Edmund Blackadder, the Prince Regent’s butler, was refilling the oil lamps in the Prince’s chambers prior to sundown. The Prince Regent, with nothing else seemingly to do, watched the operation in fascination.
“I say, Blackadder. These new lamps take a lot of oil.”
“Yes, Sire. Four gallons to be precise. They say this new oil will burn brighter than the oil we used last week.”
“Brighter, perhaps, Blackadder. But will I be able to read by them?”
“It won’t matter in your case, Your Highness,” Blackadder said, a smirk coming to his lips. “The books these days have so many new words and phrases, it’s a wonder the tongue can keep up with them.”
“Quite right. I’ve tried reading some of these newfangled books, and I can’t make head or tail of them – let alone tongue.”
“That is precisely what these new books usually afford, Your Highness -- the lack of any common sense. Better that you should find something else to occupy your time.”
“What else is there, Blackadder? I’ve tried walking among the hedges, conversing with MPs, and taking a trip to Glastonbury. No, Blackadder. I want to get the head and tail. And tongue would be nice, too. Besides, books are all the rage, which is precisely why I can’t seem to get any, lately. All these new books carry are words, words, words. Whatever happened to the pictures? And whatever happened to those roaring tales of dragons and trolls and mermaids?” Prince George asked earnestly.
“These are troubled times, Your Highness. I’m afraid the dragons have all been slain, the troll bridges have all been burned,” Blackadder said as he moved from one lamp to another, and began refilling it, “and the mermaids have all been sent fully clothed to the nunnery at Yarmouth.”
The Prince flopped on his bed. “Nunnery is right. It’s as if I can’t have any fun,” the Prince said almost to himself. “Lord knows I say my prayers, do my chores, drink my tea, and straighten my wig. And I can’t even get a book with a decent picture of an aphrodisiac on horseback.”
“I think you mean Aphrodite, Your Highness.”
“Yes – both of them on horseback would make for a lovely picture of English Glory, and deliciously raunchy goodness.”
“Aphrodite is Greek, Sire.”
“Yes, well, it’s all Greek if you want it to be Greek,” the Prince said. “By the way, what is Greek, Blackadder?"
“Someone living in Greece, Your Highness.”
“Even better! Two saucy women covered in grease."
Blackadder hoped to change the subject as the last drop of oil was replaced. “There, Your Highness. Your lamps will burn more brightly than ever. Would you like me to light them now? It is getting toward sunset.”
“Thank you, Blackadder,” Prince George said. “But I won’t be using the lamps just yet. I’ve decided to wait until later and light them myself.”
“But, Sire. The room will be in total blackness by that time. Surely you will need to see to light the lamp yourself.”
“Quite right, as usual,” the Prince said. “Which is why I will need you to bring me at least a hundred… no, two hundred candles from the cellars.”
“Two hundred candles?” Blackadder was puzzled. “I’ve just poured out four gallons of the finest lamp oils in Britain to light your room.”
“Two hundred candles, Blackadder.”
“Sire, if I bring 200 candles to your chambers, we may as well invite the Brothers of Mercy to hold services, with your bed as the chancel.”
“So long as they leave by midnight. Father says I shouldn’t burn the oil until midnight.”
“I think the phrase is ‘Not burning the midnight oil,’ Your Highness. It means you shouldn’t stay up until all hours.”
“Well, I don’t stay up until all hours. Only the majority of them.”
“And this is precisely why we should light the lamps now, Your Highness,” Blackadder prompted. “The candles can wait.”
“Quite right as usual, Blackadder,” the Prince said with a flourish. “Light them all. Then, bring me a good book – one with pictures.”