OF THE BABY NAME ALFRED
Alfred Doolittle is the father of Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play, Pygmalion, (made as a British film in 1938), from which Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe adapted the hugely successful Broadway musical (1956) and subsequent film (1964), My Fair Lady. Alfred is the quintessential working man with a thirst, a moral marrying man (six times) and a somewhat less than attentive father to his daughter. And he is unforgettable, especially as portrayed by the inimitable Stanley Holloway. He is willing to “sell” Eliza to Professor Higgins, but only for enough money as is fair – he’s no scam artist. After listening to some of Aflred’s richly phrased aphorisms, Higgins recommends him for a post lecturing on moral and social reform. This is exactly the sort of thing that Alfred Doolittle hates – he is becoming middle class and comfortable – no worse fate! Back to the dustbins for him – much more pleasant is the life that can be led “wiv a little bit o’luck”. All in all, an enchanting scoundrel!
Alfred Pennyworth is the proper and dignified valet to Bruce Wayne (and Dick Grayson/Robin) in the DC Comics series, Batman, first appearing in 1943. In fact, Alfred transcends this employee relationship, and is a kind of surrogate father to Batman. Alfred is also a behind-the-scenes mystery solver himself, his back story having had him a retired intelligence officer, who only goes into service at the dying wish of his father (now, that’s some deathbed curse!). Alfred makes the best of it, however, and once he discovers it, he is utterly trusted to keep the secret of the Dynamic Duo’s identities. Throughout the many years of the series, Alfred endures much on behalf of his charge, and sometimes is overtaken by dark forces himself. Ultimately, however, he is always there for Batman, donning disguises, fighting crime, rescuing “the boys”, mending limbs, healing injuries and, of course, serving up the occasional perfect brandy and soda. Alfred does all this with style, tempered with his entertaining and sarcastic wit – he is the perfect addition to any Batcave!
J. Alfred Prufrock is the narrator of T. S. Eliot’s classic poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, published in 1915. J. Alfred Prufrock is a man in a middle age crisis in a century undergoing a crisis of its own. He is a man caught upon the spires of indecision and frustration, and his narrative progresses in an almost dream-like state, one thought morphing into another as his stream of consciousness shifts. Shall he part his hair behind? Dare he eat a peach? And, of course, unspoken, is there a God? Is there love? Is there anything beyond these rooms where the women come and go, talking of Michaelangelo – that, indeed, may be the “overwhelming question”. In essence, J. Alfred Prufrock, for all his particularities and peculiarities, is Everyman – no Hamlet he! And Everyman and Everywoman today, as one hundred years ago, are creatures at the mercy of the universe’s immutable laws of what-we-know-not keeps us here and then disposes of us, leaving us all echoing his lament: “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all”.