposed, by the Networkers. ‘Due to the retirement of our previous secretary this meeting wishes Tallis Steelyard to be appointed to his place, to receive the honorarium of one alar per month and to fulfil all the duties of the secretary as laid down in the constitution.’ This was met with confusion but was passed due to the timely arrival of a large band of picnickers who had succumbed to my blandishments and were happy to vote for a secretary who would extend the wine list and promised to regard in a positive light commendations for associate membership made to him in person by members.
Finally another motion was passed saying, ‘This meeting notes with concern that the recommended wages paid to tradesmen are out of line with those paid elsewhere in the city and the Secretary is instructed to ensure that matters are remedied.’
At this point various people were beginning to get suspicious, and a number of the ‘Philosophers’ wanted the motion tabling until the next AGM, but again, it was passed by the large number of picnickers who remained to see justice done.
Thus and so, in the last year I have regularised the table of wages paid to tradesmen, giving especial thought to rates paid by the Society to those poets who are asked to attend upon meetings. These I have increased so that they are in line with the majesty of the profession. Currently they are four times more than the dignified honoraria paid to philosophers. Still I trust that the latter can be truly philosophical about the phenomena, and accept that the greater glory they receive is of far higher value than mere silver.
My tenure as secretary is regarded by many as a success; a growing number of picnickers are predisposed to gratitude, owing in part to my promptness at informing them of the arrival of their wife at the front door. Still, I am reminded that one of my duties is to advertise the next Annual General Meeting. It will be held, by general demand, at the house, (and gardens) of Rasal Peuten on the day of the Summer Solstice.
Obviously there are undoubtedly readers of this short missive who wish to attend but who are not currently Society members. Fear not, I have arranged that all bearing a copy of Lambent Dreams will be admitted; and discussions with regard the appropriate membership will be conducted both discreetly and sympathetically.
Other tales by Tallis will be accepted as evidence of good taste, for example
As one of the reviewers so wisely commented, “Always entertaining. Reading Tallis Steelyard is like getting a letter from a friend who has moved to a foreign country and comments on the foibles of the local people. Jim has the ability to draw you into his world to be entertained and illuminated by another culture.”