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Inferno - Turn 1 - 1866

New Members in attendance this year

Aquarius: Professor James Moriarty

Aries: Don Rodrigo

Aries: William Tamworth-Smith

Capricorn: Baron Klaus Wolfgang von Poelzig

Capricorn: Comte 'Napol' Henri Bertrand

Gemini: Ferdinand Lancelot Gaboon

Scorpio: General Louis Perisson

Scorpio: Aramintha Grey

Taurus: William S Bang

Fortescue Smyth-Carruthers regrets that he is not able to respond to email correspondence, although he can receive it.


A speech by Mr d'Aventine

Mr Giuliano d'Aventine announced his candidacy for the post of Fire Elemental with the following speech:

"While I consider the office of Vizier to be a pro-active position, it seems to me that an Elemental should be more reactive, looking out for the interests of his element and considering all business upon which he must vote in that context first and foremost. I would attempt to act as a sort of Ombudsman for the members of my element's houses, bringing forth any grievances; I would not be adverse to proposing new business to further Fire Elemental goals and activities, of course.

"Beyond that, we will all be feeling our way through how this works for the first term, which means working closely with the Vizier and other members of our new leadership. I am prepared to commit the time, effort, and energy needed to the task."

A speech by Mr Southville

Mr Charles Southville announced the rules by which the voting would take place, and his own candidacy for the post of Counter:

"Lords and Ladies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

"Honour to all my fellow members of the Inferno club. It has fallen to me to announce the rules for the vote. I agree to abide by the form set down by the Midwife, these being:

"Every member is entitled to vote for each and every post;

"When voting for each post, each member gets his or her full complement of votes as indicated by the Prestige Engines;

"Voting is by secret ballot, with the recipient of the highest number of votes gaining the post;

"Persons elected to posts which include extra votes are entitled to use those extra votes in later ballots;

"Counting of votes to be carried out by the Inferno Club butler, Mr Benson, until a Counter is elected; thence counting to be entirely in his hands under advisement from the remainder of the House.

"The first vote will be for counter. Which I have been asked to stand for. An honour I have humbly agreed to undertake.

"Next year's vote will be for all positions and will be repeated for a smaller number of positions after three years. Full details will be issued next year.

"If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me."

A speech by Pfalzgraf von Seyffert

Mr Georg von Seyffert announced his disinclination to use his noble title in the Club, "because here it counts for nothing", and further announced his candidacy for the post of Vizier, with the following speech:

"My fellow Initiates,

"I stand today before you to announce my candidacy for the post of Vizier for the European Cell. All of us are qualified to hold all posts, but not all of us are interested. I am. Why? Because I am sure I can contribute to the advancement of all of us and our Club.

"My status allows me to get the ear and convince the mighty of the world, to further the goals of the Inferno Club. As a banker, I can help the Fire Houses, and I can finance the Earth and Water Houses. As for the other Air Houses (Gemini and Libra), my goals conflict with none of them.

"I am not a power-hungry individual. I just know I am in a position to serve, and I want to."

A speech by Mr Darkenford

Mr Peter Darkenford then announced his candidacy for the post of Water Elemental:

"Members, may I put myself forward for the position of Water Elemental. Some of you know me, many do not. My name is Peter Darkenford, and I am a researcher into ancient religions. I am a member of House Cancer. I know that I can help my Element to bring success to the Inferno Club. As my job is collecting data and facts, I believe that I am well placed to coordinate meetings, and present our case to the other Elements. I will not bore you with a long speech into how I am the best candidate for this position, as I believe that only with time comes trust. I could tell you many things about myself that would encourage you to vote for me, but as I said, not many of you know me, so my words could be false. The best way I can prove myself to you, is if you choose me as Water Elemental, and then I can do so with my actions. I thank you."

A speech by Mr Fielding

Mr Caspar Augustus Fielding announced his candidacy for the post of Inquisitor:

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Inferno Club.

"These are troubled times. At every turn, men of pernicious character seek to thrown down the rule of society. Governments are corrupted, judges are scorned. Wars, murders and strife of every stripe clutch at society's throat and refuse to let her catch her breath. This order of the learned, the enlightened, and the singularly powerful, this Inferno Club, is society's answer to her own ills. Having accepted our role as her secret masters, we must also accept our responsibility to be her protectors and her guides. And because we must seek to ensure that the lessons society learns are the correct and proper lessons, we must vigilantly guard ourselves from the threat of corruption, for if the Twelve Houses fall to squabbling and disorder, the only lessons that we may teach in turn are chaos and pain.

"House Libra bears the responsibility for maintaining the rules of law as set down by the Twelve. It is a responsibility not borne lightly. If we fail in our duty to the Charter, then we fail in our duty to England, to Europe and to the world at large. But fail we will if the chimes of sharp discord are heard in these halls. We all of us have our ambitions. We all of us see ourselves as destined for greatness. Were it otherwise, we would not be amongst this august company. But let none among us believe that in the pursuit of their destiny they may proceed at the expense of their fellows, be that cost financial or political or physical. A betrayal of an Infernal associate is a betrayal of the Inferno Club itself, as intolerable as any crime.

"As Inquisitor, I will prosecute the investigation of every infraction with every resource available. I will be deterred by nothing and no one. I will uncover the truth. And where necessary to protect the interests of the Inferno Club and its members, I will expose that truth without regard to the reputation of the guilty. Before taking any action that seeks to undermine the principles of the Inferno Club or any of its members, I urge each of you to consider its consequences, for they are both severe and certain.

"Having addressed my obligation to caution against mischief and strife, I will say that I have nothing but confidence in the good faith and virtue of us all. We are privileged as few others have ever been to invisibly guide and intangibly influence society for the better. It is my fervent hope that we are as strong and as good and as bold as we must be to repay the investment of faith which the Twelve have placed in us. For just as in division we can hope only for the dark of dismal failure, if we strive for unity of cause, a future of hope and success is ensured."

A message from Dr Bang

Members of the Club, I give formal notice of my intention to stand for election to the position of Vizier. It is my opinion that the voting procedures of this Club are biased and unfair and it is with this in mind that I put myself forward for election. I recommend that it be changed to one person one vote, with each member of the council receiving one further vote. This will ensure that all members of the club will have an influence at all times, and will not be dependant on their financial or social status. I have no doubt that there may be some among us at the moment, who with their large number of votes, would like things to stay exactly as they are, but will they think so in the future when perhaps things are not quite so rosy? Why should I be selected as Vizier? Why not? As things stand at the moment the position is for five years and then elections are held again. I have no intention to change this system, so if you don't like how things are done then you can vote me out. Also, as a member of House Taurus, my outlook on life is precise, analytical, and logical, and less likely to be swayed by power or political machinations, than other persons who shall go un-named. I therefore recommend myself to you. Yours, William S Bang.

A speech by Mr Derothshire

Mr James Derothshire made the following speech:

"Fellow Inferno members. I stand before you as a candidate for the position of Elemental for the element of Air. Although many of you who do not belong to one of the Houses of Air may have little concern who receives the post, I must point out that another house within the Air Element have a very powerful voting base. To allow one of their number to receive the position and thus gain more votes could affect you all.

"It would surely be wiser, and more beneficial to the Inferno Club as a whole, to vote for me, James Derothshire, as the Elemental for Air. I am a member of House Libra, one of the Inferno clubs official caretakers... I am therefore by mature neutral and unbiased in my work for the Inferno club...

"If these words do not sway you to voting for me then consider this... If you scratch my back, that of an ear to the Inquisitor, if not one day the Inquisitor, I will scratch yours...

"I ask for your vote for the position of Elemental For the Element of Air."

A speech by Mr Laing

Mr Sunil Laing made the following speech:

"Esteemed Members,

It is with a profound humility that I stand before such luminaries in these august surroundings. Such grandeur and privilege are a far cry from that enjoyed by the citizens of Madras from where I initially hail. Both they and I know what it is to be vilified, to face fear and prejudice from those who neither know us nor understand us and, more sadly, do not want to know or understand us. With such a cosmopolitan membership I cannot believe that there are those here who would share such prejudices (at this point Mr Laing paused in his disquisition, and scanned the room keenly) but rather see the benefits that cultural diversity can bring.

"I believe that the role of Lower Saluter is best served by an individual who is able to span social strata both within Club and Society, and that the best individual for that role is, I suggest with respect, me. From cousins in the gutters of Madras to a grandfather who sits in the House of Lords I am able to mix freely, and whilst not wholly accepted by either I am trusted and respected sufficiently by both. Individuals in my position always have to produce that little bit extra to be given equal credit to those that society finds to be more acceptable. Such must be the case far those in Cells of lower status than our own. My election would send the resounding message that we are a Cell that can be trusted and is worthy of its reputation as an organization of principle. I beg your support and pledge to you my unstinting dedication. Thank you all."

A speech by Mr Wylde

Mr Auberon Wylde's speech was accompanied by flights of doves, which emerged from various unexpected sources during its course.

"Mmm... let me keep this to the point. I may bill myself as 'Master of Obfuscation' but in matters oratory I favour plain speaking - my intention is to dazzle eyes, not ears.

"Why, you might well ask, do I suppose myself qualified to assume the mantle of Elemental to the Earth Houses? Take a look around you, my friends: we are doubtless possessed of brilliance in the myriad fields of Science we choose to follow - but, if I might be so bold, we are somewhat lacking in the arts of presentation, no? Our eyes are on the stars, but our capes trail in the gutter.

"I, on the other hand (at this point Mr Wylde was seen to briskly sever two fingers from his left hand, with much flow of blood but no apparent pain), might be accused of charlatanism, flim-flammery, the triumph of appearance over substance - but I know how to grab the eye, direct or misdirect it as I will, with smoke or mirrors or good old sleight-of-hand (here he rejoined the severed fingers and demonstrated that no ill effect had been suffered from their temporary departure).

"Many of our schemes and contraptions come to nought because we lack the means to attract attention, to make people listen. I will not pretend to be a colossus among men, but I am a showman. And believe me, our wondrous inventions deserve to be shown, to be seen, to be sold - to our fellows in the Inferno Club and to the Great British Public.

"I, Auberon Wylde, have the skills to raise the profile of Earth, attract the recognition - and the funding - we truly deserve - we need. I have, after all the ear of the Royal Personage, and I pledge to use this influence in our favour.

"Gentlemen and ladies, please consider me for the office of Elemental."

To cap his speech, Mr Wylde produced the Mona Lisa from one of his travelling-cases - rather blurred and cracked, but recognizably Leonardo's masterpiece.

An announcement by Mr de Bonvoisin

"Monsieur de Bonvoisin humbly invites all esteemed members to the small party he's giving in the billiard room, right after today's meeting. He will gladly use this occasion to confirm persistent rumours of him being a candidate for the Air Elemental post."

Other general messages

A speech by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury

"My friends, I am but a humble pastor, content with tending my flock and with no interest in mere baubles of office, or worldly status. I must therefore regretfully decline the invitation kindly proffered by those among you who urged me to stand and who perhaps detected talents or ambitions which I, in myself, cannot recognize. Instead, in a spirit of Christian generosity, I am prepared to offer my modest four votes in the forthcoming elections to those members of our Brotherhood most prepared to support my evangelical work throughout England and in the barbarous lands beyond, in whatever fashion you consider most apt. I am available most evenings to receive your proposals, at Lambeth Palace. Bless you all. And may you choose wisely."

A speech by Mr von Seyffert as pro tem Voice of Aquarius

"We are House Aquarius, the bankers, the deal makers. We are the power brokers, we are the market raiders. We are not generals or politicians, yet we can break them or make them. We are not scientists or mages, but we will certainly finance them. We are councillors of Emperors and direct their might, We work from the shadows, we dislike the light.

"Generals, Politicians, hear our call, We could strike a deal for the good of us all, But dare not betray us, oh seekers of favours, Dare not deceive us or hinder our labours. Lest turned into wrath you see our might, And maybe tomorrow, you won't see the light."

An animadversion from Mr Carter

Mr Edward Carter made it generally known that he offers good terms for both buying and selling valuable works of art, jewellery and antiques.

An announcement by Mr Nightingale

Mr Daniel Nightingale announced that while he did not feel himself qualified to stand for any of the positions of responsibility within the Club, especially with so many eminent and distinguished ladies and gentlemen present, he would like to make his services in the field of supernatural knowledge available to the members as a whole. He also invited all the members to a "modest little party" he was planning - a cocktails affair.

A card from Miss DuQuesne-Black

Miss Elizabeth DuQuesne-Black wishes it to be known that she will be residing at her family home in Wilton Place, Belgravia, during the coming year, and that she will be 'At Home' to fellow members of the Inferno Club upon the first Thursday of each month from 8.00 pm, and to fellow members of House Pisces at whatsoever time shall be mutually convenient. RSVP.

Some descriptions

Niels Graaf is a young man of medium size, brown hair, wearing the Leo badge. In his square, vigorous and reliable face, his blue eyes show a great determination. His voice is deep and vibrant. However, it looks as if he prefers action to speech, and is used to risk his life for a cause. He doesn't appear to be comfortable in such a prestigious gathering, and often fiddles with his small beard. Is it because of his modest garments, his rustic manners, or his clumsy English and strong foreign accent? He seems very concerned by matters far away from London, and keen to return there. Someone very attentive might notice that he avoids any extended contact with those members of the Club with Prussian connexions.

Sunil Laing is an extremely handsome half-caste White / Asian who could be anywhere between 25 and 40. Attired in Savile Row evening suit but with a cummerbund of scarlet silk woven with intricate golden elephant motifs, he speaks softly and with heartfelt emotion.

Lady Greendale was seen to be circulating among the female members of the Club, introducing herself. Captain Hazelmere appeared a little diffident among the distinguished company. Mr Kline remained quiet and observant, and General Perisson also appeared to have adopted a watching brief. La Donna arrived on the arm of Mr d'Aventine, and made a special effort to socialize, as did Mr Darkenford.

Further proceedings

Benson, the Club butler, announced that The Seventh, the Member of the Twelve for House Libra, was in attendance and wished to address the meeting. All fell silent as The Seventh was shown in: a solid, distinguished-looking gentleman in middle years, wearing smoked glasses (although not apparently blind). He was smoking a large cigar, which wreathed him in clouds of smoke during his brief address. His manner might be best described as confidently superior, and he had an air about him which defied challenge.

"Members of the Inferno Club, greetings and welcome. I am the senior member of House Libra, the Club's most trusted and most feared House. We represent the administration of the Club as well as its disciplinary arm, and as such all other Houses owe us absolute obedience.

"I am here today to enjoin on you the importance of heeding the words of House Libra, and of its representatives among you here. The Inferno Club has only this last year recovered itself from the grave danger it had been placed in thanks to the antics of members of certain other Houses who refused to give House Libra its due authority. And danger for the Club is danger for all the world, mistake me not. You all represent a clean slate and a chance to start afresh, and to avoid the mistakes of the past.

"As you progress in your Houses you will learn more about these affairs, if they see fit to inform you. For now let me just say that House Libra has the power to exterminate entire cells of the Club, or entire House organizations, if it so wishes, and you should not think yourselves above such discipline."

With that, and a minatory gaze, he retired to one corner of the room, inviting individual members to come and address questions to him privately if they so wished.

A message from 0001

Much as last year, just before midnight, the Infernal Mail slot pops out a white envelope. Benson reads it out to all present:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Congratulations on the success of your first year's membership of the Inferno Club. 
It should already be starting to be apparent who are the best suited to speak for 
their Houses: this is as it should be. May we all go on from strength to strength 
together in 1867!
Happy New Year,

Practicalities of next turn

A few people have asked about preferred formats for receiving email turns. We can receive anything up to Word 95 (NB not 97) but we have a strong preference for (a) plain ASCII rather than a more bandwidth-wasteful format, and (b) in the body of the message rather than as an attachment, to minimize the chances of it going missing somewhere.

Also... please do make sure you're sending your orders to us, not to the mailing list. We have no way of catching things sent to the list before they are forwarded to all its members.

With next turn you are encouraged to submit your votes for the various offices of the Inferno Club. You should assume that the elections will be held as described in Mr Southville's speech, above. The number of votes you are entitled to cast is indicated in the Register below. Do feel free to make your votes conditional on earlier results if you wish, and to give provisional instructions for your extra votes if you expect to be awarded a position which confers them.

You should also include any questions you wish to ask The Seventh, as he is available for interview during the meeting just completed.

Quite a few people have asked me how much to write on a turn, have they written too much, etc. The short answer is that you should write as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. The slightly longer answer is that writing a lot should not be an encouragement to try and do things which are more complicated. Each task should ideally be summarizable in one phrase: if yours is not, then you're probably trying to do too much. If your long task is in fact a list of eight separate sub-tasks, each with their own set of conditionals and each needing separate results, then that's definitely too much. I've been fairly permissive with some of you this turn, but will start getting much harsher over the next few. Basically, if you write more, it should consist of elaboration, not complication.

Note that the deadline below is ABSOLUTE, and any turns which arrive after it will be COMPLETELY IGNORED. This is pretty harsh, I know, but it's the only practical way of running a game of this type and size. It's hard enough work meshing and coordinating everyone's actions without some turning up halfway through the process.

Your turn should be with us by: Midnight Monday 26th October 1998

Inferno News 1866

(with thanks to the London Times and various other worthy publications)

'CYCLOPS' HAS HIS EYE ON YOU The Government has announced the undertaking of Project Cyclops, a vast database of information on all the inhabitants of the Empire, to be kept up to date by regular census, which it is hoped will greatly improve law and order, tax collection, and the general efficiency of government. The project is housed in a self-contained building, its foyer festooned with wrought iron and white marble, and the difference engine technology required, on a scale never seen before, is contracted to Hamilton Industries. Her Majesty and Prince Albert were present for the opening, although it will take some time to gather all the data required before Cyclops truly becomes all-seeing.

STANLEY LOST Noted explorer Mr Henry Morton Stanley's expedition to darkest Africa has been lost with all hands, reports emerging from Kenya confirmed. The expedition, backed by Mr Albert de Bonvoisin's newly-formed Africaanse Companie, had the aims of finding the still-missing Dr David Livingstone, discovering the source of the Nile, and combating the slave trade. It seems to have met its fate at the hands of Nandi tribesmen in high Kenya: local colonial troops reported finding the site of the massacre, which was so horrific as to defy description in a family newspaper.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR Dear Sir, Whatever happened to the heroes - all the Shakespearoes? They watched their Rome burn. There are no more heroes any more. Mr S T Wrangler.

ARMSTRONG, HAMILTON WIN CONTRACT The prestigious contract for the British Aeronavy has been granted to a consortium of Armstrong Industries and Hamilton Industries, those two giants of the North-East. Armstrong's are to build the vessels, to a radical sea / air design, and Hamilton's will provide the control systems. Lord Armstrong also founded a training school for the crews of these vessels, in North Shields. 'This is where the first four thousand Super-Mariners will come from!' he said with some satisfaction.

AUTONOMY IN BALKANS The Prussian possessions of Bulgaria and Rumania have been given a limited form of independence, as principalities within the Prussian Empire, with a hereditary line of Princes appointed to each throne. Furthermore, the Prussians have ceded the disputed territory of Transylvania to Hungary, a spokesman saying that "Rumanian sovereignty does not extend into that God-forsaken land." We can only applaud this statesmanlike move by the Kaiser, which must surely suit the desires of the peoples of those troubled lands.

BACK HOME BY CHRISTMAS The 'forgotten men' of 23 Squadron, captured by the French during the last war, have been liberated by their former commander, Captain Jonathon Hazelmere. The eight men were taken during the disastrous naval encounter off Finisterre, for which Captain Hazelmere was heavily censured - public opinion seemed to have given up on these brave sailors, but now at last they have returned to British soil, thanks to a bold attack by the Captain on the military prison at Brest. The French government are treating the affair with some gravity and have asked the Ministry of Defence to hand Captain Hazelmere over for justice - several prison officials were killed or wounded during the raid.

BALLS TO THE POOR A new charity, the Carter Foundation, has held a charity ball in aid of the poor of London. The founder, noted antiquities vendor Mr Edward Carter, was moved by the suffering of those less fortunate than himself. "Here am I surrounded by things of beauty, while there are people dying in the streets and having to resort to barbers for surgery," he said, with a tear in his eye. The ball was a great success, with most of London's glitterati attending.

BLAKELY UNDAUNTED? Captain Percy Blakely is reported to be fitting out another expedition to darkest Africa for next year. He had been hoping to collaborate with Henry Morton Stanley, but after the disaster of Stanley's expedition of this year may be thrown onto his own resources.

BREAK-IN AT ARMSTRONG'S To the great embarrassment of Armstrong Industries, one of the prototype vessels for the new British Aeronavy has been stolen, in a daring heist which saw high fences scaled, security guards befuddled and a sturdy steel gate bent apart as though it were made of butter. Apparently the Ministry of Defence are seriously considering cancelling the contract, now that the secrecy of the design has been compromised in this way. Needless to say, French agents are suspected of the theft: the discovery of a large number of custard pies at the scene of the crime only lends strength to this hypothesis.

COLONIAL SECRETARY ATTACKED Sir Michael Swift, the Colonial Secretary, was laid low by a lone gunman as he walked in St James's Park. The would-be assassin, an Irish deserter named Sean Flynn, was captured at once, and Scotland Yard have announced that he appears to have been backed by the French Secret Service. The French government have hotly denied this claim, but with a new hawkish current moving through government circles, Anglo-French relations are not good at the moment, much to Prime Minister Disraeli's despair. Sir Derek Ross, the Deputy Colonial Secretary, has stepped in while Sir Michael recovers: it is believed that Sir Derek, a noted hawk, had warned his more dovish superior about the dangers of French action, but had been pooh-poohed.

DIG IN HOLY LAND The Church of England has sponsored an archaeological expedition to the Holy Land, with the aim of uncovering religious sites and items. What nobler purpose could there be? Local Ottoman authorities were reported to be resigned to the digs, which started at Jericho.

DOUBLE-BARRELLED JEOPARDY The noted explorers Rupert Longbridge-Crowe and William Tamworth-Smith this year joined forces for an expedition into darkest Africa, in search of lost civilizations. After the disaster of the Stanley expedition hopes were not high, but the intrepid duo managed to return to London with minimal loss of life, and a number of rather fine engravings of a jungle-ravaged site, which the Times was happy to print.

DUTCH STRIKE Dutch nationalist guerrillas scored a major coup this year, attacking and seizing a Prussian arsenal at Arnhem with a well-planned and executed strike. It is thought that they were aided by locals who were working at the facility - perhaps the Prussians should be tightening their security? The base commander, Major Lieg, was captured by the rebels, although no ransom demand has yet been made. The guerrillas were surprisingly well armed, with what some experts believe to have been Prussian weaponry.

FLORENCE - NIGHT IN GAOL? An assortment of political prisoners, representing various rebel factions, were broken out of the Bargello prison in March by a masked and caped man whose sabre played like lightning, according to shocked guards. Reports that slightly later in the year Grand Duke Lorenzo de'Medici was seen to take delivery of a giant mechanical man are thought to be unconnected, as are the recent spate of highway robberies on the roads of Tuscany.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE The Peace of Mind Life Assurance Company, proprietor Mr Charles Peace, has generously provided extensive funding to the Metropolitan Police Force, including a brand new set of uniforms and a heavy recruitment campaign. This is already leading to urchins of the streets referring to constables as 'peaceniks' or 'charlies'. Many of the new recruits are of the lower classes themselves, the very types who might perhaps have been sucked into a life of crime were it not for the generous police salary that Mr Peace is subsidizing.

KLINE ENTERPRISES MOVE INTO ARMS The powerful Prussian industrial conglomerate, Kline Enterprises, has now moved into the field of warfare, with the purchase of a large arms factory in Darmstadt. If this hitherto obscure but highly regarded firm, which broke with its low-publicity tradition this year by throwing a Hallowe'en Ball for representatives of the governments of Europe, sees growing opportunities int he arms trade, the people of Europe had best prepare for war, our analysts say.

LEFT BANK? DON'T BE LEFT OUT! General Louis Perisson's parties are the place to be in Paris, our friends at Le Soir tell us.

LOVELY LIZZIE KEEPS THEM GUESSING! Our very own Lizzie Siddal has a string of men dancing around her! Swoony Anglo-Indian 'Sonny' Laing, dark and mysterious James Derothshire, sickly German Friedrich von Schranke... who will be the one to win her heart? If we know, we're not saying! But suffice to say that 'Sonny' has arranged an exhibition of her paintings, and put her forward for membership of the Royal Academy... (from How Do You Do? magazine)

MAYFAIR CLUB MAY FARE WELL A new establishment for gentlemen has been launched in exclusive Balfour Place, catering to only the elite of our society. The proprietor, Professor James Moriarty, has yet to annoucne its name, but we may be sure that with the membership of a social lion like Home Secretary Lord Shaftesbury secured, success is nigh-on guaranteed.

METALS RISE During the course of the year there was a gradual but steady rise in the commodity prices of various precious metals - this despite the generally depressed markets. Supplies of gold, silver and platinum are still good.

MILAN, VENICE ALLIANCE The two powers of northern Italy signed an alliance this year, to much celebration in both cities. Combined, they provide a capable force, with Venetian arms and Milanese manpower. Does this mean that Grand Duchess Adriana Sforza will make real her designs on French Savoy?

MILANESE STATESMAN SLAIN This April the Milanese Minister for Health, Signor Carlo Cattani, was blown to pieces as he visited the French city of Marseilles. Crazed French nationalists are believed to be responsible, and the incident could cause a flashpoint in the already tense relations between France and Milan.

MINERVA CASTS AEGIS OVER CHILDREN The Minerva Times, the ladies' magazine owned and edited by Lady Athena Greendale, this year featured a powerful and moving campaign on behalf of Dr Thomas Barnardo's orphanages, which resulted in a considerable spate of donations. This is what these so-called women's magazines should be doing more of - rather than banging on about rights for women and other such nonsense. In the same issue was what elevated tastes deemed a rather trite poem by Miss Siddal, accompanied by some of her sketches.

MONA LISA STOLEN In a heist which has baffled the worlds of art and criminology alike, the famed Mona Lisa was first destroyed and then stolen from the Louvre this June. The bold thief first sprayed some sort of solvent over the canvas to destroy Leonardo's masterpiece, then coolly walked out with it, in the guise of a gendarme. Detectives are looking for a male-female criminal duo.

MPs RELIEVE STRESS Our beleaguered parliamentarians need sweat no longer - now they have a new help on site, in the person of Aramintha Grey, who uses a mixture of conventional medicine and more arcane techniques to induce relaxation in the tired and overworked.

NEW CHAIR AT OXFORD The Hamilton Chair for Difference Engine Research and Applied Mathematical Theory has been endowed at Britain's foremost university, by noted industrialist Lord Alexander Hamilton. The first occupant is to be Professor Donald Knuth, a renowned (apparently) theoretician in this rather obscure field.

NEW POET The Literary Review has published two pieces by a new lady poet, a Miss Julianne Fulbright. They deal with the cosy and charming domestic themes proper to womanhood: "Like humming-birds who preen themselves to fly / Bright ladies flock along from shop to shop; / Alight at windows, peering, then pass by / Disdaining all for the next season's crop." Starts one, and another "The food is laid, but still the boys / And girls call gaily to and fro; / Their games to which I know not rules - / So merrily they go." They have been received with some favour by the cognoscenti of such fripperies: apparently the writer is now working on her first novel.

NOT AT ALL NICE IN NICE The French city of Nice this year saw a dreadful atrocity, as a group of drunken off-duty French grenadiers slew eight Italian immigrants in a café. All five Italian states have demanded that the men responsible be brought to justice immediately, and the Italian community in France is all but up in arms, but the French have so far proved unable to produce the culprits for trial. Surely the new alliance of Milan and Venice will not for much longer tolerate the series of French provocation against Italy?

POELZIG TREATS PRINCE 'Eccentric' Prince Otto of Bavaria was given speedy treatment by Baron von Poelzig, after he inhaled a large raspberry. 'It was nothing,' the learned Baron would no doubt have modestly said had our reporter been bothered to trek all the way to Bavaria for such a small story.

POLICE SUPPORT ROSS In a rather curious public announcement, the new head of the Metropolitan Division, Sir Frederick Bampton, spoke in favour of Sir Derek Ross's appointment as Colonial Secretary, explaining that Sir Derek was just the man to ensure high-quality British law and order was enjoyed by the colonies as well as by London.

POLITICAL ROUNDUP So far the verdict on Mr Disraeli's term in government must be a cautious thumbs-up. The next general election is in 1868, and it is thought that if all continues smoothly the Conservatives will be re-elected. Law and order is still a problem, though, which the Liberals might exploit: and if relations with France continue to worse, who knows what might happen.

TRAGIC DEATH OF MISS SIDDAL In the latest horrifying murder to grip London, celebrated socialite, model and now artist Elizabeth Siddal was found savagely slain. The body had been scalped and its spleen removed, reported shocked constables. Although this newspaper has in the past cast doubt on Miss Siddal's talents, and even more so on her morals, she scarcely deserves the same hideous fate as has befallen so many women of the gutter. Unusually, this killing took place in the Old Kent Road, rather than in Whitechapel as have most of the earlier ones. 'We shouldn't think that the East End has a monopoly on violent death,' opined a police spokesman.

PROTOTYPE STEAM TRACTOR TRIALLED Noted inventor Mr William Stone has been trialling a new steam-powered tractor, which he believes will allow the tasks of ploughing, harrowing and so forth to be carried out far more efficiently than conventional horses permit.

RED CROSS FOUNDED Pittsburgh industrialist and philanthropist Mr Carl Coltrane has launched the Red Cross Humanitarian Aid Organization, designed to bring humanitarian and medical aid to battlefields and areas ravaged by war, natural disasters, etc. It is expected that chapters of this laudable organization will be launched in every civilized country in the next few years, and suitable candidates for local presidencies are urged to come forward.

RED MENACE SPREADS Reports from Russia, particularly the farming communities of the south-west and the industrial areas of the north-west, suggest that the sick scourge of communism is starting to rear its ugly head there. The works of Mr Karl Marx can be found readily, having been distributed in large numbers - by whom, one can only speculate. The Russian government is said to be deeply concerned at this development, and is considering a new set of even more repressive policy measures, to bring their serfs and proles back into line.

RING OF QUALITY The public of Britain have spent much of this year enjoying the antics of the varied artistes of Gaboon's Circus, touring the country all summer. In such troubled times, what better than to release the tension with mirth? Gaboon's is certainly a skilled and entertaining outfit, although question marks must be raised over the lax safety standards that have led to the deaths of several staff during the course of the year.

SLAYINGS CONTINUE This year there were three more slayings of prostitutes in the East End, not counting the presumably related murder of Miss Elizabeth Siddal. Why are our police seemingly so incapable of catching the fiendish perpetrator? Perhaps it is time our government turned its gaze towards the sufferings of those close at hand. The women of the stews of Whitechapel are so desperate for money that even the real threat of death and dismemberment cannot prevent them from walking the streets - and there are still customers a-plenty.

SOUTHVILLE RISES IN RANKS Charles Southville's political career seems to be rapidly on the up - he not holds the post of Under-Secretary for Prisons, in the Home Office. In his first speech in the post, he inveighed against the recent spate of anarchist bombs, and promised action. Unfortunately, by the end of the year, police seemed no nearer identifying the mysterious Croydon bomber.

STILL GETTING SMALLER This year Mr James Dawson launched a new, even smaller, steam engine device, for incorporation into those household gadgets which we all take for granted in this modern age. It boggles the mind to consider that just a generation ago steam engines were monstrous great things that were drawn by horses, and now one can carry one at one's waist. Will this trend for miniaturization continue indefinitely? 'We may have hit a technical limit,' said Mr Dawson cautiously.

SUE'S COMPANY The late industrialist Eugene Sue's cousin Monique has stepped forward to claim what remains of his business empire, throwing into confusion the efforts of the d'Aventine interests to purchase it, D'Aventine controls the Suddeutsche Zeitung and most of Sue's Hungarian steel interests, but Monique seems determined to fight him for the rest.

TSAR SLEEPS EASIER The Tsar's dreadful nightmares have been eased this year, thanks to the action of Mr George Petrovitch, a Serbian gentleman who has recently attached himself to the Russian Court. Mr Petrovitch claims, rather theatrically in our opinion, to have exorcised the demon that was troubling the Tsar - "Oh, those Russians", as a great bard once wrote.

VENICE-VIENNA RAPPORT A party of liberal Venetian intellectuals this year visited Austria, with the intention of thawing the frosty relations between the two countries since Venice's seizure of Trieste and Fiume. While there is a certain sympathy for rapprochement abroad in Vienna, our analysts estimate that Emperor Franz Josef will never consider those possessions Venetian.

WOMEN'S HEALTH AND COUNSELLING CLINIC LAUNCHED The new clinic, in Knightsbridge, caters specifically for women's complaints, and is rather exclusive. Mr Sunil Laing, the proprietor, explained that aristocratic women were ill served by the current health system.

WORRYING SPREAD OF ARYANISM This year has seen a disturbing rise in Aryanist sentiment in the Germanic nations. The Aryanist Movement, spearheaded by Bavarian industrialist Mr Peter Strasser, is organized at a local level, and promotes brotherhood among fellow-Aryans - this principle to be extended to international relations as well. The movement has proved highly popular among junior officers, university students and the like, although the governments of Austria, Bavaria and Prussia are all regarding it with some suspicion. The Times can only say: nothing wrong with Johnny German thinking he's different from everyone else, but if he starts claiming he's bally superior, a swift dose of British boot'll sort him out!

WYLDE ABOUT THE BOY Auberon Wylde, Master of Obfuscation, has been wowing audiences up and down Europe this year, the visual appeal of his act greatly enhanced by the addition of a beauteous female assistant.

YEAR OF THE LAMB? EWE'D BETTER BELIEVE IT The Archbishop of Canterbury announced that 1866 was the Year of the Lamb, to be marked by great evangelical zeal. A new newspaper, Voice of the Lamb, was launched, containing a curious mixture of what some might think rather sensationalist material, mixed with dire warnings against agnosticism.

YEAR OF THE LAMB - ARCHBISHOP RAMS IT HOME The Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas sermon this year was devoted to the threat of the Agnosticians, a shadowy international cabal devoted to destroying faith in God and keeping poor Christians downtrodden. In a departure from tradition the same sermon was preached at every church in the land simultaneously, with reports reaching our ears that certain clerics who objected were edged out of their pulpits by Militia of the Lamb 'hit squads'.

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