Things Beginning With B

Dobson’s pamphlet Things Beginning With B (out of print) is chiefly remarkable for the paucity of things beginning with B to which it attends. After a few ill-tempered prefatory remarks in which the twentieth century’s titanic pamphleteer gets off his chest certain moans and grumbles about rain and mud and swans, he embarks upon a surprisingly knowledgeable account of bees. This display of unlikely learning puzzled Dobsonists for many a year, until Aloysius Nestingbird discovered that the passage is copied out in its entirety from a Victorian work of natural history entitled Everything A Sickly Victorian Infant Needs To Know About Bees, Wasps And Hornets by Mrs Lachrima Baste.

Dobson next announces that he is going to give the most thorough account of breakfast ever attempted in English prose. He does not. Following a short paragraph about eggs, containing nothing that the average hen coop observer would not learn in a morning, the pamphleteer asserts that the “breakfast of the future” will be smokers’ poptarts, a product at that time newly introduced to the ever-burgeoning breakfast food market. While admitting that he has yet to try this toothsome savoury himself, Dobson sings the praises of the smokers’ poptart to so ludicrous an extent that one suspects he was in the pay of the manufacturers. As indeed he was. It was Nestingbird, again, who winkled out the embarrassing truth. Facing a large gas bill and a fine imposed upon him for an offence described as “throwing pebbles, with menace, at swans”, Dobson was more than usually desperate for cash, and it seems that when a representative from the smokers’ poptarts manufacturers’ association came a–calling, the pamphleteer struck a shabby deal. As hairy persons in the 1960s might have put it, he “sold out to The Man, man”.

Thus it is that the bulk of Things Beginning With B is nothing more than an extended paean to smokers’ poptarts, for having exhausted his flights of wittering guff about the breakfast product, Dobson brings the pamphlet to an abrupt close with the preposterous claim that, bees and breakfast aside, there is nothing much of any interest that begins with the letter B.

It is not known how much money Dobson received for his poptart puffery. The records show that, although the swans-and-pebbles-related fine was paid in full, his gas supply was cut off on St Creak’s Day of that year, and not reinstated until the first day of Vice President Nixon’s visit to Venezuela, as recounted in Six Crises (1962).

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