Utopia Limited

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Dialogue following No. 4

King: I requested Scaphio and Phantis to be so good as to favour me with an audience this morning. (Enter Scaphio and Phantis.)Oh, here they are!

Scaphio: Your Majesty wished to speak with us, I believe. You — you needn't keep your crown on, on our account, you know.

King: I beg your pardon. (Removes it.) I always forget that! Odd, the notion of a King not being allowed to wear one of his own crowns in the presence of two of his own subjects.

Phantis: Yes — bizarre, is it not?

King: Most quaint. But then it's a quaint world.

Phantis: Teems with quiet fun. I often think what a lucky thing it is that you are blessed with such a keen sense of humour!

King: Do you know, I find it invaluable. Do what I will, I cannot help looking at the humorous side of things — for, properly considered, everything has its humorous side — even the Palace Peeper (producing it). See here — "Another Royal Scandal," by Junius Junior. "How long is this to last?" by Senex Senior. "Ribald Royalty," by Mercury Major. "Where is the Public Exploder?" by Mephistopheles Minor. When I reflect that all these outrageous attacks on my morality are written by me, at your command — well, it's one of the funniest things that have come within the scope of my experience.

Scaphio: Besides, apart from that, they have a quiet humour of their own which is simply irresistible.

King: (gratified) Not bad, I think. Biting, trenchant sarcasm — the rapier, not the bludgeon — that's my line. But then it's so easy — I'm such a good subject — a bad King but a good Subject — ha! ha! — a capital heading for next week's leading article! (makes a note) And then the stinging little paragraphs about our Royal goings-on with our Royal Second Housemaid — delicately sub-acid, are they not?

Scaphio: My dear King, in that kind of thing no one can hold a candle to you.

Phantis: But the crowning joke is the Comic Opera you've written for us — "King Tuppence, or A Good Deal Less than Half a Sovereign" — in which the celebrated English tenor, Mr. Wilkinson, burlesques your personal appearance and gives grotesque imitations of your Royal peculiarities. It's immense!

King: Ye — es — That's what I wanted to speak to you about. Now I've not the least doubt but that even that has its humorous side too — if one could only see it. As a rule I'm pretty quick at detecting latent humour— but I confess I do not quite see where it comes in, in this particular instance. It's so horribly personal!

Scaphio: Personal? Yes, of course it's personal — but consider the antithetical humour of the situation.

King: Yes. I — I don't think I've quite grasped that.

Scaphio: No? You surprise me. Why, consider. During the day thou- sands tremble at your frown, during the night (from 8 to 11) thousands roar at it. During the day your most arbitrary pronouncements are received by your subjects with abject submission — during the night, they shout with joy at your most terrible decrees. It's not every monarch who enjoys the privilege of undoing by night all the despotic absurdities he's committed during the day.

King: Of course! Now I see it! Thank you very much. I was sure it had its humorous side, and it was very dull of me not to have seen it before. But, as I said just now, it's a quaint world.

Phantis: Teems with quiet fun.

King: Yes. Properly considered, what a farce life is, to be sure!

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