'The last thing Crispin needed, with all that had occurred since his return to London, was The Aunts, his father's sisters, taking up residence at Sandal Hall. He knew they had names, the names had been drilled into him relentlessly by his father, but to him they would always be, simply, The Aunts. It was enough.
        Crispin and his brother Ian were convinced as children that The Aunts ate broken glass instead of food and routinely sacrificed small animals in the demonic rituals that gave them their strength. During Crispin's lifetime, The Aunts had between them run through twelve husbands, mainly by comparing them incessantly and unfavorably with their beloved younger brother, Hugo, Crispin's father. Since the death of the dozenth lord, The Aunts had undertaken the authorship of A Compendium of Proper Behavior Every Man and Woman Ought to Know for the Improvement of Social Converse and the Strengthening of the English Nation....Just thinking about the most recent selection, "On the Appropriate Vocabulary for a Gentleman (With an Appendix of Apparently Harmless Words from Which Great Harm May Come)," nearly made Crispin want to shout "Bottom" (a Strictly Forbidden Word) at the top of his lungs.'






Dear Lady Priscilla and Lady Eleanor,

How late is ‘fashionably late’?

—Polly Proper



Dear Mistress Proper,

There is nothing fashionable about being late. Any amount of ‘late’ is too late. Would you steal from a friend? Rob a business partner? Of course not. But that is exactly what being late to an appointment or meeting is—stealing their time. Nothing shows a lack of respect more than lateness, except perhaps running over someone with your coach, but that is generally the coachman’s fault. In polite society, one must always strive to arrive punctually.      







Dear Lady Priscilla and Lady Eleanor,

I have read that Michele Jaffe’s newest novels are coming out in one double volume. What is the appropriate way to read a double book?

—Lady Literary



Dear Mistress Literary,

The proper way to read a double book is: Sitting Down. There are few things we object to more than the modern practice of reading while walking or standing. Who among us has not almost been up-ended by a young man with his nose buried in a slim book of verse. Only consider how much worse the peril when the book is a double one!      






Dear Lady Priscilla and Lady Eleanor,

What do you think of Michele Jaffe?

—Wondering in Worcester



Dear Wondering,

We think she ought to be arrested. Have you heard what happened to poor Lady R— in Kent? She became so absorbed reading the Lady Killer/Secret Admirer double volume, that she forgot to feed her family, or take any nourishment herself. Only the accidental visit of a man selling ribbons kept them from starving! Not to mention the dual scourge of corners piled high with prowling young men whose dinner companions were too absorbed in reading the double book to remember their appointments, and streets crammed by young women rushing about with Unseemly Haste to finish their errands so they may go and bury themselves once again between its unending pages.
     For which reason we heartily advocate the Laying in of Supplies before beginning the double book. And the drawing and quartering of Michele Jaffe. Fewer and better Michele’s is what this world needs, not more and double. Whoever thought that doubling her was a good idea should be locked away by their nearest and dearest where they can do no more harm.      






Dear Lady Priscilla and Lady Eleanor,

It seems as though people in London are always stumbling over dead bodies. What should one do if one encounters a corpse?

—Tamara Timid



Dear Mistress Timid,

More important than what to do is what not to do: do not allow our nephew Crispin or any of his cousins within two miles of the place, particularly if you are a woman. It has been our observation that such proximity is never good for a woman’s reputation, or her sanity. These men cannot seem to leave the house without stumbling over a corpse, shredding some lovely woman’s good name, and more often than not, sending a building crumbling to the ground. Half of London is either dead or destroyed because of them and their adventures. Indeed, our nephews and their cousins and friends are probably the greatest threat to Civilization and decorum today.      













Secret, Secret?