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Mrs Harry Biscuit's Book Of Household Decorum

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Mrs Harry Biscuit's Book Of Household Decorum

Being An Infallible Guide To All Matters Which Concern The Family Circle. Containing all necessary Recipes for every Occasion from a Pauper's Supper to a Ducal Banquet, Hints on the Conduct of Servants, Advice On The Removal Of Orphans And Stains, Chapters Upon Cutlery, Mourning, Etiquette, Bees, Drains, Swans, Etc, Etc, Etc. With Five Colour Plates Depicting The Art Of Pie Raising, And A Fine View Of Bude.

Published By Mr Samuel Thrusting-Young-Publisher, Who Is Certainly Not Mr Gently Benevolent Wearing A Wig And Standing On A Box.



[Frontispiece: The Proper Choices Of Animal Fibre For Placing Within A Pie. Comprising Six Figures: ←

Fig.1: THE PIG





Fig.6: JELLY]



To the memory of Mrs Eliza Thrusting-Young-Publisher, Whose Views on such matters as Beef, Bude and Bedbugs may not be those of the present Author, but to Whom she is Sincerely Indebted.



By Mrs Harry Biscuit, formerly Miss Pippa Bin


Everyone (except possibly Ripely, who thinks I am too soft on the Poor) must agree that I am ideally suited to write a book on Household Decorum. I am, after all, the sister of the inventor of the famous Bin, and am happily married into the family of Biscuit. What is a household, I ask you, without the twin solaces of Bins and Biscuits? Not only that, but my brother is a writer of some note, and everyone has always said that I myself have a talent for telling others what to do. Yet it somehow came to pass that through all the years of my tragic childhood, struggling young womanhood and interrupted matrimony, no such idea entered my head until, one rainy night in October, I received a strange visit.

The night was cold. The very fire in the grate seemed to show me strange visions, though that may have been because my beloved Harry was at that time engaged in an experiment to catch swans in nets disguised by clouds of burning opium. The door opened forebodingly, and let in a quantity of fog and urchins from the street.

Once I had coughed away the fog and expelled the urchins, I discovered that I had a guest. He was a tall man in a greatcoat. He was quite unfamiliar to me, and certainly was not Mr Gently Benevolent wearing a curly wig and standing on a tin box to make himself look taller. He introduced himself as Mr Samuel Thrusting-Young-Publisher, a thrusting young publisher.

"I have recently had a great sorrow in life, my dear Mrs Biscuit," he explained to me in a deep and thrilling voice with a hint of a Turkish accent. "In my youngest years I was lucky enough to be united with my dear late wife, the former Miss Eliza Scribbles-Madly…"

"When you say your youngest years, how young are we talking?" interrupted my dear Harry in tones of cheerful interest. "And was your wife already dead at the time? I mean, if you were four years old, and she had been dead since…"

"Be quiet, Harry," I interjected tenderly. "Pray continue, Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher."

"She was not dead at the time that I married her!" snapped Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher, pushing back his nonexistent wig. "She died very recently, in a tragic cholera accident while being trampled by a stampede of tourists in Bude."

"By Jove, do you want a new wife?" said Harry, brightening up even further. "Because I have a fine scheme, which I have not yet perfected, for building a woman out of pastry, as inspired by some diagrams which I found lining a pie tin…"

"I thought as much!" hissed Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher. The firelight raked across his magnificent sideburns and imparted an almost demonic aspect to his strangely familiar nose. I stared at him in surprise. Yet the moment passed, and the smile returned to his face, not to mention the dulcet Bulgarian tones to his diction. "When my beloved Eliza was taken from me at the age of only twenty-three…"

"Is that counting the years she was dead?" asked Harry.

"Oh, go and stuff yourself up the back end of a swan, Harry Biscuit," snarled Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher. "As I was saying, my beloved Eliza kicked the bucket just as she was about to complete her life's work, a Guide To Household Decorum. You must understand my dilemma. This book will make me extremely rich, yet I cannot publish it under my own name, as who will believe that a man knows anything concerning Households, or indeed Decorum?"

We all laughed heartily at this ridiculous concept.


→ [Plate 2: The Unseen Tetragrammaton Of Pies, Or, The Right And Geometric Manner Of Raising The Piecemeal Dead] ←


Mourning, Or, The Etiquette Of Putting On Black

It is customary for a lady to wear black for at least fifty years following the death of a husband. Black with touches of drear and murk may be worn for three months for a rich second cousin or Family Pet. The loss of a poor relation merely warrants that the Bereaved spend five minutes wearing a crape armband and a Mournful Demeanour.


Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher removed a battered manuscript from his box, momentarily making himself much shorter as the hem of his greatcoat puddled around the floor. Shortly after this he regained his full height, so I put the incident down to fast-acting rickets and almost immediately thereafter forgot it entirely.

He blew upon the surface of the manuscript, disturbing a flyleaf upon which was printed 'The Summoning And Raising Of Demonic Pie Armies', though this had been scribbled out and 'Whatshername's Book Of Household Thingy' scrawled in its place. Before I could remark upon this perfectly commonplace state of affairs, my eye fell upon Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher's strangely compelling forearms, and I noticed that he had a tattoo on each wrist. Wild surmises racketed through my brain as I realised that one of his tattoos read 'G.B. ♥ Evil' and the other 'G.L.K.N-N.B. ♥ Pip'.

"Why, Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher," I said, "whatever are these tattoos?"

"The G.B. is of course short for Great Britain, the greatest nation ever to rise above God's green firmament," he said, holding the manuscript to his broad and manly chest and raising his eyes to the heavens.

"Harrumble!" cried Harry.

"Harrumble and huzzah!" I concurred demurely.

"Har… ack, ack, ack…" croaked a strange man from behind the coat-rack, and immediately had a coughing fit to which I paid no attention.

"And the G.L.K.N-N.B." Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher explained further, "stands for Great, Lacking Katholics, No-Nuns Britain. I am, you see, a raving bigot."

We both nodded solemnly, for being a raving bigot was quite respectable at the time, and was considered of no more moment than a penchant for shooting Baptist ministers on sight or an unnatural loathing of the Bulgarians.

"But why should Great Britain love Evil and Pip?" asked Harry. "I mean, Pip Bin is an excellent fellow, by cake, but no one likes evil. I mean… it's naughty."

"Naughty can be fun," purred Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher. . "Ahem! I mean that one of my tattoos commemorates Great Britain's love for my late wife Eliza, and the other the nation's love for… er, pop. No, pap. Pippins! No. Give me a minute…"

He looked wildly around the room and cast his eye upon dear Harry's prototype portable pipe-organ for shooting nets at swans. "Pipes," he said triumphantly. "The nation's well-known love for pipes."

"But why are they spelled so strangely?" enquired Harry.

Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher's charming lilt, so reminiscent of that of the Malay pirates, grew positively caressing. "Why indeed, Harry Biscuit. Why… why, unfortunately I got the tattoos while in the throes of grief, and neglected to notice that the tattooist was quite illiterate, and in fact not a tattooist at all but a drunken seaman who had incapacitated himself by shooting up with some needles and an ink-bottle."

"Well, that explains it perfectly," said Harry with a beaming smile. "So what's this about Pippa helping you with your book?"

Just then my dearest brother Pip Bin walked into the house. We were of course delighted to see him, as he is Harry's closest friend, and my least distant and indeed only brother. As the fog burst through the doorway and wreathed around our visitor our laughter turned to coughing and spluttering.  The coughing and spluttering, in their turn, gave way to the determination with which we repelled a troupe of plucky musical pickpockets who had made their way into the house by hiding in Pip's gigantic umbrella. Gigantic umbrellas were very much the fashion at that time, and Queen Victoria was said to own one large enough to cloak the entirety of Balmoral in tartan and stygian gloom.

By the time Harry and I had located the high-kicking reprobates and expelled them via the chimney, the fog in the room was beginning to clear.

→ [Plate 3: The Names And Devices Of The Cacodemonic Watchtowers. To Be Inscribed Carefully Upon Strips Of Pastry, And The Incantations Against Possession Of The Oven By Sumerian Spirits, Spoon Demons, Soggy Bottoms, Jelly, Etc]←


A Useful Recipe For Charitable Soup

Make broth for your household. Serve and eat the broth. Direct your cook to wash the dishes in a cauldron of boiling water. Immediately this is done, open the window and fling the water into the faces of the urchins beyond. In the winter months a sprinkling of coal-dust may be added to taste.


To my surprise, as the fog cleared I saw that my brother Pip was locked within the straining arms of Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher and that their lips were joined in a passionate kiss. It lasted some moments and I watched them with great interest.

"What a silly mistake you have made!" I cried when they finally detached themselves from one another's osculatory organs. "Why, it is well known in this early Victorian London of ours that only married couples may kiss under cover of a fog, under penalty of being dragged away to an Asylum for the Morally Unhinged. There is only one married couple in this room, and you, Pip, are not me. Nor is Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher Harry."

We all laughed heartily at the mistake.  Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher ceased to nibble at Pip's neck, and Pip removed his hand from the inner vicinities of Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher's greatcoat.

"I came here looking for Ripely," Pip explained to us. "She said that she was spending the morning with you, Pippa, at the Society for the Prevention Of Stuffing-Related Cruelty To Geese."

I furrowed my brow. "But the Society merged with the Ladies' Benevolent Board For The Abolition Of Onions last month, and I was forced to give up my membership because, as you know, Harry's factories produce many varieties of savoury onion biscuit."

Pip nodded in agreement. "And, indeed, my factories manufacture bins made out of gigantic hollowed-out onions, for the use of tramps and Frenchmen. In three different sizes, Large, Excessive and Whopping. But where, then, is Ripely?"

"She may have gone to Hyde Park to see the Grand Review Of Shirtless Officers in front of Queen Victoria," I suggested. "The review takes place on the foggiest day of each year, for reasons of modesty, and young women often fumble around the park bumping into the manly chests of several officers before finding their way to the viewing stands, from where, of course, they can see nothing. It was your mention of Large, Excessive and Whopping that reminded me of it."

"Dearest Ripely!" Pip cried aloud. "How proud I am that she is so patriotic!"

"Have you been to the review, Pippa?" said Harry suspiciously, looking up from his nibbling on the contents of a large crate of savoury onion biscuits which he had brought into the room while I was helping Pip to subdue his umbrella.

"Good gracious, no," I said. "Not for years. Well, not for months, at any rate."

Harry chewed balefully on his biscuit. Pip hung his the umbrella on one of Harry's earlier inventions, a swan-powered bun cannon, which we were at the time using as a coat-rack. He retreated to the corner by the fireplace, where he took a restorative breath of opium and glared sensuously at Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher. "What plan of yours will I need to thwart this time, you fiend, and will it require me to buy a new pair of seriously tight breeches?"

I explained to Pip that this was Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher, a gentleman of great height and an accent picked up in the northlands of Borneo, whom none of us had met before and who certainly did not inexplicably know where to find the secret compartment in the mantelpiece where Harry hid the gin.

"Oh, do I really have to carry on doing the accent?" said Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher coquettishly.

I explained further to Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher that Pip was my brother, and was unfortunately very susceptible to the effects of opium due to a sordid past as a drug-addled maniac, and went on to explain the plan concerning the Book of Household Decorum.  Harry, meanwhile, gave a short disquisition on a new type of plum which he was planning on inventing some time when he wasn't too busy.

I must confess that Pip waxed somewhat patronising towards me thereafter on the subject of publishing. He made the ludicrous suggestion that Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher should simply publish the book as it was, with a preface explaining its incompleteness as caused by the death of Mrs Thrusting-Young-Publisher (the former Miss Eliza Scribbles-Madly) and the circumstance of her unfortunate relict being prostrated by grief.

"You are a very interfering brother, Pip Bin," I cried, "and I dare say you will grow up to be a crusty and horrible old man."

"Crusty old man or crusty young woman, it is all the same to me as long as the world bows to my will once more," mused Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher.  "The streets will run with gravy.  And brown sauce, in the North."

Pip ignored us all and continued to prose on about literature. "Put in a tragic death and the public will swallow anything," he said. "Why, after my poor first wife Flora Dies-Early carked it, I finished off my Christmas story, A Yule-mas Yodel, with the words 'and in the end it all turned out to be some ghosts or something' and it sold like hot cakes."

"Mmm, hot cakes," said Harry, wandering towards the kitchen.

"I believe that you do not think I can finish this Book of Household Decorum," I said, glaring at my brother, "because I am a woman."

"That is not true at all," Pip said hotly. "Why, I treat all of my literary rivals the same, whether they be man, woman or infernal mechanical contraptionton. Only last week I engaged in a fistfight with Ellis Bell, and was driven back reeling to the nearest tavern, to call for a pint of porter to drown my sorrows and a beefsteak to press to my black eye."

All of the menfolk laughed heartily, including the strange man who was hiding behind the bun cannon. "Far from Mrs Biscuit's feminity forming an impediment," he said, inching his way forward and rubbing his hands, "it is a great advantage. It is widely believed that only a woman can write a book touching on such matters as the Hiring of Servants or the Curing Of Invalids With Beef, and that any gentleman who attempted such an endeavour would find himself struck with a high fever, or in the worst possible case turned into an Italian."

We all turned pale with fright at the thought of such an awful fate.

→ [Plate 4: Common Mistakes In Piecraft And Their Solutions. Comprising Six Figures: ]






Fig.6: JELLY]←


Travel Beyond The Seas, Hints On:

Travel beyond the seas is quite unnecessary. If you wish for a Change of Air, you should go to Bude, whence the Entire Nation repairs each summer in a Patriotic Huddle. If you live at Bude and are capable of pushing your way out through the vast crowds which surround your house, you may instead visit Hastings.


"That may be so," said Pip to the strange man, whose hands were copiously stained with printer's ink, "but who are you, and why are you in Harry Biscuit's house?"

"Have you brought any cake?" said Harry.

The gentleman introduced himself, in a gravelly voice, as Mr Grubstreet Gritgrinder. "I am a printer's angel," he said, polishing a brass halo which he wore balanced insecurely on his bald head.

"You mean a printer's devil," said Pip, who knew the ways of the Publishing World, as he had been boring on at us for the past ten minutes.

"No, I am definitely an angel," said Mr Grubstreet Gritgrinder. "Because I am on the side of good, and not a minion of evil in any capacity."

"Harrumble!" exclaimed Harry in relief.

"The world," said Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher, striking a pose and almost falling off his box, "is newly ready for the publication of the Book of Household Decorum. Why, only five years ago the thought that a lady could put pen to paper without being struck down by the Quivering Vapours would have been mocked to scorn. Now, however, we live in a Golden Age, when women are welcomed into the Public Sphere to such an extent that even the Great Exhibition was equipped with ladies' necessity-dribble huts."

"The time is right," agreed Mr Grubstreet Gritgrinder. "When the streets of London ring with the bready tread of our demonic pie army… I mean, what he said about the penny pantygables." Seeing that my brother Pip still looked dubious, he added with bravado, "There has truly been nothing like this published before."

"What about Mrs Stuffemhigh's Book of Wildly Extravagant Catering?" objected Harry, who had returned from the kitchen with butter stains on his waistcoat. "I often read that before I go to sleep. Or Monsieur Gaston Le Chef De Chef's Recipe Book Of Fanciful Frenchy-French Flummeries. Sometimes I wake up and find that I have been eating the cookbooks in my sleep, and have filled my face with colour plates of giant wobbly jellies or piles of cakes. And then there's the Compendium of Household Discipline And Book Of Leather Care, by Sir Stripewell Sterndaddy…"

"That is not at all the same kind of book, Harry," I interrupted hastily.

"Yes, and you borrowed my copy and you haven't given it back, Harry Biscuit," said Pip. "It's signed in the front, To Dearest Pippy-Pookums From Gently-Wently, With…"

Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher snapped his fingers. "Pray explain to them, Gritgrinder."

Mr Gritgrinder produced a small kinematoscope from under his coat-tails. As he turned the handle, a whirring sound and a smell of dust filled the room, and we looked on with astonishment as his presentation on the subject of the publishing world was projected onto the walls, the curtain, and the pocky face of a passing urchin standing transfixed outside the window.

I was amazed at how simple he made it sound. He told me that I could simply lift recipes from the book of Fanciful Frenchy-French Flummeries, or Mrs Stuffemhigh's book of catering, or any other recipe book I had around the place, and merely by changing a few of the words they would magically become my own work and not in any way an act of Vile Plagiarism.   He said that the late Mrs Thrusting-Young-Publisher (formerly Miss Scribbles-Madly) had done as much herself.  In fact, much of the work had been done for me by my own dear Harry, by pre-chewing the cookbooks before I began to copy from them and therefore removing much of the integrity of the text.

"You can trust me about this, my dear Mrs Biscuit," he assured me. "I am a printer's angel. And wig-adjuster," he added, solicitously rearranging Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher's curls and glaring out of the window at the kinematoscope-blinded urchin. "Move along, urchin. I know Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher is the most glamorous thrusting young publisher of the day, not to mention the tallest, but you'll never get your urchinny hands on him. I am the only one who is allowed to adjust his wig."

"I don't have a wig, Gritgrinder," snarled Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher, jabbing Mr Gritgrinder sharply in the throat with his elbow so that he fell into the mouth of the bun cannon. By a sad accident Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher then pulled sharply upon the cannon's firing strings, mimicking the upward action of thousands of startled swans. I gasped as Mr Gritgrinder was propelled into the fireplace. His halo caught on the wrought iron fireguard and he immediately expired.

"Why, how curious!" I exclaimed. "That is the fifth member of the Gritgrinder family to die in that very fireplace. Only last month Mr Soapworthy Gritgrinder, a master chimney-sweep, arrived at the house in the company of an Fallen Female who was…" I lowered my voice, "…expecting. He explained that newborn children made the best chimney-sweeps, as they could fit into small spaces and did not demand high wages. Unfortunately the young lady suddenly discovered herself to be the only heiress of a Russian Duke and departed in a fur-lined carriage drawn by wolves, and so Mr Soapworthy Gritgrinder had to climb the chimney himself. Even more unfortunately, he got stuck, and expired with a series of ever more feeling groans over the course of several evenings as we lit fires under him to encourage him to crawl out. "

Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher gave an oddly familiar laugh. My brother Pip smouldered at him, as did the remains of the latest late Mr Gritgrinder which were still half in and half out of the fireplace.

"How very sad," Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher murmured, stifling the laugh in the overlong sleeves of his greatcoat. "Pray continue, Pippa Biscuit."

I did so. "We were next visited by the late Mr Soapworthy Gritgrinder's twin brothers, the noted hoteliers Berkeley and Claridges Gritgrinder. They had come to the house to collect their brother's effects. Sadly they fell to blows while I was making them a light repast in the kitchen, and I heard them arguing about the correct placement of scones on the table when serving cream tea. When I returned to the parlour I discovered that Mr Berkeley Gritgrinder had died of exertion in the act of strangling his brother Mr Claridges Gritgrinder with the tassels on the hearthrug."

"By a strange coincidence," Harry broke in, "the very next week our house was burgled by no less a person than the famous pugilist Jabem Gritgrinder, who had fallen upon hard times and become a housebreaker. We think he was looking for money or food. Poor devil! Why, if I had been at home I would have paid him a guinea just to punch me in the face."

"I would have paid him ten guineas to punch Ellis Bell," muttered my brother Pip. "She got both her sisters to hold my arms while she pulled my hair and derided my knowledge of Yorkshire."

"He was looking for money or food," agreed Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher suavely. "Certainly not for any plans which might have fallen into the hands of your idiot friend Harry Biscuit, concerning the raising of an army of sentient pies with which to terrify London."

"I shouldn't think so," said Harry. "I mean, who would blackmail a down-on-his-luck prize-fighter into looking for that?"

I clasped my hands together in memory of poor Mr Jabem Gritgrinder, the scientific exponent of punchmaking. "Unfortunately," I said mournfully, "he stumbled over my anvil and cracked his head on the boot-scraper. There was nothing that could be done. We have only just returned from the funeral."

"There's nothing like a good funeral, heh, heh, heh," said Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher. "But – ahem! – to return to matters that actually interest me.  If you should find the missing esoteric diagrams… I mean any material concerning the Raising of Pies around your household, you should certainly include it in the book, Pippa Bin. Reproduce it exactly, mind. Spare no expense. Colour plates are all the thing in books these days, they tell me. Why, your brother's novel The Wide, Wide Murk had a colour plate of the heroine lost in absolute darkness as a frontispiece, and I'm sure it's a coincidence that it sold incredibly badly."

Pip glowered at him. "Just what do you hope to gain from this venture, Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher, if that is really your name?" he sneered. "I suppose to find out, I will have to spend my time following your trail through the bath-houses of London and the prettier parts of the Peak District."

"Alas, sweet former ward, at present I am involved with a sexy concubine in the form of a giant partially animated pasty…" the thrusting young publisher mused to himself. "I mean, I require nothing. Nothing, that is, beyond… heh, heh, heh. Goodbye, Pip Bin."

→[Plate 5: A View Of Bude.]←


A Recipe For Bees

Take bees, in the quantity required. Use as directed.


"Prepare to die… ahem! Prepare to die at some later point, when I hope I am around to laugh evilly, Pip Bin! But not right now, because I have a date with a surprisingly sensual greased pastry product," said Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher.

With that he picked up his box, leapt into a cab whose lettered side read Thrashaway Gritgrinder, Cab Driver and Glue Merchant and was at once lost in the throng of horses, carriages, pedestrians and velocipede-riders which filled the London streets. The sound of Mr Thrusting-Young-Publisher's laughter was carried to us over the sound of clattering hooves as the cab drove away. The fog hung in the air in thick droplets not unlike a yellowish soup. A young crossing-sweeper was touching his cap as he offered to guide ladies and carry small horses through the shoulder-high mud. Pip furrowed his brow.

"Did that seem a bit dodgy to you, Harry Biscuit?" he said, as he swept some orphans from the doorstep and closed the door. "Because I must admit that it seemed to me as dodgy as a veritable dodgems-park of dodginess."

"I'm afraid I stopped listening as soon as he mentioned hot cakes, Pip Bin," said Harry humbly.

"Dear old Harry Biscuit!" said my brother Pip, and we all joined in merry laughter.

And so this book came into being – this very book which is now placed before you. I trust that you will find that I know better than you on most matters, whether they be those of Cookery or the Management of Servants, and I should like to draw your particular attention to the Colour Plates which describe an infallible method of the Raising of Pies, and also include a fine View of Bude.

Pippa (Mrs Harry) Biscuit




→ [Plate 6: The Incantations Of Maintenance, Or, How To Prolong The Oven-Baked Unlives Of Your Pie Army. Including Pastry Splints, Gravy Poultices and Entering Into Lifelong Pacts With the Dread Rulers Of The Underworld.]



[Harry, will you please write this bit? I'm feeling a bit tired. Your loving Pippa.]


A Note From The Authoress' Loving Husband

Dearest Pippa,

I couldn't find any of the pictures of pies that you wanted for your book after all. I think I must have eaten them in my sleep. I certainly have been having some strange dreams lately, but that could just be because of my invention of the cheese-filled pillow. I haven't had time to write up my findings on swans either, but I don't think anyone will notice.

Mr Thrashaway Gritgrinder came asking for the manuscript on behalf of that friendly Mr Samuel Thrusting-Young-Publisher this morning while you were out. He asked particularly about the diagrams of pies for the colour plates. I'm afraid I panicked, so I put in some drawings I did of pies instead, and one of a design for a new invention, a holiday at Bude in capsule form which saves the trouble of travelling. I hope this is all right. I am just going out to see what Pip Bin thinks of the new invention. It is a boiled lozenge which tastes of seagulls and leaves a residue of sand in your throat. I am sure he will love it!

Don't worry, I have saved some for you. Perhaps you could mention them in the second edition of your Book of Household Decorum?

Yours most faithfully indeed

Your adoring husband

Harry Biscuit.