I'll be on TV across America shortly for a full hour of grueling guest-hosting on "Tucker Carlson Tonight", live coast to coast at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific.
Meanwhile, welcome to Episode Twelve of our nightly audio adventure, The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orzcy's thrilling tale of revolutionary France and the Reign of Terror. Thank you for all your kind comments about our latest radio serial. A first-week Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, Jacob Shepherd from Georgia (on whom celebs are currently urging their own Reign of Terror), writes:
The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my favorite books. Thanks for this great series!
I hope we're doing it justice, Jacob. In tonight's episode, the plot is afoot, the hour is come, and Marguerite is agog:
Her mind conjured up before her the vision of what was, perhaps at this very moment, passing downstairs. The half-deserted dining-room, the fateful hour—Chauvelin on the watch!—then, precise to the moment, the entrance of a man, he, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious leader, who to Marguerite had become almost unreal, so strange, so weird was this hidden identity.
She wished she were in the supper-room, too, at this moment, watching him as he entered; she knew that her woman's penetration would at once recognise in the stranger's face—whoever he might be—that strong individuality which belongs to a leader of men—to a hero: to the mighty, high-soaring eagle, whose daring wings were becoming entangled in the ferret's trap.
Woman-like, she thought of him with unmixed sadness; the irony of that fate seemed so cruel which allowed the fearless lion to succumb to the gnawing of a rat! Ah! had Armand's life not been at stake!
'Faith! your ladyship must have thought me very remiss,' said a voice suddenly, close to her elbow. 'I had a deal of difficulty in delivering your message, for I could not find Blakeney anywhere at first...'
Marguerite had forgotten all about her husband and her message to him; his very name, as spoken by Lord Fancourt, sounded strange and unfamiliar to her, so completely had she in the last five minutes lived her old life in the Rue de Richelieu again...
Baroness Orczy's "Lord Fancourt" is the second most famous fictional Lord Fancourt - after Lord Fancourt Babberly, the chap who impersonates the eponymous aunt in Charley's Aunt. Brandon Thomas' farce opened at the Royalty in London in 1892 and quickly became a smash success all around the world, and much adapted to this day: You can hear me sing "Once in Love with Amy", with the Broadway producer Cy Feur and the 106-year-old director George Abbott, from Frank Loesser's musical version Where's Charley? here. So it's inconceivable that Emma Orczy was unaware of Fancourt Babberly at the time she created her Lord Fancourt, and Fancourt is a name that exists almost exclusivey in the realm of fiction. In fact, I do believe the first fictional Fancourt pre-dates Charley's Aunt, and is the Mr Fancourt who appears in the "The History of an Opal Ring", published in the New Year edition of The Family Herald, "A Domestic Magazine of Useful Information and Amusement", in 1876.
As to real-life Fancourts, there was the Reverend Samuel Fancourt, a dissenting minister and founder of the first circulating library in eighteenth-century London. There was also Darrell Fancourt, the celebrated bass-baritone with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, who played the title role in The Mikado over three thousand times. But he was born Darrell Leverson, the son of a wealthy Jewish diamond merchant from South Africa. Darrell's aunt married the guy who wrote Charley's Aunt, Brandon Thomas, and so Darrell decided to rename himself after the fellow who played his real uncle's invented aunt, Lord Fancourt Babberly. So he's a real-life Fancourt named after a fictional Fancourt.
We're wandering a little far afield here, so suffice to say that, notwithstanding its dearth in reality, "Lord Fancourt" sounds exactly like the sort of moniker you'd expect to find among the guests at a Foreign Office ball in 1792.
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Please join me sitting in for Tucker at 8pm Eastern, and tomorrow for Part Thirteen of The Scarlet Pimpernel.