In my article about Planet Haskellers giving me the side-eye and
wondering if I might be an impostor, I was groping around for a
particular literary reference but I couldn't quite come up with it.
But here it is.
One of my favorite books as a child was Granny's Wonderful
(Frances Browne, 1857). In one of the stories therein, “The Christmas
Cuckoo”, the protagonist, a cobbler, has received magical
They that get one of them keep a blithe heart in spite of all
misfortunes, and can make themselves as merry in a hut as in a
One day a great lord happens to meet and speak with the cobbler, whose
name is Spare, and the leaves work their magic on him:
How it was nobody could tell, but from the hour of that discourse the
great lord cast away his melancholy: he forgot his lost office and his
court enemies, the king's taxes and the crown-prince's toes, and went
about with a noble train hunting, fishing, and making merry in his
hall, where all travellers were entertained and all the poor were welcome.
Spare becomes famous, and the king commands him to come visit. He sews up
the leaves in the lining of his leathern doublet and repairs to court,
where he is a great success:
The princess of the blood, the great lords and ladies, ministers of state,
and judges of the land, after that discoursed with Spare, and the more
they talked the lighter grew their hearts, so that such changes had
never been seen at court. The lords forgot their spites and the ladies
their envies, the princes and ministers made friends among themselves,
and the judges showed no favour.
But then the doublet with the magic leaves is lost.
That very day things came back to their old
fashion. Quarrels began among lords, and jealousies among the
ladies. The king said his subjects did not pay him half enough
taxes, the queen wanted more jewels, the servants took to their old
bickerings and got up some new ones. … Nobles began to ask what
business a cobbler had at the king's table, and his majesty ordered
the palace chronicles to be searched for a precedent. … His majesty,
satisfied that there was no example in all the palace records of
such a retainer, issued a decree banishing the cobbler for ever from
I similarly wonder if the day will come when I too will have to escape
Planet Haskell by climbing out a window.