Julia Caesar

Marilyn Butler

  • The Prince and the Wild Geese by Brigid Brophy
    Hamish Hamilton, 62 pp, £5.95, February 1983, ISBN 0 241 10894 2

The Prince and the Wild Geese is a story of 1832 told in words and pictures, the words almost all Brigid Brophy’s, the pictures by Prince Grégoire Gagarin, artist son of the Russian ambassador in Rome after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Graceful and witty, Gagarin’s drawings portray his social world much as Pope in ‘The Rape of the Lock’ portrayed his, in a spirit of satire touched with complicity. Gagarin’s Rome, like Pope’s London, emerges the more definitively from seeming, at the outset, only the backdrop to a story of thwarted passion. The drawings illustrate a simple tale: how Gagarin is obsessed with an Irish girl, Julia Taaffe, how he meets her in Rome’s villas, squares and esplanades, and how in the end she refuses him. Since social convention bars him from speaking or writing seriously of his passion to the object of it, he translates himself, Julia and Rome into fantasy, a more eloquent medium than their polite foreigners’ French.

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