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Title: "In Good King Charles's Golden Days" Author: George Bernard Shaw * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0300441h.html Edition: 1 Language: English Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit (HTML) Date first posted: March 2003 Date most recently updated: March 2003 This eBook was produced by: Don Lainson firstname.lastname@example.org Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
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Stage Chapters of History
Newton's Rectilinear Universe
Charles's Golden Days
The Future of Women in Politics
The Coupled Vote
"IN GOOD KING CHARLES'S GOLDEN DAYS"
ACT I. The Library in the House of Isaac Newton. Morning
ACT II. The Boudoir of Catherine of Braganza in Newmarket. Late in the Afternoon on the Same Day
In providing a historical play for the Malvern Festival of 1939 I departed from the established practice sufficiently to require a word of explanation. The "histories" of Shakespear are chronicles dramatized; and my own chief historical plays, Caesar and Cleopatra and St Joan, are fully documented chronicle plays of this type. Familiarity with them would get a student safely through examination papers on their periods.
STAGE CHAPTERS OF HISTORY
A much commoner theatrical product is the historical romance, mostly fiction with historical names attached to the stock characters of the stage. Many of these plays have introduced their heroines as Nell Gwynn, and Nell's principal lover as Charles II. As Nell was a lively and lovable actress, it was easy to reproduce her by casting a lively and lovable actress for the part; but the stage Charles, though his costume and wig were always unmistakeable, never had any other resemblance to the real Charles, nor to anything else on earth except what he was not: a stage walking gentleman with nothing particular to say for himself.
Now the facts of Charles's reign have been chronicled so often by modern historians of all parties, from the Whig Macaulay to the Jacobite Hilaire Belloc, that there is no novelty left for the chronicler to put on the stage. As to the romance, it is intolerably stale: the spectacle of a Charles sitting with his arm round Nell Gwynn's waist, or with Moll Davis seated on his knee, with the voluptuous termagant Castlemaine raging in the background, has no interest for me, if it ever had for any grown-up person.
But when we turn from the sordid facts of Charles's reign, and from his Solomonic polygamy, to what might have happened to him but did not, the situation becomes interesting and fresh. For instance, Charles might have met that human prodigy Isaac Newton. And Newton might have met that prodigy of another sort, George Fox, the founder of the morally mighty Society of Friends, vulgarly called the Quakers. Better again, all three might have met. Now anyone who considers a hundred and fiftieth edition of Sweet Nell of Old Drury more attractive than Isaac Newton had better avoid my plays: they are not meant for such. And anyone who is more interested in Lady Castlemaine's hips than in Fox's foundation of the great Cult of Friendship should keep away from theatres and frequent worse places. Still, though the interest of my play lies mainly in the clash of Charles, George, and Isaac, there is some fun in the clash between all three and Nelly, Castlemaine, and the Frenchwoman Louise de Kéroualle, whom we called Madame Carwell. So I bring the three on the stage to relieve the intellectual tension.
NEWTON'S RECTILINEAR UNIVERSE
There is another clash which is important and topical in view of the hold that professional science has gained on popular credulity since the middle of the nineteenth century. I mean the eternal clash between the artist and the physicist. I have therefore invented a collision between Newton and a personage whom I should like to have called Hogarth; for it was Hogarth who said "the line of beauty is a curve," and Newton whose first dogma it was that the universe is in principle rectilinear. He called straight lines right lines; and they were still so called in my school Euclid eighty years ago. But Hogarth could not by any magic be fitted into the year 1680, my chosen date; so I had to fall back on Godfrey Kneller. Kneller had not Hogarth's brains; but I have had to endow him with them to provide Newton with a victorious antagonist. In point of date Kneller just fitted in.
But I must make an exception to this general invitation. If by any chance you are a great mathematician or astronomer you had perhaps better stay away. I have made Newton aware of something wrong with the perihelion of Mercury. Not since Shakespear made Hector of Troy quote Aristotle has the stage perpetrated a more staggering anachronism. But I find the perihelion of Mercury so irresistible as a laugh catcher (like Weston-super-Mare) that I cannot bring myself to sacrifice it. I am actually prepared to defend it as a possibility. Newton was not only a lightning calculator with a monstrous memory: he was also a most ingenious and dexterous maker of apparatus. He made his own telescope; and when he wanted to look at Mercury without being dazzled by the sun he was quite clever enough to produce an artificial eclipse by putting an obturator into the telescope, though nobody else hit on that simple device until long after. My ignorance in these matters is stupendous; but I refuse to believe that Newton's system did not enable him to locate Mercury theoretically at its nearest point to the sun, and then to find out with his telescope that it was apparently somewhere else.
For the flash of prevision in which Newton foresees Einstein's curvilinear universe I make no apology. Newton's first law of motion is pure dogma. So is Hogarth's first law of design. The modern astronomers have proved, so far, that Hogarth was right and Newton wrong. But as the march of science during my long lifetime has played skittles with all the theories in turn I dare not say how the case will stand by the time this play of mine reaches its thousandth performance (if it ever does). Meanwhile let me admit that Newton in my play is a stage astronomer: that is, an astronomer not for an age but for all time. Newton as a man was the queerest of the prodigies; and I have chapter and verse for all his contradictions.
CHARLES'S GOLDEN DAYS
As to Charles, he adolesced as a princely cosmopolitan vagabond of curiously mixed blood, and ended as the first king in England whose kingship was purely symbolic, and who was clever enough to know that the work of the regicides could not be undone, and that he had to reign by his wits and not by the little real power they had left him. Unfortunately the vulgarity of his reputation as a Solomonic polygamist has not only obscured his political ability, but eclipsed the fact that he was the best of husbands. Catherine of Braganza, his wife, has been made to appear a nobody, and Castlemaine, his concubine, almost a great historical figure. When you have seen my play you will not make that mistake, and may therefore congratulate yourself on assisting at an act of historical justice.
Let us therefore drop the popular subject of The Merry Monarch and his women. On the stage, and indeed off it, he is represented as having practically no other interest, and being a disgracefully unfaithful husband. It is inferred that he was politically influenced by women, especially by Louise de Kéroualle, who, as an agent of Louis XIV, kept him under the thumb of that Sun of Monarchs as his secret pensioner. The truth is that Charles, like most English kings, was continually in money difficulties because the English people, having an insuperable dislike of being governed at all, would not pay taxes enough to finance an efficient civil and military public service. In Charles's day especially they objected furiously to a standing army, having had enough of that under Cromwell, and grudged their king even the lifeguards which were the nucleus of such an army. Charles, to carry on, had to raise the necessary money somewhere; and as he could not get it from the Protestant people of England he was clever enough to get it from the Catholic king of France; for, though head of the Church of England, he privately ranked Protestants as an upstart vulgar middle-class sect, and the Catholic Church as the authentic original Church of Christ, and the only possible faith for a gentleman. In achieving this he made use of Louise: there is no evidence that she made use of him. To the Whig historians the transaction makes Charles a Quisling in the service of Louis and a traitor to his own country. This is mere Protestant scurrility: the only shady part of it is that Charles, spending the money in the service of England, gave le Roi Soleil no value for it.
The other mistresses could make him do nothing that his goodnature did not dispose him to do, whether it was building Greenwich Hospital or making dukes of his bastards. As a husband he took his marriage very seriously, and his sex adventures as calls of nature on an entirely different footing. In this he was in the line of evolution, which leads to an increasing separation of the unique and intensely personal and permanent marriage relation from the carnal intercourse described in Shakespear's sonnet. This, being a response to the biological decree that the world must be peopled, may arise irresistibly between persons who could not live together endurably for a week but can produce excellent children. Historians who confuse Charles's feelings for his wife with his appetite for Barbara Villiers do not know chalk from cheese biologically.
THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN POLITICS
The establishment of representative government in England is assumed to have been completed by the enfranchisement of women in 1928. The enormous hiatus left by their previous disenfranchisement is supposed to have been filled up and finished with. As a matter of fact it has only reduced Votes for Women to absurdity; for the women immediately used their vote to keep women out of Parliament. After seventeen years of it the nation, consisting of men and women in virtually equal numbers, is misrepresented at Westminster by 24 women and 616 men. During the Suffragette revolt of 1913 I gave great offence to the agitators by forecasting this result, and urging that what was needed was not the vote, but a constitutional amendment enacting that all representative bodies shall consist of women and men in equal numbers, whether elected or nominated or co-opted or registered or picked up in the street like a coroner's jury.
THE COUPLED VOTE
In the case of elected bodies the only way of effecting this is by the Coupled Vote. The representative unit must be not a man or a woman but a man and a woman. Every vote, to be valid, must be for a human pair, with the result that the elected body must consist of men and women in equal numbers. Until this is achieved it is idle to prate about political democracy as existing, or ever having existed, at any known period of English history.
It is to be noted that the half-and-half proportion is valid no matter what the proportion of women to men is in the population. It never varies considerably; but even if it did the natural unit would still be the complete couple and not its better (or worse) half.
The wisdom or expediency of this reform is questioned on various grounds. There are the people who believe that the soul is a masculine organ lacking in women, as certain physical organs are, and is the seat of male political faculty. But, so far, dissection, spectrum analysis, the electronic microscope, have failed to discover in either sex any specific organ or hormone that a biologist can label as the soul. So we christen it The Holy Ghost or The Lord of Hosts and dechristen it as a Life Force or Élan Vital. As this is shared by women and men, and, when it quits the individual, produces in both alike the dissolution we call death, democratic representation cannot be said to exist where women are not as fully enfranchised and qualified as men. So far no great harm has been done by their legal disabilities because men and women are so alike that for the purposes of our crude legislation it matters little whether juries and parliaments are packed with men or women; but now that the activities of government have been greatly extended, detailed criticism by women has become indispensable in Cabinets. For instance, the House of Lords is more representative than the House of Commons because its members are there as the sons of their fathers, which is the reason for all of us being in the world; but it would be a much more human body if it were half-and-half sons and daughters.
All this went on with the approval of the women, who formed half the community, and yet were excluded not only from the franchise but from the professions and public services, except the thrones. Up to a point this also did not matter much; for in oligarchies women exercise so much influence privately and irresponsibly that the cleverest of them are for giving all power to the men, knowing that they can get round them without being hampered by the female majority whose world is the kitchen, the nursery, and the drawingroom if such a luxury is within their reach.
But representation on merely plangent Parliamentary bodies is not sufficient. Anybody can complain of a grievance; but its remedy demands constructive political capacity. Now political capacity is rare; but it is not rarer in women than in men. Nature's supply of five per cent or so of born political thinkers and administrators are all urgently needed in modern civilization; and if half of that natural supply is cut off by the exclusion of women from Parliament and Cabinets the social machinery will fall short and perhaps break down for lack of sufficient direction. Competent women, of whom enough are available, have their proper places filled by incompetent men: there is no Cabinet in Europe that would not be vitally improved by having its male tail cut off and female heads substituted.
But how is this to be done? Giving all women the vote makes it impossible because it only doubles the resistance to any change. When it was introduced in England not a single woman was returned at the ensuing General Election, though there were women of proved ability in the field. They were all defeated by male candidates who were comparative noodles and nobodies.
Therefore I suggest and advocate The Coupled Vote, making all votes invalid except those for a bi-sexed couple, and thus ensuring the return of a body in which men and women are present in equal numbers. Until this is done, adult suffrage will remain the least democratic of all political systems. I leave it to our old parliamentary hands to devise a plan by which our electorate can be side-tracked, humbugged, cheated, lied to, or frightened into tolerating such a change. If it has to wait for their enlightenment it will wait too long.
AYOT SAINT LAWRENCE, 1945
The library in the house of Isaac Newton in Cambridge in the year 1680. It is a cheerful room overlooking the garden from the first floor through a large window which has an iron balcony outside, with an iron staircase down to the garden level. The division of the window to the left as you look out through it is a glass door leading to these stairs, making the room accessible from the garden. Inside the room the walls are lined with cupboards below and bookshelves above. To the right of the window is a stand-up writing desk. The cupboards are further obstructed by six chairs ranged tidily along them, three to the right of the window and three to the left (as you look out). Between them a table belonging to the set of chairs stands out in the middle with writing materials on it and a prodigious open Bible, made for a church lectern. A comfortable chair for the reader faces away from the window. On the reader's left is a handsome armchair, apparently for the accommodation of distinguished visitors to the philosopher.
Newton's housekeeper, a middle aged woman of very respectable appearance, is standing at the desk working at her accounts.
A serving maid in morning deshabille comes in through the interior door, which is in the side wall to the left of the window (again as you look out through it).
THE MAID. Please, Mrs Basham, a Mr Rowley wants to know when the master will be at home to receive him.
MRS BASHAM. Rowley? I dont know him. This is no hour to call on Mr Newton.
THE MAID. No indeed, maam. And look at me! not dressed to open the door to gentlefolk.
MRS BASHAM. Is he a gentleman? Rowley is not much of a name.
THE MAID. Dressed like a nobleman, maam. Very tall and very dark. And a lot of dogs with him, and a lackey. Not a person you could shut the door in the face of, maam. But very condescending, I must say.
MRS BASHAM. Well, tell him to come back at half past eleven; but I can't promise that Mr Newton will be in. Still, if he likes to come on the chance. And without his dogs, mind. Our Diamond would fight with them.
THE MAID. Yes, maam: I'll tell him [going].
MRS BASHAM. Oh, Sally, can you tell me how much is three times seven. You were at school, werent you?
SALLY. Yes, maam; but they taught the boys to read, write, and cipher. Us girls were only taught to sew.
MRS BASHAM. Well, never mind. I will ask Mr Newton. He'll know, if anybody will. Or stop. Ask Jack the fish hawker. He's paunching the rabbit in the kitchen.
SALLY. Yes, maam. [She goes].
MRS BASHAM. Three sixpences make one and sixpence and three eightpences make two shillings: they always do. But three sevenpences! I give it up.
SALLY. Please, maam, another gentleman wants Mr Newton.
MRS BASHAM. Another nobleman?
SALLY. No, maam. He wears leather clothes. Quite out of the common.
MRS BASHAM. Did he give his name?
SALLY. George Fox, he said, maam.
MRS BASHAM. Why, thats the Quaker, the Man in Leather Breeches. He's been in prison. How dare he come here wanting to see Mr Newton? Go and tell him that Mr Newton is not at home to the like of him.
SALLY. Oh, he's not a person I could talk to like that, maam. I dursnt.
MRS BASHAM. Are you frightened of a man that would call a church a steeple house and walk into it without taking off his hat? Go this instant and tell him you will raise the street against him if he doesn’t go away. Do you hear. Go and do as I tell you.
SALLY. I'd be afraid he'd raise the street against us. I will do my best to get rid of him without offence. [She goes].
MRS BASHAM [calling after her] And mind you ask Jack how much three times seven is.
SALLY [outside] Yes'm.
Newton, aged 38, comes in from the garden, hatless, deep in calculation, his fists clenched, tapping his knuckles together to tick off the stages of the equation. He stumbles over the mat.
MRS BASHAM. Oh, do look where youre going, Mr Newton. Someday youll walk into the river and drown yourself. I thought you were out at the university.
NEWTON. Now dont scold, Mrs Basham, dont scold. I forgot to go out. I thought of a way of making a calculation that has been puzzling me.
MRS BASHAM. And you have been sitting out there forgetting everything else since breakfast. However, since you have one of your calculating fits on I wonder would you mind doing a little sum for me to check the washing bill. How much is three times seven?
NEWTON. Three times seven? Oh, that is quite easy.
MRS BASHAM. I suppose it is to you, sir; but it beats me. At school I got as far as addition and subtraction; but I never could do multiplication or division.
NEWTON. Why, neither could I: I was too lazy. But they are quite unnecessary: addition and subtraction are quite sufficient. You add the logarithms of the numbers; and the antilogarithm of the sum of the two is the answer. Let me see: three times seven? The logarithm of three must be decimal four seven seven or thereabouts. The logarithm of seven is, say, decimal eight four five. That makes one decimal three two two, doesnt it? What's the antilogarithm of one decimal three two two? Well, it must be less than twentytwo and more than twenty. You will be safe if you put it down as--
SALLY. Please, maam, Jack says it's twentyone.
NEWTON. Extraordinary! Here was I blundering over this simple problem for a whole minute; and this uneducated fish hawker solves it in a flash! He is a better mathematician than I.
MRS BASHAM. This is our new maid from Woolsthorp, Mr Newton. You havnt seen her before.
NEWTON. Havnt I? I didnt notice it. [To Sally] Youre from Woolsthorp, are you? So am I. How old are you?
SALLY. Twentyfour, sir.
NEWTON. Twentyfour years. Eight thousand seven hundred and sixty days. Two hundred and ten thousand two hundred and forty hours. Twelve million six hundred and fourteen thousand, four hundred minutes. Seven hundred and fiftysix million eight hundred and sixtyfour thousand seconds. A long long life.
MRS BASHAM. Come now, Mr Newton: you will turn the child's head with your figures. What can one do in a second?
NEWTON. You can do, quite deliberately and intentionally, seven distinct actions in a second. How do you count seconds? Hackertybackertyone, hackertybackertytwo, hackertybackertythree and so on. You pronounce seven syllables in every second. Think of it! This young woman has had time to perform more than five thousand millions of considered and intentional actions in her lifetime. How many of them can you remember, Sally?
SALLY. Oh sir, the only one I can remember was on my sixth birthday. My father gave me sixpence: a penny for every year.
NEWTON. Six from twentyfour is eighteen. He owes you one and sixpence. Remind me to give you one and sevenpence on your next birthday if you are a good girl. Now be off.
SALLY. Oh, thank you, sir. [She goes out].
NEWTON. My father, who died before I was born, was a wild, extravagant, weak man: so they tell me. I inherit his wildness, his extravagance, his weakness, in the shape of a craze for figures of which I am most heartily ashamed. There are so many more important things to be worked at: the transmutations of matter, the elixir of life, the magic of light and color, above all, the secret meaning of the Scriptures. And when I should be concentrating my mind on these I find myself wandering off into idle games of speculation about numbers in infinite series, and dividing curves into indivisibly short triangle bases. How silly! What a waste of time, priceless time!
MRS BASHAM. There is a Mr Rowley going to call on you at half past eleven.
NEWTON. Can I never be left alone? Who is Mr Rowley? What is Mr Rowley?
MRS BASHAM. Dressed like a nobleman. Very tall. Very dark. Keeps a lackey. Has a pack of dogs with him.
NEWTON. Oho! So that is who he is! They told me he wanted to see my telescope. Well, Mrs Basham, he is a person whose visit will be counted a great honor to us. But I must warn you that just as I have my terrible weakness for figures Mr Rowley has a very similar weakness for women; so you must keep Sally out of his way.
MRS BASHAM. Indeed! If he tries any of his tricks on Sally I shall see that he marries her.
NEWTON. He is married already. [He sits at the table].
MRS BASHAM. Oh! That sort of man! The beast!
NEWTON. Shshsh! Not a word against him, on your life. He is privileged.
MRS BASHAM. He is a beast all the same!
NEWTON [opening the Bible] One of the beasts in the Book of Revelation, perhaps. But not a common beast.
MRS BASHAM. Fox the Quaker, in his leather breeches had the impudence to call.
NEWTON [interested] George Fox? If he calls again I will see him. Those two men ought to meet.
MRS BASHAM. Those two men indeed! The honor of meeting you ought to be enough for them, I should think.
NEWTON. The honor of meeting me! Dont talk nonsense. They are great men in their very different ranks. I am nobody.
MRS BASHAM. You are the greatest man alive, sir. Mr Halley told me so.
NEWTON. It was very wrong of Mr Halley to tell you anything of the sort. You must not mind what he says. He is always pestering me to publish my methods of calculation and to abandon my serious studies. Numbers! Numbers! Numbers! Sines, cosines, hypotenuses, fluxions, curves small enough to count as straight lines, distances between two points that are in the same place! Are these philosophy? Can they make a man great?
He is interrupted by Sally, who throws open the door and announces visitors.
SALLY. Mr Rowley and Mr Fox.
King Charles the Second, aged 50, appears at the door, but makes way for George Fox the Quaker, a big man with bright eyes and a powerful voice in reserve, aged 56. He is decently dressed; but his garments are made of leather.
CHARLES. After you, Mr Fox. The spiritual powers before the temporal.
FOX. You are very civil, sir; and you speak very justly. I thank you [he passes in].
Sally, intensely impressed by Mr Rowley, goes out.
FOX. Am I addressing the philosopher Isaac Newton?
NEWTON. You are, sir. [Rising] Will your noble friend do me the honor to be seated in my humble dwelling?
Charles bows and takes the armchair with easy grace.
FOX. I must not impose on you by claiming the gentleman as my friend. We met by chance at your door; and his favorite dog was kind enough to take a fancy to me.
CHARLES. She is never mistaken, sir. Her friends are my friends, if so damaged a character as mine can claim any friends.
NEWTON [taking a chair from the wall and placing it near his table to his left] Be seated, Mr Fox, pray.
FOX. George Fox at your service, not Mister. But I am very sensible of your civility. [He sits].
NEWTON [resuming his seat at the table] It seems that it is I who am at your service. In what way can I oblige you?
FOX. As you remind me, I have come here uninvited. My business will keep while you discharge yours with this nobleman--so called.
CHARLES. I also am uninvited, Pastor. I may address you so both truthfully and civilly, may I not?
FOX. You have found the right word. I tended my father's sheep when I was a child. Now I am a pastor of men's souls.
CHARLES. Good. Well, Pastor, I must inform you I have no business here except to waste our host's invaluable time and to improve my own, if he will be good enough to allow me such a liberty. Proceed then with your business; and take no notice of me. Unless, that is, you would prefer me to withdraw.
FOX. I have no business in this world that all men may not hear: the more the better.
CHARLES. I guessed as much; and confess to an unbounded curiosity to hear what George Fox can have to say to Isaac Newton. It is not altogether an impertinent curiosity. My trade, which is a very unusual one, requires that I should know what Tom, Dick and Harry have to say to oneanother. I find you two gentlemen much more interesting and infinitely more important.
MRS BASHAM [posted behind Newton's chair] What is your business, Mr Rowley? Mr Newton has much to do this morning. He has no time for idle conversation.
NEWTON. I had forgotten to make this lady known to you, gentlemen. Mrs Basham: my housekeeper, and the faithful guardian of my hours.
CHARLES. Your servant, Mistress Basham.
FOX. God be with you, woman.
NEWTON. Mr Rowley is a gentleman of great consequence, Mrs Basham. He must not be questioned as if he were Jack the fish hawker. His business is his lather's business.
CHARLES. No, no. My father's business is abolished in England: he was executed for practising it. But we keep the old signboard up over the door of the old shop. And I stand at the shop door in my father's apron. Mrs Basham may ask me as many questions as she pleases; for I am far less important now in England than Jack the fish hawker.
MRS BASHAM. But how do you live, sir? That is all I meant to ask.
CHARLES. By my wits, Mistress Basham: by my wits. Come, Pastor: enough of me. You are face to face with Isaac Newton. I long to hear what you have to say to him.
FOX. Isaac Newton: I have friends who belong to the new so-called Royal Society which the King has established, to enquire, it seems, into the nature of the universe. They tell me things that my mind cannot reconcile with the word of God as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.
NEWTON. What is your warrant for supposing that revelation ceased when King James's printers finished with the Bible?
FOX. I do not suppose so. I am not one of those priestridden churchmen who believe that God went out of business six thousand years ago when he had called the world into existence and written his book about it. We three sitting here together may have a revelation if we open our hearts and minds to it. Yes: even to you, Charles Stuart.
CHARLES: The mind of Charles Stuart is only too open, Pastor.
MRS BASHAM. What did you call the gentleman, Mr Fox?
CHARLES. A slip of the tongue, Mistress Basham. Nowhere in Holy writ, Pastor, will you find any disapproval of Paul when he changed his name from Saul. Need you be more scrupulous than the apostles?
FOX. It is against my sinful nature to disoblige any man; so Mr Rowley you shall be if you so desire. But I owed it to you to let you know that I was not deceived by your new name.
CHARLES. I thank you, Pastor. Your sinful nature makes you the best mannered man in the kingdom. And now, what about the revelations?
FOX. I am troubled. I cannot conceive that God should contradict himself. How must the revelation of today be received if it be contrary to the revelation of yesterday? If what has been revealed to you, Isaac Newton, be true, there is no heaven above us and no hell beneath us. The sun which stood still upon Gibeon and the moon in the Valley of Ajalon had stood still since the creation of the world.
NEWTON. Do not let that trouble you, Pastor. Nothing has ever stood still for an instant since the creation of the world: neither the sun, the moon, the stars, nor the smallest particle of matter, except on two occasions.
CHARLES. Two! I remember only one.
NEWTON. Yes, sir: two. The first was when the sun stood still on Gibeon to give Joshua time to slaughter the Amorites. The second was when the shadow on the dial of Ahaz went ten degrees backward as a sign from God to good King Hezekiah who was dying of a boil until the prophet Isaiah made them put a lump of figs on it.
MRS BASHAM. There is nothing like a poultice of roasted figs to cure a gumboil. And to think that is because it is in the Holy Bible! I never knew it.
NEWTON. On reflection, the sun has stopped three times; for it must have stopped for an infinitesimal moment when it turned back, and again when it resumed its course.
FOX. I thank God that you are not an unbeliever and would not make me one.
NEWTON. My good friend, there is nothing so wonderful that a philosopher cannot believe it. The philosopher sees a hundred miracles a day where the ignorant and thoughtless see nothing but the daily round, the common task. Joshua was an ignorant soldier. Had he been a philosopher he would have known that to stop the nearest speck of dust would have served his turn as well as to stop the sun and moon; for it could not have stopped without stopping the whole machinery of the heavens. By the way, Mrs Basham, the fact that the sun and moon were visible at the same time may help me to fix the day on which the miracle occurred. [To the others] Excuse me, gentlemen: I have written a chronological history of the world; and the dates give me some trouble.
CHARLES. Did not the late Archbishop Ussher fix the dates of everything that ever happened?
NEWTON. Unfortunately he did not allow for the precession of the equinoxes. I had to correct some of his results accordingly.
CHARLES. And, saving the pastor's presence, what the divvle is the precession of the equinoxes?
FOX. I am sinful enough to be glad that you are as ignorant as myself. I suffer greatly from shame at my ignorance.
NEWTON. Shame will not help you, Pastor. I spend my life contemplating the ocean of my ignorance. I once boasted of having picked up a pebble on the endless beach of that ocean. I should have said a grain of sand.
CHARLES. I can well believe it. No man confronted with the enormity of what he does not know can think much of what he does know. But what is the precession of the equinoxes? If I fire off those words at court the entire peerage will be prostrate before the profundity of my learning.
MRS BASHAM. Oh, tell the gentlemen, Mr Newton; or they will be here all day.
NEWTON. It is quite simple: a child can understand it. The two days in the year on which the day and night are of equal duration are the equinoxes. In each successive sidereal year they occur earlier. You will see at once that this involves a retrograde motion of the equinoctial points along the ecliptic. We call that the precession of the equinoxes.
FOX. I thank you, Isaac Newton. I am as wise as I was before.
MRS BASHAM. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr Newton, injuring the poor gentlemen's brains with such outlandish words. You must remember that everybody is not as learned as you are.
NEWTON. But surely it is plain to everybody--
MRS BASHAM. No: it isnt plain to anybody, Mr Newton.
SALLY [bursting in] Mr Rowley: theres a lady in a coach at the door wants to know are you ready to take a drive with her.
CHARLES. Any name?
SALLY. No, sir. She said youd know.
CHARLES. A duchess, would you say?
SALLY. Oh no, sir. Spoke to me quite familiar.
CHARLES. Nelly! Mr Newton: would you like to be introduced to Mistress Gwynn, the famous Drury Lane actress?
MRS BASHAM [turning imperatively to Charles] Oh, I couldnt allow that, Mr Rowley. I am surprised at you mentioning such a person in my presence.
CHARLES. I apologize. I did not know that you disapproved of the playhouse, Mrs Basham.
MRS BASHAM. I do not disapprove of the playhouse, sir. My grandfather, who is still alive and hearty, was befriended in his youth by Mr William Shakespear, a wellknown player and writer of comedies, tragedies, and the like. Mr Shakespear would have died of shame to see a woman on the stage. It is unnatural and wrong. Only the most abandoned females would do such a thing.
CHARLES. Still, the plays are more natural with real women in them, are they not?
MRS BASHAM. Indeed they are not, Mr Rowley. They are not like women at all. They are just like what they are; and they spoil the play for anyone who can remember the old actors in the women's parts. They could make you believe you were listening to real women.
CHARLES. Pastor Fox: have you ever spoken with a female player?
FOX [shuddering] I! No, sir: I do not frequent such company.
CHARLES. Why not, Pastor? Is your charity so narrow? Nell is no worse than Mary Magdalen.
MRS BASHAM. I hope Mary Magdalen made a good end and was forgiven; though we are nowhere told so. But I should not have asked her into my house. And at least she was not on the stage. [She retires behind Newton's chair].
CHARLES. What do you say, Pastor? Is Nelly not good enough for you?
FOX. Sir: there is nobody who is not good enough for me. Have I not warned our Christian friends who are now captives in Barbary not to forget that the life of God and the power of God are in their heathen masters the Turks and the Moors as well as in themselves? Is it any the less in this player woman than in a Turk or a Moor? I am not afraid of her.
CHARLES. And you, Mr Newton?
NEWTON. Women enter a philosopher's life only to disturb it. They expect too much attention. However, Mistress Gwynn has called to take you away, not to interrupt my work on fluxions. And if you will condescend to go down to her she need not come up to us. [He rises in dismissal of the King].
CHARLES [rising] I see I must take my leave.
Nelly dashes in. Sally withdraws.
NELLY. Rowley darling: how long more are you going to keep me waiting in the street?
CHARLES. You are known to everyone present, Mistress Gwynn, I think. May I make our host known to you? The eminent philosopher, Mr Newton.
NELLY [going past Charles to Newton] I dont know what a philosopher is, Mr Newton; but you look one, every inch. Your servant, sir. [She curtsies to him].
NEWTON. Yours, madam. I am ashamed that you should have been kept waiting at the wrong side of my door.
NELLY. It is an honor to be seen at your door, Mr Newton. [Looking round her] And who keeps your house so beautifully? I thought philosophers were like Romish priests, not allowed to marry.
NEWTON. Is my house beautifully kept? I have never noticed it. This is Mrs Basham, my housekeeper. [He sits resignedly].
NELLY. You never noticed it! You dont deserve such a housekeeper. Your servant, Mrs Basham.
Mrs Basham bows stiffly, trying not to be flattered.
CHARLES. The other gentleman is the famous founder of the sect of Quakers.
FOX. Of Friends, Friend Rowley.
NELLY [running to Fox]. I know. I know. The man in the leather breeches.
FOX [stubbornly seated] I am also known as George Fox.
NELLY [clapping him on the shoulder] What of that? Anybody might be George Fox; but there is only one man in the leather breeches. Your servant, George.
FOX. Yours, Nelly.
NELLY. There! Nelly! [She goes to the wall for a chair and plants it at Fox's left, quite close]. If I may add you to the list of my beaus I shall be the proudest woman in London.
FOX. I did not found the order of beaus. I founded that of Friends.
NELLY. Ten times better. Our beaus are our foes: they care for nothing but to steal our honor. Pray for me, Friend Fox: I think you have God by the ear closer than the bishops.
FOX. He is closer to you than you have placed yourself to me. Let no priest come between you.
CHARLES. We must not waste any more of Mr Newton's time, Mistress Gwynn. He is at work on fluxions.
NELLY. On what?
CHARLES. Fluxions I think you said, Mr Newton.
NELLY. What are fluxions?
CHARLES. Mr Newton will tell you. I should be glad to know, myself.
NEWTON. Fluxions, madam, are the rates of change of continuously varying quantities.
NELLY. I must go home and think about that, Mr Philosopher.
NEWTON [very seriously] I shall be much indebted to you, madam, if you will communicate to me the result of your reflections. The truth is, I am not quite satisfied that my method--or perhaps I had better say the notation of my method--is the easiest that can be devised. On that account I have never cared to publish it.
NELLY. You really think I could teach you something, Mr Newton? What a compliment! Did you hear that, Rowley darling?
NEWTON. In these very simple matters one may learn from anyone. And you, madam, must have very remarkable mental powers. You repeat long parts from memory in the theatre. I could not do that.
NELLY. Bless me, so I do, Mr Newton. You are the first man I ever met who did not think an actress must be an ignorant ninny--except schoolboys, who think she is a goddess. I declare you are the wisest man in England, and the kindest.
CHARLES. And the busiest, Nelly. Come. He has given us as much of his time as we have any right to ask for.
NELLY. Yes, I know. I am coming. [She rises and goes to Charles, whose left arm she takes]. May I come again, Mr Newton?
NEWTON [rising] No no no no no, madam, I cannot entertain ladies. They do not fit into my way of life. Mr Rowley: you are well known to be as interested in ladies as I am interested in the Scriptures; and I thank you for bringing this very attractive sample for my diversion--
NELLY [as if tasting a sweet] Oh!
NEWTON [continuing]--but sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof--
NELLY [in violent protest] Oh!!!
NEWTON.--and I beg you will bring no more ladies here until I have time to set aside a day of relaxation for their reception.
NELLY. We must go, Rowley darling. He doesnt want us.
CHARLES. You are fortunate, Mr Newton, in suffering nothing worse than Nell. But I promise you your house shall be a monastery henceforth.
As Charles and Nell turn to the door to go out, the Duchess of Cleveland, 39, formerly Lady Castlemaine, and born Barbara Villiers, bursts into the room and confronts them in a tearing rage.
BARBARA. Ah! I have caught you, have I, with your trull. This is the scientific business which made it impossible for you to see me this morning.
CHARLES. Be silent for a moment, Barbara, whilst I present you to Mr Newton, the eminent philosopher, in whose house you are an uninvited guest.
BARBARA. A pretty house. A pretty philosopher. A house kept for you to meet your women in.
MRS BASHAM [coming indignantly to the middle of the room] Oh! Mr Newton: either this female leaves the house this instant or I do.
BARBARA. Do you know, woman, that you are speaking of the Duchess of Cleveland?
MRS BASHAM. I do not care who I am speaking of. If you are the Duchess of Cleveland and this house were what you said it was you would be only too much at home in it. The house being what it is you are out of place in it. You go or I go.
BARBARA. You insolent slut, I will have you taken to the Bridewell and whipped.
CHARLES. You shall not, Barbara. If you do not come down with me to your carriage without another word, I will throw you downstairs.
BARBARA. Do. Kill me; and be happy with that low stage player. You have been unfaithful to me with her a thousand times.
NEWTON. Patience, patience, patience. Mrs Basham: the lady is not in a state of reason: I will prove to you that what she says has no sense and need not distress us. [To Barbara] Your Grace alleges that Mr Rowley has been unfaithful to you a thousand times.
BARBARA. A hundred thousand times.
NEWTON. For each unfaithfulness allow a day--or shall I say a night? Now one hundred thousand nights are almost two hundred and seventyfour years. To be precise, 273 years 287 days, allowing 68 days for Leap Year every four years. Now Mr Rowley is not 300 years old: he is only fifty, from which you must deduct at least fifteen years for his childhood.
NEWTON. Let us say fourteen. Probably your Grace was also precocious. How many years shall we strike off your age for the days of your innocence?
NELL. Five at most.
BARBARA. Be silent, you.
NEWTON. Say twelve. That makes you in effect about twentyeight.
BARBARA. Have I denied it?
NEWTON. Twentyeight to Mr Rowley's thirtysix. Your grace has been available since, say, the year 1652, twentyeight years ago. My calculation is therefore correct.
BARBARA. May I ask what you mean by available?
NEWTON. I mean that the number of occasions on which Mr Rowley could possibly be unfaithful to you is ten thousand two hundred and twenty plus seven for leap years. Yet you allege one hundred thousand occasions, and claim to have lived for nearly three centuries. As that is impossible, it is clear that you have been misinformed about Mistress Gwynn.
Nell claps vigorously.
BARBARA [to Newton] Are you mocking me, sir?
NEWTON. Figures cannot mock, because they cannot feel. That is their great quality, and their great fault. [He goes to the door]. And now may I have the honor of conducting your Grace to your coach--or is it one of those new fangled sedan chairs? Or would your Grace prefer to be thrown down my humble staircase by Mr Rowley? It has twentyfour steps, in two flights.
BARBARA. I will not leave this house until that player woman has gone first. [She strides past them and plants herself in Newton's chair].
NELL. After all, dear, it's Mr Newton's house and not ours. He was in the act of putting me out when you burst in. I stayed only because I wanted to see you in one of those tantrums of yours that Rowley so often tells me about. I might copy them on the stage.
BARBARA. He dares talk to you about me!!
NELL. He talks to me about everything, dear, because I let him get in a word occasionally, which is more than you do.
BARBARA [to Charles] Will you stand there and let me be insulted by this woman?
CHARLES [with conviction] Barbara: I am tired of your tantrums. I made you a duchess: you behave like a streetwalker. I pensioned you and packed you off to Paris; you have no business to be here. Pastor: what have you to say to all this? You are the oldest and wisest person present, are you not?
FOX. Fiftysix. And still a child in wisdom.
BARBARA [contemptuously, noticing Fox for the first time] What does this person know about women?
FOX. Only what the woman in myself teaches me.
NELL. Good for leather breeches! What do you think of her, George?
FOX. She prates overmuch about unfaithfulness. The man Rowley cannot be unfaithful to her because he has pledged no faith to her. To his wife only can he be unfaithful.
CHARLES. Wrong, Pastor. You do not know my wife. To her only I can never be unfaithful.
NELL. Yes: you are kind to us; but we are nothing to you. [Sighing] I would change places with her.
BARBARA. Will you order this common player to be silent in my presence?
NELL. It is not fair of her to keep mentioning my profession when I cannot decently mention hers.
With a scream of rage the duchess rises to fly at Nell, but is seized by Fox, who drags down her raised fists and throws her back into the chair.
FOX [sternly] Woman: behave yourself. In any decent English village you would go to the ducking stool to teach you good manners and gentle speech. You must control yourself--
He is interrupted by the clangor of a church bell, which has a terrible effect on him.
FOX [in a thundering voice, forgetting all about the duchess] Ha! I am called: I must go.
He makes for the door but is stopped by Charles, who, releasing Nell, shuts it quickly and posts himself with his back to it.
CHARLES. Stop. You are going to brawl in church. You will be thrown into prison; and I shall not be able to save you.
FOX. The bell, the bell. It strikes upon my life. I am called. Earthly kings cannot stay me. Let me pass.
CHARLES. Stand back, Mr Fox. My person is sacred.
NEWTON. What is the matter?
CHARLES. The church bell: it drives him mad. Someone send and stop it.
The bell stops.
FOX. God has stopped it. [He falls on his knees and collapses, shivering like a man recovering from a fit].
Charles and Newton help him to his feet and lead him back to his chair.
FOX [to Charles] Another stroke, and I should not have answered for your life.
BARBARA. You must control yourself, preacher. In any decent English village you would be put in the stocks to teach you good manners.
FOX. Woman: I have been put in the stocks; and I shall be put there again. But I will continue to testify against the steeple house and the brazen clangor of its belfries.
MRS BASHAM. Now Mr Fox. You must not say such things here.
FOX. I tell you that from the moment you allow this manmade monster called a Church to enter your mind your inner light is like an extinguished candle; and your soul is plunged in darkness and damned. There is no atheist like the Church atheist. I have converted many a poor atheist who would have been burnt or hanged if God had not sent him into my hands; but I have never converted a churchman: his answer to everything is not his God, but the Church, the Church, the Church. They burn each other, these churchmen: they persecute: they do wickednesses of which no friend of God would be capable.
MRS BASHAM. The Popish Church, not the Protestant one, Mr Fox.
FOX. All, all, all of them. They are all snares of the devil. They stand between Man and his Maker, and take on themselves divine powers when they lack divine attributes. Am I to hold my peace in the face of this iniquity? When the bell rings to announce some pitiful rascal twaddling in his pulpit, or some fellow in a cassock pretending to bind and loose, I hear an Almighty Voice call "George Fox, George Fox: rise up: testify: unmask these impostors: drag them down from their pulpits and their altars; and let it be known that what the world needs to bring it back to God is not Churchmen but Friends, Friends of God, Friends of man, friendliness and sincerity everywhere, superstition and pulpit playacting nowhere."
CHARLES. Pastor: it is not given to every man as it has been to you to make a religion for himself. A ready-made Church is an indispensable convenience for most of us. The inner light must express itself in music, in noble architecture, in eloquence: in a word, in beauty, before it can pass into the minds of common men. I grant you the clergy are mostly dull dogs; but with a little disguise and ritual they will pass as holy men with the ignorant. And there are great mysteries that must be symbolized, because though we feel them we do not know them, Mr Newton having not yet discovered their nature, in spite of all his mathematics. And this reminds me that we are making a most unwarrantable intrusion on our host's valuable time. Mr Newton: on my honor I had no part in bringing upon you this invasion of womanhood. I hasten to take them away, and will wait upon you at some happier moment. Come, ladies: we must leave Mr Newton to his mathematics. [He is about to go to the door. Barbara rises to accompany him].
NEWTON [stopping him] I must correct that misunderstanding, sir. I would not have you believe that I could be so inhospitable as to drive away my guests merely to indulge in the trifling pursuit of mathematical calculation, which leads finally nowhere. But I have more serious business in hand this morning. I am engaged in a study of the prophecies in the book of Daniel. [He indicates the Bible]. It may prove of the greatest importance to the world. I beg you to allow me to proceed with it in the necessary solitude. The ladies have not wasted my time: I have to thank her Grace of Cleveland for some lights on the Book of Revelation suggested to me by her proceedings. But solitude--solitude absolutely free from the pleasant disturbance of ladies' society--is now necessary to me; and I must beg you to withdraw.
Sally, now dressed in her best, throws the door open from without, and proudly announces--
SALLY. Her Grace the Duchess of Portsmouth.
Louise de Kéroualle, a Frenchwoman who at 30 retains her famous babyish beauty, appears on the threshold.
NEWTON [beside himself] Another woman! Take her away. Take them all away. [He flings himself into his chair at the table and buries his face in his hands].
CHARLES. Louise: it is unlike you to pursue me. We are unwelcome here.
LOUISE [coming over to him] Pursue you! But I have never been so surprised in my life as to find you here. And Nelly! And her Grace of Cleveland back from Paris! What are you all doing here? I came to consult Mr Newton, the alchemist. [Newton straightens up and stares]. My business with him is private: it is with him, not with you, cheri. I did not know he was holding a reception.
CHARLES. Mr Newton is not an alchemist.
LOUISE. Pardon me: he is.
CHARLES. Mr Newton: are you an alchemist?
NEWTON. My meditations on the ultimate constitution of matter have convinced me that the transmutation of metals, and indeed of all substances, must be possible. It is occurring every day. I understand that you, Mr Rowley, have a private laboratory at Whitehall, in which you are attempting the fixation of mercury.
CHARLES. Without success, Mr Newton. I shall give it up and try for the philosopher's stone instead.
FOX. Would you endanger your souls by dabbling in magic? The scripture says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Do you think that God is fonder of sorcerers and wizards than of witches? If you count the wrath of God as nothing, and are above the law by your rank, are you not ashamed to believe such old wives' tales as the changing of lead into gold by the philosopher's stone?
NEWTON. Pastor Fox: I thank you for your well-meant warning. Now let me warn you. The man who begins by doubting the possibility of the philosopher's stone soon finds himself beginning to doubt the immortality of the soul. He ends by doubting the existence of the soul. There is no witchcraft about these things. I am as certain of them as I am of the fact that the world was created four thousand and four years before the birth of our Lord.
FOX. And what warrant have you for that? The Holy Bible says nothing of your four thousand and four. It tells us that the world was created "in the beginning": a mighty word. "In the beginning"! Think of it if you have any imagination. And because some fool in a steeplehouse, dressed up like a stage player in robes and mitre, dares to measure the days of the Almighty by his kitchen clock, you take his word before the word of God! Shame on you, Isaac Newton, for making an idol of an archbishop! There is no credulity like the credulity of philosophers.
NEWTON. But the archbishop has counted the years! My own chronology of the world has been founded on his calculation. Do you mean to tell me that all the labor I have bestowed on that book has been wasted?
FOX. Sinfully wasted.
NEWTON. George Fox: you are an infidel. Leave my house.
FOX [rising] Your philosophy has led you to the conclusion that George Fox is an infidel. So much the worse for your philosophy! The Lord does not love men that count numbers. Read second Samuel, chapter twentyfour: the book is before you. Good morning; and God bless you and enlighten you. [He turns to go].
CHARLES. Stay, Pastor. [He makes Fox sit down again and goes to Newton, laying a hand on his shoulder]. Mr Newton: the word infidel is not one to be used hastily between us three. Old Tom Hobbes, my tutor, who was to me what Aristotle was to Alexander the Great, was called an infidel. You yourself, in spite of your interest in the book of Daniel, have been suspected of doubting whether the apple falls from the tree by the act of God or by a purely physical attraction. Even I, the head of the Church, the Defender of the Faith, stand between the Whigs who suspect me of being a Papist and the Tories who suspect me of being an atheist. Now the one thing that is true of all three of us is that if the common people knew our real minds they would hang us and bury us in unconsecrated ground. We must stand together, gentlemen. What does it matter to us whether the world is four thousand years old, or, as I should guess, ten thousand?
NEWTON. The world ten thousand years old! Sir: you are mad.
NELL [shocked] Rowley darling: you mustnt say such things.
BARBARA. What business is it of yours, pray? He has always defied God and betrayed women. He does not know the meaning of the word religion. He laughed at it in France. He hated it in Scotland. In England he believes nothing. He loves nothing. He fears nothing except having to go on his travels again, as he calls it. What are ten thousand years to him, or ten million?
FOX. Are ten million years beyond the competence of Almighty God? They are but a moment in His eyes. Four thousand years seem an eternity to a mayfly, or a mouse, or a mitred fool called an archbishop. Are we mayflies? Are we mice? Are we archbishops?
MRS BASHAM. Mr Fox: I have listened to too much blasphemy this morning. But to call an archbishop a mitred fool and compare him to a mouse is beyond endurance. I cannot believe that God will ever pardon you for that. Have you no fear of hell?
FOX. How shall I root out the sin of idolatry from this land? Worship your God, woman, not a dressed-up priest.
MRS BASHAM. The archbishop is not a graven image. And when he is officiating he is not in the likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth beneath. I am afraid you do not know your catechism, Mr Fox.
CHARLES [laughing] Excellent, Mrs Basham. Pastor: she has gravelled you with the second commandment. And she has put us to shame for quarrelling over a matter of which we know nothing. By the way, where were we when we began to quarrel? I have clean forgotten.
LOUISE. It was my business with Mr Newton, I think. Nellie: will you take our sovereign lord away and leave me to speak with the alchemist in private?
CHARLES. Mr Newton: not for worlds would I deprive you of a tête-à-tête with her Grace of Portsmouth. Pastor: you will accompany us. Nellie: you will come with the pastor. But first I must throw the Duchess of Cleveland downstairs [moving towards her].
BARBARA [screaming and making for the door] Coward! Help! Murder! [She rushes out].
CHARLES. Your servant, Mrs Basham.
Mrs Basham curtsies. Charles salutes her and goes out.
NELL [beckoning to Fox] Come on, leather breeches.
FOX [rising and going towards the door] Well, what you are, God made you. I am bound to be your friend.
NELL [taking his arm as he passes] I am proud of your friendship, George.
They go out arm in arm.
Louise, being now the person of highest rank present, follows them as far as the armchair, in which she seats herself with distinguished elegance.
LOUISE [to Mrs Basham] Madam: may I have a moment alone with the alchemist?
NEWTON. You certainly may not, your Grace. I will not have Mr Locke and his friends accuse me of having relations with women. If your business cannot be discussed before Mrs Basham it cannot be discussed with me. And you will please not speak of me as "the alchemist" as you might speak of the apothecary or the chimney sweep. I am by profession--if it can be called a profession--a philosopher.
LOUISE. Pardon: I am not habituated to your English manners. It is strange to me that a philosopher should need a chaperon. In France it is I who should need one.
NEWTON. You are quite safe with me and Mrs Basham, madam. What is your business?
LOUISE. I want a love charm.
NEWTON. A what?
LOUISE. A love charm. Something that will make my lover faithful to me if I drop it into his tay. And mind! it must make him love me, and not love everybody. He is far too amorous already of every pretty woman he meets. I make no secret of who he is: all the world knows it. The love charm must not do him any harm; for if we poison the king we shall be executed in the most horrible manner. It must be something that will be good for him.
NEWTON. And peculiar to yourself? Not to Mistress Gwynn?
LOUISE. I do not mind Nellie: she is a dear, and so helpful when there is any trouble or illness. He picked her up out of the gutter; but the good God sometimes drops a jewel there: my nurse, a peasant woman, was worth a thousand duchesses. Yes: he may have Nellie: a change is sometimes good for men.
MRS BASHAM [fearfully shocked] Oh! Mr Newton: I must go. I cannot stay and listen to this French lady's talk. [She goes out with dignity].
LOUISE. I shall never understand the things that Englishwomen are prudish about. And they are so extraordinarily coarse in other things. May I stay, now that your chaperon has gone?
NEWTON: You will not want to stay when I tell you that I do not deal in love potions. Ask the nearest apothecary for an aphrodisiac.
LOUISE. But I cannot trust a common apothecary: it would be all over the town tomorrow. Nobody will suspect you. I will pay any price you like.
NEWTON. I tell you, madam, I know nothing about such things. If I wished to make you fall in love with me--which God forbid!--I should not know how to set about it. I should learn to play some musical instrument, or buy a new wig.
LOUISE. But you are an alchemist: you must know.
NEWTON. Then I am not an alchemist. But the changing of Bodies into Light and Light into Bodies is very conformable to the Course of Nature, which seems delighted with Transmutations.
LOUISE. I do not understand. What are transmutations?
NEWTON. Never mind, madam. I have other things to do than to peddle love charms to the King's ladies.
LOUISE [ironically] Yes: to entertain the Duchess of Cleveland and Mistress Gwynn, and hire a mad preacher to amuse them! What else have you to do that is more important than my business with you?
NEWTON. Many other things. For instance, to ascertain the exact distance of the sun from the earth.
LOUISE. But what a waste of time! What can it possibly matter whether the sun is twenty miles away or twentyfive?
NEWTON. Twenty or twentyfive!!! The sun is millions and millions of miles from the earth.
LOUISE. Oh! Oh!! Oh!!! You are quite mad, Monsieur Nieuton. At such a distance you could not see it. You could not feel its heat. Well, you cannot see it so plainly here as in France, nor so often; but you can see it quite plainly sometimes. And you can feel its heat. It burns your skin, and freckles you if you are sandyhaired. And then comes a little cloud over it and you shiver with cold. Could that happen if it were a thousand miles away?
NEWTON. It is very very large, madam. It is one million three hundred thousand times heavier than the earth.
LOUISE. My good Monsieur Nieuton: do not be so fanciful. [Indicating the window] Look at it. Look at it. It is much smaller than the earth. If I hold up a sou--what you call a ha-pen-ny--before my eye, it covers the sun and blots it out. Let me teach you something, Monsieur Nieuton. A great French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, teached me this. You must never let your imagination run away with you. When you think of grandiose things--hundreds of millions and things like that--you must continually come down to earth to keep sane. You must see: you must feel: you must measure.
NEWTON. That is very true, madam. Above all, you must measure. And when you measure you find that many things are bigger than they look. The sun is one of them.
LOUISE [rising and going to the table to coax him] Ah! You are impossible. But you will make me a love potion, will you not?
NEWTON. I will write you a prescription, madam.
He takes a sheet of paper and writes the prescription. Louise watches as he writes.
LOUISE. Aqua? But aqua is only water, monsieur.
NEWTON. Water with a cabalistic sign after it, madam.
LOUISE. Ah, parfaitement. And this long magical word, what is it? Mee-kah-pah-nees. What is that?
NEWTON. Micapanis, madam. A very powerful lifegiving substance.
LOUISE. It sounds wonderful. Is it harmless?
NEWTON. The most harmless substance in the world, madam, and the most precious.
LOUISE. Truly you are a great man, Monsieur Nieuton, in spite of your millions of miles. And this last word here?
NEWTON. Only sugar, to sweeten the micapanis, but with the cabalistic sign after it. Here is your love charm, madam. But it is not a potion: the apothecary will make it into pills for you.
LOUISE [taking the paper and tucking it into the bosom of her dress] Good. That is better, much better. It is so much easier to make men take pills than drink potions. And now, one thing more. You must swear to give this prescription to no other woman of the court. It is for me alone.
NEWTON. You have my word of honor, madam.
LOUISE. But a word of honor must be a gentleman's word of honor. You, monsieur, are a bourgeois. You must swear on your Bible.
NEWTON. My word is my word, madam. And the Bible must not be mixed up with the magic of micapanis.
LOUISE. Not black magic, is it? I could not touch that.
NEWTON. Neither black nor white, madam. Shall we say grey? But quite harmless, I assure you.
LOUISE. Good. And now I must make you a little present for your pills. How much shall it be?
NEWTON. Keep your money for the apothecary, madam: he will be amply satisfied with five shillings. I am sufficiently rewarded by the sound scientific advice you have given me from your friend Blaise Pascal. He was anticipated by an Englishman named Bacon, who was, however, no mathematician. You owe me nothing.
LOUISE. Shall I give one of the new golden guineas to the lady I shocked if I meet her on the stairs?
NEWTON. No. She would not take it.
LOUISE. How little you know the world, Monsieur! Nobody refuses a golden guinea.
NEWTON. You can try the experiment, madam. That would be the advice of your friend Pascal. [He goes to the door, and opens it for her].
LOUISE. Perhaps I had better make it two guineas. She will never refuse that.
NEWTON [at the door, calling] Sally!
LOUISE [with a gracious inclination of her head] Monsieur--
NEWTON. I wish your Grace good morning.
SALLY [at the door] Yes, sir?
NEWTON. Shew her Grace the Duchess of Portsmouth to her chair or whatever it is.
LOUISE. Au plaisir de vous revoir, Monsieur le philosophe.
The Duchess goes out, Sally making her a rustic curtsey as she passes, and following her out, leaving Newton alone.
NEWTON [greatly relieved] Ouf!
He returns to his place at the table and to his Bible, which, helped by a marker, he opens at the last two chapters of the book of Daniel. He props his head on his elbows.
NEWTON. Twelve hundred and ninety days. And in the very next verse thirteen hundred and thirtyfive days. Five months difference! And the king's daughter of the south: who was she? And the king of the south? And he that cometh against him? And the vile person who obtains the kingdom by flatteries? And Michael? Who was Michael? [He considers this a moment; then suddenly snatches a sheet of paper and writes furiously].
SALLY [throwing open the door, bursting with pride] His Royal Highness the Duke of York.
The Duke, afterwards James II, comes in precipitately.
JAMES [imperiously] Where is his Majesty the King?
NEWTON [rising in ungovernable wrath] Sir: I neither know nor care where the King is. This is my house; and I demand to be left in peace in it. I am engaged in researches of the most sacred importance; and for them I require solitude. Do you hear, sir? solitude!
JAMES. Sir: I am the Duke of York, the King's brother.
NEWTON: I am Isaac Newton, the philosopher. I am also an Englishman; and my house is my castle. At least it was until this morning, when the whole court came here uninvited. Are there not palaces for you and the court to resort to? Go away.
JAMES. I know you. You are a follower of the arch infidel Galileo!
NEWTON. Take care, sir. In my house the great Galileo shall not be called an infidel by any Popish blockhead, prince or no prince. Galileo had more brains in his boots than you have in your whole body.
JAMES. Had he more brains in his boots than the Catholic Church? Than the Pope and all his cardinals, the greatest scholars of his day? Is there more learning in your head than in the libraries of the Vatican?
NEWTON. Popes and cardinals are abolished in the Church of England. Only a fool would set up these superstitious idolaters against the Royal Society, founded by your royal brother for the advancement of British science.
JAMES. A club of damnable heretics. I shall know how to deal with them.
NEWTON [rising in a fury and facing him menacingly] Will you leave my house, or shall I throw you out through the window?
JAMES. You throw me out! Come on, you scum of a grammar school.
They rush at one another, and in the scuffle fall on the floor, Newton uppermost. Charles comes in at this moment.
CHARLES. Odsfish, Mr Newton, whats this? A wrestling match?
Newton hastily rolls off James. The two combatants remain sitting on the floor, staring up at Charles.
CHARLES. And what the divvle are you doing here, Jamie? Why arnt you in Holland?
JAMES. I am here where I have been thrown by your friend and protégé, the infidel philosopher Newton.
CHARLES. Get up, man: dont play the fool. Mr Newton: your privilege with me does not run to the length of knocking my brother down. It is a serious matter to lay hands on a royal personage.
NEWTON. Sir: I had no intention of knocking your royal brother down. He fell and dragged me down. My intention was only to throw him out of the window.
CHARLES. He could have left by the door, Mr Newton.
NEWTON. He could; but he would not, in spite of my repeated requests. He stayed here to heap insults on the immortal Galileo, whose shoe latchet he is unworthy to unloose.
He rises and confronts the King with dignity.
CHARLES. Will you get up, Jamie, and not sit on the floor grinning like a Jackanapes. Get up, I tell you.
JAMES [rising] You see what comes of frequenting the houses of your inferiors. They forget themselves and take liberties. And you encourage heretics. I do not.
CHARLES. Mr Newton: we are in your house and at your orders. Will you allow my brother and myself to have this room to ourselves awhile?
NEWTON. My house is yours, sir. I am a resolute supporter of the Exclusion Bill because I hope to prove that the Romish Church is the little horn of the fourth beast mentioned by the prophet Daniel. But the great day of wrath is not yet come. Your brother is welcome here as long as you desire it.
Newton goes out. Charles takes the armchair. When he is seated James takes Newton's chair at the table.
JAMES. That fellow is crazy. He called me a Popish blockhead. You see what comes of encouraging these Protestants. If you had a pennorth of spunk in you you would burn the lot.
CHARLES. What I want to know is what you are doing here when you should be in Holland. I am doing what I can to stop this Exclusion Bill and secure the crown for you when I die. I sent you to Holland so that your talent for making yourself unpopular might be exercised there and not here. Your life is in danger in London. You had no business to come back. Why have you done it?
JAMES. Charles: I am a prince.
CHARLES. Oh, do I not know it, God help you!
JAMES. Our father lost his head by compromising with Protestants, Republicans, Levellers and Atheists. What did he gain by it? They beheaded him. I am not going to share his fate by repeating that mistake. I am a Catholic; and I am civil to none but Catholics, however unpopular it may make me. When I am king--as I shall be, in my own right, and not by the leave of any Protestant parliamentary gang--I shall restore the Church and restore the monarchy: yes, the monarchy, Charles; for there has been no real Restoration: you are no king, cleverly as you play with these Whigs and Tories. That is because you have no faith, no principles: you dont believe in anything; and a man who doesnt believe in anything is afraid of everything. Youre a damned coward, Charles. I am not. When I am king I shall reign: these fellows shall find what a king's will is when he reigns by divine right. They will get it straight in the teeth then; and Europe will see them crumble up like moths in a candle flame.
CHARLES. It is a funny thing, Jamie, that you, who are clever enough to see that the monarchy is gone and that I keep the crown by my wits, are foolish enough to believe that you have only to stretch out your clenched fist and take it back again. I sometimes ask myself whether it would not be far kinder of me to push the Exclusion Bill through and save you from the fate of our father. They will have your head off inside of five years unless you jump into the nearest fishing smack and land in France.
JAMES. And leave themselves without a king again! Not they: they had enough of that under old Noll's Major-Generals. Noll knew how to rule: I will say that for him; and I thank him for the lesson. But when he died they had to send for us. When they bully you you give in to them and say that you dont want to go on your travels again. But by God, if they try to bully me I will threaten to go on my travels and leave them without a king. That is the way to bring them down on their marrowbones.
CHARLES. You could not leave them without a king. Protestant kings--Stuart kings--are six a penny in Europe today. The Dutch lad's grandfather-in-law was our grandfather. Your daughter Mary is married to him. The Elector of Hanover has the same hook on to grandfather James. Both of them are rank Protestants and hardened soldiers, caring for nothing but fighting the French. Besides Mary there is her sister Anne, Church of England to the backbone. With the Protestants you do not succeed by divine right: they take their choice and send for you, just as they sent for me.
JAMES. Yes, if you look at it in that way and let them do it. Charles: you havnt the spirit of a king: that is what is the matter with you. As long as they let you have your women, and your dogs, and your pictures, and your music, and your chemical laboratory, you let them do as they like. The merry monarch: thats what you are.
CHARLES. Something new in monarchs, eh?
JAMES. Psha! A merry monarch is no monarch at all.
CHARLES. All the same, I must pack you off to Scotland. I cannot have you here until I prorogue parliament to get rid of the Exclusion Bill. And you will have to find a Protestant husband for Anne: remember that.
JAMES. You pretend you are packing me off to save me from my Catholic unpopularity. The truth is you are jealous of my popularity.
CHARLES. No, Jamie: I can beat you at that game. I am an agreeable sort of fellow: old Newcastle knocked that into me when I was a boy. Living at the Hague on two hundred and forty pounds a year finished my education in that respect. Now you, Jamie, became that very disagreeable character a man of principle. The people, who have all sorts of principles which they havnt gathered out of your basket, will never take to you until you go about shouting No Popery. And you will die rather than do that: wont you?
JAMES. Certainly I shall; and so, I trust, would you. Promise me you will die a Catholic, Charles.
CHARLES. I shall take care not to die in an upstart sect like the Church of England, and perhaps lose my place in Westminster Abbey when you are king. Your principles might oblige you to throw my carcase to the dogs. Meanwhile, however popular you may think yourself, you must go and be popular in Scotland.
JAMES. I am popular everywhere: thats what you dont understand because you are not a fighting man; and I am. In the British Isles, Charles, nothing is more popular than the navy; and nobody is more popular than the admiral who has won a great naval victory. Thats what I have done, and you havnt. And that puts me ahead of you with the British people every time.
CHARLES. No doubt; but the British people do not make kings in England. The crown is in the hands of the damned Whig squirearchy who got rich by robbing the Church, and chopped off father's head, crown and all. They care no more for your naval victory than for a bunch of groundsel. They would not pay for the navy if we called it ship money, and let them know what they are paying for.
JAMES. I shall make them pay. I shall not be their puppet as you are. Do you think I will be in the pay of the king of France, whose bitter bread we had to eat in our childhood, and who left our mother without firewood in the freezing winter? And all this because these rebellious dogs will not disgorge enough of their stolen wealth to cover the cost of governing them! If you will not teach them their lesson they shall learn it from me.
CHARLES. You will have to take your money where you can get it, Jamie, as I do. French money is as good as English. King Louis gets little enough for it: I take care of that.
JAMES. Then you cheat him. How can you stoop?
CHARLES. I must. And I know that I must. To play the king as you would have me I should need old Noll's army; and they took good care I should not have that. They grudge me even the guards.
JAMES. Well, what old Noll could do I can do; and so could you if you had the pluck. I will have an army too.
CHARLES. Of Protestants?
JAMES. The officers will be Catholics. The rank and file will be what they are ordered to be.
CHARLES. Where will you get the money to pay them? Old Noll had the city of London and its money at his back.
JAMES. The army will collect the taxes. How does King Louis do it? He keeps the biggest army in Europe; and he keeps you into the bargain. He hardly knows what a parliament is. He dragoons the Protestants out of France into Spitalfields. I shall dragoon them out of Spitalfields.
CHARLES. Where to?
JAMES. To hell, or to the American plantations, whichever they prefer.
CHARLES. So you are going to be the English Louis, the British Roi Soleil, the sun king. This is a deuced foggy climate for sun kings, Jamie.
JAMES. So you think, Charles. But the British climate has nothing to do with it. What is it that nerves Louis to do all these things? The climate of the Catholic Church. His foot is on the rock of Saint Peter; and that makes him a rock himself.
CHARLES. Your son-in-law Dutch Billy is not afraid of him. And Billy's house is built, not on a rock, not even on the sands, but in the mud of the North Sea. Keep your eye on the Orangeman, Jamie.
JAMES. I shall keep my eye on your Protestant bastard Monmouth. Why do you make a pet of that worthless fellow? Know you not he is longing for your death so that he may have a try for the crown while this rascally Popish plot is setting the people against me?
CHARLES. For my death! What a thought! I grant you he has not the makings of a king in him: I am not blind to his weaknesses. But surely he is not heartless.
JAMES. Psha! there is not a plot in the kingdom to murder either of us that he is not at the bottom of.
CHARLES. He is not deep enough to be at the bottom of anything, Jamie.
JAMES. Then he is at the top. I forgive him for wanting to make an end of me: I am no friend of his. But to plot against you, his father! you, who have petted him and spoilt him and forgiven him treason after treason! for that I shall not forgive him, as he shall find if ever he falls into my hand.
CHARLES. Jamie: this is a dreadful suspicion to put into my mind. I thought the lad had abused my affection until it was exhausted; but it still can hurt. Heaven keep him out of your hand! that is all I can say. Absalom! O Absalom: my son, my son!
JAMES. I am sorry, Charles; but this is what comes of bringing up your bastards as Protestants and making dukes of them.
CHARLES. Let me tell you a secret, Jamie: a king's secret. Peter the fisherman did not know everything. Neither did Martin Luther.
JAMES. Neither do you.
CHARLES. No; but I must do the best I can with what I know, and not with what Peter and Martin knew. Anyhow, the long and the short of it is that you must start for Scotland this very day, and stay there until I send you word that it is safe for you to come back.
JAMES. Safe! What are you afraid of, man? If you darent face these Protestant blackguards, is that any reason why I should run away from them?
CHARLES. You were talking just now about your popularity. Do you know who is the most popular man in England at present?
JAMES. Shaftesbury, I suppose. He is the Protestant hero just as Nelly is the Protestant whoor. I tell you Shaftesbury will turn his coat as often as you crack your whip. Why dont you crack it?
CHARLES. I am not thinking of Shaftesbury.
JAMES. Then who?
JAMES. Titus Oates! A navy chaplain kicked out of the service for the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah! Are you afraid of him?
CHARLES. Yes. At present he is the most popular man in the kingdom. He is lodged in my palace at Whitehall with a pension of four hundred pounds a year.
CHARLES. And I, who am called a king, cannot get rid of him. This house is Isaac Newton's; and he can order you out and throw you out of the window if you dont go. But my house must harbor the vilest scoundrel in Europe while he parades in lawn sleeves through the street with his No Popery mob at his heels, and murders our best Catholic families with his brazen perjuries and his silly Popish plot that should not impose on a rabbit. No man with eyes in his head could look at the creature for an instant without seeing that he is only half human.
JAMES. Flog him through the town. Flog him to death. They can if they lay on hard enough and long enough. The same mob that now takes him for a saint will crowd to see the spectacle and revel in his roarings.
CHARLES. That will come, Jamie. I am hunting out his record; and your man Jeffries will see to it that the poor divvle shall have no mercy. But just now it is not Oates that we have to kill: the people would say that he was murdered by the Catholics and run madder than ever. They blame the Catholics now for the Great Fire of London and the plague. We must kill the Popish Plot first. When we have done that, God help Titus Oates! Meanwhile, away with you to Scotland and try your cat-o-ninetails on the Covenanters there.
JAMES. Well, I suppose I must, since England is governed by its mob instead of by its king. But I tell you, Charles, when I am king there shall be no such nonsense. You jeer at me and say that I am the protector of your life, because nobody will kill you to make me king; but I take that as the highest compliment you could pay me. This mob that your Protestant Republicans and Presbyterians and Levellers call the people of England will have to choose between King James the Second and King Titus Oates. And James and the Church--and there is only one real Church of God--will see to it that their choice will be Hobson's choice.
CHARLES. The people of England will have nothing to do with it. The real Levellers today, Jamie, are the lords and the rich squires--Cromwell's sort--and the moneyed men of the city. They will keep the people's noses to the grindstone no matter what happens. And their choice will be not between you and Titus Oates, but between your daughter Mary's Protestant husband and you.
JAMES. He will have to cross the seas to get here. And I, as Lord High Admiral of England, will meet him on the seas and sink him there. He is no great general on land: on water he is nothing. I have never been beaten at sea.
CHARLES. Jamie, Jamie: nothing frightens me so much as your simple stupid pluck, and your faith in Rome. You think you will have the Pope at your back because you are a Catholic. You are wrong: in politics the Pope is always a Whig, because every earthly monarch's court is a rival to the Vatican.
JAMES. Do you suppose that if Orange Billy, the head of the Protestant heresy in Europe, the anti-Pope you might call him, dared to interfere with me, a Catholic king, the Pope could take his part against me in the face of all Europe! How can you talk such nonsense? Do you think Mary would share the crown if he tore it from her father's head? Rochester called you the king that never said a foolish thing and never did a wise one; but it seems to me that you talk silly-clever nonsense all day, though you are too wise: that is, too big a coward, ever to risk a fight with the squirearchy. What are they in France? Lackeys round the throne at Versailles: not one of them dare look King Louis straight in the face. But in France there is a real king.
CHARLES. He has a real army and real generals. And taxes galore. Old Noll went one better than Louis: he was a general himself. And what a general! Preston, Dunbar, Worcester: we could no nothing against him though we had everything on our side, except him. I have been looking for his like ever since we came back. I sometimes wonder whether Jack Churchill has any military stuff in him.
JAMES. What! That henpecked booby! I suppose you know that he got his start in life as your Barbara's kept man?
CHARLES. I know that the poor lad risked breaking his bones by jumping out of Barbara's window when she was seducing him and I came along unexpectedly. I have always liked him for that.
JAMES. It was worth his while. She gave him five thousand pounds for it.
CHARLES. Yes: I had to find the money. I was tremendously flattered when I heard of it. I had no idea that Barbara put so high a price on my belief in her faithfulness, in which, by the way, I did not believe. Poor Barbara was never alone with a pretty fellow for five minutes without finding out how much of a man he was. I threw Churchill in her way purposely to keep her in good humor. What struck me most in the affair was that Jack bought an annuity with the money instead of squandering it as any other man of his age would have done. That was a sign of solid ability. He may be henpecked: what married man is not? But he is no booby.
JAMES. Meanness. Pure meanness. The Churchills never had a penny to bless themselves with. Jack got no more education than my groom.
CHARLES. Latin grammar is not much use on the battlefield, as we found out. Turenne found Jack useful enough in Spain; and Turenne was supposed to be France's greatest general. Your crown may depend on Jack: by the time I die he will be as old a soldier as Oliver was at Dunbar.
JAMES. Never fear. I shall buy him if he's worth it.
CHARLES. Or if you are worth it. Jack is a good judge of a winner.
JAMES. He has his price all the same.
CHARLES. All intelligent men have, Jamie.
JAMES. Psha! Dont waste your witticisms on me: they butter no parsnips. If he can pick a winner he had better pick me.
CHARLES. There are only two horses in the race now: the Protestant and the Catholic. I have to ride both at once.
JAMES. That was what Father tried to do. See what he got by it!
CHARLES. See what I get by it! Not much, perhaps; but I keep my head on my shoulders. It takes a man of brains to do that. Our father unfortunately tried his hand at being also a man of blood, as Noll called him. We Stuarts are no good at that game: Noll beat us at it every time. I hate blood and battles: I have seen too much of them to have any dreams of glory about them. I am, as you say, no king. To be what you call a king I lack military ambition; and I lack cruelty. I have to manage Protestants who are so frightfully cruel that I dare not interfere with Protestant judges who are merciless. The penalty for high treason is so abominable that only a divvle could have invented it, and a nation of divvles crowd to see it done. The only time I risked my crown was when I stopped them after they had butchered ten of the regicides: I could bear no more. They were not satisfied: they dug up the body of old Noll, and butchered it rather than have their horrible sport cut short.
JAMES. Serve the rascals right! A good lesson for them and their like. Dont be such a mollycoddle, Charles. What you need is a bit of my sea training to knock the nonsense out of you.
CHARLES. So you will try your luck as a man of blood, will you?
JAMES. I will do what is necessary. I will fight my enemies if they put me to it. I will take care that those who put me to it shall not die easy deaths.
CHARLES. Well, that will seem very natural to the mob. You will find plenty of willing tools. But I would not light the fires of Smithfield again if I were you. Your pet Jeffries would do it for you and enjoy it; but Protestants do not like being burnt alive.
JAMES. They will have to lump it if they fly in the face of God.
CHARLES. Oh, go to Scotland: go to Jericho. You sicken me. Go.
JAMES. Charles! We must not part like this. You know you always stand by me as far as you dare. I ought not to talk to you about government and kingcraft: you dont understand these matters and never will; and I do understand them. I have resolved again and again not to mention them to you; for after all we are brothers; and I love you in spite of all the times you have let me down with the Protestants. It is not your fault that you have no head for politics and no knowledge of human nature. You need not be anxious about me. I will leave for Scotland tomorrow. But I have business in London tonight that I will not postpone for fifty thousand Titus Oateses.
CHARLES. Business in London tonight! The one redeeming point in your character, Jamie, is that you are not a man of principle in the matter of women.
JAMES. You are quite wrong there: I am in all things a man of principle and a good Catholic, thank God. But being human I am also a man of sin. I confess it; and I do my penances!
CHARLES. The women themselves are worse penances than any priest dare inflict on you. Try Barbara: a week with her is worse than a month in hell. But I have given up all that now. Nelly is a good little soul who amuses me. Louise manages my French affairs. She has French brains and manners, and is always a lady. But they are now my friends only: affectionate friends, family friends, nothing else. And they alone are faithful to the elderly king. I am fifty, Jamie, fifty: dont forget that. And women got hold of me when I was fourteen, thirtysix years ago. Do you suppose I have learnt nothing about women and what you call love in that time? You still have love affairs: I have none. However, I am not reproaching you: I am congratulating you on being still young and green enough to come all the way from Holland for a night in London.
Mrs Basham returns, much perturbed.
MRS BASHAM. Mr Rowley: I must tell you that I cannot receive any more of your guests. I have not knives nor plates nor glasses enough. I have had to borrow chairs from next door. Your valet, Mr Chiffinch, tells who ever has any business with you this morning to come on here. Mr Godfrey Kneller, the new Dutch painter, with a load of implements connected with his trade, had got in in spite of me: he heard the noise your people were making. There are the two ladies and the player woman, and yourself and your royal brother and Mr Fox and the painter. That makes seven; and Mr Newton makes eight and I make nine. I have nothing to offer them but half a decanter of sherry that was opened last Easter, and the remains of a mouldy cake. I have sent Sally out with orders that will run away with a fortnight's housekeeping money; and that wont be half what theyll expect. I thought they were all going away when they came downstairs; but the French lady wanted to look through Mr Newton's telescope; and the jealous lady wouldnt leave until the French lady left; and the player woman is as curious as a magpie and makes herself as much at home as if she lived here. It has ended in their all staying. And now Mr Newton is explaining everything and shewing off his telescope and never thinking what I am to do with them! How am I to feed them?
CHARLES. Dont feed them, Mrs Basham. Starve them out.
MRS BASHAM. Oh no: I cant do that. What would they think of us? Mr Newton has his position to keep up.
CHARLES. It is the judgment of heaven on you for turning away my pretty spaniels from your door this morning.
MRS BASHAM. There were twelve of them, sir.
CHARLES. You would have found them much better company than nine human beings. But never mind. Sally will tell all the tradesmen that Mr Newton is entertaining me and my brother. They will call themselves Purveyors to his Majesty the King. Credit will be unlimited.
JAMES. Remember that this is Friday: a fast day. All I need is three or four different kinds of fish.
MRS BASHAM. No, sir: in this house you will have to be content with a Protestant dinner. Jack the fish hawker is gone. But he left us a nice piece of cod; and thats all youll get, sir.
CHARLES. Jamie: we must clear out and take the others with us. It seems we cannot visit anyone without ruining them.
JAMES. Pooh! What can a few pounds more or less matter to anybody?
CHARLES. I can remember when they meant a divvle of a lot to me, and to you too. Let us get back to Newmarket.
MRS BASHAM. No, sir: Mr Newton would not like that: he knows his duties as your host. And if you will excuse me saying so, sir: you all look as if a plain wholesome dinner would do you no harm for once in a way. By your leave I will go to look after it. I must turn them all out of the laboratory and send them up here while I lay the table there.
She goes out.
JAMES. "A nice piece of cod!" Among nine people!
CHARLES. "Isnt that a dainty dish to set before a king?" Your fast will be a real fast, Jamie, for the first time in your life.
JAMES. You lie. My penances are all real.
CHARLES. Well, a hunk of bread, a lump of cheese, and a bottle of ale are enough for me or for any man at this hour.
All the rest come back except Mrs Basham, Barbara, and Newton. Fox comes first.
FOX. I have made eight new friends. But has the Lord sent them to me? Such friends! [He takes his old seat, much perplexed].
NELL [coming in] Oh, Rowley darling, they want me to recite my big speech from The Indian Emperor. But I cant do that without proper drapery: its classical. [Going to the Duke] And what is my Jamie doing here?
LOUISE [taking a chair from the wall and planting it at Charles's right, familiarly close] Why not give us a prologue? Your prologues are your best things. [She sits].
CHARLES and JAMES. Yes, yes: a prologue.
All are now seated, except Nell.
NELL. But I cant do a prologue unless I am in breeches.
FOX [rising] No. Eleanor Gwyn: how much more must I endure from you? I will not listen to a prologue that can be spoken only by a woman in breeches. And I warn you that when I raise my voice to heaven against mummery, whether in playhouse or steeple-house, I can drown and dumb the loudest ribald ranter.
CHARLES. Pastor: Mistress Gwyn is neither a ribald nor a ranter. The plays and prologues in which she is famous are the works of the greatest poet of the age: the poet Laureate, John Dryden.
FOX. If he has given to the playhouse talents that were given to him for the service of God, his guilt is the deeper.
CHARLES. Have you considered, Pastor, that the playhouse is a place where two or three are gathered together?
NELL. Not when I am playing, Rowley darling. Two or three hundred, more likely.
FOX [resuming his seat in the deepest perplexity] Sir: you are upsetting my mind. You have forced me to make friends with this player woman; and now you would persuade me that the playhouse is as divine as my meeting house. I find your company agreeable to me, but very unsettling.
CHARLES. The settled mind stagnates, Pastor. Come! Shall I give you a sample of Mr Dryden at his best?
NELL. Oh yes, Rowley darling: give us your pet speech from Aurengzebe.
LOUISE. Yes yes. He speaks it beautifully. He is almost as good an actor as King Louis; and he has really more of the grand air.
CHARLES. Thank you, Louise. Next time leave out the almost. My part is more difficult than that of Louis.
JAMES. Pray silence for his Majesty the King, who is going to make a fool of himself to please the Quaker.
CHARLES. Forgive Jamie, ladies and gentlemen. He will give you his own favorite recitation presently; but the King comes first. Now listen. [He rises. They all rise, except Fox]. No, pray. My audience must be seated. [They sit down again].
Charles recites the pessimistic speech from Aurengzebe as follows:
When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat;
Yet, fooled with hope, men favor the deceit;
Trust on, and think tomorrow will repay:
Tomorrow's falser than the former day;
Lies worse; and, while it says we shall be blest
With some new choice, cuts off what we possessed.
Strange cozenage! None would live past years again;
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain;
And from the dregs of life think to receive
What the first sprightly running could not give.
I'm tired of waiting for this chemic gold
Which fools us young, and beggars us when old.
Nell and Louise applaud vigorously.
CHARLES. What do you think of that, Pastor? [He sits].
FOX. It is the cry of a lost soul from the bottomless blackness of its despair. Never have I heard anything so terrible. This man has never lived. I must seek him out and shew him the light and the truth.
NELL. Tut tut, George! The man in the play is going to be killed. To console himself he cries Sour Grapes: that is all. And now what shall I give you?
JAMES. Something oldfashioned. Give him a bit of Shakespear.
NELL. What! That author the old actors used to talk about. Kynaston played women in his plays. I dont know any. We cannot afford them nowadays. They require several actors of the first quality; and--would you believe it, George?--those laddies will not play now for less than fifteen shillings a week.
FOX [starting up again] Fifteen shillings a week to a player when the servants of God can scarce maintain themselves alive by working at mechanical trades! Such wickedness will bring a black judgment on the nation. Charles Stuart: have you no regard for your soul that you suffer such things to be done?
CHARLES. You would not grudge these poor fellows their fifteen shillings if you knew what women cost.
FOX. What manner of world is this that I have come into? Is virtue unknown here, or is it despised? [He gives it up, and relapses into his seat].
JAMES. Mr Dryden has an answer for that. [He recites, seated].
How vain is virtue which directs our ways
Through certain danger to uncertain praise!
The world is made for the bold impious man
Who stops at nothing, seizes all he can.
Justice to merit does weak aid afford;
She trusts her balance, and ignores her sword.
Virtue is slow to take whats not her own,
And, while she long consults, the prize is gone.
FOX. I take no exception to this. I have too good reason to know that it is true. But beware how you let these bold impious fellows extinguish hope in you. Their day is short; but the inner light is eternal.
JAMES. I am safe in the bosom of my Church, Pastor.
LOUISE. Take the gentleman's mind off his inner light, Nell. Give us a speech.
NELL. They dont want a speech from me. Rowley began talking about speeches because he wanted to do one himself. And now His Highness the Duke of York must have his turn.
JAMES. Are we poor devils of princes not to have any of the good things, nor do any of the pleasant things, because we are Royal Highnesses? Were you not freer and happier when you sold oranges in Drury Lane than you are now as a court lady?
FOX. Did you sell oranges in Drury Lane?
NELL. They say I did. The people like to believe I did. They love me for it. I say nothing.
CHARLES. Come! Give us one of Cydara's speeches from The Indian Emperor. It was in that that you burst on the world as the ambitious orange girl.
NELL. A wretched part: I had to stand mum on the stage for hours while the others were spouting. Mr Dryden does not understand how hard that is. Just listen to this, the longest speech I had.
May I believe my eyes! What do I see?
Is this her hate to him? her love to me?
'Tis in my breast she sheathes her dagger now.
False man: is this thy faith? Is this thy vow?
Then somebody says something.
What words, dear saint, are these I hear you use?
What faith? what voice? are those which you accuse?
NELL. "Those which you accuse": thats my cue.
More cruel than the tiger o'er his spile
And falser than the weeping crocodile
Can you add vanity to guilt, and take
A pride to hear the conquests which you make?
Go: publish your renown: let it be said
The woman that you love you have betrayed--
Rowley darling: I cannot go on if you keep laughing at me. If only Mr Dryden had given me some really great lines, like the ones he gave to Montezuma. Listen.
Still less and less my boiling spirits flow
And I grow stiff, as cooling metals do.
FOX. Now do you tell me that living men and women, created by God in His likeness and not in that of gibbering apes, can be bribed to utter such trash, and that others will pay to hear them do it when they will not enter a meeting house for a penny in the plate to hear the words of God Himself? What society is this I am in? I must be dreaming that I am in hell.
NELL. George: you are forgetting yourself. You should have applauded me. I will recite no more for you. [She takes a chair from the wall and seats herself beside Louise, on her right].
CHARLES. He does not understand, Nell. Tell him the story of the play, and why Montezuma says such extravagant things.
NELL. But how can I, Rowley darling? I dont know what it is all about: I know only my part and my cue. All I can say is that when Montezuma speaks those lines he drops dead.
FOX. Can you wonder that he does so? I should drop dead myself if I heard such fustian pass my lips.
JAMES. Is it worse than the fustian that passes the lips of the ranters in your conventicles?
FOX. I cannot deny it: the preachers are a greater danger than the players. I had not thought of this before. Again you unsettle my mind. There is one Jeremy Collier who swears he will write such a book on the profaneness and immorality of the stage as will either kill the theatre or shame it into decency; but these lines just uttered by Eleanor Gwyn are not profane and immoral: they are mad and foolish.
LOUISE. All the less harmful, monsieur. They are not meant to be taken seriously; and no one takes them so. But your Huguenot ranters pretend to be inspired; and foolish people are deluded by them. And what sort of world would they make for us if they got the upper hand? Can you name a single pleasure that they would leave us to make life worth living?
FOX. It is not pleasure that makes life worth living. It is life that makes pleasure worth having. And what pleasure is better than the pleasure of holy living?
JAMES. I have been in Geneva, blasphemously called the City of God under that detestable Frenchman Calvin, who, thank God, has by now spent a century in hell. And I can testify that he left the wretched citizens only one worldly pleasure.
CHARLES. Which one was that?
CHARLES. Odsfish! that was clever of him. It is a very satisfying pleasure, and one that lasts til death.
LOUISE. It does not satisfy me.
CHARLES. You have never experienced it, Louise. You spend money: you do not make it. You spend ten times as much as Nelly; but you are not ten times as happy. If you made ten times as much as she, you would never tire of it and never ask for anything better.
LOUISE. Charles: if I spent one week making money or even thinking about it instead of throwing it away with both hands all my charm would be gone. I should become that dull thing, a plain woman. My face would be full of brains instead of beauty. And you would send me back to France by the next ship, as you sent Barbara.
CHARLES. What if I did? You will soon be tired of me; for I am an ugly old fellow. But you would never tire of moneymaking.
NELL. Now the Lord be praised, my trade is one in which I can make money without losing my good looks!
LOUISE [to Charles] If you believe what you say, why do you not make money yourself instead of running after women?
CHARLES. Because there is a more amusing occupation for me.
LOUISE. I have not seen you practise it, Charles. What is it?
JAMES. Of which you have not the faintest conception.
CHARLES. Like Louise, you have not seen me practise it. But I am King of England; and my head is still on my shoulders.
NELL. Rowley darling: you must learn to keep King Charles's head out of your conversation. You talk too much of him.
CHARLES. Why is it that we always talk of my father's head and never of my great grandmother's? She was by all accounts a pretty woman; but the Protestants chopped her head off in spite of Elizabeth. They had Strafford's head off in spite of my father. And then they had his own off. I am not a bit like him; but I have more than a touch in me of my famous grandfather Henry the Fourth of France. And he died with a Protestant's dagger in his heart: the deadliest sort of Protestant: a Catholic Protestant. There are such living paradoxes. They burnt the poor wretch's hand off with the dagger in it, and then tore him to pieces with galloping horses. But Henry lay dead all the same. The Protestants will have you, Jamie, by hook or crook: I foresee that: they are the real men of blood. But they shall not have me. I shall die in my bed, and die King of England in spite of them.
FOX. This is not kingcraft: it is chicanery. Protestantism gives the lie to itself: it overthrows the Roman Church and immediately builds itself another nearer home and makes you the head of it, though it is now plain to me that your cleverness acknowledges no Church at all. You are right there: Churches are snares of the divvle. But why not follow the inner light that has saved you from the Churches? Be neither Catholic nor Protestant, Whig nor Tory: throw your crown into the gutter and be a Friend: then all the rest shall be added to you.
They all laugh at him except Charles.
CHARLES. A crown is not so easy to get rid of as you think, Pastor. Besides, I have had enough of the gutter: I prefer Whitehall.
JAMES [to Fox] You would like to have a king for your follower, eh?
FOX. I desire Friends, not followers. I am simple in my tastes. I am not schooled and learned as you two princes are.
CHARLES. Thank your stars for that, Pastor: you have nothing to unlearn.
FOX. That is well said. Too often have I found that a scholar is one whose mind is choked with rubbish that should never have been put there. But how do you come to know this? Things come to my knowledge by the Grace of God; yet the same things have come to you who live a most profane life and have no sign of grace at all.
CHARLES. You and I are mortal men, Pastor. It is not possible for us to differ very greatly. You have to wear leather breeches lest you be mistaken for me.
Barbara storms in with a sheet of drawing paper in her hand.
BARBARA [thrusting the paper under Charles's nose] Do you see this?
CHARLES [scrutinizing it admiringly] Splendid! Has Mr Kneller done this? Nobody can catch a likeness as he can.
BARBARA. Likeness! You have bribed him to insult me. It makes me look a hundred.
CHARLES. Nonsense, dear. It is you to the life. What do you say, Jamie? [He hands the drawing to James].
JAMES. It's you, duchess. He has got you, wrinkle for wrinkle.
BARBARA. You say this to my face! You, who have seen my portrait by Lilly!
NELL. You were younger then, darling.
BARBARA. Who asked you for your opinion, you jealous cat?
CHARLES. Sit down; and dont be silly, Barbara. A woman's face does not begin to be interesting until she is our age.
BARBARA. Our age! You old wreck, do you dare pretend that you are as young as I am?
CHARLES. I am only fifty, Barbara. But we are both getting on.
BARBARA. Oh! [With a scream of rage she tears the drawing to fragments and stamps on them].
CHARLES. Ah, that was wicked of you: you have destroyed a fine piece of work. Go back to France. I tell you I am tired of your tantrums.
Barbara, intimidated, but with a defiant final stamp on the drawing, flings away behind James to one of the chairs against the cupboards, and sits there sulking.
Newton comes in from the garden, followed by Godfrey Kneller, a Dutchman of 34, well dressed and arrogant. They are both almost as angry as Barbara.
NEWTON. Mr Kneller: I will dispute with you no more. You do not understand what you are talking about.
KNELLER. Sir: I must tell you in the presence of His Majesty you are a most overweening, a most audacious man. You presume to teach me my profession.
CHARLES. What is the matter, Mr Newton?
NEWTON. Let it pass, Mr Rowley. This painter has one kind of understanding: I have another. There is only one course open to us both; and that is silence. [Finding his chair occupied by the Duke of York he takes another from beside Barbara and seats himself at the side of the table on the Duke's left].
CHARLES. Mr Newton is our host, Mr Kneller; and he is a very eminent philosopher. Will you not paint his picture for me? That can be done in silence.
KNELLER. I will paint his picture if your Majesty so desires. He has an interesting head: I should have drawn it this morning had not Her Grace of Cleveland insisted on my drawing her instead. But how can an interesting head contain no brain: that is the question.
CHARLES. Odsfish, man, he has the greatest brain in England.
KNELLER. Then he is blinded by his monstrous conceit. You shall judge between us, sir. Am I or am I not the greatest draughtsman in Europe?
CHARLES. You are certainly a very skilful draughtsman, Mr Kneller.
KNELLER. Can anyone here draw a line better than I?
CHARLES. Nobody here can draw a line at all, except the Duchess of Cleveland, who draws a line at nothing.
CHARLES. Be quiet, Barbara. Do not presume to contradict your King.
KNELLER. If there is a science of lines, do I not understand it better than anyone?
CHARLES. Granted, Mr Kneller. What then?
KNELLER. This man here, this crazy and conceited philosopher, dares to assert in contradiction of me, of ME! that a right line is a straight line, and that everything that moves moves in a straight line unless some almighty force bends it from its path. This, he says, is the first law of motion. He lies.
CHARLES. And what do you say, Mr Kneller?
KNELLER. Sir: I do not say: I know. The right line, the line of beauty, is a curve. My hand will not draw a straight line: I have to stretch a chalked string on my canvas and pluck it. Will you deny that your duchess here is as famous for her beauty as the Psyche of the divine Raphael? Well, there is not a straight line in her body: she is all curves.
BARBARA [outraged, rising] Decency, fellow! How dare you?
CHARLES. It is true, Barbara. I can testify to it.
BARBARA. Charles: you are obscene. The impudence! [She sits].
KNELLER. The beauty, madam. Clear your mind of filth. There is not a line drawn by the hand of the Almighty, from the rainbow in the skies to the house the snail carries on his back, that is not a curve, and a curve of beauty. Your apple fell in a curve.
NEWTON. I explained that.
KNELLER. You mistake explanations for facts: all you sciencemongers do. The path of the world curves, as you yourself have shewn; and as it whirls on its way it would leave your apple behind if the apple fell in a straight line. Motion in a curve is the law of nature; and the law of nature is the law of God. Go out into your garden and throw a stone straight if you can. Shoot an arrow from a bow, a bullet from a pistol, a cannon ball from the mightiest cannon the King can lend you, and though you had the strength of Hercules, and gunpowder more powerful than the steam which hurls the stones from Etna in eruption, yet cannot you make your arrow or your bullet fly straight to its mark.
NEWTON [terribly perturbed] This man does not know what he is saying. Take him away; and leave me in peace.
CHARLES. What he says calls for an answer, Mr Newton.
JAMES. The painter is right. A cannon ball flies across the sea in curves like the arches of a bridge, hop, hop, hop. But what does it matter whether it flies straight or crooked provided it hits between wind and water?
NEWTON. To you, admiral, it matters nothing. To me it makes the difference between reason and madness.
JAMES. How so?
NEWTON. Sir: if what this man believes be true, then not only is the path of the cannon ball curved, but space is curved; time is curved; the universe is curved.
KNELLER. Of course it is. Why not?
NEWTON. Why not! Only my life's work turned to waste, vanity, folly. This comes of admitting strangers to break into my holy solitude with their diabolical suggestions. But I am rightly rebuked for this vice of mine that led me to believe that I could construct a universe with empty figures. In future I shall do nothing but my proper work of interpreting the scriptures. Leave me to that work and to my solitude. [Desperately, clutching his temples] Begone, all of you. You have done mischief enough for one morning.
CHARLES. But, Mr Newton, may we not know what we have done to move you thus? What diabolical suggestions have we made? What mischief have we done?
NEWTON. Sir: you began it, you and this infidel quaker. I have devoted months of my life to the writing of a book--a chronology of the world--which would have cost any other man than Isaac Newton twenty years hard labor.
CHARLES. I have seen that book, and been astounded at the mental power displayed in every page of it.
NEWTON. You may well have been, Mr Rowley. And now what have you and Mr Fox done to that book? Reduced it to a monument of the folly of Archbishop Ussher, who dated the creation of the world at four thousand and four, B.C., and of my stupidity in assuming that he had proved his case. My book is nonsense from beginning to end. How could I, who have calculated that God deals in millions of miles of infinite space, be such an utter fool as to limit eternity, which has neither beginning nor end, to a few thousand years? But this man Fox, without education, without calculation, without even a schoolboy's algebra, knew this when I, who was born one of the greatest mathematicians in the world, drudged over my silly book for months, and could not see what was staring me in the face.
JAMES. Well, why howl about it? Bring out another edition and confess that your Protestant mathematics are a delusion and a snare, and your Protestant archbishops impostors.
NEWTON. You do not know the worst, sir. I have another book in hand: one which should place me in line with Kepler, Copernicus, and Galileo as a master astronomer, and as the completer of their celestial systems. Can you tell me why the heavenly bodies in their eternal motion do not move in straight lines, but always in ellipses?
CHARLES. I understand that this is an unsolved problem of science. I certainly cannot solve it.
NEWTON. I have solved it by the discovery of a force in nature which I call gravitation. I have accounted for all the celestial movements by it. And now comes this painter, this ignorant dauber who, were it to save his soul--if he has a soul--could not work out the simplest equation, or as much as conceive an infinite series of numbers! this fellow substitutes for my first law of motion--straight line motion--motion in a curve.
JAMES. So bang goes your second volume of Protestant philosophy! Squashed under Barbara's outlines.
BARBARA. I will not have my outlines discussed by men. I am not a heathen goddess: I am a Christian lady. Charles always encourages infidels and libertines to blaspheme. And now he encourages them to insult me. I will not bear it.
CHARLES. Do not be an idiot, Barbara: Mr Kneller is paying you the greatest compliment in taking you for a model of the universe. The choice would seem to be between a universe of Barbara's curves and a universe of straight lines seduced from their straightness by some purely mathematical attraction. The facts seem to be on the side of the painter. But in a matter of this kind can I, as founder of the Royal Society, rank the painter as a higher authority than the philosopher?
KNELLER. Your Majesty: the world must learn from its artists because God made the world as an artist. Your philosophers steal all their boasted discoveries from the artists; and then pretend they have deduced them from figures which they call equations, invented for that dishonest purpose. This man talks of Copernicus, who pretended to discover that the earth goes round the sun instead of the sun going round the earth. Sir: Copernicus was a painter before he became an astronomer. He found astronomy easier. But his discovery was made by the great Italian painter Leonardo, born twentyone years before him, who told all his intimates that the earth is a moon of the sun.
NEWTON. Did he prove it?
KNELLER. Man: artists do not prove things. They do not need to. They KNOW them.
NEWTON. This is false. Your notion of a spherical universe is borrowed from the heathen Ptolemy, from all the magicians who believed that the only perfect figure is the circle.
KNELLER. Just what such blockheads would believe. The circle is a dead thing like a straight line: no living hand can draw it: you make it by twirling a pair of dividers. Take a sugar loaf and cut it slantwise, and you will get hyperbolas and parabolas, ellipses and ovals, which Leonardo himself could not draw, but which any fool can make with a knife and a lump of sugar. I believe in none of these mechanical forms. The line drawn by the artist's hand, the line that flows, that strikes, that speaks, that reveals! that is the line that shews the divine handiwork.
CHARLES. So you, too, are a philosopher, Mr Kneller!
KNELLER. Sir: when a man has the gift of a painter, that qualification is so magical that you cannot think of him as anything else. Who thinks of Leonardo as an engineer? of Michael Angelo as an inventor or a sonneteer? of me as a scholar and a philosopher? These things are all in our day's work: they come to us without thinking. They are trifles beside our great labor of creation and interpretation.
JAMES. I had a boatswain once in my flagship who thought he knew everything.
FOX. Perhaps he did. Divine grace takes many strange forms. I smell it in this painter. I have met it in common sailors like your boatswain. The cobbler thinks there is nothing like leather--
NELL. Not when you make it into breeches instead of boots, George.
BARBARA. Be decent, woman. One does not mention such garments in well-bred society.
NELL. Orange girls and players and such like poor folk think nothing of mentioning them. They have to mend them, and sometimes to make them; so they have an honest knowledge of them, and are not ashamed like fine ladies who have only a dishonest knowledge of them.
CHARLES. Be quiet, Nelly; you are making Barbara blush.
NELL. Thats more than you have ever been able to do, Rowley darling.
BARBARA. It is well for you that you have all these men to protect you, mistress. Someday when I catch you alone I'll make you wish you had ten pairs of leather breeches on you.
CHARLES. Come come! no quarrelling.
NELL. She began it, Rowley darling.
CHARLES. No matter who began it, no quarrelling, I command.
LOUISE. Charles: the men have been quarrelling all the morning. Does your command apply to them too?
CHARLES. Their quarrels are interesting, Louise.
NELL. Are they? They bore me to distraction.
CHARLES. Much blood has been shed for them; and much more will be after we are gone.
BARBARA. Oh, do not preach, Charles. Leave that to this person who is dressed partly in leather. It is his profession: it is not yours.
CHARLES. The Protestants will not let me do anything else, my dear. But come! Mr Newton has asked us to leave his house many times. And we must not forget that he never asked us to come into it. But I have a duty to fulfil before we go. I must reconcile him with Mr Kneller, who must paint his portrait to hang in the rooms of the Royal Society.
KNELLER. It is natural that your Majesty should desire a work of mine for the Society. And this man's head is unusual, as one would expect from his being a philosopher: that is, half an idiot. I trust your Majesty was pleased with my sketch of Her Grace of Cleveland.
BARBARA. Your filthy caricature of Her Grace of Cleveland is under your feet. You are walking on it.
KNELLER [picking up a fragment and turning it over to identify it] Has the King torn up a work of mine? I leave the country this afternoon.
CHARLES. I would much sooner have torn up Magna Carta. Her Grace tore it up herself.
KNELLER. It is a strange fact, your Majesty, that no living man or woman can endure his or her portrait if it tells all the truth about them.
BARBARA. You lie, you miserable dauber. When our dear Peter Lilly, who has just died, painted me as I really am, did I destroy his portrait? But he was a great painter; and you are fit only to whitewash unmentionable places.
CHARLES. Her Grace's beauty is still so famous that we are all tired of it. She is the handsomest woman in England. She is also the stupidest. Nelly is the wittiest: she is also the kindest. Louise is the loveliest and cleverest. She is also a lady. I should like to have portraits of all three as they are now, not as Lilly painted them.
LOUISE. No, Charles: I do not want to have the whole truth about me handed down to posterity.
NELL. Same here. I prefer the orange girl.
KNELLER. I see I shall not succeed in England as a painter. My master Rembrandt did not think a woman worth painting until she was seventy.
NELL. Well, you shall paint me when I am seventy. In the theatre the young ones are beginning to call me Auntie! When they call me Old Mar Gwyn I shall be ready for you; and I shall look my very best then.
CHARLES. What about your portrait, Mr Fox? You have been silent too long.
FOX. I am dumbfounded by this strange and ungodly talk. To you it may seem mere gossip; but to me it is plain that this painter claims that his hand is the hand of God.
KNELLER. And whose hand is it if not the hand of God? You need hands to scratch your heads and carry food to your mouths. That is all your hands mean to you. But the hand that can draw the images of God and reveal the soul in them, and is inspired to do this and nothing else even if he starves and is cast off by his father and all his family for it: is not his hand the hand used by God, who, being a spirit without body, parts or passions, has no hands?
FOX. So the men of the steeplehouse say; but they lie. Has not God a passion for creation? Is He not all passion of that divine nature?
KNELLER. Sir: I do not know who you are; but I will paint your portrait.
CHARLES. Bravo! We are getting on. How about your portrait, Mr Newton?
NEWTON. Not by a man who lives in a curved universe. He would distort my features.
LOUISE. Perhaps gravitation would distort them equally, Mr Newton.
CHARLES. That is very intelligent of you, Louise.
BARBARA. It takes some intelligence to be both a French spy and a bluestocking. I thank heaven for my stupidity, as you call it.
CHARLES. Barbara: must I throw you downstairs?
LOUISE. In France they call me the English spy. But this is the first time I have been called a bluestocking. All I meant was that Mr Kneller and Mr Newton seem to mean exactly the same thing; only one calls it beauty and the other gravitation; so they need not quarrel. The portrait will be the same both ways.
NEWTON. Can he measure beauty?
KNELLER. No. I can paint a woman's beauty; but I cannot measure it in a pint pot. Beauty is immeasurable.
NEWTON. I can measure gravitation. Nothing exists until it is measured. Fine words are nothing. Do you expect me to go to the Royal Society and tell them that the orbits of a planet are curved because painters think them prettier so? How much are they curved? This man cannot tell you. I can. Where will they be six months hence? He cannot tell you. I can. All he has to say is that the earth is a moon of the sun and that the line of beauty is a curve. Can he measure the path of the moon? Can he draw the curve?
KNELLER. I can draw your portrait. Can you draw mine?
NEWTON. Yes, with a camera obscura; and if I could find a chemical salt sensitive to light I could fix it. Some day portraits will be made at the street corners for sixpence apiece.
KNELLER. A looking glass will make your portrait for nothing. It makes the duchess's portrait fifty times a day.
BARBARA. It does not. I dont look at myself in the glass fifty times a day. Charles never passes one without looking at himself. I have watched him.
CHARLES. It rebukes my vanity every time, Barbara. I am an ugly fellow; yet I always think of myself as an Adonis.
LOUISE. You are not so ugly as you think, Charles. You were an ugly baby; and your wicked mother told you so. You have never got over it. But when I was sent to England to captivate you with my baby face, it was you who captivated me with your seventy inches and your good looks.
BARBARA. Ay, flatter him, flatter him: he loves it.
CHARLES. I cannot bear this. The subject is to be dropped.
LOUISE. But, Charles--
CHARLES. No, no, No. Not a word more. The King commands it.
Dead silence. They sit as if in church, except Fox, who chafes at the silence.
FOX. In the presence of this earthly king all you great nobles become dumb flunkeys. What will you be when the King of Kings calls you from your graves to answer for your lives?
NELL. Trust you, George, to put in a cheerful word. Rowley darling: may we all stop being dumb flunkeys and be human beings again?
CHARLES. Mr Rowley apologizes for his lapse into royalty. Only, the King's person is not to be discussed.
LOUISE. But, Charles, I love you when you put on your royalty. My king, Louis Quatorze, le grand monarque, le roi soleil, never puts off his royalty for a moment even in the most ridiculous circumstances.
BARBARA. Yes; and he looks like a well-to-do grocer, and will never look like anything else.
LOUISE. You would not dare to say so at Versailles, or even to think so. He is always great; and his greatness makes us great also. But it is true that he is not six feet high, and that the grand manner is not quite natural to him. Charles can do it so much better when he chooses. Charles: why dont you choose?
CHARLES. I prefer to keep the crown and the grand manner up my sleeve until I need them. Louis and I played together when we were boys. We know each other too well to be pleasant company; so I take care to keep out of his way. Besides, Louise, when I make you all great you become terrible bores. I like Nelly because nothing can make a courtier of her. Do you know why?
BARBARA. Because the orange girl has the gutter in her blood.
CHARLES. Not at all. Tell her the reason, Nell.
NELL. I dont know it, Rowley darling. I never was an orange girl; but I have the gutter in my blood all right. I think I have everything in my blood; for when I am on the stage I can be anything you please, orange girl or queen. Or even a man. But I dont know the reason why. So you can tell it to her, Rowley darling, if you know it.
CHARLES. It is because in the theatre you are a queen. I tell you the world is full of kings and queens and their little courts. Here is Pastor Fox, a king in his meeting house, though his meetings are against the law. Here is Mr Newton, a king in the new Royal Society. Here is Godfrey Kneller: a king among painters. I can make you duchesses and your sons dukes; but who would be mere dukes or duchesses if they could be kings and queens?
NELL. Dukes will be six a penny if you make all Barbara's sons dukes.
BARBARA. Oh! My sons have gentle blood in their veins, not gutter dirt.
CHARLES. For shame, Nelly! It was illbred of you to reproach her Grace for the most amiable side of her character.
NELL. I beg pardon. God forgive me, I am no better myself.
BARBARA. No better! You impudent slut.
NELL. Well, no worse, if you like. One little duke is enough for me.
LOUISE. Change the subject, Charles. What you were saying about little kings and queens being everywhere was very true. You are very spiritual.
BARBARA. Ha ha! Ha ha ha! He spiritual!
LOUISE. Clever, you call it. I am always in trouble with my English. And Charles is too lazy to learn French properly, though he lived in France so long.
BARBARA. If you mean clever, he is as clever as fifty foxes.
FOX. He may be fifty times as clever as I; but so are many of the blackest villains. Value him rather for his flashes of the inner light. Did he not stop the butchering of the regicides on the ground that if he punished them they could never punish themselves? That was what made me his loyal subject.
BARBARA. I did not mean fifty of you: I meant real foxes. He is so clever that he can always make me seem stupid when it suits him: that is, when I want anything he wont give me. He is as stingy as a miser.
CHARLES. You are like a dairymaid: you think there is no end to a king's money. Here is my Nelly, who is more careful of my money than she is of her own. Well, when I am dying, and all the rest of you are forgotten, my last thought will be of Nelly.
NELL. Rowley darling: dont make me cry. I am not the only one. Louise is very thoughtful about money.
BARBARA. Yes: she knows exactly how much he has: she gets it for him from the King of France.
LOUISE. This subject of conversation is in the worst possible taste. Charles: be a king again; and forbid it.
CHARLES. Nobody but Barbara would have introduced it. I forbid it absolutely.
Mrs Basham returns.
MRS BASHAM. Mr Newton: dinner is served.
BARBARA. You should address yourself to His Majesty. Where are your manners, woman?
MRS BASHAM. In this house Mr Newton comes first. Come along quick, all of you; or your victuals will be cold.
NEWTON [rising] Mr Kneller: will you take her Grace of Cleveland, as you are interested in her curves?
BARBARA [violently] No. I am the senior duchess: it is my right to be taken in by the King.
CHARLES [rising and resignedly giving her his arm] The Duke of York will follow with the junior duchess. Happy man!
All rise, except Fox.
BARBARA. Brute! [She tries to disengage herself].
CHARLES [holding her fast] You are on the King's arm. Behave yourself. [He takes her out forcibly].
MRS BASHAM. Now, your Highness. Now, Madam Carwell.
JAMES [taking Louise] You have remembered, I hope, that Madam Carwell is a Catholic?
MRS BASHAM. Yes: there will be enough cod for the two of you.
LOUISE. Provided Charles does not get at it first. Let us hurry. [She hurries James out].
MRS BASHAM. Will you take the player woman, Mr Kneller?
NELL. No no. The player woman goes with her dear old Fox. [She swoops on the Quaker and drags him along] George: today you will dine with publicans and sinners. You will say grace for them.
FOX. You remind me that where my Master went I must follow. [They go out].
MRS BASHAM. There is no one left for you to take in, Mr Kneller. Mr Newton must take me in and come last.
KNELLER. I will go home. I cannot eat in this house of straight lines.
MRS BASHAM. You will do nothing of the sort, Mr Kneller. There is a cover laid for you; and the King expects you.
NEWTON. The lines are not straight, Mr Kneller. Gravitation bends them. And at bottom I know no more about gravitation than you do about beauty.
KNELLER. To you the universe is nothing but a clock that an almighty clockmaker has wound up and set going for all eternity.
NEWTON. Shall I tell you a secret, Mr Beautymonger? The clock does not keep time. If it did there would be no further need for the Clockmaker. He is wiser than to leave us to our foolish selves in that fashion. When He made a confusion of tongues to prevent the Tower of Babel from reaching to heaven He also contrived a confusion of time to prevent us from doing wholly without Him. The sidereal clock, the clock of the universe, goes wrong. He has to correct it from time to time. Can you, who know everything because you and God are both artists, tell me what is amiss with the perihelion of Mercury?
KNELLER. The what?
NEWTON. The perihelion of Mercury.
KNELLER. I do not know what it is.
NEWTON. I do. But I do not know what is amiss with it. Not until the world finds this out can it do without the Clockmaker in the heavens who can set the hands back or forward, and move the stars with a touch of His almighty finger as He watches over us in the heavens.
KNELLER. In the heavens! In your universe there is no heaven. You have abolished the sky.
NEWTON. Ignoramus: there may be stars beyond our vision bigger than the whole solar system. When I have perfected my telescope it will give you your choice of a hundred heavens.
MRS BASHAM. Mr Kneller: your dinner will be cold; and you will be late for grace. I cannot have any more of this ungodly talk. Down with you to your dinner at once.
KNELLER. In this house, you said, Mr Newton comes first. But you take good care that he comes last. The mistress of this and every other house is she who cooks the dinner. [He goes out].
MRS BASHAM [taking Newton out] Thats a funny fellow, sir. But you really should not begin talking about the stars to people just as they are going away quietly. It is a habit that is growing on you. What do they know or care about the perry healing of Mercury that interests you so much? We shall never get these people out of the house if--[They pass out of hearing].
There is peace in the deserted room.
The boudoir of Catherine of Braganza, Charles's queen, in his not too palatial quarters in Newmarket late in the afternoon on the same day. A prie-dieu, and the pictures, which are all devotional, are signs of the queen's piety. Charles, in slippers and breeches, shirt and cravat, wrapped in an Indian silk dressing gown, is asleep on a couch. His coat and boots are on the carpet where he has thrown them. His hat and wig are on a chair with his tall walking stick. The door, opening on a staircase landing, is near the head of the couch, between it and the prie-dieu. There is a clock in the room.
Catherine, aged 42, enters. She contemplates her husband and the untidiness he has made. With a Portuguese shake of the head (about six times) she sets to work to put the room in order by taking up the boots and putting them tidily at the foot of the couch. She then takes out the coat and hangs it on the rail of the landing. Returning, she purposely closes the door with a bang sufficient to wake Charles.
CHARLES. How long have I been asleep?
CATHERINE. I not know. Why leave you your things about all over my room? I have to put them away like a chambermaid.
CHARLES. Why not send for Chiffinch? It is his business to look after my clothes.
CATHERINE. I not wish to be troubled with Chiffinch when we are alone.
CHARLES [rising] Belovéd: you should make me put away my clothes myself. Why should you do chambermaid's work for me? [His "beloved" always has three syllables].
CATHERINE. I not like to see you without your wig. But I am your wife and must put up with it.
CHARLES [getting up] I am your husband; and I count it a great privilege. [He kisses her].
CATHERINE. Yes yes; but why choose you my boudoir for your siesta?
CHARLES. Here in our Newmarket lodging it is the only place where the women cannot come after me.
CATHERINE. A wife is some use then, after all.
CHARLES. There is nobody like a wife.
CATHERINE. I hear that Cleveland has come back from Paris. Did you send for her?
CHARLES. Send for her! I had as soon send for the divvle. I finished with Barbara long ago.
CATHERINE. How often have you told me that you are finished with all women! Yet Portsmouth keeps her hold on you, and Nellie the player. And now Cleveland comes back.
CHARLES. Beloved: you do not understand. These women do not keep their hold on me: I keep my hold on them. I have a bit of news for you about Louise. What do you think I caught her at this morning?
CATHERINE. I had rather not guess.
CHARLES. Buying a love potion. That was for me. I do not make love to her enough, it seems. I hold her because she is intelligent and ladylike and keeps me in touch with France and the French court, to say nothing of the money I have to extract from Louis through her.
CATHERINE. And Nelly? She can play the fine lady; but is she one?
CHARLES. Nelly is a good creature; and she amuses me. You know, beloved, one gets tired of court ladies and their conversation, always the same.
CATHERINE. And you really did not send for Cleveland to come back?
CHARLES. Beloved: when I was young I thought that there was only one unbearable sort of woman: the one that could think of nothing but her soul and its salvation. But in Barbara I found something worse: a woman who thought of nothing but her body and its satisfaction, which meant men and money. For both, Barbara is insatiable. Grab, grab, grab. When one is done with Barbara's body--a very fine body, I admit--what is there left?
CATHERINE. And you are done with Barbara's body?
CHARLES. Beloved: I am done with all bodies. They are all alike: all cats are grey in the dark. It is the souls and the brains that are different. In the end one learns to leave the body out. And then Barbara is packed off to Paris, and is not asked back by me, though I have no doubt there is some man in the case.
CATHERINE. Why spend you so much time with me here--so much more than you used to?
CHARLES. Beloved: do I plague you? I am off.
He makes for the door: she runs to it and bars his egress.
CATHERINE. No: that is not what I meant. Go back and sit down.
Charles obediently goes back to the couch, where they sit side by side.
CHARLES. And what did you mean, beloved?
CATHERINE. You spend too much time away from court. Your brother is stealing the court away from you. When he is here his rooms are crowded: yours are empty.
CHARLES: I thank heaven for it. The older I grow, the less I can endure that most tiresome of all animals, the courtier. Even a dissolute court, as they say mine is--I suppose they mean a court where bawdy stories are told out loud instead of whispered--is more tedious than a respectable one. They repeat themselves and repeat themselves endlessly. And I am just as bad with my old stories about my flight after the battle of Worcester. I told the same one twice over within an hour last Tuesday. This morning Barbara called me an old wreck.
CATHERINE [flaming up] She dared! Send her to the Tower and let her rot there.
CHARLES. She is not so important as that, beloved. Nor am I. And we must forgive our enemies when we can afford to.
CATHERINE. I forgive my enemies, as you well know, Charles. It is my duty as a Catholic and a Christian. But it is not my duty to forgive your enemies. And you never forgive mine.
CHARLES. An excellent family arrangement for a royal pair. We can exchange our revenges and remain good Christians. But Barbara may be right. When a king is shunned, and his heir is courted, his death is not far off.
CATHERINE. You must not say things like that: I not can bear it. You are stronger in your mind than ever; and nobody can keep up with you walking.
CHARLES. Nevertheless, beloved, I shall drop before you do. What will happen to you then? that is what troubles me. When I am dead you must go back to Portugal, where your brother the king will take care of you. You will never be safe here, because you are a Catholic queen.
CATHERINE. I not think I shall care what becomes of me when you are gone. But James is a Catholic. When he is king what have I to fear? Or do you believe your son Monmouth will prevent him from succeeding you and become a Protestant king?
CHARLES. No. He will try, poor boy; but Jamie will kill him. He is his mother's son; and his mother was nothing. Then the Protestants will kill Jamie; and the Dutch lad will see his chance and take it. He will be king: a Protestant king. So you must make for Portugal.
CATHERINE. But such things not could happen. Why are you, who are afraid of nothing else, so afraid of the Protestants?
CHARLES. They killed my great grandmother. They killed my father. They would kill you if I were not a little too clever for them: they are trying hard enough, damn them! They are great killers, these Protestants. Jamie has just one chance. They may call in Orange Billy before they kill him; and then it will hardly be decent for Billy to kill his wife's father. But they will get rid of Jamie somehow; so you must make for home the moment I have kissed you goodbye for the last time.
CATHERINE [almost in tears] You not must talk of it--[She breaks down].
CHARLES [caressing her] Beloved: you will only lose the worst of husbands.
CATHERINE. That is a lie: if anyone else said it I would kill her. You are the very best husband that ever lived.
CHARLES [laughing] Oh! Oh! Oh! The merry monarch! Beloved: can anything I can ever do make up to you for my unfaithfulness?
CATHERINE. People think of nothing but that, as if that were the whole of life. What care I about your women? your concubines? your handmaidens? the servants of your common pleasures? They have set me free to be something more to you than they are or can ever be. You have never been really unfaithful to me.
CHARLES. Yes, once, with the woman whose image as Britannia is on every British penny, and will perhaps stay there to all eternity. And on my honor nothing came of that: I never touched her. But she had some magic that scattered my wits: she made me listen for a moment to those who were always pressing me to divorce my patient wife and take a Protestant queen. But I could never have done it, though I was furious when she ran away from me and married Richmond.
CATHERINE. Oh, I know, I know: it was the only time I ever was jealous. Well, I forgive you: why should a great man like you be satisfied with a little thing like me?
CHARLES. Stop. I cannot bear that. I am not a great man; and neither are you a little woman. You have more brains and character than all the rest of the court put together.
CATHERINE. I am nothing except what you have made me. What did I know when I came here? Only what the nuns teach a Portuguese princess in their convent.
CHARLES. And what more had I to teach you except what I learnt when I was running away from the battle of Worcester? And when I had learnt that much there was an end of me as a king. I knew too much.
CATHERINE. With what you have taught me I shall govern Portugal if I return to it?
CHARLES. I have no doubt of it, beloved; but whether that will make you any happier I have my doubts. I wish you could govern the English for me.
CATHERINE. No one can govern the English: that is why they will never come to any good. In Portugal there is the holy Church: we know what we believe; and we all believe the same things. But here the Church itself is a heresy; and there are a thousand other heresies: almost as many heresies as there are people. And if you ask any of them what his sect believes he does not know: all he can say is that the men of the other sects should be hanged and their women whipped through the town at the cart's tail. But they are all against the true Church. I do not understand the English; and I do not want to govern them.
CHARLES. You are Portuguese. I am Italian, French, Scottish, hardly at all English. When I want to know how the great lump of my subjects will take anything I tell it to Barbara. Then I tell it to Chiffinch. Then I tell it to Jamie. When I have the responses of Barbara, Chiffich, and Jamie, I know how Tom, Dick and Harry will take it. And it is never as I take it.
CATHERINE. In Portugal we not have this strange notion that Tom, Dick and Harry matter. What do they know about government?
CHARLES. Nothing; but they hate it. And nobody teaches them how necessary it is. Instead, when we teach them anything we teach them grammar and dead languages. What is the result? Protestantism and parliaments instead of citizenship.
CATHERINE. In Portugal, God be praised, there are no Protestants and no parliaments.
CHARLES. Parliaments are the very divvle. Old Noll began by thinking the world of parliaments. Well, he tried every sort of parliament, finishing with a veritable reign of the saints. And in the end he had to turn them all out of doors, neck and crop, and govern through his major-generals. And when Noll died they went back to their parliament and made such a mess of it that they had to send for me.
CATHERINE. Suppose there had been no you?
CHARLES. There is always somebody. In every nation there must be the makings of a capable council and a capable king three or four times over, if only we knew how to pick them. Nobody has found out how to do it: that is why the world is so vilely governed.
CATHERINE. But if the rulers are of noble birth--
CHARLES. You mean if they are the sons of their fathers. What good is that?
CATHERINE. You are king because you are the son of your father. And you are the best of kings.
CHARLES. Thank you. And your brother Alfonso was king of Portugal because he was the son of his father. Was he also the best of kings?
CATHERINE. Oh, he was dreadful. He was barely fit to be a stable boy; but my brother Pedro took his crown and locked him up; and Pedro also is my father's son.
CHARLES. Just so: six of one and half a dozen of the other. Heredity is no use. Learning Latin is no use: Jack Churchill, who is an ignoramus, is worth fifty scholars. If Orange Billy dies and one of my nieces succeeds him Jack will be King of England.
CATHERINE. Perhaps the Church should select the king--or the queen.
CHARLES. The Church has failed over and over again to select a decent Pope. Alexander Borgia was a jolly fellow; and I am the last man alive to throw stones at him; but he was not a model Pope.
CATHERINE. My father was a great king. He fought the Spaniards and set Portugal free from their yoke. And it was the people who chose him and made him do it. I have sometimes wondered whether the people should not choose their king.
CHARLES. Not the English people. They would choose Titus Oates. No, beloved: the riddle of how to choose a ruler is still unanswered; and it is the riddle of civilization. I tell you again there are in England, or in any other country, the makings of half a dozen decent kings and councils; but they are mostly in prison. If we only knew how to pick them out and label them, then the people could have their choice out of the half dozen. It may end that way, but not until we have learnt how to pick the people who are fit to be chosen before they are chosen. And even then the picked ones will be just those whom the people will not choose. Who is it that said that no nation can bear being well governed for more than three years? Old Noll found that out. Why am I a popular king? Because I am a lazy fellow. I enjoy myself and let the people see me doing it, and leave things as they are, though things as they are will not bear thinking of by those who know what they are. That is what the people like. It is what they would do if they were kings.
CATHERINE. You are not lazy: I wish you were: I should see more of you. You take a great deal too much exercise: you walk and walk and nobody can keep up with you; you are always gardening or sailing or building and talking to gardeners and sailors and shipwrights and bricklayers and masons and people like that, neglecting the court. That is how your brother gathers the court round him and takes it away from you.
CHARLES. Let him. There is nothing to be learnt at court except that a courtier's life is not a happy one. The gardeners and the watermen, the shipwrights and bricklayers and carpenters and masons, are happier and far far more contented. It is the worst of luck to be born a king. Give me a skilled trade and eight or ten shillings a week, and you and I, beloved, would pig along more happily than we have ever been able to do as our majesties.
CATHERINE. I not want to pig along. I was born to rule; and if the worst comes to the worst and I have to go back to my own country I shall shew the world that I can rule, and that I am not the ninny I am made to look like here.
CHARLES. Why dont you do it, beloved? I am not worth staying with.
CATHERINE. I am torn ten different ways. I know that I should make you divorce me and marry a young Protestant wife who would bring you a son to inherit the crown and save all this killing of Monmouth and James and the handing over of your kingdom to the Hollander. I am tempted to do it because then I should return to my own beautiful country and smell the Tagus instead of the dirty Thames, and rule Portugal as my mother used to rule over the head of my worthless brother. I should be somebody then. But I cannot bring myself to leave you: not for all the thrones in the world. And my religion forbids me to put a Protestant on the throne of England when the rightful heir to it is a good Catholic.
CHARLES. You shall not, beloved. I will have no other widow but you.
CATHERINE. Ah! you can coax me so easily.
CHARLES. I treated you very badly when I was a young man because young men have low tastes and think only of themselves. Besides, odsfish! we could not talk to oneanother. The English they taught you in Portugal was a tongue that never was spoke on land or sea; and my Portuguese made you laugh. We must forget our foolish youth: we are grown-up now.
CATHERINE. Happy man! You forget so easily. But think of the difference in our fortunes! All your hopes of being a king were cut off: you were an exile, an outcast, a fugitive. Yet your kingdom dropped into your mouth at last; and you have been a king since you were old enough to use your power. But I! My mother was determined from my birth that I should be a queen: a great queen: Queen of England. Well, she had her way: we were married; and they call me queen. But have I ever reigned? Am I not as much an exile and an outcast as ever you were? I am not Catherine of England: I am Catherine of Bragança: a foreign woman with a funny name that they cannot pronounce. Yet I have the blood of rulers in my veins and the brains of rulers in my head.
CHARLES. They are no use here: the English will not be ruled; and there is nothing they hate like brains. For brains and religion you must go to Scotland; and Scotland is the most damnable country on earth: never shall I forget the life they led me there with their brains and their religion when they made me their boy king to spite Old Noll. I sometimes think religion and brains are the curse of the world. No, beloved, England for me, with all its absurdities!
CATHERINE. There can be only one true religion; and England has fifty.
CHARLES. Well, the more the merrier, if only they could let oneanother live. But they will not do even that.
CATHERINE. Have you no conscience?
CHARLES. I have; and a very troublesome one too. I would give a dukedom to any doctor that would cure me of it. But somehow it is not a conscience of the standard British pattern.
CATHERINE. That is only your witty nonsense. Our consciences, which come from God, must be all the same.
CHARLES. They are not. Do you think God so stupid that he could invent only one sort of conscience?
CATHERINE [shocked] What a dreadful thing to say! I must not listen to you.
CHARLES. No two consciences are the same. No two love affairs are the same. No two marriages are the same. No two illnesses are the same. No two children are the same. No two human beings are the same. What is right for one is wrong for the other. Yet they cannot live together without laws; and a law is something that obliges them all to do the same thing.
CATHERINE. It may be so in England. But in Portugal the Holy Church makes all Catholics the same. My mother ruled them though she was a Spaniard. Why should I not do what my mother did?
CHARLES. Why not, indeed? I daresay you will do it very well, beloved. The Portuguese can believe in a Church and obey a king. The English robbed the Church and destroyed it: if a priest celebrates Mass anywhere in England outside your private chapel he is hanged for it. My great grandmother was a Catholic queen: rather than let her succeed to the throne they chopped her head off. My father was a Protestant king: they chopped his head off for trying to govern them and asking the Midlands to pay for the navy. While the Portuguese were fighting the Spaniards the English were fighting oneanother. You can do nothing with the English. How often have I told you that I am no real king: that the utmost I can do is to keep my crown on my head and my head on my shoulders. How often have you asked me to do some big thing like joining your Church, or some little thing like pardoning a priest or a Quaker condemned to some cruel punishment! And you have found that outside the court, where my smiles and my frowns count for everything, I have no power. The perjured scoundrel, Titus Oates, steeped in unmentionable vices, is lodged in my palace with a pension. If I could have my way he would be lodged on the gallows. There is a preacher named Bunyan who has written a book about the Christian life that is being read, they tell me, all the world over; and I could not release him from Bedford Gaol, where he rotted for years. The world will remember Oates and Bunyan; and I shall be The Merry Monarch. No: give me English birds and English trees, English dogs and Irish horses, English rivers and English ships; but English men! No, NO, NO.
CATHERINE. And Englishwomen?
CHARLES. Ah! there you have me, beloved. One cannot do without women: at least I cannot. But having to manage rascals like Buckingham and Shaftesbury, and dodgers like Halifax, is far worse than having to manage Barbara and Louise.
CATHERINE. Is there really any difference? Shaftesbury is trying to have me beheaded on Tower Hill on a charge of plotting to poison you sworn to by Titus Oates. Barbara is quite ready to support him in that.
CHARLES. No, beloved. The object of having you beheaded is to enable me to marry a Protestant wife and have a Protestant heir. I have pointed out to Barbara that the Protestant wife would not be so kind to her as you are, and would have her out of the kingdom before she could say Jack Robinson. So now she has thrown over Shaftesbury; and when I have thrown him over, as I shall know how to do presently, there will be an end of him. But he will be succeeded by some stupider rascal, or, worse still, some stupid fellow who is not a rascal. The clever rascals are all for sale; but the honest dunderheads are the very divvle.
CATHERINE. I wish you were not so clever.
CHARLES. Beloved: you could not do without my cleverness. That is why you must go back to Portugal when I am gone.
CATHERINE. But it makes your mind twist about so. You are so clever that you think you can do without religion. If only I could win you to the Church I should die perfectly happy; and so would you.
CHARLES. Well, I promise you I will not die a Protestant. You must see to that when the hour strikes for me: the last hour. So my very belovedest will die happy; and that is all I care about. [Caressing her] Does that satisfy you?
CATHERINE. If only I could believe it.
CHARLES. You mean I am the king whose word no man relies on.
CATHERINE. No: you are not that sort of king for me. But will it be a real conversion? I think you would turn Turk to please me.
CHARLES. Faith I believe I would. But there is more in it than that. It is not that I have too little religion in me for the Church: I have too much, like a queer fellow I talked with this morning. [The clock strikes five]. Odsfish! I have a Council meeting. I must go. [He throws off his dressing gown]. My boots! What has become of my boots?
CATHERINE. There are your boots. And wait until I make you decent.
Whilst he pulls his boots on, she fetches his coat and valets him into it. He snatches up his hat and stick and puts the hat on.
CATHERINE. No no: you have forgotten your wig. [She takes his hat off and fetches the wig]. Fancy your going into the Council Chamber like that! Nobody would take you for King Charles the Second without that wig. Now. [She puts the wig on him; then the hat. A few final pats and pulls complete his toilet]. Now you look every inch a king. [Making him a formal curtsey] Your Majesty's visit has made me very happy. Long live the King!
CHARLES. May the Queen live for ever!
He throws up his arm in a gallant salute and stalks out. She rises and throws herself on her knees at her prie-dieu.
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