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William Gosling

Guest William Gosling

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The Family Tragedy


Richard Gosling was curious. He had a friend named William and his father hadn’t liked him very much. That wasn’t all that surprising, William was homosexual and that wasn’t something his stuffy father was comfortable with. But his father had taken him aside and told him that nothing good ever came out of a man named William. He had claimed that Goslings and Williams didn’t mix well and nothing good had ever befallen the only William Gosling.


Well, Richard had never heard of William Gosling so he had gone into the family archives, painstaking preserved and costing the family a pretty penny. The family could afford it, though, unlike many British noble families it had gotten richer with the industrial revolution. He had found a box in a part of the archive that was for storing things that were only tangentially related to the family, a dishonorable place to relegate any family member to. Even Albert Gosling, a man who had sympathized rather openly with the Nazis before the outbreak of World War 2, wasn’t relegated to there. On top of the box was an impossibly thick book, The Whole Works of Sir Isaac Archer.


On top of the inside of the box, there was an old letter,


To whomever is reading this,


If you knew me, or know me, then this is not a letter for you. I am writing this letter for future, for posterity, and for history. All three will judge me and I fully intend to get my say in that judgment…


More than four hundred years earlier, William sat writing the letter. He was old, his hair grey, and he felt strangely tired. He was in a small room filled with books, papers, writings, and scribblings, with several candles lit. He couldn’t really say how he had gotten here. Of course he knew what had transpired but there was no way to point to a particular moment, to say that was where he went wrong, to say what he could have done differently.


But his fall had been severe. He had been passed over for succession to the Barony. He was an unwelcome presence at court, although he could go there he would have to suffer infernal whisperings. His reputation was better than his fathers only because he had, in many ways, been buried by the new Baron. Forsook, and without enough to sustain his lifestyle, he had self-imposed exile. Though exile was not perhaps the right word. He had contacted some of his old friends at Oxford among the staff, they had managed to set him up as one of their number.


Now days, he spent his time teaching the sons of nobility or otherwise privileged about Ancient History and the Classics. His classes tended to be under attended, and his primary joy these days was when a student approached him regarding his business knowledge, few in his experience were excited about Classics. To know about such business affairs was a stain upon ones gentility, he supposed, but every now and again one would approach him to ask about it, curious for one reason or another. Unfortunately, he was largely cut off from reliable news sources on the subject, cloistered here.


William stood up. He would finish the letter to the future later. Or maybe he wouldn’t. That was what the room was filled with, after all, fragments, incomplete works, things he had intended to do or brief thoughts he had thought worth committing to paper. He heard a knock at the door and looked up. A young man came in, standing in the threshold of the door as William faced him, and said sheepishly, “Professor Gosling?”


William recognized him, one of the few excited about the Classics, “Isaac, Isaac my dear boy, come in. What can I do for you?”


“Well, Professor, I was just wondering… why don’t you publish a book. You certainly write enough.” This was a common theme. It truly seemed to bother Isaac that the Professor he respected so much was going to leave none of his thoughts to posterity. But it was partially Isaac, who had every desire to publish himself, projecting himself onto William.


“Well, you see, I am very, very old.” William made a mock play of his feebleness by hunching over and leaning on the cane he only used because he thought it looked a bit stylish. “And I am far too lazy to be bothered by what the future will think of me.” That was just an outright lie, but William had been a courtier, and what is a courtier if not a liar?


“But, I mean… sir…” He took out a crumbled piece of paper William had given him. It was about the opening of De Bello Gallico and exactly why the opening line was hard to translate. It was a minor academic point William found interesting, and he had thought himself alone except for, apparently, Isaac. “It’s insightful and brilliant. People would be interested in this!”


“My dear boy, if books were interesting…” He paused for a moment, his wits failing him, “Well, be assured that is not the state of affairs.”


“But sir…”


“I’ll tell you what, I am very old. I have little time left on this Earth and when I die, you can have it. Whatever my family lets into the archives will go there, and the rest is yours. Nobody else wants the asinine scribblings of a senile fool.”


“Can I publish them?” Isaac’s eyes lit up.


“You can burn them for firewood for all I care. You see, I’ll be dead at the time.” He said this last bit with a sagacity in his voice that was obviously mocking, but Isaac didn’t seem to notice.


“Thank you, thank you, sir.” Isaac was truly excited over this.


William was a bit disturbed anyone was excited over an old fossil like him, a candle slowly flickering out in some hole at Oxford. He had no doubt he would die soon and he honestly wondered whether anyone would show up. Isaac excused himself, shyly, and left, and William went back to composing his letter.


William finished his letter and sent it back to the Gosling family to go with his things after death. He managed to live to be ninety three, a torturously long life for someone who had failed so thoroughly.


Richard finished reading the letter and saw why the family had abandoned him. It had been necessary, expedient, William himself said so, and even Richard understood why, though perhaps he did not agree with it as much as his ancestors would have. He looked inside the book, and inside was a dedicated, “To William Gosling, who I owe personally a debt unpayable, and this book owes a debt uncountable.” Inside, unique to this copy, was scribbled the words, “A greater man I did not know. I attempted to have his notes published but they were rejected. I beg of you to preserve them. -Isaac Archer”


Richard closed the book. He made a mental note to search out if William’s notes had survived. He almost pitied the dead man, so forsaken by his own family, nothing left in his life but to be sequestered in Oxford to lead an academic career of no distinction nor even spectacular failure.


Then he saw something at the bottom of William’s letter,

P.S.-1 In truth, one might be surprised I have not killed myself due to my grief, bereavements, and laments. After all, a man deprived of his very family, his friends, his position at court, who has lost everything… without a life how does one live? The truth that is what I am doing in Oxford-waiting to die, killing time between then and now so as to kill myself. I suppose I can be honest with you, at least.

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A short one;

William on his Deathbed


William lay in bed, old and gray, dying. He didn’t think it was poison, but one could never be sure. Regardless, he lay there, coughing from time to time, as a priest went through various prayers and chants that were meant for his soul. William was bored by it, honestly, and he thought the Holy Father would probably be bored by it as well. But he sat there, waiting to die.


The priest finished, “Now, does my Lord forgive his enemies?”


William thought for some time, as the priest looked on uncomfortably, did he have any enemies left? Shot, shot, hanged, drowned, oh there’s one. He was exiled. “Yes, I forgive my enemies and pray that God may have mercy on their souls, and forgive me what I have done to them.”


“Excellent. Does my Lord praise the Lord Jesus Christ, swear ultimate fealty to Him, and accept Him absolutely? Do you die praising His name?”


William nodded and said, “I praise our Lord, Jesus Christ, and praise him with my dying breath.”


“Excellent. Does my Lord condemn the devil, Satan?”


William was surprise and said, “Certainly not, I certainly do not! My good priest, this is no time to be making enemies!” William shook his head, “I die praying for the salvation of the devil’s soul in that God’s infinite mercy may yet save the most wayward of souls.”


The priest was surprised at this, but after collecting himself went back to chanting. Shortly thereafter the Priest touched him with oil. William lifted the hand and looked at it confused. This wasn’t Extreme Unction… he wasn’t Catholic. But he let it drop to his side, regardless. Such things didn’t seem so important now. He wondered how long he had left, waiting here, in this bed, to die. He felt mostly indifferent to it at this point, living had almost become an annoyance. He couldn't feel anything anymore, he couldn't move, he just lay there waiting to die.


He just wished he could close his eyes and...

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