Welcome to Part Ten of our current Tale for Our Time - Baroness Orczy's thrilling romance of French fanaticism and an Englishman's duty, The Scarlet Pimpernel. As Holly, a Mark Steyn Club First-Day Founding Member from Texas, writes:
I have enjoyed this story many times, never realizing that many of the characters were actual historical figures. The fascinating background information you're giving us makes it even more delightful. Thank you, Mark.
Thank you, Holly. In tonight's episode we're brimming with "actual historical figures" - including the heir to the throne:
The historic ball given by the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—Lord Grenville—was the most brilliant function of the year. Though the autumn season had only just begun, everybody who was anybody had contrived to be in London in time to be present there, and to shine at this ball, to the best of his or her respective ability.
Is that the first usage of "everybody who was anybody"? I can't think of an earlier one, not in literature. But Baroness Orczy means it:
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales had promised to be present... At ten o'clock—an unusually late hour in those days—the grand rooms of the Foreign Office, exquisitely decorated with exotic palms and flowers, were filled to overflowing. One room had been set apart for dancing, and the dainty strains of the minuet made a soft accompaniment to the gay chatter, the merry laughter of the numerous and brilliant company.
In a smaller chamber, facing the top of the fine stairway, the distinguished host stood ready to receive his guests. Distinguished men, beautiful women, notabilities from every European country had already filed past him, had exchanged the elaborate bows and curtsies with him, which the extravagant fashion of the time demanded, and then, laughing and talking, had dispersed in the ball, reception, and card rooms beyond.
But in the rooms beyond plots and intrigue are afoot - as well as a famous quatrain, which amuses the Prince of Wales, later the Prince Regent, later still King George IV. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear this latest installment simply by clicking here.
You can enjoy The Scarlet Pimpernel episode by episode, night by night, twenty minutes before you lower your lamp. But do feel free, if you prefer, to binge-listen: you can find all the earlier installments here.
If you've yet to hear any of our first seventeen Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. Or, if you need a special gift for someone, why not give your loved one a Gift Membership and start him or her off with over a dozen cracking yarns? And don't forget to join us tomorrow for another episode of Baroness Orczy's classic.