Just ahead of tonight's Tucker appearance, welcome to Part Twenty-One of the latest audio entertainment in our series Tales for Our Time: Baroness Orczy's historical romance set against France's Reign of Terror - The Scarlet Pimpernel. In tonight's episode, Citoyen Chauvelin and his pressganged Jewish chauffeur set off in pursuit of the Pimpernel, and in turn Marguerite Blakeney sets off in pursuit of Chauvelin:
Marguerite wondered at what particular spot, on this lonely coast, Percy could be at this moment. Not very far surely, for he had had less than a quarter of an hour's start of Chauvelin. She wondered if he knew that in this cool, ocean-scented bit of France, there lurked many spies, all eager to sight his tall figure, to track him to where his unsuspecting friends waited for him, and then, to close the net over him and them.
Chauvelin, on ahead, jolted and jostled in the Jew's vehicle, was nursing comfortable thoughts. He rubbed his hands together, with content, as he thought of the web which he had woven, and through which that ubiquitous and daring Englishman could not hope to escape. As the time went on, and the old Jew drove him leisurely but surely along the dark road, he felt more and more eager for the grand finale of this exciting chase after the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel. The capture of the audacious plotter would be the finest leaf in Citoyen Chauvelin's wreath of glory. Caught, red-handed, on the spot, in the very act of aiding and abetting the traitors against the Republic of France, the Englishman could claim no protection from his own country. Chauvelin had, in any case, fully made up his mind that all intervention should come too late...
Lawrence Brennan, a first-month Founding Member of the Steyn Club from Florida, noted a rare solecism on the part of Baroness Orczy a few episodes back:
The loneliness of the room overwhelmed her; everything within was so horribly still; the ticking of the grandfather's clockâ€”dreadfully slow and measuredâ€”was the only sound which broke this awful loneliness.
As Lawrence points out, Lady Blakeney would never have called such a clock by that name - which was a coinage of Baroness Orczy's time:
She arrived in England as a teenager in 1880, but by that time the household item formerly known as a tall floor clock (also called a longcase clock) was being called a grandfather's clock, thanks to the popularity of the song written by the American Henry Clay Work. He had published it in 1876, and it soon achieved the worldwide fame that it still has. But no one in the 1790s would have called a floor clock by that name.
Henry Clay Work might be worth Mark's attention (if he hadn't already done so), as Work was one of the most popular songwriters of the Civil War era: 'Kingdom Coming', 'Wake, Nicodemus', a little ditty 'Marching Through Georgia', and a number of others; he memorialized the Transcontinental Railroad with 'Crossing the Grand Sierras'; and besides 'My Grandfather's Clock' already mentioned, he wrote 'The Ship That Never Returned' -- its melody later borrowed for 'The Wreck of the Old 97' and the tragedy of poor Charlie on the 'MTA'. Work is not much remembered today, but a number of his tunes live on.
Henry Clay Work was one of the first successful American songwriters, and, as Lawrence says, "Grandfather's Clock" - recorded by Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke et al - is still sung. Any of our UK readers who grew up listening to the Light Programme and Radio One will know it, as it was a mainstay of "Children's Favourites" with Uncle Mac and then "Junior Choice" with Ed "Stewpot" Stewart until the early Eighties. Mr Work's song was inspired by the grandfather clock he saw at The George, an old coaching inn (rather like Mr Jellyband's) on the banks of the Tees in Piercebridge, County Durham. The clock ticks on to this day in the bar of The George, if you're in that neck of the woods. And I thank Lawrence for a memory of a fine old song I haven't thought about in many a year.
If you're one of that brave band who prefer me in vision, I'll be back with Tucker Carlson in an hour or so, coast to coast across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. Hope you'll tune in. And tomorrow morning, Friday, just after 9am Eastern, I'll be starting the day with Mighty Mike Faust on 830 WEEU The Voice in Pennsylvania to promote the Reading date of my upcoming tour with Dennis Miller. And, of course, we'll be right back here on Friday evening with Part Twenty-Two of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
If you're minded to join us in The Mark Steyn Club, you're more than welcome. You can find more information here. And, if you have a chum you think might enjoy Tales for Our Time (so far, we've covered Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Dickens, Conrad, Kipling, Kafka, Gogol, Jack London, John Buchan, Anthony Hope and Scott Fitzgerald), we've introduced a special Christmas Gift Membership that comes with a Yuletide gift pack of a trio of our most popular tales. You'll find more details here. Oh, and don't forget, over at the Steyn store, our Steynamite Christmas offers on books, CDs, and much more.