"My Last Duchess", My Weekly |
Love, says Duke Alfonso to his duchess Barbara of Austria in The Second Duchess, is a chimera of poets and adulteresses.
And in a new short story called “The Chimera Jewel,” which I’ve written exclusively for My Weekly magazine, Alfonso presents Barbara with a particularly meaningful gift:
In the box there was a jewel, encircled with diamonds and sapphires, depicting a graceful but clearly mythological beast fashioned in gold and embellished with more precious stones. It had the forequarters of a lioness, the head of a horned goat rearing from its back, and a snake for a tail.
“A chimera,” I said. A mythological beast, yes, but also a symbol of something that could exist only in the imagination….
It was a wonderful experience to enter the world of sixteenth-century Ferrara again, the color and excitement of the Berlingaccio revels, and the endlessly fascinating relationship between Duke Alfonso and Duchess Barbara. So mannered and cool on the surface, yet burning with fire and ice underneath. The chimera jewel is Alfonso’s way of saying “I love you” to his second duchess—something he would never “stoop” (as dear Mr. Browning puts it) to say in so many words.
What does Barbara do with the jewel?
Well, that’s the story.
Buy this week’s copy of My Weekly and read “The Chimera Jewel” for yourself. You’ll also be offered a chance to win the UK mass-market paperback edition of The Second Duchess.
Not in the UK? Well, My Weekly is generous with allowing the rights to the story to eventually revert to me. Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter, and one day soon I’ll send out a link to “The Chimera Jewel” online!
"My Last Duchess", Historical Novel Society, The Second Duchess |
You may find yourself seeing strange things from time to time here on my website and blog. We’re working on a lovely new theme but it will be a few days before it’s ready to go public. Stay tuned…
"My Last Duchess", Puzzles, Silence |
I love double-crostic puzzles. All-Star Puzzles has wonderful interactive crostics twice a week, and the other day [Spoiler!] the quote turned out to be:
Accustomed to the veneer of noise, to the shibboleths of promotion, public relations, and market research, society is suspicious of those who value silence. —John Lahr
Silence, blessed silence! I’m deep in edits of The Second Duchess and I am indeed valuing silence and solitude. I know some people write to music, but I’m not even comfortable with that. Just sweet, sweet silence…
"My Last Duchess", Robert Browning, The BBC |
The BBC Radio 4 Adventures in Poetry program on “My Last Duchess” is now available online! It’s a fabulous in-depth look at the poem, at the history behind the story, and at dear Mr. Browning. Take a little break from your holiday shopping and listen—the link is here:
BBC Radio 4 Adventures in Poetry “My Last Duchess”
My little segment is about twenty minutes in, and I do have to admit it’s a bit of a shock to suddenly hear my own very Texan-sounding voice after twenty minutes of British voices. But it’s a huge honor to be included, and I’m very excited and pleased.
"My Last Duchess", Diana Fox, NAL, Rowohlt |
The central character of The Second Duchess is Barbara of Austria, a Habsburg archduchess, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I and his wife Anna Jagellonica, princess of Bohemia and Hungary. So you can imagine my delight to learn that German rights to The Second Duchess have been sold to Rowohlt. Ich bin sehr aufgeregt und glücklich! (German translation courtesy of my sister’s co-worker Kerry.) And of course as always, compliments to my stellar agent Diana Fox, and also to Betty Anne Crawford of Books Crossing Borders.
In the US, The Second Duchess is scheduled for February 2011 from Penguin/NAL.
I would love to visit Germany one day. The roots of my father’s family are deep in Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria, and one line of my mother’s family comes from villages in the Kassel district of Hesse. How wonderful it would be to visit some of the towns and places that up to this point have been just faint, smudged names on old documents.
Some day. Some day.
"My Last Duchess", Robert Browning, The Second Duchess |
I had the most delightful experience this morning—I was interviewed by Mark Smalley of the BBC for a program in the “Adventures in Poetry” series, focusing on my beloved “My Last Duchess.” My first interview! The Second Duchess isn’t scheduled until February 2011, but even so, it’s a great honor and a keen pleasure to be included (among many others, of course) in this program. I talked about my interpretations of the poem and how they drove my writing of the book, how Browning and I had fictionalized the same material but from different points of view, and how the reality of the historical personages behind the poem affected one’s reading of the poem and my writing of the book. I enjoyed myself tremendously and can’t wait to find out which snippets are chosen to actually be part of the program.
“Adventures in Poetry: ‘My Last Duchess’” is presently scheduled for Sunday, December 6th, on BBC Radio 4, with a repeat on Saturday, December 12th. After that it will be available online via iPlayer for a couple of weeks. Watch this space for further links!