Ronald Firbank was a standout in the field of English eccentrics. He made the Sitwells look about as outrageous as the cast of Family Ties. He came from a ridonkulously wealthy family, bailed on college before finishing his degree, traipsed through Europe and Northern Africa frittering away his inheritance, and, at the age of 41, he died of lung disease in Rome, as all good eccentrics ought to do. Many critics considered his work piffle (yes: piffle), but E. M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh adored him, and since Waugh is responsible for one of the most gorgeous, sublime novels of all time, I suppose we can trust him.
Here’s the opening paragraph of Firbank’s best-known work, The Flower Beneath the Foot: Being a Record of the Early Life of St. Laura de Nazianzi. Jonno can recite this by heart:
Neither her Gaudiness the Mistress of the Robes, or her Dreaminess the Queen were feeling quite themselves. In the Palace all was speculation. Would they be able to attend the Fetes in honor of King Jotifa, and Queen Thleeanouhee of the Land of Dates?-Court opinion seemed largely divided. Countess Medusa Rappa, a woman easily disturbable, was prepared to wager what the Countess of Tolga liked (she knew), that another week would find the Court shivering beneath the vaulted domes of the Summer-Palace.