The Redemption Of Philian Twirlbatton And The Founding Of The Port Naain Society For The Promotion Of Virtue And The Elimination Of Vice.

I confess to having a low threshold when it comes to tolerating sanctimonious hypocrisy. I suppose the fact that it is now, alas, ubiquitous, means that I am so constantly exposed to it, I barely notice it any more. So if it is not directed at me, I now no longer see it. I suspect that it is a defence mechanism I have developed without realising. Like the thick hide of the usurer or the politician’s inability to commit firmly to one side or the other of a sensitive debate, it helps keep me out of trouble.

Yet sometimes, this hypocrisy is gratuitously thrust upon me in a way I cannot avoid. In these cases I tend to react in verse. One can express oneself in a deliciously barbed manner, with a straight face, and rely on the notorious lack of humour that the sanctimonious display.

But it is the fascinating tale of Philian Twirlbatton I want to draw your attention to. He was somebody who genuinely attempted to live to the highest standards. Indeed it was he who founded the Port Naain Society for the Promotion of Virtue and the Elimination of Vice. Twirlbatton was a man of great personal integrity and humility. So he concentrated on attempting to be a decent person. Unlike many who set themselves up as our moral guardians he did not get his pleasures from lecturing others.

I was sitting quietly on the deck of the barge, pondering my latest work from behind closed eyelids, enjoying the afternoon sun; when he hailed me, asking for permission to come aboard.

Obviously whilst we were hardly friends, barely acquaintances, I invited him to join me and hastened to pour more wine. He had barely seated himself when he said, “Tallis, I have come to you because I am in a quandary. I intend to form a society for the promotion of virtue and the elimination of vice.”
Obviously I was somewhat nonplussed by this. Was he asking me to become one of the founding members? Poets get many strange requests but still, this one would, in my experience, be a first.

He continued, “I have been pondering the whole thing, and what worries me is the nature of the membership. So after a searching self-examination I decided I wanted a second opinion as to the vice that was most in the need of elimination. So I thought I would ask you.”
“Master Twirlbatton, I am indeed flattered, but why me?”

“You are a poet, an observer of humanity, and you mix widely across all classes of society. So I thought your opinions with regard to vice could be pertinent to my quest.”
That, I felt, was very nicely put. A lesser man might have said, ‘Steelyard, you’re a rogue and consort with rogues.’ But I felt my companion was genuinely seeking my opinion. So I did him the honour of thinking deeply about his question.
Finally I came to a decision. “Hypocrisy. If your society became a refuge for hypocrites it would lack all credibility, and would fail utterly to promote virtue. Everybody knows that hypocrites are notoriously bad both at spotting virtue in others, and spotting vices in themselves. ”
He sat in silence for a while and then nodded. “So I have to ensure I get no hypocrites.”
“I would think so. Cast your eyes about and look at so many other societies, denominations, lobby groups, ginger groups and suchlike. All have more than their fair share of hypocrites for whom life’s sweetest pleasure is sneering at others for their failings.”

“And what virtue should I specifically seek to promote?”

Again I accorded him the respect of thinking carefully before answering. “I would say ‘truth’ but truth can be cutting and used unkindly. But there is a sort of generous honesty, a kindly, almost humble, honesty, which lets the other person know the truth but in such a manner they don’t feel eviscerated by the knowledge. If you can define that honesty better than I can, then you would gather about you a group of people who will do much to aid your cause.”

He put down his empty glass. “Tallis, your comments are interesting and I feel that you have got to the nub of my dilemma. I shall indeed meditate long on your comments.”

With that he left and I confess I thought little more about it. Yet a couple of months later I heard that he had indeed started his society. I must admit I heard this news from people whom one expects to be involved in such things, yet they were distinctly curt about ‘Twirlbatton and his bizarre philosophies.’ Gradually I realised that they had applied for membership, and had been refused. After a few weeks it occurred to me that I hadn’t met anybody who was a member. Thus when I chanced upon Twirlbatton one day, I asked him how many members he had.

“None. I have had plenty of applications, but when I discuss matters with them, I realise that the persons applying tend to hypocrisy. Their sole aim appears to place themselves in a position from which they can look down on others. So where can I look for members?”
I confess I was not entirely surprised by his quandary. But as to his question, this was problematic. “Perhaps you are looking in the wrong places. If all those who wish to be members are unsuitable, then perhaps it is because only unsuitable people would wish to be members. Perhaps you ought to invite people who have no intention of joining?”

Then I added, for good measure, “Or perhaps you should ask Maljie for her opinion on this.”

He nodded sagely and we parted.

It appears that asking Maljie wasn’t perhaps the best idea I have ever had. Whilst nobody doubts her wisdom, she too has her weaknesses. So she agreed with me about asking folk to join who wouldn’t consider it. She also agreed with me that he should ask folk with a generous honesty. It was when Twirlbatton asked for names that Maljie and I would tend to part company.
Maljie suggested the mendicants and other groups of young people (although not those who study literature or philosophy) and concentrated on those with little or no money. In all candour, she has a soft spot for them. Whether they remind her of herself many years ago, or perhaps she allows their natural charm to overwhelm her discernment. But the young remain a weak spot for her. I cannot imagine her finding any vice in them.

Now Twirlbatton didn’t have to listen to her. But he did and talked to several diverse groups of young people. Here he found, to his obvious delight, that they seemed almost entirely free from hypocrisy. Not only that but if he avoided certain coteries of likeminded females, they were kind, deploying the truth gently. They were simple people, with simple pleasures. Twirlbatton found he enjoyed their artless approach to life. Similarly they liked him. They had no need to use guile, or to attempt to deceive him. Such vices as they had he considered uncomplicated and comparatively trivial. So his Port Naain Society for the Promotion of Virtue and the Elimination of Vice thrived. He allowed them to hold their revels in the gardens of his estate, and he would even join them, riding on a donkey so he could keep up with their dancing. I suppose Maljie had a point, “It kept them off the streets and out of trouble.”


You might do worse that consider studying more of the thoughts of Maljie

15 thoughts on “The Redemption Of Philian Twirlbatton And The Founding Of The Port Naain Society For The Promotion Of Virtue And The Elimination Of Vice.

  1. Did Philian actually twirl a baton during the revels? I would hope he wanted to live up to his name. Mind you, baton twirling can be tricky whilst riding a donkey…
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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