Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Meet Paul Parrot, Rare Bird Casanova & Star Of Rare Book

by Albert

Today's guest blogger is, once more, Albert the Writing Parrot, a thirty-four year old Yellow-Naped Amazon, Booktryt's mascot, my ward since his five-months old birthday, and, pathetically, my most successful long-term relationship. He knows more about these books than I do. If his writing voice sounds similar to mine do not be surprised. He is, after all, a parrot  - SJG.


Me again, pressed into service with the promise of a filbert thrown my way. I'm a conditioned fool.

Tittums Deserting Fido.
As the go-to bird on parrot books I'm often asked, What's the best volume on Mr. Paul Parrot, the notoriously horny hook-bill, fine-feathered lothario, and wandering roué with wings?

Step into my cage, sit at my zygodactyl feet, lend me an ear (I need a nosh), and I shall tell you, strictly entre-nous, a scandalous tale exceeded only, perhaps, by that of Aly Khan, the "fabulously wealthy, hard riding, fast driving, restless man of the world with a liking for parties and beautiful women" (NY Times, Feb. 7, 1958) for whom hi-fidelity was strictly for sound recordings; faithfulness to wives and lovers cramped his style.

There was Hon. Joan Guinness, Pamela Churchill Harriman, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, countless other high-profile lovers, as well as the UCLA Pep Squad, the Pan American Airlines stewardess brigade, and a cast of gorgeous thousands from various Hollywood epics, take your pick. He needed a spreadsheet to keep track of the sheet spreads on his schedule.

Tittums Walking Out With The Parrot.

What's the book? In 1858, The Faithless Parrot by Charles H. Bennett was published by George Routledge and Co. of London as part of their New Toy Books series. The great, innovative color printer Edmund Evans engraved and printed the book's seven woodcuts based upon Bennett's designs.

It's the (one and only) cautionary tale of Paul Parrot, who, having seduced Tittums, a cat, from the arms of her lover, Fido, a dog (it's a modern relationship), and then two-timing her with the widow Mrs. Daw, a comely jackdaw,  gets his comeuppance when Tittums catches him in the act and he gets plucked within an inch of his life. 

The Parrot Courting The Jackdaw.

"Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable than fidelity. Faithfulness and truth are the most sacred excellences and endowments of the parrot mind" (Marcus Tullius Psittacine Cicero). It's a lesson Paul Parrot missed at Eton.

He's a votary of Oscar Wilde: "Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect - simply a confession of failures” (The Picture of Dorian Gray).


To which I can only reply, Double, double, toil and trouble: Bill Shakes knew what he was talking about - I date more than one bird at a time and I'm a nervous wreck;  I'm faithful secondary to woeful and that's fine with me. I once woke up with two scarlet macaws and an African Gray next to me in a sleazy nest. They must have slipped me a Rophie - I have no idea how I got there and, worse, have no memory of what was probably an ecstatic night but all l took away from it was feather-burn and a hangover. So much for bird of paradise wanna-be's.

It never ceases to amaze me how some kitties will fall for any suave hookbill with a silver-tongue, to wit:

The Parrot Exposed.

"One morning, when Tittums came in from a visit she had been paying her mamma, she was followed by a gentleman from the tropics, who, with all the impudence of his race, made himself quite at home, pressed Tittums’ paw to his heart, called her 'the loveliest of Cats,' asked her to oblige him with a song, which he had been told she could sing very sweetly, and never took the least notice of poor Fido, who was sitting in the corner. To tell the truth, poor Fido was very cross, and began to growl quite savagely; the more so when, to his dismay, he beheld the pleasure with which Tittums heard all this nonsense. He could not think what right the bold stranger had to come there unasked; for all that he had bright red and green feathers, a rakish, broad-brimmed hat, and a gold-headed walking-cane, he was not good-looking, that was very certain.

"But Tittums was very much struck by his appearance and bearing; his feathers were so pretty, he spoke so many languages, shrieked so terribly and in such a loud voice, had travelled so much, and was so struck by the beauty of Tittums, that, poor little Cat as she was, she ceased to care a button for faithful Fido, and kept all her sly glances for Mr. Paul Parrot.

“'Lovely Tittums,' said Mr. Paul, 'you must forget such upstart puppies as Fido. Listen to me—I am a traveller—I speak five languages,—I have a palace made of golden bars, within which is a perch fit for a king,—I have a pension of bread and milk and Barcelona nuts: all of which I will share with you. Tomorrow we will go for a trip into the field next to the house. Good-bye for the present, my dear Pussy Cat;' and he went away kissing his hand."

Pussycats, this is the bird your mother warned you about. Never trust a mister who kisses his own hand.

The Parrot Getting a Good Picking.

Because this is a typical mid-nineteenth century children's book it's a didactic moral tale that must conclude with Mr. Paul Parrot paying the wages of sin.

"As soon as Mrs. Daw was left alone with Paul, she began to upbraid him with his falseness. 'You vulgar, stuck-up, ugly, awkward deceiver! You have neither honesty enough to live by, nor wings enough to fly with.' Whereupon she jumped at him and gave him such a plucking as spoilt his good looks.

"Never after this was the Parrot able to hold up his head. Every one scorned him; even his golden palace turned out to be a brass cage; and for his misdeeds a chain was fastened round his leg. He was confined to a wooden perch, which, out of pure spite, he was always pecking."

No compulsive horn-dog parrot pecker one-liners. Sorry to disappoint. What am I, Henny Youngbird?

There was a parrot-babe knocking on my hotel room door all night! Finally, I let her out.
I know a parrot who's frank and earnest with pussycats. In Fresno, he's Frank and in Chicago he's Ernest.

Take my mate - please!


I give The Faithless Parrot 5-Seeds, my highest rating. It's a true rarity; according to OCLC there are less than a dozen copies in institutional holdings worldwide. The Cotson Children's Library at Princeton only has it as reprinted within Routledge's 1865 compilation, The Comical Story Book With Comical Illustrations: Printed In Colours. It was separately reprinted by Routledge in 1870.

I'll have that filbert now.

BENNETT, Charles H. The Faithless Parrot. Designed and Narrated by… London: G. Routledge and Co., n.d. [1858]. First edition. Quarto. 15, [1] pp. Seven full-page woodcuts engraved and printed in color by Edmund Evans.

Rear wrapper.

Images courtesy of The Gutenberg Project, with our thanks.

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