GODOLPHIN BICENTENARY PLAY
By MOLLY HARROWER
CHARLES GODOLPIHN, her husband.
SIR WILLIAM GODOLPHIN, her uncle.
SIDNEY, EARL GODOLPIHN, her brother-in-law.
WILLIAM GODOLPHIN, her nephew.
FRANCES GODOLPHIN, her niece.
THE DEAN OF SALISBURY.
THE MAYOR OF SALISBURY.
JANE DE MONT.
THE POET. I ask you to conceive of Time anew!
Not some swift tide that ever breaks new ground,
Leaving behind completed fact as dead.
But as a realm, a vast and boundless realm,
Its name “the spirit of a great ideal.”
Here you will find no future and no past,
For thoughts and acts eternally exist
And shine like stars . . . these stars appear to man
Whenever some one mind breaks earthly bonds
And joins with this great spirit to create
And crystallize some phantom of a dream
But these ideals exist before that mind
Strove to create them, and indeed shine on
When it has ceased in our earth-sense”to live.”
So I would ask you that you view these scenes
As stars within the realm of the Ideal,
As living parts of an undying whole,
Eternal forces active now as then.
Then you will honour as we do to-day
The spirit of our foundress, which did rise
Into that realm where e’en the common act
Sheds all its concreteness of earthly fact
And shines…..a guiding star for all who seek.
SCENE I – Elizabeth Godolphin’s House in Westminster, 1696.
JOHN. Bestir thyself, wench, bast no notion of thy business? I believe truly that in all the parish of St. James, Westminster, there was never a gentleman’s servant such as I, that suffered from an underling such as thou. My lady gives a reception for Sir William after his long absence, and a few moments before his arrival what do I find the plate unpolished, the candles unsnuffed and the reception room in disorder. Now without more ado to the arrangement of these tables and settees, for little Mistress Frances and Master William are to act a scene in honour of their great uncle’s return.
BETTY. Yes, indeed, John, ’tis an incident in family history, and ’tis writ by the master himself, for I did hear him say so to the Mistress only this morning. .
JOHN. How now, wench, am I to find that you have been eavesdropping once more? You cannot say with your usual readiness that you entered with the coffee at that moment, for I myself served breakfast this morning. .
BETTY. No, indeed, John . ’twas this way. The black cat did stray from the kitchen this morning, and knowing how my lady dislikes her above stairs at meal times, and remembering your instructions, I did pursue her, and I did catch her just as she reached the door of the breakfast room. Was not that well done ? Then as I say I did chance to hear my master’s words.
JOHN. Thou art a bad wench, and will come to no good with thy tales. But haste below stairs, for here comes my lady and company.
(Enter ELIZABETH, CHARLES, WILLIAM and EARL SIDNEY).
WILLIAM. It is a pleasure, my niece, to be again in Westminster.
ELIZABETH. And you are right welcome, Uncle, for you are indeed a stranger. My husband and I did grieve much to hear of the charges brought against you concerning your relations with certain Jesuit parties, but we hope all discordant feelings have now ceased.
WILLIAM. I think, dear lady, I may say that I am received at Court with the courtesy of hitherto, but the time has not been wasted, for since I was not called upon to serve His Majesty, I did take the opportunity of transacting my private business … this did lead me to Venice, where I have spent several months.
CHARLES. Venice . . then you will be finding the pavements of Westminster unromantic treading . . . but I am forgetful of my task as master of the ceremonies, for we have entertainment for you, Uncle. It happened thus. When my brother was made Earl we did spend some time enquiring into the records of Godolphin history, and we did find accounts of several quaint customs concerning the tenure of the Godolphin lands, which it would seem we do hold from the St. Aubyns of the Manor of Lambourne in Peran. From these accounts I did form a scene that the children might play to you . ’tis no masterpiece, but the incidents are amusing, and I would ask you to applaud the actors, who have been at much pains with their parts. . . .
SIDNEY. And are now all impatience to begin if I mistake not. . . Ah, here comes our brave ancestor Godolphin and his friend St. Aubyn, I think me.
WILLIAM (child). I am old Sir Francis Godolphin.
FRANCES. And I am his friend, St. Aubyn.
BOTH. And this is the Tavern of the Coach and Horses.
(They go to their places. St. A. sits at the table and GODOLPHIN makes an entrance from left.)
- AUBYN. Well met, friend ! Hast heard of my new sport ? Not content with racing stables I must needs have racing tables ! Ha, ha. Look at her, a snail mark you, but I warrant the best racer of her kind upon a polished surface. Now, Sir Francis, I’ll lay two crowns that she will beat whatsoever a one thou likest to set against her.
GODOLPHIN. By my troth, art in earnest? There’s no man yet that has not rued the day he challenged a Godolphin. SIDNEY. Bravo, well said.
GODOLPHIN. And thou shalt not be the exception. Come now, I’ll have snails brought. Ho, John, bring me a dozen snails from yonder wall. . . . So thou wilt stake two crowns, by gad, I’ll stake my new brown mare. . . . Art willing?
- AUBYN. Willing! And to prove it I’ll stake all the horses in my stable, aye, and the cattle in my pastures too. Here is thy messenger ; now I prithee select one from that bunch, nay, two or three if it pleases thee, for I am confident thou canst not beat my Camilla.
GODOLPHIN. I have found one, and my beauty, I have found a verse to serve as thy welcome. Methinks ’tis a good omen, for assuredly I did never touch poetic heights before. . . . List to this, friend ” Francis Godolphin’s horses never fail On any racecourse, wherefore should his snail?” How’s that? And as to wagers, now my blood is up, I’ll stake my lands, my whole estates, my all . . . canst answer in that tone?
- AUBYN. Done by my faith ; the lands of Godolphin against those of Peran. Now to the sport.
(The snails are put on the table. . . . FRANCIS’ goes slowly he pricks it, it stops altogether.)
GODOLPHIN. Lost, and fairly lost. . . . my lands are yours, friend.
- AUBYN. Nay, I will not take them. . . . I will “but hold them as I did claim them, in jest. Thou shalt continue in possession of thy lands as my tenant, and we will devise a manner of collecting the rents worthy of the way in which I won thy property . . and by so doing we shall be known to posterity, for I doubt if our doings will feature in the country’s records otherwise.
GODOLPHIN. Thou art a generous gambler …’tis my idea of a perfect gentleman. . . .
SIDNEY. Hear, hear . . . ’tis indeed so. I would sooner thou wert in earnest, for it does hurt a Godolphin’s pride . . . but be it as thou sayest.
- AUBYN. Then we must devise some custom . . . . Ah, I have it. I will send a reeve to collect thy rents, and thy servants must give him the sum of 2s. 8d.! If ’tis not too large ! and must provide him with a quart of strong beer, a loaf of bread worth sixpence, and a cheese of like value. …
GODOLPHIN. Most excellent, and for such a memorable rent, his manner of calling must be equally remarkable. … What say you to this? . . . Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, I am the reeve of the Manor of Lambourne in Peran and am come to collect the rent, duties and customs due to the lords of the manor from the lands of Godolphin.
(He acts the procedure, jumping on the table and dancing about.)
Dost accept this?
- AUBYN. Excellent, and thou dost enact it well. . . . Now I will pledge thee, my new tenant, in a draught of ale, and I will cap thy rhyme with another ” Alas, despite Godolphin’s boast, his was the vanquished snail, For which he had to lose his lands, but gained a pint of ale.”
BOTH. And here ends our scene.
WILLIAM. And a delightful entertainment, my dears. You have given me much pleasure. Come hither, little man. Will our brave ancestor accept this as compensation for his lands, and the lucky gambler this in addition to her-no, I must say his-gains.
(Gives money and the children go off.)
‘Twas indeed well done. Methinks the last time I did see a Godolphin play a part was when your dear wife Margaret, Sir Sidney, did take the part of Diana, Goddess of Chastity, in Crowne’s play Calisto. It was said that she performed the chief part to admiration .., and indeed ’twas the same with all her achievements.
CHARLES. When she died we lost a great and dear friend, and there are many who still mourn for her outside our own circle. John Evelyn, one of our best acquaintances, confesses that he has never been in the same spirits since her death.
WILLIAM. I believe it, for there has been nothing but good spoken of her gentle spirit . . . but, Nephew Charles, by this entertainment you have solved a problem which has long perplexed me. I had desired after my death to endow some charity with the ducats I have now invested in Venice, but the manner of their investiture in England had much troubled me, for I desire some reliable source of income to give adequate support to my chosen charity. Now does it not strike you that the rents of some estates . . . held in the normal way, I grant you, would prove such a means as I desire?
CHARLES. It would seem to me to be both sound and profitable … what say you, Sir Sidney?
SIDNEY. In faith I know not, but it would seem to me an uncommon pity that so much money should become inactive . . . now I could give you reliable information concerning the spring races, Uncle, were you so minded to invest your capital.
WILLIAM. No, no, nephew, I am an old man now, and I would wish some good to live after me. Age has not robbed me of that ship, Desire, but he has commandeered my crew of energies with which I might have sailed her . . . so it must be to you Charles, and to you, my niece, that I will entrust these 8000 ducats, in the confidence that you will not disappoint me in their employment for some good cause.
CHARLES. I will readily undertake such a task.
WILLIAM. And what says my niece?
ELIZABETH. A task so imposed, Uncle, comes in itself as a welcome duty . . . but I see in this an opportunity . . . a light . . . O Uncle, I have a great and earnest desire, and it would seem as if the dawn of its advancement had broken at last . . . it is . . . O how can I tell it that you may see it as I do . . . it is a longing that women should receive a higher and more comprehensive education, that their minds may be trained and enlarged to fit them for great work. . . . I have spoken of it much with Charles: from him I have encouragement, but I must confess that among our friends I have met with strange opposition . . . now at last it would seem as if the chance had come. for with this money could we not endow some school . . . no matter how small, for I have faith in the hidden strength of my plan, in its ability to develop to its full greatness in time.
WILLIAM. What full greatness, my niece?
ELIZABETH. The ideal that I foresee, Uncle, is a world in which women have equal chances for study and development as men.
WILLIAM. My niece, you were ever a woman of wit and ingenuity, and there is little I admire more than a great vision and great determination . . . I for one am afraid that such an ideal is not possible… yet I willingly give my consent, for ’twill be no easy matter, and if you are able to endow such a school in the face of the opposition you receive, you will have laid the concrete foundations of your plan, you will have done much towards the fulfillment of your ideal.
ELIZABETH. 0, Uncle, how can I ever thank you. …
WILLIAM. Nay, do not thank me . . for I have entrusted you with a task . . . and ’tis no easy one, for in these days foreign transactions and negotiations are no simple matter, and the money must not be decreased by careless handling. To you, Charles, I will send the needful details of the business. But now, since my horses have not the patience of my gondola, I must reluctantly take my leave.
SCENE II – Chapter House in Salisbury Cathedral, 1721.
DEAN. Our sincere welcome to you, Madam. This Chapter of Sarum meets you prepared to fulfill the duty entrusted to it by your late husband, namely, that of becoming your agents in the furthering of some charitable scheme.
- CLARK. To be more exact, Madam, we are prepared to undertake the task of recalling the money, left to you by your Uncle, from Venice ; and to obtain land for you in or near this city. The money obtainable from the rents will enable you to carry out your benevolent scheme ; we now only await your guidance.
- EDWARDS. We may liken you to the architect, Madam, for we have but to see your plans to become masons in the erection of your charitable edifice . . . for my part I am anxious to know in what style I am to build. . . . I have heard you have your project much at heart.
ELIZABETH. I must express my thanks, gentlemen, for so much good will and so kind a welcome . . . it is as you say, I have this project much at heart ; it was often discussed by my late husband and myself ; indeed, we would speak of it as the child of our fancies … but I would ask your serious attention, gentlemen.
DEAN. Any desire of yours, Madam, merits our attention, but we have now a redoubled interest in it, since you speak of it thus.
ELIZABETH. I will explain then, gentlemen: I would wish this money to be employed for the education of eight young gentlewomen, whose circumstances deserve charitable aid; this education is to fit them for a wider intellectual life, to enable them to seek interests in the realms of literature and art, to give them the power to break from the bonds which their household cares have cast round them, and enjoy a deeper and fuller knowledge of the world they live in.
CHAP 1. The education of young ladies, Madam! …
- CLARK. The enlargement of a young gentlewoman’s mind … can this be charity? . . .
CHAP. 2. I cannot conceive how this in any way benefits humanity. . . .
ELIZABETH. As I was saying, this is our idea for the actual employment of my Uncle’s bequest . . . but it is done, that there may some day come a time when women, trained by sound scholarship, and complete with the equipment of knowledge, may take their place with men, helping in the advancement of the world. A time when woman’s perception and intuition may be given full play in the world of literature, when her sympathy and understanding may come into its own in such work as the physician’s . . . when her ideas, the result of her studies, may be seen in scientific research . . . when, in fact, her personality may be felt and needed in the government of England itself. This is our Ideal.
- CLARK. Madam, Madam, this is mere foolery and dreaming. Such an idea as the befriending of orphan girls, modified and with the view to instructing them in household management . . . might indeed come under the title of charity . . . but such flights of the imagination . . . such ideals !
ELIZABETH. So, Dr. Clark, in your philosophy one may have ideas, but not ideals ; then one must ever be content with the present and the concrete . . . you are then quite content with our present state ? It has never occurred to you that the children of a well-read and cultivated woman would play a better part as men and women of their own generation Y
- CLARK. Dear Madam, it is useless to speak so . . . for the whole subject is absurd, a dream that can never be realised.
CHAP. 1. And as practical men, Madam, we could never allow you to embark on such an unnatural course.
ELIZABETH. There is certainly safety in the beaten track for all who are afraid, Sir.
DEAN. I think perhaps it is my duty, Madam, to put the matter somewhat crudely to you, and to show you why it is that we as a body are so opposed to such an undertaking. I feel I am right in asserting, I own to no technical knowledge, that a woman’s brain is constructed quite differently from that of a man’s . . . and consequently the reading of books other than are necessary for devotion or household affairs are recognised to impose too much upon her. I do not imply that a woman may not be cultivated ; you, Madam, would make such a judgment impossible.., but her reading should be chosen for her by the strong brain of her husband, and she should not commence acquiring knowledge till she has reached an age when there is less danger of the unbalancing of her mental equilibrium. Thus your ideal is absurd in this sense, Madam: it is a physical impossibility, which by the laws of nature we can never see realised.
ELIZABETH. As you say, it is a dream that we can never see realised. 0, do you think such happiness could come to one human soul, to see such a dream, and its realisation? No, no. Those who can never have my supreme happiness will see the fulfillment . . . in compensation as it were.
Then let me tell you, I may dream, but I am no idle dreamer, and as there is not one amongst you who has the inclination, or shall I say the courage, to follow me . . . I shall take this matter to court, where I shall obtain the sanction to act alone, without your valuable aid. With this assurance and the help of braver spirits, or if needs be alone, I will launch out into these unknown seas.
- EDWARDS. Stay, Madam, I fear the manners of Samuel Edwards have been asleep this half hour . . . my aspirations may not be able to follow you to these heights, but I can fulfill a promise, and carry out a trust imposed upon me. . . . It is our duty, friends, to stand by our pledge . . . I for one, Madam, will give you my aid in the transactions necessary, and my support in your forthcoming enterprise.
DEAN. It is quite impossible for this Chapter to enter into connection with an idea so completely at variance with all the laws of common sense and all good breeding. It is our duty, Madam, to refuse this imposed responsibility, to warn you against such behaviour, which is neither modest nor considerate to your Uncle’s memory, and above all, let me beg you to forego all such absurdities as legal proceedings.
ELIZABETH. My mind is made up, Sir, and such words as these cannot deter me. Since I may not thank you for your help, gentlemen, let me thank you for your opposition. Methinks it is a case of the old saying, ” The sticks that would beat out the fire, themselves provide fresh fuel ” . . . for I am now even more convinced of the need of advancement. I bid you good day, gentlemen . . . forgive me for this final violation of all common sense dictates . . . but I feel that your conduct will prove a source of amusement, and be just a trifle detrimental to your memory, in shall we say, two hundred years . . . for the world will advance, despite the most precautionary efforts . . . it is farewell then till we meet in court. Come, my supporter. Good day to you all, Sirs.
SCENE III. Same as Scene I.
24th June 1726.
ELIZABETH. My friends, I called you here that you might learn
From me the work I trust unto your care.
Friends in the truest sense you are, for few
Would follow, as you have, reflected light.
For me the lamp of this ideal shone
In darkest times, hope and encouragement …
It was not so for you, and well I know
The zeal of others is a painted light
With no compelling brilliance. … But to this
Our present business. … Here you see my Will
Which you must sign and duly see enforced.
You will remember when the Court gave leave
Some five years hence, that I might act alone,
Since Dean and Chapter had refused their aid I did recall the money from abroad.
- EDWARDS. I do remember, Madam, and alack,
Despite the care we showed in changing it,
War had decreased the value of the shares,
And tho’ you added Reyzonica’s debt,
And all your money in the Oglio,
‘Twas but one half of what you should have owned,
You did obtain less than £4000.
This sum you then invested in my name
In England . . . but it was too small a sum
To purchase lands the rent of which would yield
The money needful to pursue your aims. . .
ELIZABETH. These are the facts; now I have made my Will
By which I add the money requisite.
This is the deed I ask you now to sign.
In it I make you my executors
And workers still when I am called away.
You, Samuel Edwards, to you and to your heirs
Will fall the task of keeping these estates
Which we shall purchase . . . and you must appoint
Some bailiff to collect the rents and care
For all the business that shall come from this.
To you, my nephew, I entrust the School
Once ’tis established . . . I would ask you find
Some man sincere and wise, the Chancellor
Or Mayor of the city. . . . He must pay
A monthly visit to the School and mark
The teacher’s fitness to fulfill her task,
To wit, that her desires are one with mine,
That she is ever loyal to, and loves
The Church of this our land, that all her life
Shows the serenity that faith can give
And the great trust imposed by such a creed.
Then will her scholars find that greatest truth
And likewise spend their lives expressing it.
Then must he mark the scholars’ happiness,
Their learning and devotion and their health.
Till from the seed you foster with such care
Will grow the tree to bear as fruit, my dreams.
O friends, I have had dreams, their wonders pass
Beyond all I could hope, all I could tell.
Women by education had become
Man’s active partner for a world-wide good;
Women who wrote and studied, shared with men
The thrills of knowledge and the joys of Art,
Who gave their lives to serve in the great cause,
Equipped and ready with a mind well trained
By scholarship, with the great zest for truth;
Who still remained in constancy and faith
While the advancement of the age gave scope
To the expression of their aims in deeds.
O friends, do you accept your share in this?
Can you accept this task that I impose ?
- EDWARDS. I pledge my word. I cannot claim the heights,
Imagination’s heights, as you can, Madam, But I can follow up the path you choose, However rough the track.
WILLIAM. With willing heart I will do all that lies within my power.
FRANCES HALL. And I as joyfully my promise give.
ELIZABETH. Then in the name of God, Amen, is made And signed this deed, my Will and Testament. I have not long to live, but with your aid I trust my works will follow after me.
(SAMUEL EDWARDS leads ELIZABETH OUT)
FRANCES HALL. That she may rest enshrined within the heart
Of all she strove for, I would fain erect A tablet on the Abbey’s cloister wall. By it the generations after us
Shall know the nobleness of all her work,
By it the generations after us
Shall see the work she trusts to them to do.
I would use words as these, “her qualities
Of such rare ingenuity and wit,
Sincere love of her friends and constancy
In all religious worship, cannot fade
From memory, nor ever be forgot.”
Then I would name the School that she endowed …
And in some future years, perchance will come
The members of that School to honour her,
To show their constancy to her ideals,
To show their service, and perpetuate The memory of one so true as she.
WILLIAM. I am agreed. And may their loyalty In years to come, cement this stone we raise. Then shall her spirit grow with their increase, And she as surely shall work on in them As she must live, when one with England’s heart She will become a pulsing, throbbing beat, Making the spirit’s life. And thus shall Death Open for her a vista of the truth We could not see on earth . . . thus will she live Creating spirit nothing can destroy.
SCENE I – Godolphin School, 1785.
MAYOR. I have here, Madam, the report which I have made at Mr. Godolphin’s request of the learning and progress, health and happiness of your scholars . . . it was also his suggestion that I should read this same report to you and your pupils, pose sundry questions orally, and declare the inspection over. The report reads thus: On New Year’s Day, in the year 1784, I, Mayor of Salisbury, did pay my appointed visit to the School for young gentlewomen founded by Elizabeth and now under the care of William Godolphin. I did find eight scholars in good health and contentment; I did inspect samples of their work, such as Writing, French, Geography and Natural History; I did also see a patch work quilt, the likes of which I did never before behold, made by these same scholars. Of their conduct, devotion and personal demeanour their instructress speaks well. It is with great pleasure that I make this report.
Miss G. It is indeed kind of you, Mr. Mayor, to take such an interest in our work. I can assure you that all my energies and powers will be directed as Mr. Godolphin wishes. Young ladies, signify your gratitude in the usual way. (They all curtsey.) You would now wish to question them orally.
MAYOR. A mere matter of ceremony, Madam. … Young ladies, you have been studying the meaning of words… with the view of enlarging your vocabularies, I take it… I have here the book, now let me see, define for me the word ” abstain,” my dear.
NUMBER 1. Not to do anything that one is inclined to do, Sir.
MAYOR. Very apt; now here is another, the word “sticky.”
NUMBER 2. That which will not fall easily from the hands when one attempts to let it go.
MAYOR. Excellent; now for the last, the word, “clean,” my dear.
NUMBER 3. That which is not dusty, sticky, stained or greasy, what has not, or does not look as if it had, a disagreeable smell.
MAYOR. Quite correct; the exact definition that I find here. The answers have been most accurate and commendable. Now for Geography. . . . Let me see, Berlin is on the river Seine, is it not, and Paris . . .
NUMBER 4. Pardon me, Sir, Paris is on the river Seine, Berlin is on the river Spree.
MAYOR. Quite, quite, most creditable; now in the study of Natural History, what is that tree we see from the window… can you acquaint me with any of its properties?
NUMBER 5. It is a Hazel tree, Sir, the nuts have an agreeable taste to most palates.
NUMBER 6. Jays, Nutcatchers, Mice and Squirrels have likewise a passion for them.
NUMBER 7. There are instances of these nuts having been used for bread… an oil is also extracted from them… the Utility of trees alone clearly proves to us the bounty of Providence.
NUMBER 8. However, we may be thankful that England yields a substance for bread so much superior to this tree-bread, to which the miserable inhabitants of Kamschatka are often reduced.
MAYOR. This extremely adequate knowledge overpowers me… each young lady has shown a complete mastery of the tome she has been studying; I am more than astonished at the intelligence and memory of such tender creatures. There is one more question, which I shall give you all the opportunity of answering… tell me the names of three important people living to-day.
ALL. Mr. Burke, Mr. Pitt and you, Sir.
MAYOR. I thank you, my dear. Altogether a most creditable performance; quite a pleasure to find such intelligent scholars and so ardent a teacher. Other duties call, Madam, or I should be pleased to see more and stay longer. Good-bye, my dears, work diligently till I return.
ALL. We will, Sir (curtsey).
SCENE II-Godolphin School, 1830.
DANCING MASTER. You are not trying, young ladies, I have no further patience with you. We have now repeated this step five times in succession, and while Miss A. smirks at Miss B., Miss C. fiddles with her ribbons, and Miss D. watches some imaginary scene on the lawn. It is an outrage. The class is dismissed for the day.
(He goes out right. They run off left, laughing.)
NUMBER 1. Did you observe that closely. Can you repeat it ?
NUMBER 2. I trust so. But does it not grieve you that our playmates, in circumstances so preferable to our own, should, like the idle drone, squander the precious moments when they might be gathering the honey of instruction ?
NUMBER 3. It pains me to the heart. Miss Prudence, for example, is so gifted in all the arts, did she but apply herself. Miss Emly did say that her besetting sin of vanity was stamped upon her countenance, and certainly the master did upbraid her for paying attention to her ribbons and not to the pavane.
NUMBER 4. It is indeed distressing; but quickly to our places, lest we also waste precious time in words and not deeds.
(They dance the pavane beautifully.)
(Enter DANCING MASTER, who watches the performance.)
DANCING MASTER. Bravo, bravo, young ladies. You have shown talent and concentration at last. You have mastered that step to perfection. Why, these are not my pupils ! Who is your master, my dears ; assuredly he is of my School, for that pavane was in my style exactly. It was delightful, quite delightful.
NUMBER 1. Sir, in waiting here for our class we did observe the lesson you gave, and as we are exceeding fond of the pavane, we did grieve that so much excellent tuition should be wasted, and we did take the liberty to…
NUMBER 6. We hope you are not angered, Sir, but we have no opportunity save this.
DANCING MASTER. I appreciate your talent, my dears, such application shall not pass unrewarded; in future I shall be pleased to give you instruction myself. No, no gratitude is necessary; that will be shown in your dancing. Once more those steps of the pavane… ah, excellent, excellent.
SCENE III– Godolphin School, 1854.
CASSANDRA. Are you not filled with apprehension for this morning’s lesson, my dear Jane? The Dissertation upon Attention was to have been learnt by us all . . . but do you not remember we agreed that owing to its extreme tediousness, and the fact that it was Ann’s turn to recite, we should not . . that is . . . at any rate Ann is not here, and Miss Polhill comes this minute.
JANE. It is more than distressing ; I have not even learnt the theme of the discourse. Alas ! here is Miss Polhill, and Ann has not yet appeared.
MISS POL. Good morning, young ladies, you are doubtless refreshed by your slumbers, and anxious to commence your studies. I will read the register without delay.
Jane de Mont present.
Cassandra Cornwallis „
Sarah Montague „
Millicent Dashwood „
Mary Molyneux „
Ann Gilbert „
And where is Ann? Must I again give her a detention mark?
MARY. She is a little indisposed this morning, Ma’am . . . she …she…
(Enter ANN in tears.)
ANN. O! O! O! he is dead .., and I did love him so.
Miss POL. My child, what has happened? . . . you have had ill news?
ANN. O! O! O! he was such a dear, and now he’s dead.
Miss POL. Who is dead, dear child?
ANN. Guy . . . Guy . . . oh ! it can never be the same again.
Miss POL. Can any of you explain why she is so distressed?
SARAH. Guy is dead, Ma’am.
MISS POL. Yes, yes, child, but who is Guy?
SARAH. The heir, you know.
Miss POL. Millicent, can you give me an intelligent answer?
MILLICENT. It is Guy, the Heir of Redcliffe, Ma’am; we have read this wonderful tale for several months now, rising early before this class, but now that Guy is dead I do not think that we shall have the heart to continue.
Miss POL. No indeed, nor the occasion either; in future, young ladies, no one will rise before the repetition hour, and I myself shall first sanction all literature you desire to read. Yon are a ridiculously over-sensitive child, Ann Gilbert; now let me have no more of this nonsense. I see here that it is your turn to repeat the Dissertation on Attention; begin please.
ANN. “Attention being an operation of the mind implies it must be fixed on some one object.” … Oh! Ma’am, I can only fix my attention on Guy; he was so kind, so good.
Miss POL. Ann, remember where you are and overcome this distressing weakness at once.
ANN. ” . . some one object or subject, so as to acquire a distinct idea of it. The neglect of proper attention in early life …”
Miss POL. Mark this well, young ladies. ..
ANN. “Attaches the word frivolous to a character when riper years have matured it into womanhood, and what can appear more ridiculous than a trifling female, for
‘A trifling character at best
Is but a caterpillar dress’d.’
Miss POL. Repeat these lines, all of you.
ALL. “A trifling character at best
Is but a caterpillar dress’d.”
Miss POL. Do you understand the meaning!, of these words, young ladies ?
ANN. Not exactly, Ma’am, unless, it means that it, is like a butterfly.
Miss POL. That superficial apprehension, young ladies, is correct, but the deeper significance, I am afraid, has not, reached you. I am sorry that you have placed it in my power to say that you, Ann, and indeed all of you, are in danger of becoming lucre triflers. – “Mere caterpillars dressed,” as the poem says, since, instead of’ concentrating on your studies, you unfit yourselves for serious work by the reading of light literature. For to-morrow you will learn by heart live pages of this valuable Dissertation, but now since the bell has sounded you must go to your pastor for the study of the Catechism.
THE POET. Those who have honoured Wisdom, Courage, Arts, May see man’s soul as made of these three parts. “Wisdom ” that seeks for Knowledge and for Truth, “Courage” developed in the health of youth, For which the body’s strength is outward sign, And these the ” Harmony of Arts ” combine. Thus outwardly expressed the soul gives birth To its own property and inward worth, For nothing can amass intrinsic wealth That does not seek to give and spend itself. Our foundress so expressed her spirit’s store That we inherit freedom to explore The lands of Beauty and of Truth, to grow By grace of giving, and fulfillment know.
SCIENCES. “Come learn of me the way to know the world!”
HUMANITIES. Make as your friends the thoughts of all great men. Meet with the mind of vision, that through skies Of shadows and of doubts undaunted flies.
SCIENCES. Meet with the mind of science, that will toil Unceasing for sonic precious stone of fact.
HUMANITIES. Meet minds that leap in trust to lights afar.
SCIENCES. And those that follow, building to that star A pathway paved with proof for men to tread.
HUMANITIES. Only the false in this great world is dead. And it is yours to live in, grow in, take.
SCIENCES. And it is yours to live for, give for, make. Come learn of me the way to know the world!
DANCING. “Come learn of me the way to face the world! In health and vigour and vitality, With grace of body and with movements free As wind-whipp’d clouds across a boundless sea. With all the love of life and energy. To turn Defeat into a victory.”
GAMES. “With speed, enjoyment and that throbbing zest
That binds all players calling for their best.
And with these aids the body has to give
Lay hold on Courage, staff of all who live
The life undaunted … with it turn and beat
That dog Despair that follows on Defeat,
And on it Laughter’s flag may fly unfurl’d,
Thus if a loser still you face the world!”
MUSIC. Come learn of me the way to love the earth!
Appreciate, and you create
As surely as the source of beauty’s birth.
If you rejoice in the wind’s voice
Or love dark trees against a golden hue,
Or thrill at sight of sea gulls white
Across a sea of vivid blue.
ART. If you in any wise do feel your heart
Respond in joy to beauties of the earth,
These thoughts themselves new life do make in art,
They do enrich the springs that gave her birth.
And when in some eternity shall shine
Completed Beauty, in that perfect whole
Shall ever burn a unit . . . and ’tis thine,
This spark created in thy earthly soul.
THE POET. And thus the School’s development is shown,
Ideal’s seed to flower of fact is grown,
The seed is Charity; the growing plan
Opened in bud when the small School began
And flowers in us; in this symbolic way
We show the wider lives we live to-day.
We honour her who stayed not in the fear
” Idealism’s vain”; Now in its sphere
Her thoughts a galaxy stars do make,
Her actions comets through its stillness break.
You have been audience to these scenes, but all
Play in Life’s pageant, so to you I call:
Remember ’tis man’s mind that must unite
With that great spirit ere men see star-light.
These words are symbols, aye, and made of dreams,
But you may pass through moments when it seems
That the swift tide of time has no more will
But that of quickening life-that it may kill
Then see the universe from this symbolic view,
Think of this spirit and conceive of Time anew.
THE BICENTENARY PLAY
A PARENT’S APPRECIATION
On 13th November 1926 a performance of the Godolphin Bicentenary Play was given at the School for the special benefit of the parents, and as one of that privileged and enthusiastic company I have been asked to give my opinion of it. I am delighted to do so.
It will not be expected of me that I should outline the story of the play, with which readers of the Magazine must by, this time be familiar. Nor do I propose to emulate the reporter of amateur theatricals in a local newspaper, who contrives a separate eulogy for each member of the cast and has something left at the finish for the attendant who so “courteously” showed the audience to their seats. In the present case, luckily for us all, a cast of fifty makes that sort of criticism impossible.
The whole of this play is stated to be founded on fact, the first Act being, I suppose, even more “historical” than the second, in which mere incidents have been expanded, most amusingly and effectively, into scenes. But even in the more severely historical Act I. there was scope enough for the dramatist, and Miss Harrower has taken full advantage of it. Indeed, in one of the scenes this dramatist, I cannot help thinking, has played the historian almost off the stage. Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona; and there were ” bluestockings ” (in fact if not in name) even in Tudor times. Is it, then, possible that the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury can have regarded the proposal to educate eight young gentlewomen as of such sensational import? Is it not more probable that they refused the bequest because it was ” not their job? ” But this is captious criticism, and uninstructed criticism at that. In any case the Chapter House scene is so richly humorous, so dramatically “right,” that the history of it can be left to look after itself.
Before I leave Miss Harrower I must mention the Prologue and Epilogue with which she sought (and successfully) to give unity to what would otherwise have been a mere pageant or procession of scenes. Miss Harrower has both a sense of humour and the courage to be serious, a combination of qualities sufficiently rare to be worth recording.
And now, what of the players? Only this: that their individual appearances were, for the most part, too brief to enable one to recall more than a general impression which, in my case, was one of unqualified admiration. Possibly if I had witnessed the play half-a-dozen times I could have found faults here and there; possibly, and far more probably, my admiration would only have been increased.
It is the producer’s art to conceal his own art for the better glorification of the dramatist and actors. Miss de Castro achieved that object perfectly. It was only when the play was over that one realised what good work she must have put into it. (It was surely through no fault of hers that an unframed placard of the school rules was allowed to remain on the walls for sixty-nine years, defying the corroding effects of the weather and at least three changes of residence.)
For most of us parents the performance of the Bicentenary Play was more than an entertainment, it was an uplifting experience.
I am speaking, I am sure, for many more than myself when I say that in watching it we felt immensely proud to be connected with a school having such a history to record and such ability to record it.
- J. MILNE.