Discovered in the papers of Andrew Mallet
Notes from my interview with Georgiana Hayden who, though she has hired me to tutor her, persists in being disagreeably autocratic about the work.
AM: What on earth made you think you could approach the authorities about access to the library at Magdalene College, that bastion of male superiority?
GH: How else am I to get the information I need for my work?
AM: You must have had a maggot in your brain if you thought Watterson would tutor you.
GH: I hoped interest in the work would draw him. He dismissed the women’s poems as “worthless, minor at best.”
Interviewer note: The daft woman walked right into humiliation. Alphaeus Watterson is a pompous old windbag treats the college as a private fiefdom and delights in cutting down students. He wouldn’t know good work if it bit him in the arse.
AM: How did you come to start this work that means so much to you?
GH: I found the poems of Nossis of Locri quite unexpectedly in the Anthologia Graeca.
AM: Did you actually own a copy of the Greek Anthology?
GH: Not then.
AM: Unusual reading for a woman. Some would call it peculiar. Your mother cannot have been pleased. I can’t believe she would have permitted you to own a book in Greek.
Interviewer’s note: Some would have perhaps, but not her dragon of a mother. I should know. I gave Georgiana her first Greek text when we were in our teens. She hid it behind the palms in her father’s conservatory.
GH: Of course not. She didn’t catch me reading it either.
AM: Where did you find it then?
GH: We were at the house party in the country house of a famous antiquarian. I spent my time in his library. The discovery rocked my world. The inclusion of poems by a woman shocked me. I thought that if she could write them, I could translate them. I never went back. Collecting and translating those poems gave shape to my life ever after.
AM: How many years ago was this?
GH: Six months and fourteen days after you left me waiting in my father’s drawing room for you to call.
Interviewers note: I will not discuss what happened eleven years ago. After fruitless attempts on her part to question me about it, we returned to the work.
AM: Where did you find the other poets?
GH: Here and there. Some simply quoted in books by men. Some in fragments in anthologies. They hide in plain site.
AM: Why is this work so important to you?
GH: I am enraged that they hide, that they aren’t studied as much as Pindar and the other men, that their voices are suppressed, that—
Interviewer’s note: She went on at length and became quite agitated. Georgiana in righteous rage is glorious to behold, but I digress.
AM: You know Greek. What do you want from me?
Interviewer’s note: The look of yearning on her face in response put us on dangerous ground. I rephrased my question.
AM: That is to say, what is it you want me to teach you, about Greek?
GH: It isn’t enough to uncover the literal meaning of words. To do more, I need to know about their world, their lives, and the things female education never teaches. I don’t want these poems to plod along. I want them to sing!
Interviewer’s note: There’s more to understanding love poetry than Greek culture. I fear we will discover how much together.
About Dangerous Works
Lady Georgiana Hayden has struggled for years to do scholarly work in the face of constant opposition and even outright derision from the scholarly community at Cambridge. Her family ignores her as long as she doesn’t draw attention to herself.
A little Greek is one thing; the art of love is another. Only one man ever tried to teach Georgiana both. She learned very young to keep her heart safe. She learned to keep loneliness at bay through work. If it takes a scandalous affair to teach her what she needs to complete her work, she will risk it. If the man in question chooses not to teach her, she will use any means at her disposal to change his mind. She is determined to give voice to the ancient women whose poetry has long been neglected.
Some scars cut deeper than others. Major Andrew Mallet returns to Cambridge a battle scarred hero. He dared to love Georgiana once and suffered swift retribution from her powerful family. The encounter cost him eleven years of his life. Determined to avoid her, he seeks work to heal his soul and make his scholar father proud. The work she offers risks his career, his peace of mind, and (worst of all) his heart.
Andrew and Georgiana battle their way through the work to a fragile partnership. Even poetry, with its musical lyrics and sensual traps, can be dangerous when you partner with the love of your life. In Regency Cambridge it can lead a lady quickly past improper to positively scandalous.
Georgiana attempted to make her work, as always, her sturdy bulwark against the blows of life. This time, the work only added to her emotional vortex. She read the epigrams with new eyes, and what she found there disturbed her. “Erotos” she knew meant love, certainly, and romantic love at that. How should I translate this line? she wondered.
“‘Nothing is sweeter than love.’”
“‘Nothing is sweeter than Eros.’” In English the meaning tilted slightly with the change of wording. The next phrase appeared to be about delight or pleasure.
“Definitely Eros,” she said to the empty room. Whatever it is, Nossis prefers it to honey. Yesterday, Georgiana wouldn’t have understood. Love has a taste; she knew that now. She recalled the feel of Andrew’s mouth on hers, and the taste when he opened and let her explore. The taste was sweeter than honey, indeed. She felt warmth rise again deep within her. Heat colored her neck and pooled deep in her belly.
The words of Nossis hadn’t changed since yesterday, but Georgiana had.
About the Author
Caroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, an Internet and Web services manager, a conference speaker, an indexer, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She has sailed through the English channel while it was still mined from WWII, stood on the walls of Troy, searched Scotland for the location of an entirely fictional castle (and found it), climbed the steps to the Parthenon, floated down the Thames from the Tower to Greenwich, shopped in the Ginza, lost herself in the Louvre, gone on a night safari at the Singapore zoo, walked in the Black Forest, and explored the underground cistern of Istanbul. By far the biggest adventure has been life-long marriage to a prince among men.
She sits in front of a keyboard at a desk surrounded by windows, looks out at the trees and imagines. Her greatest joy is when one of those imaginings comes to life on the page and in the imagination of her readers.