to play merely for pleasure is nothing
but work. Is anyone listening? I am
First Violinist of the Prince Regent’s
Prized Private Orchestra, playing
for your satisfaction –– except
His Mad Majesty’s son is a gluttonous fool,
and I’m as invisible as a statue of a moor.
Laughter drifts between the staves
like sunlight through the iron-black pikes
I was beginning: the courtyard
a blazing field of chipped stones
combed into swirls, like the yellow dust
atEsterházy: matted down, awaiting
guests’ arrival . . . everything
done for the pleasure of others,
so they might exclaim All this
for me? Such extravagance! ––
as it unrolled beneath
their dainty steps.
Stop bitching: There’s worse work
and crueler wardens. In the end,
each note sent pearling
their dull heads
is mine–– although they believe
they own it all, and for me
to claim even a portion of it
is to be their servant.
Mrs. Papendiek’s Diary (2)
to the regrettable situation in which I found myself
this morning. To begin, the benefit concert intended to announce
young Bridgetower to musical society
could not find adequate orchestral accompaniment;
the petition was rejected summarily by the royal musicians,
who steadfastly refuse to play extra musical events
ever since the King had dismissed their appeal
to be allowed employment off royal payroll;
this standoff was resolved by Mr. Papendieck’s offer
to host the concert at our house: and so to me
fell the task of supervising ticket sales, refreshment,
the arrangement of
furniture, and the like.
But Time will neither race nor tarry, and so all was sorted out.
The guests arrived in high spirits ––and with some surprises;
protocol was smoothed over as best as circumstances permitted.
Mrs. Jervois shone in her purple silk and gold-worked cape;
I had settled on my muslin dress with jacket,
graced by a chip hat trimmed in deep mazarin blue,
as befitting the hostess for the evening.
The entertainments began–– a flute quartet
followed by a glee, and then the Viotti Concerto
played by young Bridgetower, who sparkled with pathos.
I could tell others were as deeply affected
at the prospect of such
talent among us.
As the children could not be admitted officially
(for that would take seats away from paying subscribers),
my little Fred curled up on the floor, his back against the sofa,
for the first Act; and when the maid came looking
slid under and stayed there, through refreshments
and Clementi’s Duet in C, which opened the second Act;
after which he rose to kiss me and went sweetly off to bed.
There followed more singing, two quartets with
up and down stairs, and a late supper for the performers.
Although I retired when the ladies departed,
I could hear the men laughing well into the night.
Mrs. Papendieck's Diary (4)
all my years at court have I ever borne such a strange
series of events, such impromptu effrontery and rescue.
At the turn of the year, I had decided I would travel into town
for a few days’ visit with my mother and father
as soon as the weather heartened. Finally, the first buds
freshened the roadside; I joined up with the Herschels
and together we boarded the
post coach for
only to discover the senior Bridgetower already inside.
The Herschels balked, but it would have hardly been Christian
to disembark, so we squeezed ourselves onto a bench
and made the best of the situation. Our African Impresario
kept up a merry stream of talk, which I attempted to counterpoint.
Mrs. Herschel was embarrassed and Mr. Herschel too shocked
(and worried as well, I’m sure, about the breach in social ranks)
to utter more than a choked good day; when we pulled up
to the White Horse Cellar, he seized his wife
by the elbow, doffed his hat, and scampered
before the coach had scarcely
come to a standstill.
Later that evening I was beset once again by the Moor,
this time lurking in one of the dark passageways
surrounding the Palace. He asked to make
my parents’ acquaintance, and when I protested
that they were too old to receive guests, asked
for a loan to fund, as he put it, “his charge’s purposes.”
I doubt the boy knew anything of the matter
nor would he have need of such charity; nevertheless,
I searched my purse for a guinea and a half
and resolved to forget both matter and money.
But today came the greatest tragedy: This afternoon
the very same braggart appeared at my door
with young George, asking if I would look after him
while he “tended to urgent business” in town!
“Ask” is too much a word; he simply called
the coach to stop, walked the path up to my home,
and deposited the boy.
his father had gone, the poor child
poured out his woes: that he was
forced to squirrel himself away
whenever his father “entertained” ––
which entertainment was frequent,
and loud; that he was ashamed of the life
his father led so flagrantly and which
consequently he, as his son,
I held him to me as he wept;
must speak to the Court about these events.
#8 Victory Cottages, Peckham, 1860
“Tot ist tot.”
Not true, what the living claim we regret in the last hour:
no memories worth blubbering through, nor scrabbling for favor
in the eyes of our children, nor honor sought among friends.
Drool travels unnoticed from collar to pillow while, suspended
by blankets, a thigh dangles, blameless and bare.
Shame has lost its sting in this penultimate hell,
these next-to-last days
when we’re still “ourselves.”
I don’t need wine or gossip or weather, I don’t give a fig
for warm socks or –– don’t laugh –– the summer’s first pear,
a fruit I haven’t been able to digest for twenty years
and have mourned for as long. What’s any of it
compared to this draining of humors, this wondrous uncaring?
Pain’s an interference; Love is cumbersome. For I loved only
what my fingers could do, and even they did not serve me