The end of a saloon in an old-fashioned country house (Florence
Towers, the property of Count O'Dowda) has been curtained off to form
a stage for a private theatrical performance. A footman in grandiose
Spanish livery enters before the curtain, on its O.P. side._
FOOTMAN. [announcing] Mr Cecil Savoyard. [Cecil Savoyard comes
in: a middle-aged man in evening dress and a fur-lined overcoat. He
is surprised to find nobody to receive him. So is the Footman]. Oh,
beg pardon, sir: I thought the Count was here. He was when I took up
your name. He must have gone through the stage into the library.
This way, sir. [He moves towards the division in the middle of the
SAVOYARD. Half a mo. [The Footman stops]. When does the play
begin? Half-past eight?
FOOTMAN. Nine, sir.
SAVOYARD. Oh, good. Well, will you telephone to my wife at the
George that it's not until nine?
FOOTMAN. Right, sir. Mrs Cecil Savoyard, sir?
SAVOYARD. No: Mrs William Tinkler. Dont forget.
THE FOOTMAN. Mrs Tinkler, sir. Right, sir. [The Count comes in
through the curtains]. Here is the Count, sir. [Announcing] Mr
Cecil Savoyard, sir. [He withdraws].
COUNT O'DOWDA. [A handsome man of fifty, dressed with studied
elegance a hundred years out of date, advancing cordially to shake
hands with his visitor] Pray excuse me, Mr Savoyard. I suddenly
recollected that all the bookcases in the library were locked--in fact
theyve never been opened since we came from Venice--and as our
literary guests will probably use the library a good deal, I just ran
in to unlock everything.
SAVOYARD. Oh, you mean the dramatic critics. M'yes. I suppose
theres a smoking room?
THE COUNT. My study is available. An old-fashioned house, you
understand. Wont you sit down, Mr Savoyard?
SAVOYARD. Thanks. [They sit. Savoyard, looking at his host's
obsolete costume, continues] I had no idea you were going to appear
in the piece yourself.
THE COUNT. I am not. I wear this costume because--well, perhaps I
had better explain the position, if it interests you.
THE COUNT. Well, you see, Mr Savoyard, I'm rather a stranger in your
world. I am not, I hope, a modern man in any sense of the word. I'm
not really an Englishman: my family is Irish: Ive lived all my life
in Italy--in Venice mostly--my very title is a foreign one: I am a
Count of the Holy Roman Empire.
SAVOYARD. Where's that?
THE COUNT. At present, nowhere, except as a memory and an ideal.
[Savoyard inclines his head respectfully to the ideal]. But I am by
no means an idealogue. I am not content with beautiful dreams: I
want beautiful realities.
SAVOYARD. Hear, hear! I'm all with you there--when you can get them.
THE COUNT. Why not get them? The difficulty is not that there are no
beautiful realities, Mr Savoyard: the difficulty is that so few of us
know them when we see them. We have inherited from the past a vast
treasure of beauty--of imperishable masterpieces of poetry, of
painting, of sculpture, of architecture, of music, of exquisite
fashions in dress, in furniture, in domestic decoration. We can
contemplate these treasures. We can reproduce many of them. We can
buy a few inimitable originals. We can shut out the nineteenth
SAVOYARD. [correcting him] The twentieth.
THE COUNT. To me the century I shut out will always be the nineteenth
century, just as your national anthem will always be God Save the
Queen, no matter how many kings may succeed. I found England befouled
with industrialism: well, I did what Byron did: I simply refused to
live in it. You remember Byron's words: "I am sure my bones would
not rest in an English grave, or my clay mix with the earth of that
country. I believe the thought would drive me mad on my deathbed
could I suppose that any of my friends would be base enough to convey
my carcase back to her soil. I would not even feed her worms if I
could help it."
SAVOYARD. Did Byron say that?
THE COUNT. He did, sir.
SAVOYARD. It dont sound like him. I saw a good deal of him at one
THE COUNT. You! But how is that possible? You are too young.
SAVOYARD. I was quite a lad, of course. But I had a job in the
original production of Our Boys.
THE COUNT. My dear sir, not that Byron. Lord Byron, the poet.
Bernard Shaw in Fanny's first play