Arcadia

By Tom Stoppard; Published In 1993
Genres: Plays, Drama, Fiction, Classics, Historical, Theatre
Bernard: ... By the way, Valentina, do you want credit? - 'the game book recently discovered by.'?
Valentine: It was never lost, Bernard.
Bernard: 'As recently pointed out by.' I don't normally like giving credit where it's due, but with scholarly articles as with divorce, there is a certain cachet in citing a member of the aristocracy. I'll pop it in ad lib for the lecture, and give you a mention in the press release. How's that?
Valentine: Very kind.

Carnal embrace is sexual congress, which is the insertion of the male genital organ into the female genital organ for purposes of procreation and pleasure. Fermat’s last theorem, by contrast, asserts that when x, y and z are whole numbers each raised to power of n, the sum of the first two can never equal the third when n is greater than 2.

Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one's arms around a side of beef.

Chater: You dare to call me that. I demand satisfaction!

Septimus: Mrs Chater demanded satisfaction and now you are demanding satisfaction. I cannot spend my time day and night satisfying the demands of the Chater family.

Comparing what we're looking for misses the point. It's wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we're going out the way we came in. That's why you can't believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe in angels if you like, but not in the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views. If the answers are in the back of the book I can wait, but what a drag. Better to struggle on knowing that failure is final.

HANNAH: Don't let Bernard get to you. It's only performance art, you know. Rhetoric, they used to teach it in ancient times, like PT. It's not about being right, they had philosophy for that. Rhetoric was their chat show. Bernard's indignation is a sort of aerobics for when he gets on television.

HANNAH: ....English landscape was invented by gardeners imitating foreign painters who were evoking classical authors. The whole thing was brought home in the luggage from the Grand Tour. Here, look -- Capability Brown doing Claude, who was doing Virgil. Arcadia! And here, superimposed by Richard Noakes, untamed nature in the style of Salvator Rosa. It's the Gothic novel expressed in landscape. Everything but vampires.

He says his aim is poetry. One does not aim at poetry with pistols. At poets, perhaps.

If knowledge isn't self-knowledge it isn't doing much, mate. Is the universe expanding? Is it contracting? Is it standing on one leg and singing 'When Father Painted the Parlour'? Leave me out. I can expand my universe without you. 'She walks into beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, and all that's best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes.

It is a defect of God's humor that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them.

It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing.... A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It's the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.

It's the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.

It's the wanting to know that makes us matter.

LADY CROOM: ....My lake is drained to a ditch for no purpose I can understand, unless it be that snipe and curlew have deserted three counties so that they may be shot in our swamp. What you painted as forest is a mean plantation, your greenery is mud, your waterfall is wet mud, and your mount is an opencast mine for the mud that was lacking in the dell. (Pointing through the window) What is that cowshed?

NOAKES: The hermitage, my lady?

LADY CROOM: It is a cowshed.

NOAKES: It is, I assure you, a very habitable cottage, properly founded and drained, two rooms and a closet under a slate roof and a stone chimney --

LADY CROOM: And who is to live in it?

NOAKES: Why, the hermit.

LADY CROOM: Where is he?

NOAKES: Madam?

LADY CROOM: You surely do not supply an hermitage without a hermit?

NOAKES: Indeed, madam --

LADY CROOM: Come, come, Mr Noakes. If I am promised a fountain I expect it to come with water. What hermits do you have?

NOAKES: I have no hermits, my lady.

LADY CROOM: Not one? I am speechless.

NOAKES: I am sure a hermit can be found. One could advertise.

LADY CROOM: Advertise?

NOAKES: In the newspapers.

LADY CROOM: But surely a hermit who takes a newspaper is not a hermit in whom one can have complete confidence.

LADY CROOM: You have been reading too many novels by Mrs Radcliffe, that is my opinion. This is a garden for The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho --

CHATER: The Castle of Otranto, my lady, is by Horace Walpole.

NOAKES: (Thrilled) Mr Walpole the gardener?!

LADY CROOM: Mr Chater, you are a welcome guest at Sidley Park but while you are one, The Castle of Otranto was written by whomsoever I say it was, otherwise what is the point of being a guest or having one?

Seduced her? Every time I turned round she was up a library ladder. In the end I gave in. That reminds me—I spotted something between her legs that made me think of you.

SEPTIMUS: My lady, I was alone with my thoughts in the gazebo, when Mrs Chater ran me to ground, and I being in such a passion, in an agony of unrelieved desire --

LADY CROOM: Oh....!

SEPTIMUS: -- I thought in my madness that the Chater with her skirts over her head would give me the momentary illusion of the happiness to which I dared not put a face.

(Pause.)

LADY CROOM: I do not know when I have received a more unusual compliment, Mr Hodge. I hope I am more than a match for Mrs Chater with her head in a bucket. Does she wear drawers?

SEPTIMUS: She does.

LADY CROOM: Yes, I have heard that drawers are being worn now. It is unnatural for women to be got up like jockeys. I cannot approve.

Septimus. When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning, we will be all alone, on an empty shore.

Thomasina. Then we will dance. Is this a waltz?

The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives, the things people write poetry about—clouds—daffodils—waterfalls—what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in—these things are full of mystery, as mysterious to us as the heavens were to the Greeks.

The universe is deterministic all right, just like Newton said, I mean it's trying to be, but the only thing going wrong is people fancying people who aren't supposed to be in that part of the plan.

The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is.

THOMASINA:
But then the Egyptian noodle made carnal embrace with the enemy who burned the great library of Alexandria without so much as a fine for all that is overdue!

THOMASINA: ....the enemy who burned the great library of Alexandria without so much as a fine for all that is overdue. Oh, Septimus! -- can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides -- thousands of poems -- Aristotle's own library!....How can we sleep for grief?

SEPTIMUS: By counting our stock. Seven plays from Aeschylus, seven from Sophocles, nineteen from Euripides, my lady! You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?

VALENTINE: Are you talking about Lord Byron, the poet?

BERNARD: No, you fucking idiot, we're talking about Lord Byron, the chartered accountant.

We're better at predicting events at the edge of the galaxy or inside the nucleus of an atom than whether it'll rain on auntie's garden party three Sundays from now.

We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again.

We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?

What are a friend's books for if not to be borrowed?

When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning, we will be alone, on an empty shore.

When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backwards, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before. Do you think this is odd?