Welcome to Part Nine of our latest Tale for Our Time, set in the turmoil of the French Revolution as conjured by Baroness Orczy in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Andrew, a Mark Steyn Club member and cruiser, writes:
The Scarlet Pimpernel has long been one of my secret pleasures. I first saw an early black & white movie version, then read the book, and then re-read a Kindle book version. At first, I enjoyed the story for its derring-do, but have begun to appreciate the characters more, particularly how the characters negotiate conflicting loyalties: loyalty to abstract ideals versus loyalty to individual people. I also enjoy how Orczy interplays the grim seriousness of some characters with the joyful playfulness of others, and moves between ordinary situations and extraordinary ones. During the inaugural Steyn At Sea cruise, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book was an early source of inspiration for John O'Sullivan. Now to hear Mark Steyn read it, one can hardly hope for more.
'Your presence is entirely inopportune. I want to listen to Gluck, and have no mind for talking.'
'But this is my only opportunity,' he said, as quietly, and without waiting for permission, he drew a chair close behind her—so close that he could whisper in her ear, without disturbing the audience, and without being seen, in the dark background of the box. 'This is my only opportunity,' he repeated, as she vouchsafed him no reply, 'Lady Blakeney is always so surrounded, so feted by her court, that a mere old friend has but very little chance.'
'Faith, man!' she said impatiently, 'you must seek for another opportunity then. I am going to Lord Grenville's ball to-night after the opera. So are you, probably. I'll give you five minutes then...'
'Three minutes in the privacy of this box are quite sufficient for me,' he rejoined placidly, 'and I think that you will be wise to listen to me, Citoyenne St Just.'
Citoyen Chauvelin is about to make her an offer she cannot refuse.
William Grenville is one of the many real-life figures populating Baroness Orczy's tale. At the time The Scarlet Pimpernel is set, he was just starting the second year of a decade-long run as Britain's Foreign Secretary, resigning in 1801 over the King's objections to Catholics sitting in Parliament. Lord Grenville returned to government in 1806, to serve briefly as Prime Minister.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. Membership is available now - and, if you sign up, you'll be all set for Part Ten of The Scarlet Pimpernel this time tomorrow (and all the earlier episodes, of course). And, if you've a friend who likes classic fiction, don't forget our special Gift Membership. Oh, and aside from audio fiction, we also do video poetry.