REGINALD ON CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

I wish it to be distinctly understood (said Reginald) that

I don’t want a “George, Prince of Wales” Prayer-book as a

Christmas present. The fact cannot be too widely known.

There ought (he continued) to be technical education

classes on the science of present-giving. No one seems to

have the faintest notion of what any one else wants, and the

prevalent ideas on the subject are not creditable to a

civilized community.

There is, for instance, the female relative in the country

who “knows a tie is always useful,” and sends you some

spotted horror that you could only wear in secret or in

Tottenham Court Road. It might have been useful had she

kept it to tie up currant bushes with, when it would have

served the double purpose of supporting the branches and

frightening away the birds—for it is an admitted fact that

the ordinary tomtit of commerce has a sounder aesthetic

taste than the average female relative in the country.

Then there are aunts. They are always a difficult class

to deal with in the matter of presents. The trouble is that

one never catches them really young enough. By the time one

has educated them to an appreciation of the fact that one

does not wear red woollen mittens in the West End, they die,

or quarrel with the family, or do something equally

inconsiderate. That is why the supply of trained aunts is

always so precarious.

There is my Aunt Agatha, par exemple, who sent me a pair

of gloves last Christmas, and even got so far as to choose a

kind that was being worn and had the correct number of

buttons. But—they were nines! I sent them to a boy whom

I hated intimately: he didn’t wear them, of course, but he

could have—that was where the bitterness of death came in.

It was nearly as consoling as sending white flowers to his

funeral. Of course I wrote and told my aunt that they were

the one thing that had been wanting to make existence

blossom like a rose; I am afraid she thought me

frivolous—she comes from the North, where they live in the

fear of Heaven and the Earl of Durham. (Reginald affects an

exhaustive knowledge of things political, which furnishes an

excellent excuse for not discussing them.) Aunts with a dash

of foreign extraction in them are the most satisfactory in

the way of understanding these things; but if you can’t

choose your aunt, it is wisest in the long run to choose the

present and send her the bill.

Even friends of one’s own set, who might be expected to

know better, have curious delusions on the subject. I am

not collecting copies of the cheaper editions of Omar

Khayyam. I gave the last four that I received to the

lift-boy, and I like to think of him reading them, with

FitzGerald’s notes, to his aged mother. Lift-boys always

have aged mothers; shows such nice feeling on their part, I

think.

Personally, I can’t see where the difficulty in choosing

suitable presents lies. No boy who had brought himself up

properly could fail to appreciate one of those decorative

bottles of liqueurs that are so reverently staged in Morel’s

window—and it wouldn’t in the least matter if one did get

duplicates. And there would always be the supreme moment of

dreadful uncertainty whether it was creme de menthe or

Chartreuse—like the expectant thrill on seeing your

partner’s hand turned up at bridge. People may say what

they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious

system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.

And then, of course, there are liqueur glasses, and

crystallized fruits, and tapestry curtains, and heaps of

other necessaries of life that make really sensible

presents—not to speak of luxuries, such as having one’s

bills paid, or getting something quite sweet in the way of

jewellery. Unlike the alleged Good Woman of the Bible, I’m

not above rubies. When found, by the way, she must have

been rather a problem at Christmas-time; nothing short of a

blank cheque would have fitted the situation. Perhaps it’s

as well that she’s died out.

The great charm about me (concluded Reginald) is that I am

so easily pleased. But I draw the line at a “Prince of

Wales” Prayer-book.