Will Seymour

WILL SEYMOUR seeks the comfort of escapism in the bounteous bosom of a corseted Victorian wench, but even his own self-spun yarns end in a tangle of despair and impotence.

column columnist columnists Reading the one will seymour

To take my mind off my hopeless search for The One, I plunged into a swarthy Victorian novel. Escapism veiling my misery, I started to wonder: how good would I be at finding The One if I were a character in such a narrative…?

Only imagination could tell, and it was imagination I thanked when I regained consciousness on the filthy cobbled streets of London, the only city in the world. Smog filled the sky, on account of all the industry and those silly Victorians pumping all their sewage straight into the air. Through the soup I could see a line of bedraggled poor people on the way to a workhouse or some dangerous mechanised weaving, probably. Some rich men were laughing at their misery, punctuating the gloom with the cracks of an unnecessarily long whip.

“Man, the past is bad!” I said myself. “Tell me about it,” a haggard old lady replied from the gutter. She was definitely not The One, and I didn’t have any alms, so I sought refuge in a nearby hat shop, from the window of which a reassuring sign warned “REALLY RICH PEOPLE ONLY”.

Once inside, a smart young man approached me with dinner party eloquence: “You are very rich, aren’t you? Only Mr Rumplescrivens told me to make sure we don’t get any really poor people in here, so that the really rich people don’t take offense at class demarcation, or anything unbecoming like that.” When I asked which hat would make me most appealing to Victorian ladyfolk, he swiftly delivered a set piece. “Oh this one sir, see how tall it is? The taller, the more envigored the lady will become. Oh, yes sir, this one fits you perfectly, now your head looks like a steamship, which ladies of our age love, for it reminds them of distant lands, and the subtle teas that originate there. With this hat, you cannot fail but find: The One.”

Thoroughly encouraged with my new headgear, I rejoined the street, now full of jellied eels and street preachers. “Get your eels while the Lord has mercy on our unassailable jelly,” I heard from the madness. Inquiring of a passerby where I might find an abundance of available women, the man gestured silently towards a delightful looking building.

Upon entry of the whorehouse, I was met by a charming lady. “Come ta find a speshial laydee?” she said Londonlike. I explained what I was after. “Ahrv got jast the one.” I could barely contain my excitement (the one!).

She was most certainly not The One. She was remarkably lardy, in that disgusting Victorian way, and ‘arranged ‘ on what I suppose must be termed a bed, in a grotesque tableau that reminded me of what an extremely fat, dead slug might look like were it served on a very unappealing tablecloth. Added to this, the “girl’s” brains were clearly stricken with syphilis, a fact I could not fail to deduce from her hackneyed recitations of Kipling’s ‘If’, very close to my face. The addled cook offered cockneyed gestures of encouragement.

Back on the street, I removed my hat, and pondered its use on such a pathetic failure as me. However much I resembled a steamship, I would not find The One in this epoch any more easily than in my own. Preparing to depart, I spotted a figure in the distance who appeared to be having rather more luck, straddling, as he was, a scantily clad Victorian wench. At his moment of climax, I thought I could detect his voice crying through the mist, “I am Professor Boosman!”

The next moment, I was back at my desk, swarthy Victorian novel resting in front of me. It still wasn’t clear why this preposterous stranger kept following me, but I sensed that if I found him, I might also find The One. With that, I stirred myself to hunt out this elusive stranger.