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The English Dove

Time to share a little piece from the third Age of Revolution book, the one I'm working on right this minute! I'd love to hear what you guys think!

A small digression on Emma, Lady Hamilton, and Pompeii:



And now it was found, a city where time had stopped and Rome had never fallen, preserved forever by the mountain like something out of Virgil's underworld. Sir William got the king to give him the right to excavate and to refuse to allow treasure hunters to dig at all. The city was his. He was the one who could walk its streets dreaming, the one who could kindle lights where none had been in nearly two thousand years. His were the bronzes and the mosaics, the marble beauties drawn pristine from the ash, still perfect and unbroken. Rome might live again. How could it not, when it only remained to draw it forth from its encompassing shroud of ash, its restoration the work of many lifetimes?

This was the city I saw as a child. This was the memory I recalled in Dr. Mesmer's stuffy parlor, a new Augustan Age -- Pompeii uninterrupted, a life continued. Why should the temples not echo again to flute and tambour? It is such a little thing to bring the dead to life!

But statues do not embrace, no matter how beautiful they are. Ten years, fifteen, and they still do not. Frescoes never move. The gods go on dreaming and they do not speak. It must have grown unbearable, I thought, to walk each day among the memories but be unable to give them substance, to touch each artifact as the first hand that has done so since their original owner and know that they will not shine again in use. The music fades and the city is still a ruin. Unbearable, to have it so close and yet to worship at a tomb.

She came to Naples, the English Dove, Emma the red haired beauty who shared his bed. She brought the statues to life. She was a sensation as an actress, performing attitudes from antiquity, transforming with the twist of a scarf or the movement of a shawl into Medea or Circe, Penelope or Ariadne, fury or sacrifice. When she was Iphigenia they wept, and when she was a bacchante they caught their breath in delight and passion. Who knows what private attitudes she struck, his own personal Galatea coming to life beneath Pygmalion's hands?

I could guess. But then I was also both Dove and courtesan.

We shared a secret, she and I. The dead are not here, buried two thousand years with their wine cups and their statues. We are the dead. We return, but we are not pristine. Centuries of use have changed us. The admiral may come home at last to save the city he could not long ago, but we have not been waiting for him. Our souls are battered and worn, transformed by the alchemy of time into new elements that only partially resemble those we once were. We are not blank slates for the magician to write on, Galatea with no memory of her own. But then, we never were.

Michel said I underestimated women, but I did not underestimate her, this woman I had never met, Emma who became Lady Hamilton, Sir William's wife and Nelson's mistress, the woman who was perhaps most responsible for the failure of the revolution in Naples. I did not underestimate her, England's Circe, painted as Venus of the Waves who blesses the ships with her love. Even the cartoonists who hated her drew her thus, the Lady of the Sea weeping for Nelson's death. If this manuscript I sought had belonged to Sir William's set, I had no doubt that she had something to do with it. After all, I had been in Boulogne in the summer of 1805, just before the Battle of Trafalgar, when we strove against the witches of England.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
selki
Sep. 23rd, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
WANT. to read this.
jo_graham
Sep. 23rd, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like it! Hopefully this will sell as well!
cypherindigo
Sep. 23rd, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
Emma Hamilton was an amazing woman.
jo_graham
Sep. 23rd, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
She really was! I've been interested in her for a long time. She and Elza are really counterparts on opposite sides, in many ways.
athena799
Sep. 23rd, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Lovely!
jo_graham
Sep. 23rd, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
cadenzamuse
Sep. 24th, 2011 04:36 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. I especially love the bit about how patterns change because old souls keep going on with life, and don't hold their breath waiting for the dramatic rescue. I like that a lot.
jo_graham
Sep. 26th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you like that bit. The past truly is another country, and if you could recall the denizens you would find that they were no longer the people they had been when they lived in those houses and used those things. But still, he wants them to be!
_illumina_
Sep. 25th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
This made my hair stand on end. I really really can't wait to read it.
jo_graham
Sep. 26th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm enjoying writing this one so much!
heatherlayne_n
Sep. 27th, 2011 12:07 pm (UTC)
At some point, could you do a post with pronunciations of the names? I've never taken French and don't know the rules, but I want to be "hearing" the names correctly in my head when I read this. If you want to and have the time.
jo_graham
Sep. 28th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
That's a good idea! I'll do that in a bit. (And might need some help myself, as my pronunciation isn't the best either!)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )