“How nobly that great beast rested upon his small shelf of ice”

April 13, 2010

"There are but four pleasures in life: sweets, woman, adventure and freshly-pressed knickers." - Constantine John Phipps, 2nd Baron Mulgrave

Born into a life of rabid tea-sipping and biscuit-munching, Constantine John Phipps was a restless and portly child. In his hometown of York he paced the avenues for hours at a time, pilfering the many candy shops that lined the streets and lining his pockets with caramels and licorice.

“How that Constantine pilfers our stocks!” the shop owners grumbled amongst themselves. Their frustration with the younger Phipps was only matched by the prostration they demonstrated before the elder Phipps, who owned much of the local property and had slept with each of their wives on numerous sweaty occasions.

The younger Phipps found an outlet for his energy as an officer in the Royal British Navy, where he participated both in the 7 Years War and the American War of Independence. After a particularly violent skirmish, the admiral in charge of Phipps’ flotilla wrote in admiration:

The speed with which Phipps discharged his cannons in to enemy ship and town alike is an astounding sight. He sank 3 ships before supper time and another 2 after tea.

Yet when I came to congratulate Sir Phipps with his accomplishment, I found him in a frightful state. Honey dripped from his chin; his hands, so caked with the sticky remnants of caramels, forced me to withdraw my offered handshake.”

After completing his stint for the Royal Navy, Constantine Phipps became a registered Explorer for the British Crown. It was during one of these expeditions north that Phipps became the first westerner to describe the polar bear. Amazed at what he first christened Bovinus nixus, or Great Northern Snow Cow, he wrote in his diary:

“A remarkable creature without question: its nose the color of sweet black licorice and its  coat radiating a creamy vanilla glow. A deliciously beautiful figure.”

It was only upon his return and the subsequent intervention of his father, wife, admiral, counselor, assistant, local baker and confectioner, that Phipps consented to the name Ursus maritimus. “A plebian name by any measure,” he was heard to moan upon his deathbed. “And yet how nobly that great beast rested upon his small shelf of ice!”


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