It has taken a while for broadband to reach Regency England. Yet, with a fair wind, full sail and a just a little bit of steam, Mr George Wickham finally finds himself in possession of the means with which to make the acquaintance of the good folk of the 21st century!
It is my pleasure to meet the readers of the good Mistress Cork’s almanac of literature.
I understand that, somehow, this unremarkable old soldier has enjoyed some level of infamy over the decades but it is not for me to delve into such matters. Instead, in keeping with the salon hosted by the estimable Mistress Cork, I should like to take you on a literary journey.
Novels, it has been said, are the root of much evil, of fanciful women and dissolute men, of youngsters lost to bacon-brained wanderings that squander their education on the witterings of authors who have known little of the world. I, however, do not subscribe to such thoughts.
Now, I know better than anyone that there’s many an untruth told in novels, but let us not dwell on such matters. In recent weeks, I was asked by a most charming lady what my favourite book was in boyhood. Did I, she wondered, prefer the outdoor life to the printed page? Was I ever one to pick up a tome, or might I be more likely found dipping for tadpoles or galloping through the grounds of Pemberley on the finest steed in the stables?
She was surprised to read that I was a keen reader.
What then, did I read?
Bring me myths, and I was happy; tell me of Hercules, of Zeus, of Jason, and let me roam the land and tell my own tales. With my friend and brother, the erstwhile Darcy, the paddocks became Olympia, the rose garden transformed into Hesperides and The kitchens, full of heat and steam and racket, were our Tartarus. The hallways of Pemberley became the labyrinth and through it we would stalk after whichever poor domestic we had selected to be our minotaur, two carefree boys lost in our own world of make-believe.
And what of Mount Olympus?
What of that place where the gods might sit, might know all that there was to know?
My good friend Darcy never scaled Mount Olympus, but I did regularly. It was better known as the older Mr Darcy’s study, where one might happen upon the finest brandy a lad could hope to find. Indeed, after a nip of that, any boy might believe himself a god.
Now, to enter the Temple of Aphrodite, one had a good few years more to wait. Indeed, I had left boyhood far behind by that halcyon day. It is not a memory for a page such as this, however, one dedicated to the pleasures of boyhood, so I will draw a tactful, gossamer veil over that day. After all, Aphrodite is only my dearest Lydia now, there is no other goddess tempting me into her temple.
And so, dear reader, I bid you adieu. Perhaps you might take a moment to dip back into the myths yourself, and recall those tales of wonder and magic. Never forget, however, that the brandy tastes better atop Olympus.
George Wickham’s papers are transcribed at Austen Variations by Catherine Curzon, a royal historian who writes on all matters 18th century at www.madamegilflurt.com. Her work has been featured on HistoryExtra.com, the official website of BBC History Magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall and Dr Johnson’s House.
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.
Her books, Life in the Georgian Court, and The Crown Spire, are available now.
She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.
A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life: www.madamegilflurt.com
Mr Wickham’s Memoirs: http://austenvariations.com/author/catherine-curzon/
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