“Madame Chanterelle’s Scourge, or, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Foolish Consistency,” by Hermester Barrington

Mar 2nd, 2022 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

It is a family legend that my great-great granduncle Ezekiel used to go on fishing trips with his close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, at the end of which, Waldo—he preferred the name Waldo to Ralph, if you can believe it—inevitably dragged my relative to a local brothel (no one in my family believes this, but still). It was during one such visit that Emerson, who was obsessed with Chanterelle, the madam of the brothel—he was apparently quite fond of the way she wielded a cane and other implements I shall not mention—came up with one of his best known lines. My relative heard the “thwack!” of the madam’s whip, while Emerson muttered (my uncle could hear everything through the thin walls) “Please stop—I won’t be able to sit for weeks!” to which she replied, “And you deserve it, you pompous pedant—I’m going to pierce you, to release that stale air from your windbags!” My uncle could not tell what, exactly, was going on in the next room, but as the madam drove home, with a grunt and sigh, whatever it might have been that she was putting in Emerson’s bum (probably), the Sage of Concord groaned, with pain and delight, “Oh, how I’ve tried to quit you and your diabolical implements, Madame Chanterelle, but every autumn I find myself strapped to your wrack, submitting myself to your toys—a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind!”

“Not always, you bloviating boob!” my uncle cried, casting aside the two, or three, or five—the number changed with every telling—young ladies who were atop him at that moment, as he rose from the bed and burst into Waldo’s room, “for the hobgoblin of a little mind may be the genius of a great one!”

“The hobgoblin of a little mind may be the genius of a great one” has been our family motto since that time.

Dr. Hermester Barrington retired from almost fifty years of working as an archivist at the Law Offices of Conger, Sheepwarble, and Bootstrap in 1978, and has since spent over four decades traveling the round earth’s imagined corners with his impossibly beautiful wife Fayaway in search of invisible books, Gigantopithecus fewmets, and hitherto unrecognized protozoans.  His ficciones have most recently appeared in Kzine, Fate Magazine, and Mythaxis. He is currently under contract with Mentarum Ltd. to write the 2024 exam prep guide for the California State Surrealist’s License.

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