Perhaps I should explain.
About 18 months ago, the possibility of a title for my column was first mooted and tossed around the scene offices. Though it took longer to be confirmed as worthy of a title than to be approved for a seat on the Supreme Court, the official imprimatur arrived but a couple of weeks ago, inscribed on vellum parchment and gleaming in scarlet and gold.
This was a serious business.
Rather like elevation to the House of Lords back home, the choice of title would define how I was known to the public.
(Brief explanation for those readers unlucky enough not to be British: If I were given a peerage, I could be known as Lord Baldock. Or I could take another title, that of my home town, for instance, so I would become Lord Formby. Or I could choose to be known by the name of my undergrad college, which would make me the ineffably cool Lord Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary).
Various opinions for the title were canvassed and various options considered. “Non angeli, sed Angli,” although historically pleasing, was rejected as being indicative of a total smart ass. ‘”The Anglo File” was a popular option, but, when game-time arrived, I plumped for that which you see above.
I should make it clear that “smooth-tongu’d” is not a physical reference. It might be, but I wouldn’t know, and there are very few people in town to ask (one, to be precise). The description is instead figurative and taken from Act four, Scene five of Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II,” when the Earl of Gloucester is described as “with that smooth-tongu’d scholar Baldock gone.”
Robert de Baldock genuinely existed and was Lord Chancellor of England from 1323 to 1327, which just goes to show how far my family has fallen in the last 680 years.
I can’t actually prove that I’m a direct descendant of Chancellor Baldock, but in Act Two, Scene One he describes himself as “curate-like in mine attire, / Though inwardly licentious enough / And apt for any kind of villainy,” which is good enough for me. Obviously the apple hasn’t fallen that far from the tree in seven centuries.
The other reason I like the quotation is because it was written by Marlowe, who was educated, in the loosest sense of the word, at the aforementioned College of Corpus Christi & the BVM. Marlowe was very nearly refused his degree when he failed to pay his meal tab; this and his subsequent death in a bar brawl suggest that his tertiary education was largely spent scamming off other people. This is a fine parasitic tradition among Corpus alumni that continues to this day.
Some scholars believe that Marlowe was a homosexual atheistic playwright, in which case he was a proto-Yalie born 400 years too soon.
Marlowe was the last, and pretty much the only, famous Corpus alumnus (note the masculine noun: We only admitted women in 1983). The official Corpus Web site, trying to make the best of a bad job, cheerfully states that “Corpus produced a host of distinguished men” between the wars, which “included two mayors of Cambridge.” I think the word for this is “parochial.” Or possibly “crap.”
Not that my family can do any better. Googling “famous Baldocks” produces what may be a historic disjunct between intent and content:
“My cousin Darrel John Baldock is a famous Australian sportsman, and in 2002 was named captain of St. Kilda’s Team of the Century.”
Yay for Tasmanian Web sites. And … that’s about it.
Of course, I hardly need to add that the result of the New Zealand election last weekend meant that United Future NZ Member of Parliament Larry Baldock (no relation) lost his seat, thereby also losing the very limited and localized fame that accrues to a member of the Kiwi parliament.
All of which means that the flickering torch of Robert de Baldock is now, to some small degree, being tended in a country he didn’t know, on a machine he couldn’t imagine.
But when you consider with whom I’m sharing page space — the effervescent Jana Sikdar, the talented (and London-bound) Chad Callaghan — I reckon they’d consider the family name to be in good company.
Not to mention Susan Posluszny. Today is my second farewell to a scene editor, and it’s just as emotional as the first.
Susan, you were somehow different from Steve Abramowitz, in ways I can’t quite find words to describe, but I loved working with you none the less. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Nick Baldock “must cast the scholar off, / And learn to court it like a gentleman.” Not gonna happen.