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Prospectus of the Great Split Society

It is the object of this society to promote parties and splits in general, and since of late we have perceived disunion among friends to be not nearly so ripe as in the Bible it is plainly commanded to be, we the members of this club have investigated the means of producing, fostering, and invigorating strife of all kinds, whereby the society of man will be profited much. For in a few hours we can by the means we have discovered create so beautiful a dissension between two who have lately been friends, that they shall never speak of one another again, and their spirit is to be greatly admired and praised for this. And since it is the great goddess Talebearer who has contributed especially to our success, inasmuch as where she is not strife will cease as surely as the fire goeth out when there is no wood to feed it, we will erect an altar to her and perform monthly rites at her shrine in a manner hereafter to be detailed. And all men shall do homage to her, for who is there that hath not felt her benefits? And the rites shall be of a cheerful character, and all the world shall be right merry, and we will write her a hymn and Walmisley {4} shall set it to music. And any shall be eligible to this society by only changing his name; for this is one of its happiest hits, to give a name to each of its members arising from some mental peculiarity (which the gods and peacemakers call "foible"), whereby each being perpetually kept in mind of this defect and being always willing to justify it shall raise a clamour and cause much delight to the assembly.

{4} As Walmisley died in January, 1856, this piece must evidently date from Butler's first year at Cambridge.--R. A. S.


And we will have suppers once a month both to do honour unto Talebearer and to promote her interest. And the society has laid down a form of conversation to be used at all such meetings, which shall engender quarrellings even in the most unfavourable dispositions, and inflame the anger of one and all; and having raised it shall set it going and start it on so firm a basis as that it may be left safely to work its own way, for there shall be no fear of its dying out.

And the great key to this admirable treasure-house is Self, who hath two beautiful children, Self-Love and Self-Pride . . . We have also aided our project much by the following contrivance, namely, that ten of the society, the same who have the longest tongues and ears, shall make a quorum to manage all affairs connected with it; and it is difficult to comprehend the amount of quarrelling that shall go on at these meetings.

And the monthly suppers shall be ordered in this way: Each man must take at least two tablespoonfuls of vinegar, which shall make the wit sharp, or in default thereof one teaspoonful of pepper and mustard; for the rest we leave the diet to the management of our stewards and bursars, but after the cloth has been removed the president shall single out some one of the company, and in a calm and friendly manner acquaint him with his faults and advise him in what way he may best amend the same. The member selected is compelled by the rules to remain silent for the space of three minutes, and is then to retort and bring up six instances. He is to call the present members to witness, and all are to take one side or the other, so that none be neutral, and the melee will doubtless become general, and we expect that much beautiful latent abusive talent will be developed in this way. But let all this be done with an air of great politeness, sincerity, and goodwill, at least at the commencement, for this, when evidently fictitious, is a two-edged sword of irritation.

And if any grow weak in spirit and retreat from this society, and afterwards repent and wish again to join, he shall be permitted to do so on condition of repeating the words, "Oh, ah!" "Lor!" "Such is life," "That's cheerful," "He's a lively man, is Mr. So-and-so" ten times over. For these are refreshing and beautiful words and mean much (!), they are the emblems of such talent.

And any members are at liberty to have small meetings among themselves, especially to tea, whereat they may enjoy the ever fresh and pleasant luxury of scandal and mischief-making, and prepare their accusations and taunts for the next general meeting; and this is not only permitted but enjoined and recommended strongly to all the members.

And sentences shall be written for the training of any young hand who wishes to become one of us, since none can hope to arrive at once at the pitch of perfection to which the society has brought the art. And if that any should be heard of his own free will and invention uttering one or more of these sentences and by these means indicate much talent in the required direction, he shall be waited on by a committee of the club and induced, if possible, to join us, for he will be an acquisition; and the sentences required are such as: "I think so-and-so a very jolly fellow, indeed I don't know a man in the college I like better than so-and-so, but I don't care twopence about him, at least it is all the same to me whether he cuts me or not."

The beauty of this sentence is not at first appreciable, for though self-deceit and self-satisfaction are both very powerfully demonstrated in it, and though these are some of the society's most vehement supporters, yet it is the good goddess Talebearer who nourisheth the seed of mischief thus sown.

It is also strictly forbidden by this society's laws to form a firm friendship grounded upon esteem and a perception of great and good qualities in the object of one's liking, for this kind of friendship lasts a long time--nay, for life; but each member must have a furious and passionate running after his friend for the time being, insomuch that he could never part for an instant from him. And when the society sees this it feels comfortable, for it is quite certain that its objects are being promoted, for this cannot be brought about by any but unnatural means and is the foundation and very soul of quarrelling. The stroking of the hair and affectionate embracings are much recommended, for they are so manly.

And at the suppers and the rites of Talebearer each member is to drop an anonymous opinion of some other member's character into a common letter box, and the president shall read them out. Each member is to defend himself; the formula for the commencement of each speech being: "I know who wrote that about me, and it is a very blackguardly thing of him to say . . . "

N.B.--Any number of persons are allowed to speak at the same time. By these means it is hoped to restore strife and dissension to the world, now alas! so fatally subjugated to a mean-spirited thing called Charity, which during the last month has been perfectly rampant in the college. Yes, we will give a helping hand to bickerings, petty jealousies, back-bitings, and all sorts of good things, and will be as jolly as ninepence and--who'll be the first president?


Samuel Butler