Welcome to the eighth episode of our current Tale for Our Time: Baroness Orczy's classic tale of France during the Reign of Terror, and one Englishman's determination to resist it - The Scarlet Pimpernel. As a Mark Steyn Club member from Minnesota, Brian Buehler, wonders:
A troublesome quote from the book should have us all thinking about the future of our nations:
'When a country goes mad, it has the right to commit every horror in its own wall.'
Is there hope for keeping what we have or do we need to know true darkness before we see the light once again?
But to First Month Founding Member Robert Bridges it isn't even a question:
Listen to it now.... live it tomorrow.... a primer for our times.
In tonight's episode, the action moves to the opera:
It was one of the gala nights at Covent Garden Theatre, the first of the autumn season in this memorable year of grace 1792.
The house was packed, both in the smart orchestra boxes and in the pit, as well as in the more plebeian balconies and galleries above. Gluck's Orpheus made a strong appeal to the more intellectual portions of the house, whilst the fashionable women, the gaily-dressed and brilliant throng, spoke to the eye of those who cared but little for this 'latest importation from Germany'.
Selina Storace had been duly applauded after her grand aria by her numerous admirers; Benjamin Incledon, the acknowledged favourite of the ladies, had received special gracious recognition from the royal box; and now the curtain came down after the glorious finale to the second act, and the audience, which had hung spell-bound on the magic strains of the great maestro, seemed collectively to breathe a long sigh of satisfaction, previous to letting loose its hundreds of waggish and frivolous tongues. In the smart orchestra boxes many well-known faces were to be seen. Mr Pitt, overweighted with cares of state, was finding brief relaxation in to-night's musical treat; the Prince of Wales, jovial, rotund, somewhat coarse and commonplace in appearance, moved about from box to box, spending brief quarters of an hour with those of his more intimate friends.
In Lord Grenville's box, too, a curious, interesting personality attracted everyone's attention; a thin, small figure with shrewd, sarcastic face and deep-set eyes, attentive to the music, keenly critical of the audience, dressed in immaculate black, with dark hair free from any powder. Lord Grenvilleâ€”Foreign Secretary of Stateâ€”paid him marked, though frigid deference.
Lord Grenville, the Prince of Wales and Mr Pitt are, of course, all real historical figures. But so too are the stars of the opera, Benjamin Incledon and Selina (Nancy) Storace. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read Part Eight of The Scarlet Pimpernel simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here. And please join me on Saturday for Part Nine of The Scarlet Pimpernel.