Flamboyance And Palsy

Q – When stricken with the palsy, can one maintain a flamboyant demeanour?

A – As the recently elected Potus might say, yes one can. Not only can one maintain flamboyance, but also poise. It is important to bear in mind that both these qualities, and indeed many others, such as spark and dash and élan, are innate, and need not be corrupted by any paresis of the limb or limbs. If, as often happens, the paresis is accompanied by violent and uncontrollable trembling, it can prove a tad more difficult to maintain one’s flamboyance, but it is by no means an impossibility.

Take, for example, the case of that magnifico we know as Quintus Pabstus Compostus. The ancient world had its fair share of flamboyance and poise and spark and dash and élan, but seldom were all these attributes present in one man. From rooftops to arcades to fora, the name of Pabstus was bruited about as a paragon. He may indeed have lacked virtue, and horse sense, and he certainly never cut his martial chops, but his name was, as it still remains, a byword for flamboyance. A vivid portrait of him is drawn in the second of Puny’s Six Pantopragmaticons, viz:

[Depending on the type of computer system you are using, text in a variety of ancient languages may not be visible to the naked eye, nor indeed to the eye enhanced by visual perspicuity aids.]

At the peak of his public esteem, Pabstus was struck with the palsy. He was, we are told, in an arcade, on a hot morning, cutting a dash, the cynosure of the civity, when, as if struck by a bolt of lightning, he crumpled to the paving. Borne on a stretcher to a place of pallets, he was laid upon one and moved into cool and shade. Vestal nymphs soothed his brow, and a beardy haruspex was summoned to prognosticate upon his case by careful reading of the entrails of a freshly slaughtered hen. The palsy was confirmed.

A less flamboyant paragon might have withered away. Consider Crotus Loppo, at one time the rival of Pabstus, who, when felled by a debilitating ague, was swiftly revealed to be a boor and a poltroon. All semblance of flamboyance deserted him, and he did indeed wither away. At the very end, his bones were tossed into the Vastulus, and the medals on which his head appeared were melted down for horseshoes.

Not so with Quintus Pabstus Compostus. Transferred from the pallet on to a litter, he had himself paraded through the city, his weakened tremulous limbs covered by a cloak that might have been thought gaudy were it not so flamboyant. He had his beard and bouffant preened and scented with unguents and, because his speech was not impaired, was able to dazzle the populace with his rhetoric and repartee. This seldom made any sense, but his voice was sonorous and his delivery had great poise. Thus he is the epitome of the palsied flamboyant.

Less distant in time, we might look to the Victorian dandy Auberon Wildbadger. Forever enwrapped in a cloak as flamboyant as the one that once covered the palsied limbs of Pabstus, Wildbadger is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a fop. But fops rarely sprout moustachios as decisive as his, nor show such effortless poise when leaning against large important buildings. It is no doubt pertinent that he was the son of a brimstone-and-sulphur preacher, a reverend gentleman who shook the walls of tin tabernacles with his frankly insane ravings. Wildbadger learned much from his father, but not what the latter would have wished to teach his son. The young Auberon smirked at the content, but lapped up the style. So later, when he made his way in the world, he knew precisely how to make people gasp, and even swoon, merely by the flamboyance with which, for example, he adjusted his cravat.

Wildbadger too was struck by the palsy, while dining on oysters and lobster at the Café Showoff. Slumping in his chair, his limbs limp, and the trembling, the trembling of his limbs not yet set in, as it would shortly, and continue, relentlessly, for decades, the dandy merely raised an eyebrow and called the maitre d’ to his table to demand, in his fluting voice, more oysters and an extra lobster. They were brought, but without the flamboyance he desired, so he sent the hapless waiter away to try again. Back came the oysters and lobster, carried on a gilt platter, but again without the kind of dash and poise that Wildbadger, even in his physical collapse, thought apt. Other diners could not but be struck by his élan as he commanded the waiter back and forth until he was satisfied. As the diarist Lady Chlorine Skippington-Pip, who was present in the Cafe, wrote:

Rare it is to witness such flamboyance in one so palsied. Methinks we must go back as far as the ancient world, and the example of Quintus Pabstus Compostus, to be swoony with awe at such poise and spark and dash.

In summary, then, my questioner need have no fear. I have told of two exemplars, a pair of paragons. Even in your present adversity, you may yet prove to be a third.

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