My dear Cassandra
My expectation of having nothing to say to you after my last letter, if not the Truth, is very near it. I can only say that I have nothing that was of interest or pleasure to me, though you, my dear sister, may find some diversion in it.
On Sunday last, as I was leaving from church, I fell prey to the insufferable Digweeds once more, and they would not be at peace until I promised to drink tea with them this evening to watch another of their Programmes. I have found very little of merit in these Programmes, and cannot comprehend those who will sacrifice the better part of an evening to them. The Digweeds, however, would hear no refusal, and cried, “How can you not wish to see the Oscars! You must come to see the Oscars!” in such an insistent fashion, that I gave a hurried before their vociferous demands invited scenes unpleasant to more than myself.
I had, at least, the comfort of knowing that this Proposal would not lead to a weekly summons, as this particular Programme is but an annual Ceremony whereupon those who devise and put up the Playlets, of which I have spoke in my previous letters,all come together to single out some of their Profession for particular Honours. The notion of watching people who have got so accustomed to the praise of the Public coming together to praise each other is of little interest to me, but the Digweeds assured me that it was an excellent opportunity to observe all of the latest fashions, and that there would be the additional diversion of some music.
I arrived promptly at seven to find the Digweeds already assembled before their Device, and believed that I had mistook the time, but they assured me that it would be at least an hour or more before the commencement of the Programme, and that what they were watching was only a Prologue to the Occasion. This Prologue consisted of a Promenade, whereupon the Candidates for the Honours were set upon by a number of fawning Hosts and Hostesses and complimented upon their appearance and quizzed upon their finery, and importuned for the names of their dressmaker and jeweler, to which the long-suffering Candidates reply with admirable forbearance. The ladies, it seems are singled out above the gentlemen for this impertinent teazing; they for the most part, are asked little more than to introduce the mothers and grown-up daughters that they have brought to the Event. Their wives, I suppose, chuse to stay at home where they may watch the proceedings in peace and comfort.
Once all have been ushered into a great Theatre, a Master of Ceremonies appears and attempts to divert those present with a succession of quips and jests, often made at the expense of the anxious Competitors. Occasionally, one might catch a look of displeasure from one of the Objects, yet for the most part, they all affect a show of good-humour and forebearance.
There are a great many of awards to be presented, and it is the custom of the Programme to begin with a presentation to a Performer, who will step forward to triumph over his rivals with a great show of humility and a little speech of thanks to all of his acquaintance. A number of lesser awards are then presented by Performers of some renown to Candidates that nobody cares for, and the sole purpose of this seems to be to liberate Viewers at home so that they may go in quest of some light fare or pour out tea and coffee without any apprehension that something agreeable or diverting will be missed (a quest that is likewise reserved for those episodes of necessary Commerce that disrupt the Programme at frequent intervals).
As the Digweeds had promised, there was something of music to relieve the tedium of this prolonged Affair, but these were in the form of some dancing, or a chorale or a solo Performer who rendered a great, wailing ballad. When two hours had passed with nothing more remarkable than this parade of Honours and indifferent Music, I attempted to make my excuses, and was shocked to hear from Miss Digweed that the Programme was but half finished. Indeed, only last week, I attended a ball at the Mayhews’, and danced from nine in the evening until four o’clock the next morning, and I declare that I did not feel half as weary as I did after two hours of this Programme.
Miss Digweed assured me that the most significant Honours and the finest Speeches were saved to the last, and yet does it not display a want of sense or feeling to withhold until the end what a spectator may then be too weary to enjoy? I saw nothing at all to suggest that what was laid out in four hours could not be accomplished in one, unless it is to provide an Occasion for as many Performers as possible to air out their finery and show off their humility, generosity and other amiable qualifications.
As for the name “Oscars” given to the Occasion, I cannot satisfy your curiosity upon this point, unless it is drawn from Lord Byron’s Oscar of Alva as a subtle suggestion that, among the Performers at least, this annual rivalry is taken up in deadly earnest; or, it may be (as I am inclined to think) that it is an allusion to the volume wherein that verse is contained, that is, Hours of Idleness.
Your affectionate sister,