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Good as Gold | Afternoon, Sunday Sept 18th

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The Royal Library


The Royal Library was located in the Upper Ward, on the first floor.

The joy of a Baroque Library is in its white plaster decorations and delicate carvings in corners, grand trompe l'oeuil designs, as well as the books that fill shelves right up to the ceiling. The newly decorated library had been expanded from its Elizabethan design, incorporating part of the old hall. It looked out over the Horn Court on one side, accessible from the same hallways as the Kings apartment.

Even at night this was a busy place. The many spirits, ghosts and apparitions that an ancient place like Windsor Castle contained by virtue of all that had passed, took particular pleasure in this dome of spiritual wellness, called perhaps by happier memories. The form of the old Queen Elisabeth, dressed in black, her stomacher stiff, her collar wide, and her white face wrinkled, was often seen moving about, in particular from the hearth to the old dark wooden table that nobody dared move. It was said many a meeting of the Privy Council had taken place here, rather than in the Queen's Closet. Another more recent visitation was seen behind the windows of the library, looking out with worry and a great sadness. It was Charles I whose grave was down in the Lower Ward, resting next to Henry VIII and Jane Seymour in St. George's Chapel. Before his untimely demise he had spend some time as prisoner in Windsor Castle.




Charles had laid claim to a readily visible table, both to make it easy for Henrietta to find him and to make it clear that he had no nefarious intentions of luring her off to an isolated corner. She would in any case have a chaperone, of course, but it was important that he show willing on his end, too, he felt.

He had stacked the books and instruments he would need to one side, and was passing the time while he waited by reading through a copy of Dryden's Of Dramatick Poesie. Far from his usual fare, but it suited the needs of his campaign to appear on his best behaviour. Some of it, he suspected, was going over his head, for he was no writer, but he was well- and widely read, and Dryden passionate enough about the subject that it held his interest.

Indeed, perhaps I might venture to make a creative effort of my own, once I have time. It cannot possibly go as badly as some of my earlier attempts...

Recalling one such attempt, which had involved trying to rhyme 'bloomed' and 'ruin'd,' which had not worked even with the creative use of apostrophes, Charles managed to wince and laugh simultaneously.


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Henrietta saw Lord Chatham as soon as she stepped into the library with her chaperone, a middle-aged woman who had once been her governess. He was sitting at a table in plain view, reading a book as he waited. She had brought the geometry tools he had given her just in case he had chosen a mathematical subject for today’s session.


Ever since the reception, she had been looking forward to seeing him again. She’ had even been unable to stop fidgeting in church, impatient for the service to be over. Her leg was sore where Lizzie had repeatedly kicked it to remind her to sit still.


“Good afternoon, my lord,” she said as she approached him, a warm smile gracing her pretty features. “What are you reading?”


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Charles looked up at the sound of Henrietta's approach, smiled broadly and rose, bowing and pulling out chairs for her and her chaperone. There really was something deeply appealing in her earnest eagerness, he thought, as he almost always did upon seeing her.

"And to you my lady. You and your family have been well I trust?" he greeted, flowing through the requisite courtesies. The chaperone was almost certain to report his conduct to Ormonde or the Duchess, and he was determined that they would find nothing to fault.

"One of Dryden's essays," he said in answer to Henrietta's question, offering it to her across the table as he seated himself. "A critical work, comparing the relative merits of classical, French and English drama, and of rhyming versus blank verse. Not my usual area of interest, but it does one good to stretch one's intellectual boundaries from time to time."

He laughed.

"I will say that I disagree with him, for I would rank Sophocles and Aristophanes above any playwright before or since, but I will concede that on such matters, if I disagree with Dryden then I am likely wrong."

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If Lord Chatham’s bow had not reminded Henrietta that she had forgotten to curtsy, her chaperone’s look of disapproval would have. She immediately corrected her mistake. Her chaperone usually sat at a nearby table to give her charge a bit of privacy, but she seemed quite pleased when Charles pulled out a chair for her too. It was a wise move, Henrietta thought, and would likely impress her father. Her former governess would definitely give him a report of this meeting later.


“We are all well,” she replied as she sat down. “I shall give them your regards.” Small talk was difficult for the shy young noblewoman. She debated whether or not she should ask the same of him, but he was obviously very well. After a short pause she settled for: “ I hope you have been enjoying the first few days of the season.”


Henrietta took the book he offered her, flipping through it, reading a few snippets, and then closing it. “I don't think I shall read this one. It might interfere with my enjoyment of the theatre, and there are some subjects I would rather be ignorant of if they spoil my fun.”


She pushed it back across the table. “You are not necessarily wrong if you disagree with him. Others will believe you are, as Dryden is Poet Laureate and extremely popular. But even he can be incorrect. Do you know him? Perhaps he would be willing to discuss it with you.”


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"That would be good of you. My thanks," Charles said, nodding. He seated himself, and assumed that Henrietta's pause was just her waiting for him to settle.

"I have been. I am not made for quiet recess days in the country, I confess. Court suits me much better. And you, my lady? Are you enjoying the new season?"

He waited in patient silence as she perused the book, and then cocked his head inquisitively as she announced her conclusion.

"Knowing how and why a thing is done could spoil things for you? Truly?" he asked. "I suppose one's thoughts could get caught up in the mechanics of it..."

There were some things, he would concede, where ignorance was bliss, legerdemain for example, but he would not have considered theatre one of them.

He accepted the book back and smiled.

"You are kind to say, but this is Dryden's area of expertise. He has studied it, practiced it, lived it, and is acknowledged as perhaps its greatest living exponent, while I have barely begun to scratch at the science and cannot hope to grasp the art. It is simple fact that his opinion is more likely to be correct than mine in matters prose or poetry, much as Newton in mathematics or Vauban in siegecraft."

He shrugged.

"Now, there is no argument he could make that would dethrone Sophocles and Aristophanes for me, but that is a matter of personal taste, and in turn I cannot marshal any argument against his thesis that modern English drama is, in general, superior to classical theatre." 

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How did they get along so well when they were such opposites in personality? Lord Chatham was happiest at court, while Henrietta was fonder of the country. Or she had been until this past recess. She had so looked forward to seeing him again that she had been actually eager to return to court. Maybe she was changing. Usually she loathed socializing but she really wanted to host a salon. Perhaps the appeal had to do with being in control.  She very rarely felt that way in social situations.


“It has been quiet so far, which is how I prefer it.” She smiled shyly. “But you know that already. I don’t feel comfortable at court events.” Unless you are by my side like you were at the reception.


Henrietta tilted her head to the side. “It depends on what it is. Most of the time, I want to know the hows and whys. I like figuring out how things work. But my mind is always active and when I watch a play, I can forget everything else and simply enjoy the story unfolding on the stage. I don’t want to analyze every word as it’s being said in relation to different theories on drama. And that is exactly what I would do if I read that book.”


She returned his smile. “Unless an opinion can be proven wrong, it is not, because opinions are usually personal preferences. Dryden is definitely the greatest current expert on drama and there is nothing wrong with trying to influence his readers to his way of thinking. But I believe that if Sophocles and Aristophanes were alive today, they would have a few things of their own to say.


“I am fonder of classical drama than its modern counterpart, particularly the … erm ... indelicate ... comedies that are so popular today. But they are more relevant to the times than the Greek comedies and tragedies so that is probably why most people prefer them.”

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"You cannot still it, at need?" Charles asked, genuinely curious. "I flatter myself that I, too, have an active mind, but I can quieten it, when the situation calls for it."

He considered a moment.

"Perhaps it is that I am trained to fence," he said slowly. "One very quickly learns not to overthink, and to focus on what is happening immediately in front of one."

Not to say that there was no thought in fencing, of course, but it was a very different sort of thought, faster and quieter and simpler, with nothing extraneous to it.

"In any case, if you think it would spoil your enjoyment, then best you not read it then."

He laid the book to one side as Henrietta went on, mentally mocking himself, just a little, for how much he enjoyed her smile.

"Ah, but Selene, were they alive today, would Sophocles and Aristophanes still be Sophocles and Aristophanes?" He laughed, and raised a hand in surrender.

"But I am losing the thread of the argument. The thrust of my initial point was simply that, while Sophocles and Aristophanes are my favourite playwrights, I am not equipped to seriously debate Dryden's thesis that modern drama is generally superior. Beyond that, I think we are generally in agreement."

He laughed again.

"Well, save for the fact that you have obviously not seen or read Lysistrata or the Assemblywomen, for example, if you think that classical plays were any less 'indelicate,' than their modern counterparts. I would argue, too, that many classical plays — the Acharnians, for instance, or the Knights — are as relevant to our times as any modern drama."


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“Sometimes,” Henrietta replied honestly. “But not always.”


Lord Chatham surmised that it was his fencing skills that helped him to calm his mind. “That may be it,” she nodded. “You put yourself in danger if you let your mind wander away from your objective. But I do not fence or do anything so perilous that I need to focus on it completely.”


She contemplated the book as Charles set it aside. Perhaps she could reconsider. Maybe it would actually help her enjoy plays more.


“Very true,” she said to his remark about his favored playwrights. “If they were alive today, they would have changed with the times and might wholeheartedly agree with Dryden. I should have said ‘if Sophocles and Aristophanes were pulled out of history’ instead.” Henrietta chuckled. “But if they were, they wouldn’t be able to read that book because they wouldn’t speak English.”


The young noblewoman nodded. “I understand. You are no expert on theatre like he is. You might not be able to debate with him, but you can still disagree. At least you concur with him on the rest of it. He is definitely a master of his craft.”


Her eyes strayed again to Lord Chatham’s copy of Of Dramatick Poesie. "I am quite curious about that book now. I think I shall read it after all, and hope it doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of plays.”


He was definitely more well-versed in the theatre than she was. “I have neither seen or read any of those, but I think I should like to.” Henrietta blushed. “Maybe not the first two but definitely the others.”


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It was, God help him, on the tip of Charles' tongue to ask if Henrietta wanted to take up fencing but he held back. It would likely give her chaperone conniptions. That thought was almost amusing enough to have reconsider again, but he had resolved to be on his best behaviour. Ormonde would frankly be perfectly justified damning his impudence as it was, the last thing he needed was to scandalize Henrietta's chaperone (and subsequently, he assumed, the Duchess).

"And I do not know how good Dryden's Greek is," he mused, chuckling along with her. "Better than mine, it is probably safe to assume, but that still leaves a great deal of room to fall short of the standard needed to debate Aristophanes or Sophocles."

He nodded in response to her changing her mind about reading the book and slid it across the table towards her.

"If you are sure. It is a good read. Stimulating. I am done with it, if you wish to take this copy, but perhaps ask the librarian before removing it from the library?"

Charles kept long hours, read voraciously and possessed a keen interest in the classics and a fairly good memory. The combination had given him a wide (if perhaps shallow) knowledge of the corpus of Greek drama and poetry. (And as a man who had no master but his own whims it was relatively easy for that knowledge to encompass the works of Aristophanes, which a conservative, prudish mind was likely to consider best kept away from inquisitive young ladies).

"Lysistrata is perhaps not for young ladies," he agreed, lying, "but some of the others should be quite suitable. I have a copy of the Acharnians in my room, I think. I can lend it to you if you want." He definitely had a copy of the Frogs, but that play was much better if you were familiar with Greek theatre in general, and the works of Euripides and Aeschylus in particular.

"I am not sure if I brought any Sophocles to Windsor with me, but I might have Antigone," he continued, "and even if I do not, then the library will certainly have something."


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Henrietta wondered if Lord Chatham would offer to teach her to fence, but either he believed that ladies should not take part in dangerous activities or he knew that her parents would never approve. If  he had offered, her chaperone would certainly report it. As it was, the woman looked a bit bored. Her former governess was a smart woman but apparently not interested in their current topic of conversation.


If she married him, then he could teach her to fence or anything else she wished to learn. If it helped her focus, she would try it, or almost anything else. Especially at court events, there was so much going on that it was difficult to concentrate on anything at all. Maybe socializing would not be so difficult if she could tune out all the distractions.


“And definitely much better than my Greek, which is sadly lacking. I once tried to teach myself, but it is not the kind of language you can learn on your own.”


When Charles slid the book towards her, Henrietta moved it to the side of the table. “I will ask him, of course. I’ve never been to Windsor before and I don’t know if the rules of all royal libraries are the same. I would like to take it back to my family’s rooms so that I can read it during the evenings, but I might have to read it here instead.” She would have liked to say that she preferred the library to those crowded little rooms and the evenings were usually boring, but her chaperone was listening.


“I should like that,” she said when he offered to loan her his copies of classical plays. "Perhaps before we leave, we can see what this library has in the way of Greek drama.”


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"It is a most difficult language to learn, even with a tutor," Charles agreed, unsurprised to hear that Henrietta had made the attempt anyway. It fit with what he knew of her.

"I am not confident enough in my own grasp to offer tutoring, but if I might be of help, you merely need ask. I can translate passages, at least. Hmm. Xenophon writes in good, simple, clear Greek, but I am not sure if his subject matter would appeal. And I would advise you to avoid Thucydides. His Greek is... unorthodox, even by the standards of his time."

He nodded his head as she accepted his offer to loan her some works of Greek drama.

"I shall have my valet deliver it this later this evening." he said. "Or would tomorrow be more convenient?"

He cast his gaze around the shelves.

"Of course, the library probably has at least one copy of every surviving work of Greek theatre, which might be most convenient of all."

He shook his head and focused.

"I have allowed myself to become distracted," he said, smiling ruefully. "We can continue to converse on Greek theatre, if you like – I quite enjoy it – or we can move focus to the subject I had originally planned to discuss. It is your choice, my lady, and I truly do not mind keeping to Classical drama, if that is what you would prefer. The other will keep."


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Henrietta looked over at her chaperone, wondering if she would report to her parents that she wished to learn Greek. The woman smiled subtly and nodded slightly, which Henrietta took to mean that she approved. Her former governess had been with her most of her life and knew well her thirst for knowledge. Henrietta could think of no reason her parents would oppose the idea either. It was an ancient language and studying it would keep her mind occupied and away from topics they might consider dangerous or inappropriate.


“I will appreciate any help you can give me, my lord. I need to start with basics and work up from there. If you can translate passages, you must have already have the basics down.” And if we marry, Lord Chatham can hire a tutor for the two of us and we can improve our vocabulary together.


“This evening will be fine. I stay in our rooms most evenings.” Sometimes she was so bored she played chess with Lizzie, a pointless activity because her younger sister always won. Henrietta could hold her own with most opponents, but Lizzie had a gift for the game.


Her gaze followed his gaze around the library. “If it doesn’t, the the one in London will.”


Lord Chatham asked her what she would like to discuss. She was curious about what he had planned but she was enjoying their current topic of conversation. “Let’s talk about Classical drama. I never paid much attention to it, preferring the study of ancient philosophy, and also because I doubted I would understand it since the culture or ancient Greece is so different from our own. Yet you say that some of the classic plays are relevant to our times. I know that themes such as  love and war and striving for success are timeless, but I cannot imagine that they saw those topics the same way that we do.”

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Charles grinned ruefully.

"The basics only, my lady, and even that only at best. Such translations as I manage are the results of careful, painstaking labour and no small expenditure of time."

He nodded as Henrietta said that that evening was fine.

"Very good. You may expect Wodehouse then."

Henrietta preferred to keep their discussion to the current topic. Well, the golden ratio would keep, Charles knew, and he was quite enjoying the current direction of their conversation as well.

"Well, apropos of nothing, I would offer for your consideration the fact that many of the works of Aristophanes decry populism and those demagogues who would make use of it. There is no real difference in his satire of Cleon and that of more modern writers of the Cabal or Danby, to my mind. And there are, of course, certain aspects of the human condition and experience that are nigh-universal, such that no distance or passage of time changes how they are perceived."

He smiled.

"And even if I were to grant that our Classical forebears saw these things differently to us, is not an alternative viewpoint of the same topic frequently of use, even if only in provoking deeper thought?"


Edited by Charles Audley
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Henrietta said nothing more about learning Greek. It would be better to wait until they were married and learn together. Perhaps even Latin too. And on that thought: “Do you understand Latin? That is another ancient language I would like to learn. I would love to read the philosophers in their own languages.”


She listened intently as Lord Chatham spoke. “Politics is definitely a universal theme. And knowing a bit about the culture of ancient Greece, I am not surprised that populism was … well … popular.  I’m even more eager to read Aristophanes now and see how his views compare to those more contemporary.


“It would be …” Noticing her chaperone’s warning look, Henrietta sighed. Politics was not a subject that proper young ladies were supposed to be interested in. In fact, they shouldn’t even understand it. The rest of his explanation was safe to comment on.


“I think they did see everything differently, but maybe not much differently. I have come upon these disparities in my own reading and yes, they definitely make you think. It’s also reassuring to know that all throughout time, people have faced the same issues that we face now. If they moved solved their problems, then so can we.”

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"My Latin, thankfully, is considerably better," Charles said, and laughed. "Though to be fair that is not a high standard to reach. 'Twould be hard for it to be worse, in truth."

He noticed the interplay between Henrietta and her chaperone, guessed at its meaning, and decided to press on anyway. It irked him almost to the point of anger, he realised, to see such intellectual curiosity stifled so. He gave Henrietta a reassuring smile and replied as though she had not trailed off.

"It is interesting, and I find that it makes his plays even more comedic. I would recommend some background reading before analysing Aristophanes in that regard, though. Let me see. I can't advise reading him in the original Greek, even if you felt able to make the attempt, but if you can find a good translation of Thucydides it would be an immense help in understanding the underlying political landscape at the time Aristophanes was writing. " He hummed thoughtfully. "Aristotle would be useful too, if you wish to understand the Greek mind, and haven't read him already. Politics, of course, and Nicomachean Ethics would be of interest too."

He leaned back in his seat, considering the parts of her answer she had felt able to give.

"The character of people has generally not changed," he agreed after a moment. "Most want only health, wealth, the regard of their fellows, and, perhaps above all else, the assurance that tomorrow will be much like today." A hint of his contempt for that last notion crept into his voice, though he reassured himself that it was a hint only.

"There is, as you say, some reassurance in that monolithic continuity of... hmm. Desire is not the word I'm looking for, and nor is ambition. Want, perhaps?" He nodded. "Yes. That monolithic continuity of want, and the equally monolithic continuity of problems that attend it."

He gave a rueful laugh.

"Of course, I am rather less reassured with regards to those problems that are wholly new and ours alone."

Edited by Charles Audley
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Henrietta smiled. “At least you’re honest.” They could learn Latin together as well as Greek. She did hope that Lord Chatham impressed her father so that they could marry. They were well-matched in intelligence and they both continually strove to improve their minds. She imagined that they would have lively debates about a variety of subjects and if they did argue, it would be on a point they didn’t agree on rather than the personal quarrels that other couples engaged in.


He also didn’t mind that she had an interest in politics and either didn’t see her chaperone’s reaction or didn’t care. Though she wasn’t able to comment much on what he said, she appreciated his advice and decided to find the books he recommended as soon as they parted. Her chaperone did not object to reading about politics, just to speaking about it. Combined with the book he was lending her, Henrietta was going to have a lot to keep her occupied while she was cramped up in her family’s small rooms. Lizzie could play chess with herself from now on.


“I have read quite a bit of Aristotle already,” she informed him.


Lord Chatham’s views on human nature were much like her own. She noticed the trace of disdain in his voice and deduced that he was not content for every day to be the same. “But some don't feel that way. Scientists, inventors, writers, and others are constantly trying to improve our lives, from making things easier than they were in the past to changing society’s outdated views. But you are right about most people. They want everything to stay the same. I suppose it was like that in ancient times as well.”


They were straying away from the original topic a bit. “But is anything really new? Hasn’t everything been done before, though in another form?”

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But is anything really new? Hasn’t everything been done before, though in another form?”


Swallowing his instinctive response that of course there were things that were truly new, Charles considered the question, head tilting to one side.

"Lord Grey wishes to map the moon. That is new," he began after a moment's thought. "Newton, Boyle and Hooke, among others, have unveiled new frontiers of natural philosophy. I have heard that Leibniz, in Germany, has invented a calculating machine of some sort, capable of speedy, accurate arithmetic. Ships sail further and faster."

He smiled a thin, humourless smile.

"And on the other hand, of course, we have new methods and means of war, destructive beyond all that preceded them."

He thought of the battles he had fought, and of some of the old battlefields he had seen in Germany, remains of the great religious war between the Emperor and his princes, which had drawn in half of Europe and all but ruined parts of the Empire. Parts which still remained deserts. The Punic Wars might have equalled or even exceeded it in scale, but gunpowder and religious animus had given that modern conflict a destructive force that was wholly unprecedented. 

And yet no power that took part has forsworn war, have they? Quite the contrary, they at most waited for their capacity to fight to recover, and waded back in. That should tell one all one needs to know of human nature.

And if it does not, why, one need but reflect that so might Pericles have lamented, or Cicero, or a thousand thousand others, and with that reflection shall come revelation.

"Thinking on it," he continued, "it might be said that things can be, and often are, new to some extent, but people? Never."

He laughed softly.

"You know, that thesis appeals so to my nature that I find myself suspicious of it. It would be pleasing, to some degree at least, to think that my cynicism should provide me with the truth of the human condition with but a moment's pondering, but that seems altogether too easy. I shall need to consider it further."

He smiled at Henrietta, a proper smile, carrying just a hint of self-mockery for his tendency to hare after philosophical tangents.

"Your thoughts, my lady?"


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Being able to express her views freely was still new … and very exciting … for Henrietta, which sometimes made it difficult to get her point across. Her treasured discussions with Lord Chatham was good practice for fulfilling her dream of hosting salons. “You are right, of course, my lord. Everything you mentioned is, indeed, new. But I was speaking in a much broader sense. The telescope is a relatively new invention but inventions themselves have been around since the beginning of time. As have discoveries. We’ve only known about the New World for about two centuries, but it was always there.” She sighed. “Am I making any sense at all?”


The intriguing Earl did seem to enjoy his idea that people could never be new. His smile made her heart skip a beat, perhaps partially because he was comfortable making fun of himself in front of her. There was a certain trust in that.


“I hate to break it to you,” she said with a mischievous smile, “but every person is new on the day they are born. But if you are also speaking in a broader sense, I agree. A newborn baby has unlimited potential, but as he grows up, his thoughts and beliefs are shaped by the society he lives in, and he will most likely become just like everyone else. Unless he grows up to be one of those people who can change the opinions of said society.” Like I hope to do.

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