Friday, December 25, 2009

A Young Lion

As recollected by British philosopher Bertrand Russell in Barry Feinberg, ed., The Collected Stories of Bertrand Russell (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1972), p. 268—

On one occasion [during his childhood] after we had been talking about cannibalism, I heard my people say to each other: "When is that Eton boy coming?" and I thought they meant a boy who had been eaten. When he turned up and was a perfectly ordinary boy, it caused me the most profound disenchantment. But that was not the worst. The worst instance was when I heard them say to each other, "When is that Lyon coming?" And I said, "Is there a lion coming?" "Oh yes," they said, "and you'll see him in the drawing room and it'll be quite safe." And then they came and said, "The young Lyon has come," and they ushered me into the drawing room and it was a completely conventional young man whose name was Lyon. I burst into tears and wept the whole of the rest of the day, and the poor young man couldn't imagine why.