Where there be Truth, the Hounds will Sniff it out: Master Watkins' Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs

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The Independent Online
FOR MANY Years past, it hath been my Observation that divers poor People have been most grievously deceiv'd, and put to unnecessary Expence (which, to tell the Truth, they could ill afford, in these straiten'd Times, under Mr Treasurer Clarke, not to mention his Predecessor, Master Lamont), all thro' the Purchase of Almanacks, which were little else but Frauds upon the Publick. As an Antidote to which, like a Blue- bag for a Bee-sting, I set up on my own Account, with the kind Encouragement of severall Friends in Fleet-street, as a Maker of true Almanacks, compiled with the utmost Exactitude from Sir I. Newton, his Fluxions, and with the Aid of my own optick Glasses.

All my Predictions, I am happy to state, proved infallibly correct, eg, that the Month of June would see a most surprising Fitt of rainy Weather, which would last 12 Days, or that in the Month of September the Prince of Wales would call for a new Start to be made, although more exact Particulars were harder to come by; with the Consequence that all the old Almanack-makers were driven quite out of Business and had perforce to seek Employment instead with Mistress Hogg in Downing- street or Master K. Clarke in Great George-street.

As to the Balance of Benefit to the Publick in these Transactions, I will leave it to the candid Reader to judge; and will content myself merely with the Thought that, as the original Sting hath now been drawn from the Flesh by the Flow of Truth, so there is no farther Need for any Antidote to the Affliction; and that accordingly, in all the Circumstances of the Case, my Time were better employ'd in some free Thoughts upon the present State of Affairs.

You must know that 'til the Autumn of last Year Master Major was, in the cant Phrase, Under Attack from All Sides, altho' it proved upon closer Examination that the Assaults upon his Person came from those within the Citadel; the Reason being that Master John Smith (a Scotchman), who is Commander-in-Chief of the besieging Army, judged it the more prudent Course to aim his Fire at his own Troops, which may seem to some strange Behaviour in a Commanding Officer, but hath ample Precedent in his own Faction, eg, Master Gaitskell, his Speech on Armaments anno. 1960, and Master Kinnock, his great Speech on Master Hatton, his Taxis anno. 1985; altho', to tell the Truth,

Master Smith hath not yet made such a Stir as these Statesmen of olden Times.

Now, as to Master Major, his Troubles, I must tell you that his Predecessor, my Lady Thatcher (or Mistress Thatcher as she was in those Days), entered into a Devil's Compact with Master Rupert Murdoch, that is at one Moment from the Antipodes, at another from the Americas, as the Fancy takes him, and his commercial Interests seem to dictate; which Bargain or Agreement was that, in return for Favours to Master Murdoch, his Sheets and Scribblers would show a Support for the Administration in all its Troubles; like a fierce Dog that, in return for Shelter in a Stable and Pieces of stinking Meat, will guard his Mistress and tear her Enemies apart should they be so imprudent as to approach her Gates or, indeed, to show her any Impertinencies soever.

To begin with, all worked as a Clock upon the Chimney-piece, Ministers doing Master Murdoch's bidding, and Master Murdoch giving Praise to the Ministry or, at any rate, to my Lady Thatcher. But see what has happened. The Mistress was put out of her former Demesne by a conspiracy of treacherous Welsh Servants, and Mr Secretary Major put in as Master in her Place; whereupon the Dog emerged from his Lair, gave a few Sniffs, and detected Apprehension in his new Master. All the other Dogs in the Neighbourhood then joined in the Fun, of which there was a good deal to be had, with Master David Mellor losing his Trousers to the Pack, and Master Lamont his great Office, to say nothing of Colonel Mates, his own Troubles.

All of a sudden, however ('twas round about October of last Year, altho' I will leave it to the Reader to judge), the Dogs grew weary of their new Sport, and turned their rude Attention instead to the great Palace across St James's-park, where, having disposed of a Duchess of York and a Princess of Wales, they are now sniffing at the Ankles of the Prince, and may soon be smelling round Her Majesty, as to which, and related Matters, I will say nothing farther at this Juncture, for fear of causing Offence, which it hath ever been my Purpose to avoid, but will return instead to the Ministry.

The principall Member is Virginia, Mistress Bottomley, who is put up to speak on behalf of her Colleagues on every Occasion when it is proper for her to do so, and on some when it is not. Mistress Bottomley is Wife to Master Peter Bottomley, that was in the Ministry himself 'til he was put out of Employment, the exact Reason for which (Master Bottomley, his Dismissal, I mean) I have now forgot.

Mistress Bottomley hath a clear Message for all, viz., that rich Foods, fine Wines, and strong Spirits are very Works of the Devil, the Path of Salvation lyeing thro' strenuous Exercise; altho' I am bound to say, without any Desire to cause Offence on the second Sunday after Christmas, that the Parts judged suitable for Exertion by Mistress Bottomley manifestly do not include the Brain. However, her Opinions on Salvation must needs commend her to Master Paisley and his Band of dissenting Ranters from the Irish Plantations: but I must inform the Reader that, having conducted the most assiduous Inquiries in an around the Palace of Westminster, I can find no Trace of such a Connexion or Alliance.

'Twas in the Vineyards of these Irish Plantations that Master Bottomley labour'd when he was in Office, and of late these Territories have been placed upon a Pedestal by Master Major and his Faction, the reasoning being as follows: That, as every one is in favour of Peace, and no one has yet brought Peace to the Plantations, so in the particular Circumstances of this Case Master Major can do himself no harm, and may even do himself a little good, if he make a Call for Peace yet again: in which grand Scheam or Design he has so far been abundantly justified, for the more Persons that are killed, the louder is the Cry for Peace, and the greater the publick Gratitude to Master Major for crying the loudest, a Strategem which hath receiv'd universall Approbation for its true Christian Spirit.

In all these Troubles, Master Major hath been assisted by a Refusal to settle the Succession; altho', as was apparent anno. 1990, this want of Decision failed to secure my Lady Thatcher in her Place, and Master Major was the grand Beneficiary. 'Twould be a nice Irony if some Person of equal Obscurity were picked from the Jumble of old Bones in Westminster-hall for a Successor to Master Major, eg, Master Peter Bottomley. But of such a diverting Conclusion there is, I am afraid, no Sign at the present Time, when all Eyes still look to Master Clarke. God save the Queen.

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