In his posthumously published essay How I Wrote Certain Of My Books, Raymond Roussel explained the methods he used to compose the works which, he was confident, would guarantee him immortality, such that “my fame will outshine that of Victor Hugo or Napoleon”. It was perhaps with the same ambition in mind that the itinerant Bible-bashing tub-thumping fire-and- brimstone preacherman Napkin Linseed paraphrased the title for his memoir How I Thumped Certain Of My Tubs. Happily, it was published while he was still alive.
Linseed is an attractive figure, if one is attracted to rakishly thin black-clad figures of decidedly corvine countenance who discern the foul besmirchment of mortal sin everywhere they look. His personality comes across with striking force in his memoir, a book as fat as he was lean. In it, he describes in fascinating detail how he devised his tub-thumping method, though he has less to say about the bashing of Bibles. The book is highly recommended to any reader who wishes to embark upon their own tub-thumping practice, as Linseed gives chapter and verse on the procurement and preparation of tubs, the most effective ways to transport them – one slung on either side of a horse’s shanks – and, of course, various approaches to thumping guaranteed to both deafen and terrify one’s audience, if, of course, one manages to attract an audience. Often enough, this was the missing element in Linseed’s preaching tours. The memoir contains innumerable descriptions of the author standing in a rainswept field, thumping his tubs and bashing his Bibles and hurling damnable imprecations at nobody save for the occasional passing cow or goat. It is perhaps his most attractive feature that Linseed never allowed himself to be discouraged by the widespread lack of interest shown in his preaching. He simply kept on going, like a swordfish spearing the briny deep.
I use that somewhat ungainly analogy in homage to Napkin Linseed himself, who deploys it repeatedly in his memoir. In some instances it appears several times in a single paragraph, and in general the paragraphs themselves are fairly short and snappy – certainly shorter and snappier than in his only other published work, How I Bashed Certain Of My Bibles.
At time of writing, Napoleon’s fame probably outshines Victor Hugo’s, Hugo’s outshines Raymond Roussel’s, and Roussel’s outshines Napkin Linseed’s. But who is to say that, in a thousand years’ time, the order may not be reversed?