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Good as Gold | Afternoon, Sunday Sept 18th


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The Royal Library

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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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