The Lawn-Tennis School of Critics
Theosophist, October, 1883
Those intellectual prodigies of the Lawn-Tennis clubs—Anakim among critics—who swallow the story of Balaam’s speaking “she-ass” but cannot believe in the Reincarnation of her “soul” agreeably to Pythagoras nor even to Allan Kardec’s doctrine, may be made less incredulous by reading further on the choice bits in the “Ooty Chronicle” of the Madras Times of September 7th. One might suspect from its delicate wit that Sydney Smith is reborn and lurks somewhere among the Eucalyptic Sholas of the “Blue Hills.” Of course, the numerous lapsus linguae et calami of the chronicler and his airy conceits must be caused by a too long sojourn on the mountain tops. On some ill-balanced natures a rarefied atmosphere, while expanding their lungs, has the effect of contracting their brains. To such meteorological phenomenon, have we probably to attribute the correspondent’s assertion that Colonel Olcott “bitterly” complained of the gymkhana sports which made him change the date of his lecture; as also the charming remarks with regard to a made-up story of “broken china,” “General Blank,” “spirits from the vasty deep,” and possible “Kleptomaniacs” in the Theosophical Society. “We do not know”—queries this newspaper prodigy—“what fees are charged . . . for such surprising skill in the art of repairing China ware.” None at all, we hasten to assure him. Whether a soup-tureen or an entire dinner service makes no difference, and we would not charge even the miserable price in pice and annas paid for every line of such witty gossip as his. Moreover the “Ooty Chronicler” may be glad to hear, that besides China ware, the Theosophical Society undertakes sometimes to mend cracked and damaged brains, by injecting them thoroughly with a saturated solution of common sense, cleansing them of dusty and stale notions of bigotry and prejudice and by thoroughly ventilating the musty premises. Nor need he feel alarmed or take the trouble of suggesting new amendments in our Rules, namely, “a regulation excluding pick-pockets from membership.” The genial wit of the Nilgiris should know that our Society does not recruit its members in the favourite resorts of the Salvationists—“the dens and ditches of the outscum of the great cities.” And, since it refuses admission to waifs rescued from the “Citadels of Apollyon,” and does not employ Theosophical nautches in the persons of “tambourine lasses”—even though promoted to be “golden harp lasses”—there is no cause to fear that a pickpocket whether “converted” or unregenerate, will be taught how to improve the resources of his art by acquiring proficiency in Occult Sciences.
However meagre the production of the “Ooty” chronicler, still, as it is an original one, and as good as could have been expected from that source, and that it exhibits no great malice we reproduce it with pleasure—to show the “inferior race” what passes with the “superior” one as witty criticism upon Aryan philosophy and science. An original production is always more respectable than borrowed blackguardism, such as an article just copied in the Bombay Gazette from a sensational third class New York daily. In the latter the Editor of The Theosophist is described as “one of the most ignorant and blasphemous charlatans of the age—viz., Mme. Blavatsky” and the Theosophical Society as the biggest fraud of its kind ever gotten up. As one of Punch’s “self-made” millionaires is made to say when his father’s absence from his evening party was remarked, “We must draw the line somewhere,”—we have an impression that this would be as good a place to draw our line as we shall ever have. At first it was hard to realize that such a blackguardly and uncalled for attack should find its way into a respectable journal. But since we learned that the Editor of the Bombay Gazette whom we have always known and regarded as a thorough gentleman was at Simla, we wondered no more. Not every sub and acting Editor is a gentleman; and we know of more than one in India quite ready to treat his subscribers to such witticisms (whether original or borrowed) in the style of those direct from Hungerford fish market.
Another philosopher of the “Lawn-Tennis” calibre furnishes a paragraph to the Poona Observer of the 11th September about the recovery of some stolen property by a native shopkeeper through a simple form of ceremonial magic. He suggests that the Government of India might do worse than engage Colonel Olcott to instruct the Police in his particular ‘ism’ or ‘doxy.’ The force would then be the terror of thieves. It would—undoubtedly, and of persons like himself also: for Colonel Olcott’s method when well studied detects a ninny at sight. But take this para full of such happy repartees—out of its harmonious journalistic frame and put it into another and one sees at once the mighty mentality and cultured taste required to cut and set so rare a literary gem. This is the Article:—
[Here followed the referenced article]