In the Red Drawing Room, June 14, 2013…… At ease, at home, all thoughts of you.

The Red Drawing Room

The Red Drawing Room

Author’s program note. When was the last time you ensconced yourself in a favorite space and wrote a letter with your own hand, from the heart to a friend long distant, unseen perhaps for years, but still fondly remembered, loved, a letter which confided all, withheld nothing, touched every emotion, and above all allowed the bliss of deep remembrance, all pretense gone, just you and your dear correspondent, a joyful connection so important to be renewed, too important to hurry.

I am writing such a letter here, now, each word to be savored, no word rushed, each one carefully selected to revive a precious friendship, so important, so cherished, a connection I cannot lose, lest I lose part of myself, for memories of you, of us, are the finest memories of all … and I want them, all of them for here is love, and love I must have, or be but a fraction of a man.

Thus I am spending this evening in a special place, with you, a special person, my friend, the only requirement is for sweet sincerity, for we have known each other too long and with such intimacy of expression and purpose to proffer anything else, and as our memories are vital, so must they be honest and true, as I pledge mine shall surely be.

The sound.

The music I have selected to caress us is graceful, elegant, written sharply at knife point by the most fastidious of masters, no superfluous note, annointed by the most discerning of monarchs to enhance his court, the grandest and most civilized on Earth.

It is Couperin, Francois Couperin, the Grand Couperin (1668-1733), composer, teacher, harpsichordist, court organist to Louis XIV with the precise title “ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du Roi”. Tonight he plays for us, “Les Barricades Myste’rieuses”, “Les Concerts Royaux,” “Le Parnasse, ou L’apothe’ose de Corelli.” Find them now in any search engine, close your eyes. We are together again, at last, just the two of us, the years erased, a memorable evening at hand, to the deep satisfaction of us both.

Pray, dear friend, walk in… for no one is more welcome here than you, and we have so much to recall…. and not an affecting moment to lose.

7:42 p.m. in the Red Drawing Room.

It is the hour when there is beauty within and beauty without. The rains have ceased, outside there is deep, lush, lavish green, splashed with dazzling sunlight, the more radiant because destined to be so soon gone. It is pastoral, bucolic, verdant to excess. The shutters are open, the barest breeze stirs the air. It is quite perfect… quiet, serene, the mood enhanced by the courtly rhythms of Couperin whose every well considered note improves even perfection.

This is the scene moving towards oblivion, soon to be a gracious memory. And then that sun is gone, the shutters closed, the night at hand, as we turn inward, to the Red Drawing Room and to each other, joyous, complete, where we most wish to be, together, in soul, in mind, in heart. And we are happy…. alone in  a world of our constructing and unfettered imagination.

“Too much with us ,late and soon.” (Wordsworth)

We like to think, may actually believe, and are quick to say that ours is the most anxious, harassed and pressured generation ever, as if that perverse distinction was a merit badge. Perhaps. However as I scrutinize the Red Drawing Room, first the pictures, then the signed photographs I must disagree with this characteristically egotistical assessment of my peers.

There are seven Old Masters in the Red Drawing Room, each featuring a single individual contorted by life and life’s exigencies. Behold the stately and elegant picture of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by L.F. Doell, a painter of Germanic precision whose meticulous exactitude deserves to be better known.

To look at this striking picture, with its confident look of condescension and unquestioned superiority you would suppose His Royal Highness (1784-1844) hadn’t a care in the world. But that would be a gross mistake for he had a lifetime of troubles, for all that he was reckoned the handsomest prince in Europe, his sole competitor his own brother, Leopold Georg Christian Frederick, later elected the first King of the Belgians (1831), a set of whose very chairs grace this room. Here is the most brief rendition of his persistent and recurring woes…

When he succeeded to his miniscule patrimony in 1806 it consisted of three even smaller duchies, even in good times by no means sufficient to meet the urgent requirements of fashionable royalty. But he succeeded in bad times, when his duchy was occupied by Napoleonic troops and was under French administration. It was not an auspicious start for the man who called himself Ernest III, for there is nothing quite as pathetic as a prince with neither a principality nor a penny.

But there were more ructions, disappointments, and even for this supremely arrogant and self-absorbed prince events that must have touched his soul, if he indeed had one. His 1817 marriage to Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was unhappy because of flagrant infidelities that broke the heart of his wronged lady whose untimely death at 30 was a tragedy for her children, a mortal sin for her errant and callous spouse.

Perhaps because he could not bear to see this very model of outraged virtue, he exiled her, removing her from his sight and causing his two sons, Ernest and Albert, to hate, loathe and despise him… which in no way prevented him from pestering Albert for money when he married his cousin who just happened to be the wealthiest woman in the world, and as Queen Victoria was sovereign of the greatest empire on which the sun never set. It was all most edifying, a clear moral tale, but it made for gloom and self-pity. Happiness was never a consideration.

But happiness, you see, must always be a consideration for us poor mortals and not just “a consideration” but “the consideration”, the sine qua non that turns mere existence into la dolce vita, the life worth living. And that is why M. le duc of Saxe-Coburg Gotha is here, on the wall in front of me.

It is because he discovered, perhaps too late for the actual man, that being master of three duchies and not just two is not good enough; that marrying the suitable princess to burnish his noble luster instead of loving the woman who loved him is not good enough… that sixteen quarters of noble heraldry instead of sixteen quarters of true affection is not good enough and can never be the basis for the substantial life, the life of joy and contentment, the life that goes beyond oneself, that takes the larger view.

Yet have too many of us and even I betimes have given up everything, yes unto and including our very soul, for the insubstantial evanescence of tawdry things which can never be enough, no matter how ardently desired and joyfully praised upon achievement and possession. There has to be more, must be more… and that is why Ernest of Saxe-Coburg Gotha in all his exuberant panache selected me to sustain and harbor him for my lifetime, because of course, each object in this and my every other room selected me, not as the uninitiated suppose, the reverse.

But, friend, I feel sure you are smiling now, and broadly too, at such a notion of fanciful conceit. I remember how once you told me that you believed in the verities of the material world, nothing more, a world where people purchase pictures, not vice versa.

That, of course, is why you need me and the wizardry and magic that permeates the Red Drawing Room, a place where visions are born and horizons broadened… just by stepping across the threshold where we shall find each other… and peace.

Author’s dedication. It is my pleasure to dedicate this work to my friend and colleague Lance Sumner and his two children Rochelle and Joshua upon the occasion of their first visit to the Red Drawing Room, June 21, 2013. May its undeniable magic and allure remain with all of you forever and a day, always a happy memory.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is the author of several print publications as well as ebooks and over one thousand online articlesDr. Lant is also an avid art collector.

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This author has published 72 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.

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