Shall we dance . . .

With all this talk of balls and dancing, I (this is me, mesmered, this time) tried to think back to when balls first held a fascination for me.  And perhaps it was when television came to our home when I was young. There were wonderful old movies, costume dramas where dashing officers with pristine white regimental jackets would hold beautiful women in their arms and sweep around massive dance-floors, the gowns of silk rippling as the couples spun ever faster.

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Lucia’s dilemma . . .

Robin’s letter gave me food for thought, although it was as well I wasn’t starving. Robin has always called things as he sees them and I knew he was right, I should dissociate from Percy and Niccolo immediately.  Go to the ball on my own, spend time on the arm of the Direttore and have a good time.  It’s not as though I haven’t done that many times before.  I am known for being independent and somewhat risque in my preference for attending functions unescorted. 

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Revision? Is that the same as editing?

Once I wrote a first draft for a story.  Then I revised it and it became a second draft.  Then I revised it again and it became the third draft at which point I sent it to a consultancy for a report and it came back and I revised it again.  Sent it back, further revisions.  Then came the invitation to send the all-important first 50 pages with a view to it being called in.  Sent it. More tiny revisions.  Each time it’s like trying to find specs of dandruff on white velvet!!!

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In the shadows . . .

Rebecca Bingham takes up the flag and continues The Masked Ball:  

Bacigalupo watched Sarina step beneath the overhanging branches of the large tree. His hand sketched a quick sign and the shadows deepened, as though a dark curtain had been drawn around the two figures, concealing them from view. Turning away, he unhurriedly walked to the fountain, where Parthenope awaited him. They exchanged a conspiratorial look.

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Mistress Masham’s repose . . .

Pat takes a small and well-earned break from writing chapters for The Masked Ball and offers something different instead:

For someone like me, interested in both miniatures and the Eighteenth Century, there is no more wonderful book than T. H. White’s MISTRESS MASHAM’S REPOSE. Like most American girls, I read it at about the age of ten, the same age of the book’s heroine, and it instantly became a defining part of my life.

“Maria was ten years old. She had dark hair in two pigtails, and brown eyes the color of marmite, but more shiny. She wore spectacles for the time being, though she would not have to wear them always, and her nature was a loving one. She was one of those tough and friendly people who do things first and think about them afterward.”

To begin with, what was marmite? Did people still call glasses “spectacles”?

Maria lives in a vast, crumbling, Gormangast-like 18th century house, her parents dead, ruled by the petty tyranny of her governess and the local vicar:

“…built by a friend of the poet Pope, and it was surrounded by Vistas, Obelisks, Pyramids, Columns, Temples, Rotundas, and Palladian Bridges,”

I knew by now that this book wasn’t going to wait for me, and that I would have to scramble to keep up. But how could I put it down, when such tasty crumbs tempted me onward?:

“ Both the Vicar and the governess were so repulsive that it is difficult to write about them fairly.”

This was a long way from Nancy Drew.

Maria wanders the enormous abandoned estate, finding her own entertainment, and one day, playing Pirate on a small island in one of the artificial lakes, leads the story, already strange enough to an American ten year old in the ‘50s, right down the rabbit hole: she finds half of a walnut shell with a live baby in it.

A Professor who lives in a remote part of the estate figures out the baby’s origin: a whole society of Lilliputians, escaped from GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, have secretly colonized the tiny island, and now their secret is at the mercy of a ten year old human girl.

The story has a purpose: Maria struggles to do the right thing by people over whom she has power, as she opposes those who have power over her. But what makes the story so fascinating is the book’s glittering texture, informed by White’s great knowledge of, and affection for, the late 18th century:

The castle’s dungeon: “In one corner stood the Rack: the improved pattern, perfected by the villian Topcliff.”

The castle’s collonade: “where the great poet Pope himself had walked with William Broome, on the night when he was persuading the latter to persuade Tonson to publish a letter from Lintot, signed however by Cleland, and purporting to have been written by Bolingbroke, in which Lady Mary Wortly Montague was accused of having suspected a Mr. Green of persuading Broome to refuse permission to Tonson…”

Some idioms at the end of a Lilliputian-English dictionary: “Pray order me a Dish of Coffee.” “Odd-so! I have broke the Hinge of my Snuffbox.” “Come, Gentlemen, are you for a Party at Quadrille?” “Madam, the Chairs are waiting.”

T. H. White wrote two other small masterpieces of late eighteenth century lore, THE AGE OF SCANDAL and THE SCANDAL MONGERS. Both are out of print, but a search of ABE will turn them up. They are both enchanting, but MISTRESS MASHAM’S REPOSE is enchantment itself.

When the writing gets tough, the tough keep writing . . .

The below opportune post came from literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog this week.  I say opportune because I had just received the first 50 pages back (again) from the literary consultancy and it appears they want me to fine-tune it that bit more and if it evens out, they say they will call it in.

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Dear Lucia . . .

I wrote to Robin and told him all, finishing with my love to the Lady Marion, his wife.  I sent it by secret messenger and demanded the man wait for a reply and thankfully only a few days passed before I received a packet.  That’s the advantage of speedy caravels and the best and most fleet Raji horses.  

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Parthenope’s journal . . .

Just before I direct you to Pat’s new chapter, can I urge you to return to the invitation page and see the RSVP’S.  Fun!

The Devil take Sarina, Lucia, Rodolfo, and all the rest of them. I am certain they fondly imagine themselves seasoned conspirators, and their whispering, skulking, and intriguing to be unobserved by all Venische. I find myself utterly unable to bend my mind to truly important concerns whilst taking an unwilling part in their play-acting, for I’ve come near as dammit to social disaster.

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