Opening of Bounty of a Stolen Empire
'Was she a real person?’
Was I a real person? I can scarcely believe my ears. The man standing six feet from me is one of the best-known historians in the country. He is an authority on the Regency and Victorian era and has never heard of me. Perhaps I should not be surprised. I must face reality. For all the world, the gaudy masterpiece fascinating the professor is the last remnant of my existence. Even if he does not know who I am, he surely knows that Sir Thomas Lawrence was the most acclaimed portrait painter of his day. Why would Sir Thomas waste his time painting a fictitious Countess of Blessington with half the nobility of the civilised world impatiently waiting for him to finish their portraits?
I am sitting on a four-sided divan, the centrepiece of the front state salon of Hertford House, home to the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. Manchester Square was once my home and I am thrilled to find so many of its magnificent Georgian facades meticulously preserved with the original features that were never there in my time. Urban grandeur possessed my mind like a narcotic drug. The abundance of the great city inspired my every word and deed and I do not complain that the architects of the present romanticise the past or that they lie, just as I lied.
Unlike so many of my late Georgian and early Victorian contemporaries, I was not oblivious to the simultaneous destruction of poverty and wealth. I debated its cause and effect with the most erudite and influential figures in the land; poets, politicians, peers and prime ministers: Peel, Wellington, Russell, Grey, Disraeli. I counselled the greatest writers of my time, of all time: Byron, Dickens, Landor, Bulwer-Lytton, Marryat, Thackeray. In France and Italy, I befriended royalty and the noblest of the noble. Did I influence them? I want to believe so. It is a vain belief but I see nothing wrong in vanity. I excel at vanity. Why should I not take credit for disdaining injustice and corruption while the self-styled quality gorged itself on the bounty of a stolen Empire?
No one was more cynical than me yet I could never exorcise my guilt. I was as culpable as those I castigated with my tongue while simultaneously permitting my pen to be a slave to inhibition. Convention distorted my writing like a government health warning: ‘plain speech causes death’. I was the best-read woman in the land and the highest-paid author—for a while—yet all I did was fill the hollow heads of my readers with worthless delights. What harm would down-to-earth reality have done them?
‘Wit is the lightning of the mind, reason the sunshine, and reflection the moonlight; for all as the bright orb of the night owes its lustre to the sun, so does reflection owe its existence to reason.’
The above writers have either been previous members of the Minutemen or Vibe groups, or are current members or honorary members of the Firebird Writers' Group. Note that all work, including drafts and outlines, is copyrighted.
Martin, though an honorary (and honourable) member of the Firebird Writers' Group, has modestly asked that no personal information or photograph appear on this website. Those familiar with literature should not consider this a drawback, as the inside-out of authors can be readily garnered from what they write—on and between the lines. How they look or what they say about themselves is just so much distraction from the truth. There is no hiding place for any of us.