Original Dobsonian research by Tristan Shuddery. This blog includes quotations from Dobson and is intended as a humble tribute to Frank Key, the greatest living Dobsonist.

23 July, 2006

The Age of Boosters

One of the most overlooked treasures in the Dobson archive is a etching of the pamphleteer straddling a vast machine. We see him clad in a hide jerkin, a ceremonial Caupochon perched at a jaunty angle atop his mussed head, it's tough crimson chinstrap divides his spectacular beard into two horns. He has a vaguely military air as his raiment is adorned with ribons, ceremonial bells and other dignified nautical gewgaws.

This vehicle on which he rides resembles an over-sized steam-gurney, however one with monstorous unwieldy caterpilar tracks. It is adorned with antennas, klaxons and billowing fins. Parabolic basins with glowing prongs at their centre jut out at absurd angles and at it's base we observe a blazing furnace.

Smoke and vapors billow out of it's fore and aft vents, shrouding the pamphleteer in a stinking miasma. His left-hand is deftly gunning the throttle-hasp of the vast engine, we can only imagine that it is emitting a deafening chugging. His right hand is tugging at one of it's three steering pulleys, the one which activates the suction viscera which is absorbing water from a nearby scum-ridden trough, causing a splendid bronze cisteren to flood.

This vehicle is one of twelve mobile boosting-engines built by Curpin, Todge and Tack at their factory near Hoon. Even though the heraldic-device is partially obscured by the over-full dubbin-tray, we can see that this was one of the last of it's type ever built before Curpin's factory burnt down, succombed poltregeists and was abanoned. Today, the wretched factory is a home for screeching birds and howling wirgos, who whirl and whirr ignorant of the wonders that once made it's soot-blackened foundry the pride of Hoon.

In Denis Beerpint's history of boosting technology, he notes that in 18XX, Dobson fell upon a quandray. Should he enlist with a local boosting brigade or devote his life to pamphleteering: This was an age when gaudy-clad booster technicians achieved great glory, propelling their mighty whirling boosting engines to any place on earth that needed their assistance. It was an age when their dairing-do and exploits filled pages of speculative fiction, when fleets of boosters set upon dangerous errands, uplifting all that was languid and flaccid. It was an age in which those boosting technicians were regarded as Gods.

Gods they may have been, but all that is holy is eventually profaned – or at least so claimed Marx. The glory days of boosters, are long since over, and those brave men who piloted their rickety boosters are all but forgotten. All victims of progress:

The boosting engine gave way to the portable booster – a lamentably shoddy construct of plastic and zinc. The brave booster-pilots found themselves made redundant by the unwashed hordes of private booster platoons. Later still, transistorised pocket boosters were the rage – a technological marvel that pomised a booster in every child's satchel. Today a simple viscous fluid serves much the same purpose of the vast stinking engines of old. Can we call this progress?

In his dotage, Dobson was want to lament the demise of the booster. He never lived to witness today's wonders but he could surely see the future of Boosting, prophetic as ever, I would suggest you read: “How I almost enlisted with my local Boosting Brigade, and the implausible yet hilarous events which subsequently occurred”. Sadly, this pamphlet, like all Dobson tracts is long, long out of print.

18 April, 2006

The Code

Did you notice that this week various prominent churchmen condemned both the “Cosmic Ordering Service” and a slightly better known thriller by Dan Brown.

In my mind, they have as much credibility as believers in The Lord of the Rings debunking Star Wars for having iffy theories about “The Force”.

However, since debunking in en-vogue this Easter, the next story I write will accuse Mr Frank Key of charlatanry. I shall reveal that the world’s leading Dobsonist is guilty of spinning heretical preposterous revisionist tracts that entirely misrepresent Dobson and the true history of Dobsonian thought.

I intend to reveal how Mr Key has systematically distorted and concealed events from Dobson’s life. I shall also prove that Dobson was married to Marigold Chew; I can reveal the sordid details of his lifelong blood-feud with Blodgett and the forgotten illegitimate love-child, The Grunty Man.

All of this will be revealed in my new book “The Dobson Code”, available in from book-stalls in major whaling ports sometime soon.

03 April, 2006

The Potato Incident

Picture yourself standing on a deserted, mud-spattered esplanade somewhere near Mudchute. The clouds are a dull and brooding grey and you feel a light drizzle as you lift your balaclava.

You light up a cheroot, for you have nothing better to do. Your employer (whose name you do not know) pays you 6 coins for this shift; Your sole duty is to guard this filthy esplanade… but guard it from what?

For as long as you can remember this stretch of embankment overlooking the grubby river has been a public right of way, and in the absence contrary instructions from your anonymous client you retain this belief. Hence children, tradesmen and livestock may pass unperturbed.

Neverthless, you are a guard, and you must remain constantly vigilant. This is what you think as you suck on your damp, sputtering cheroot… or at least this is what you used to think.

You remember that your master is an important municipal official, and that your menial duty is an essential service to both King and country. You were told that you were selected for this important role because of your unswerving loyalty.

The last and only time you met an agent acting on behalf of your employer you were given an edict. This document contained a list of the categories of folk your employer whishes barred from the esplanade. You have committed this long list to memory for you have had nothing else to read by the feeble light in your unkempt guardsman’s hut.

After you gave your oath and signed your contract you were given a tall peaked guardsman’s cap, a crimson guardsman’s jerkin, some worn yet servicable galoshes and a pair of eppualetts, each with six pips. Finally the man slipped you and a crumpled map of Mudchute marked with the location of your hut.

That was six months ago, the day you joined the patriotic fraternity of guardsmen. The day you promised that were a Marxist, a Jesuit, a Talmudist or an Inuit to attempt to cross ‘your’ esplanade you would waylay and hector him in precisely the contractually authorised manner.

You have never been called upon to perform your duty…

At five-bells you spy two grim figures trudging towards you. You habitually raise your Canadian submarine corps standard-issue binoculars to your unwashed face.

You can now see that the taller of the two is male. He walks, or limps towards you, barely lifting his heavy feet. He is dressed in what appears to be the garments of an orchestra conductor. His coat is in tatters and his shoes are caked with clods of dark mud. He is silent and grim-faced. You wonder if he has been savaged by a hound or similar beast.

Behind him you see a smaller figure. Younger and rounded her lank hair covers her frowning face. She is also dressed in black… a gown once fit for high society and not for a dirty towpath. Her gait is inelegant, as every other footstep causes her stiletto heel becomes wedged between the stout timbers that cover the esplanade.

Might these people be the undesirables you were told to guard against? You mentally check your list. Whilst unlikely to be Jesuits or Inuits, they could feasibly be Darwinists , Duelists or Decimalists.

You are uncertain and alarmed.

You retreat to your hut, observing the two figures whose shambling brings them ever closer to you, and the esplanade that you have sworn to protect. You sharpen your pencil. If you overhear subversion or talk of moral terpitude you will wish to make a report to the appropriate authorites.

The two are within earshot now. You no longer need your binoculars, for these discheveled suspects are approaching your hut. They are unaware that they are under observation and stop to rest on the plinth of the statue of Turps magnate Pabstus Preen, which you have often gazed at from the single grease-smeared window of your hut. All of a sudden, the man breaks his silence:

“I intend to revolutionize the means by which the common potato is conveyed from the field into the cooking pot. Under my scheme the man on the Clapham omnibus may be able to choose from not one but five varieties of potato regardless of the season of the year. The process I have invented will revolutionise the science and industry of potato agriculture, so find me the world’s finest potato boffins, and any journalist you can muster from the most highly regarded of potato journals.”.

The woman makes no response, so the only sound that you can hear is your frantic scribbling; the sound of graphite against your notebook as you try to record this conversation. What could it mean? Is it some kind of code?

She looks up, and observes the dark and ominous clouds . And at that moment a flash of lightning can be observed. A second later the rapport of thunder and then shortly after that those black clouds unleash a torrent of rain upon the two unsheltered pedestrians.

Silenced once again, they continue their long trudge,. The fierce rain pelts their torn and mud-smeared clothes.

You dutifully include your notes of this conversation in your daily report, which you seal in a capsule and then place in the pneumatic tube in your hut. The document is propelled on to who knows where. When the capsule returns moments later, it contains a pouch of coins. Your masters are well pleased with your report.

You can spend your mottled coins on wenches and grog at one of the many taverns in that blighted conurbation of Mudchute, and soon you have forgotten about this incident.

And so might have we, were it not for the diligent scruitiny of the statisticians at a red-brick polytechnic not far from here. Half a century after this report was filed it was cross-referenced, catalogued and finally brought to the attention of the department of Dobsonian studies.

We believe that this fragmentary report is the only corroborative evidence that the great pamphleteer Dobson ever set foot in Mudchute. Thanks to this report we can state with exactitude the moment that Dobsonists refer to as “The Potato Incident” occurred.

We also know from meteorological and clinical records that Dobson and Marigold Chew trudged the remaining five miles to their windy shack, high on an escarpment, through the torrential storm. We know that Dobson became afflicted by an atrocious fever which bedizened his mind for weeks.

We know that by the time he recovered he had forgotten all thoughts of potatoes and his revolutionary potato service. Dobson never wrote or spoke about potatoes ever again, and yet were you to set foot into any major supermarket today and you will see a diverse range of potatos and potato dishes.

Can we thank Dobson for this innovation?

# Thanks to kind readers who corrected my spelling. We dobsonists value that kind of feedback.

20 March, 2006

Blodgett's Apparatus

Open any catalogue of laboratory equipment and you will be disappointed to see Blodgett's contribution to the art of scientific instrument-making all but expunged.

In the fifty or so years since his descent into infamy and unexplained death, the scientific community has forgotten about Blodgett the Inventor. We remember only Blodgett the misanthrope, Blodgett who led a legion of assassins, Blodgett whose nefarious schemes held a nation to ransom.

How could the same man who once blessed us with subtle glittering devices of bronze and filligree, have dealt us such woe?

In his heyday, Blodgett produced a dazzling series of inventions. Many believe his spurt of creativity begin during a winter internship with the bird anatomist Blotzman. Blodgett (who had been studying at the University at or near the exciting field at Ack), had won this prestigious role as a result of a distinctive dissertation on Gnats, Epauletts and Gum.

On arrival at Blotzman's bird laboratory cum aviary, Blodgett noted the dishevelment and general disarray of Blotzman's Kleigland Sieves. Scrutinizing a flawed implement with his coddington lens, he theorised that it could be improved a thousand fold.

That night, he set about constructing a prototype. The standard Kleigland Sieve, while dazzlingly efficient was a woefully fragile device. The merest glance or sudden movement might cause it to crack, or perhaps self-immolate into a puff of vapour.

Blodgett re-enforced a sieve with struts of bauxite and and gutta-percha. The device you know as the Kleigland-Blodgettt Sieve is virtually unmodified from the one which Blodgett presented to Blotzman all those years ago.

Of course, Blodgett graduated and and grew wealthy refining other laboratory devices. The leading brands of crucible, alembic and retort all bear his name. But alas every scientist knows that his success begat pride, and his pride begot malcontent... and Blodgett could no longer allow himself to refine the inventions of others.

Blodgett devoted three years to the confinement of newts and newt like creatures. Herpetologists swear by on Blodgett's patented newt confinement vats, tubs and pods. Blodgett's reputation as a Newt confinement expert brought him to the attention of the age's foremost newt boffins:

The records show that Vilem Laufberger commissioned the manufacture of such as a vessel for his “axolotl transformations”. Laufberger coaxed the neotinous amphibian to assume an adult aspect, and in doing so revealed a newt so dazzlingly beautiful, the likes of which no man has seen before or hence.

After the experement was concluded, Laufberger begged Blodgett to make no more of these devices, and despite the overwhelming desire from the newt fancying community Blodgett complied. What advantage over Blodgett did Laufberger hold that would make him abandon this most lucrative invention?

It seems that Laufberger's experiments has come to the attention of a stern group of Jesuits, who threatened both the newt-scientist and his vat-boffin with swift retribution if they ever dared to reveal what God himself had hidden.

Blodgett, a man who threatened Kings and generals, daren't cross the Jesuits.

In any case, this set-back hardly seemed to matter, as he had discovered a new source of income; the preparation of pigments:

His device for the extraction of hued tinctures from vapours and ethers won best in show at the Hooting Yard exposition of baffling scientific curiosities.

This lithograph from the event shows the audience in rapture and awe as they gaze upon Blodgett as he workes the knurled flanges, levers and capstans of his smoking contraptions. We see smoke rise from the furnace, We see the device oozing a series of colourful goops from spigots arranged at it's perimeter. Blodgett, you have brought colour and joy to our lives.

A modified version of this contraption is still commonly used by mezzotintists and gouashists today. Whenever mezzotintists and gouashists gather it is certain that the final toast will be dedicated to Blodgett.

And are we not all matchless exemplars of those artistic disciplines? Do not our tint and gouache adorn the palace walls of Potus, Pontiff and Potentate? And is this Saint's feast almost at an end? Then will you all raise your tankards one last time to the memory of Blodgett.

21 December, 2005


Transcript of an lecture given by Mr. Taplow to the urchins and ingrates of Pang Hill Orphanage a long time ago:

When I last addressed you from the lectern of Sawdust Bridge Salvation Hall there were not a few hobbledehoys amongst you who pooh-poohed my reportage for lack of calendrical specificity.

Allow me to correct the record: It was on the forty-third day of Bolismus in the 12th year of King Vinchenzo's reign at the hour of mighty flapping (The very moment when all birds mentioned in the Bible take to the wing). That was when the incident occurred. That was the precise moment that our eyes metaphorically stood on stalks, our jaws dropped and our hairs stood on end.

In our country (and in all of Christendom), Bolismus is a season howling gales and icy winds. In our blessed land, Bolismus brings the clucking of hens and is the season in which we festoon our duck-ponds. A holy and contemplative season which we rigourously observe. On that dismal morning in that barren clearing no winds howled, nor did birds flap or cluck. There were no pond-beds to festoon, for we had been sent to the unchurched hinterlands of Gaar.

The previous night we had been rehearsing our concerto, Syme (our vaporetto pilot) and myself were competent bassoonists. Tack, Weems and the Vercingetorix accompanied us on piccolo, hurdy-gurdy and nose-flute. Baxter had provided an arrangement of the nocturne from Winslow's Phlogiston Variations, a melody capable of stirring the gods.

And as we played, the Gods were indeed roused: They first arrived in ones and twos; barely perceptible and darting as if to avoid our curious gaze. As we reached the andante, other gods began to fill the clearing.

There were Gods as small as gnats. Pungent Gods like woozy mounds of suppuration. Glowing gods and dark gods, who were the very definition of blackness, Transparent wraith-like Gods and mountainous adamantine Gods. As we performed we became encircled by Gods of every shape, form and designation, and still they came, crowding and surrounded us.

Once again I sense your disbelief – you are wondering how we, mere amateurs could have tackled this piece which had perplexed the most prodigious of symphonists. You doubt that a trembling blind curmudgeon and a graduate of no reputable conservatory could have sight-read and fingered the alto-bassoon?

Back then I was not blind, and my agility was legendary - I cannot say how we played, other than that we were bewitched, enchanted and bedizened by the gaze of those Gods; that ethereal audience who willed us play through the night. And so we played on until our copse was suffused by fog.

And then at the Hour of Mighty Flapping when Baxter's baton signaled the crescendo he became enveloped in a golden light and then against his will, mighty hands scooped him up into the vault of heaven.

When Baxter's protestations faded , all was silent. The gods had vanished taking Baxter with them. All but Tack (who had averted his eyes) were stricken with blindness and dyspepsia.

Baxter is God now, perhaps a flunky in the court of whichever nameless God guides the fate of that unwholesome land. Perhaps he is the deity of pre-moistened pads, sudden pangs or bent pins. Or perhaps his divinity is still confined to that that forlorn and bird-less clearing in the dismal hinterlands of Gaar.


The Hooting Yard Foundation, having finally recognised my Dobsonian research, has awarded me this seasonal mezzotint. There was a time when I would have delighted in the receipt of an original work of art - I might have hung it above one of the hundreds of nooks or niches in one of my many palatial homes. Had I been given this ten years ago, it might have formed an attractive conversation piece in one of my less favoured billiard halls.

Did you know that I once met Dobson? He was a dishevelled old git, unwashed and smelling of vinegar when he addressed the urchins at that bestial orphanage at Pang-Hill. I was one of those wretched children who sat spellbound through that old pamphleteer’s declamation. He gave me a pamphlet on pond-fowl recognition, the very first pamphlet in my collection.

Through thorough application of the principles of Baxterism I became a wealthy man; Long after Dobson was in his grave my plutocratic empire bestrode continents. Alas, I squandered my riches on Dobsonian esoterica. I eschewed my plutocracy and took to grog. Once I festooned myself in finery, now I am dressed in rags.

I now make my home amongst the muck and nettles in this waterlogged ditch not far from the insect-infested bebrambled spinney. I can no more dangle this Mezzotint from the filthy tarpaulin of my hovel than I could hang it from a peg wedged into it's earthern walls.

Tomorrow I will gaze upon Rex Tint’s depiction of “St. Mungo atop Seven Celestial Orbs” for the last time and then pawn it.

I should be able to get enough for a fortnight in a hostelry, some grog to numb my cranium and a poultice to soothe my neurasthenic fits.

18 December, 2005

Keening at Cape Hoon

As our caravan rounded the Cape of Hoon, Baxter's talisman began to keen. Our metallurgist had determined that it's healing properties were due to it's composition: An alloy of pitchblende and cadmium, however none of us could fathom the cause of it's new emanations.

Baxters palanquin-bearers were growing short-tempered; This shrill keening was yet another indignity they were to endure, on-top of his raving and agitation. Those courageous natives still bore the lunatic on their strong shoulders... but for how long?

Our mahout, once the fulcrum of jollity, became implacable. That evening he announced that he had been subpoenaed by his spirit-guide to attend an elephantine tribunal. He had left us in the care of Condolezza, the elderly bull-elephant who was quite deaf and unperturbed by my shrieking companion or his noisome amulet.

The following day we were set upon by scimitar wielding brigands, no doubt attracted by our din. They came at us from all sides with their blades-a-whirl. I bade father Tobias (Our Jesuit) perform the last rights.

Just I believed all was lost, the leader of the scoundrels raised his visor, and I was shocked to see that German inventor Andreas Albrecht.

Why had the pioneer of the theodolite become an outlaw? Why was this man who had written inspirational treatises on the plumb-bob and pendulum now hefting a halberd? How could the architect of Hooting Yard's concentric duck-ponds have turned to brigandry?

I was never to know the answer to these questions for at that instant the keening ceased. An enraged Baxter leapt from his box, and flew at the bandits. He assailed with his bare fists. He harried them with the demented might of a demoniac.

He chased them into a thicket.

We never saw the scofflaws or that accursed talisman again. All we could do was trudge after Condolezza who had been oblivious of the whole encounter.

We found Baxter the next day bloodied, naked, crumpled and unconcious.

- from "Five Hundred Nights in Tantarabim" by Dobson

17 December, 2005


And during the thirteenth ceremony I beheld the phantasm: It was composed of glowing, pulsating gas. It's effect upon me was mesmeric. Spellbound, I stared into it's swirling vortex. It drew closer, desiring to envelop me in it's raging miasma.

My master had taught me that certain rhymes and genuflections could ward off malevolent entities, however my mind was blank and my hands were numb. I had dropped both the Chalice of Geb and the sprig of irkbane which might have protected me.

It's tendril gripped my throat and I became stricken with nausea and drooling. All I could do was curse that lamentable tome, and my own ineptitude at ghost wrangling. As my consciousness ebbed, I swooned and shuddered.”

From “Irksome Spirits” by Dobson (out of print).

No fewer than three of Dobson's pamphlets concern spiritualism; It is clear that Dobson lacked the stamina needed by all those who commune with shades or meddle with forces unseen. Nevertheless, Dobson's inquiry into the mystical realm was not yet satiated.

Dobson's first encounter came as a young man; One of his first pamphlets describes an incident in which he was kidnapped and granted illumination by a tribe of willo-the-wisps; Typically his pamphlet describes nothing of the knowledge allegedly imparted. It's an incomprehensible psychedelic haze containing trite depictions of dancing lights and a pedestrian account of being lost in Loopy Copse.

Most spiritualists choose to discount this anecdote, because at the time of his claimed abduction Dobson was known to be an inmate of the Bodger's Spinney shelter for the transiently bewilderment. Even I who place the utmost faith in Dobson's work must credit this incident to moon-madness.

I should say that I too am a pamphleteer. I regard Dobson as kin – we are both of that fraternity who grimly proffer pamphlets on the corners of dilapidated streets in dismal towns not unlike your own. Unlike Dobson, I am not subject to the whims of Caxton's press because I own a laser-printer. However I too am an “out of print”, for it has lost it's toner and the cost of replacement beggars belief.

My latest work concerns the chemistry of goo. I have cross-referenced every type of goo by pungency, viscosity, magnetism and hue. For any given goo this book will describe it's origin, purpose, method of manufacture and the relevant saints or martyrs days upon which it may best be applied.

I have traveled from Murmansk to French Gianna in search of goos to study. I have sought goos in tidal basin of the Great Frightening River and trudged across the treacherous glaciers of Mount Pokemon in search of legendary goos. Eventually all but one goo succumbed to my inquisition. It was in researching that most elusive of oozes, my research drew me yet again to Dobson:

Long after the Dobson's imaginary abduction and the harrowing incident in the yurta on that ice-clad escarpment, Years after the kindly old Tundist carried Dobson's frail frame into the sacred aviary where call of linnets would soothe his ghost-addled brow...

Years more since Dobson overcame his fear of the eerie lights that befuddled his youth, years still after he had sought solace on the high seas and returned with a resolve to confront that which he feared: Only then could Dobson seek council from the Ukrainian mystic, Helena Blavatsky.

She was a frail and embittered crone. It is said that she kept a stuffed baboon in her boudoir. Strangers were made to stare into it's baleful eyes. Those frail of mind would be bedizened by it's glance. But Dobson was in his prime and had already known madness . He was unaffected. Despite all odds, Blavatsky grew to trust him.

In her final days, Dobson witnessed many apparitions and befriended many ghosts. Blavatsky taught him to wield his irkbane in exactly the manner prescribed by Paracelsus. Later he claimed to have abjured the spirit of Gerard Manley Hopkins, though once again this is claim is doubtful as Jesuits eschew all forms of spiritualism.

Dobson states that as the ghosts dispersed they left behind a certain residue, a “goo” if you will: “ectoplasm” that final substance which I must now collect in this wolfram sampling-jar. Once complete I shall claim my rightful place as dean of goo-sciences of the university at or near the duck-pond of Ack.

This is why I too have come to you proffering a skin full of rancid yak's butter.

This is why I have sought your yurta on that same frigid and windswept escarpment.

This is why I hold a identical hide-bound tome, identical to the book that frazzled Dobson's cranium a century ago this very day.

Please, oh master, let the abjuration begin.


“He wishes to be paid in baubles”, scoffed Baxter from atop the swaying pachyderm.

“What use are trinkets to a mahout?” I retorted. "Mahouts are simple folk, clad in modest robes. They possess only their ankusha – that barbed hook with which they drive their beasts."

But then I glanced upon him. He was festooned in brooches, pins and decorative fobs of every hue. From his curlicue sandals to his bejeweled turban he was resplendent. His proud eyes proclaimed his nobility and his waxed pointy beard betrayed his Cathar linage.

Later I would learn that he was of the “Rewghawan” tradition of mahoutery – those whose influence derives from their love and study of elephant lore.

At once I began rummaging in my burlap gunnysack for a gewgaw that would compliment his ornate brocade.

From “Five Hundred Nights in Tantarabim” by Dobson