RLS does not stand for Restless Leg Syndrome

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then I'll begin. RLS does not stand for Restless Leg Syndrome. I don't suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome myself and I wouldn't want to. I have one friend who does, and it is certainly a distressing condition. Sufferers have my sincere sympathy - unless and until they start referring to their condition as RLS. OK, enough keyword stuffing - here's the deal:

The Victorians were proud of their conventions- their dress, their manners, their customs, all were studied, formal, controlled. It was not easy to rise to the top in this society. There was no culture of celebrity; you had to earn your place in the firmament through hard work. Talent helped, but had to be applied. Work, work, work - Go to the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise! These guys were selective with their Biblical quotes. None of this soft salvation stuff. Work, work, work!

But for the very few who won through to stardom, the Victorians reserved a very special honour - the right to be known, forever more, by their initials alone. The right to have their initials enshrined for all time in the English Language. For example:

  • WG - William Gilbert Grace
  • G&S - Gilbert & Sullivan
  • RLS - Robert Louis Stevenson

Sport, Music, Literature

Sport's first superstar, Dr. William Gilbert Grace, dominated cricket for almost half a century, guaranteeing huge crowds wherever he played. Before Grace, no other sporting figure had achieved such universal recognition. An imposing figure, at 6 ft 3in, with an equally imposing beard, his prowess with the bat was legendary. Such was his fame throughout Victorian society that he commandeered the initials WG to refer to himself, and himself alone. There can never be another WG. Edmund Clerihew Bentley who could only leave his name, not his initials, to the Language merely rode the greater man's coat tails with:

WG Grace
had hair all over his face.
Everybody feared
lest the ball should be lost in his beard.

Then there were the Savoyards, William Schwenck Gilbert & Sir Arthur Sullivan. These fiery and brilliant gentlemen delighted audiences throughout the Empire with a series of comic operas that are still being performed today. Sullivan's music is as fresh now as when it was penned, while we can only wish we had a modern satirist of Gilbert's calibre chipping away at the current political scene.

Grafters both, and wholly dedicated to their art, Gilbert & Sullivan earned, through their lifetimes of application, the right to be celebrated forever, as G&S.

Which brings us to perhaps the greatest Victorian writer of all, Robert Louis Stevenson. Less flamboyant than Dickens, less melodramatic than Wilkie, Stevenson still produced some of the finest English (and Scots) prose ever written. He gave us John Silver, the most likable villain in literature and everyone's perfect pirate. He gave us The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the book everyone thinks they have read, but which they'd remember if they really had! And society rewarded him by knowing him everywhere as RLS, three letters that are synonymous with the very best in literature and all that's finest in the human spirit.

So, while I sympathise fully with anyone suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, I have to insist: sorry, the initials RLS are not available. They are already spoken for.

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