Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 21, 2009 My Jane Austen Moment

                                                            The Geffrye Museum

I am such a nerd!  Here I am crying in public, again.  I almost didn't go to the British Library this morning.  I thought, "You've been to a million libraries.  How interesting could it be?"  I should have known better because I've had to eat my words so many times here!  I must admit, though, the outside of the library was not impressive.  It was just your basic 1980's municipal building.  It could have been in any city in the U.S.  But since I was already there, I kept walking.  I went into room called, "Treasures Of The British Library," and right there next to the door were John Milton's hand written Book of Common Prayer, Lewis Carol's original Alice in Wonderland, with his own illustrations, Jane Austen's manuscript for Persuasion (my favorite of her books,) a Sylvia Plath poem, and the original Jane Eyre, in Bronte's handwriting!!!   Shakespeare had his own case, of course!  They had one page of a play written in his own hand.  Shakespeare had no idea anyone would ever want to read his plays after they were performed, so he was notoriously cavalier with his work.  Hardly any of his original script or poems exist today.

On the next wall were original pieces of music starting with early plane song written with square notes and continuing up to the present with handwritten scores by Handel, Schubert, Purcell, and Elgar.  Beside these treasures was a case of illuminated Bibles, gospels, and books of days.  How could the colors be so bright 700, 800, 900 years after they were created?  The Library also had the Lindisfre Gospels.  Absolutely beautiful!  They also exhibited the Wycliffe Bible which is the first Bible ever written in English, though you wouldn't recognize it as English since it was written in 13 something or other.  I saw one of the few remaining Gutenberg Bibles, and last but not least, The Magna Carta, the document all democratic countries were founded on.  This is a literature Mecca!  And to think, I almost didn't come.

After the Library, I decided to go to the Geffrye Museum.  It's a museum of decorative arts where each room is decorated the way a normal, middle class family would have arranged their living room.  The rooms started in the year 1600 and came up to the 1990's.  One of the nice things about this museum was that it was off the tourist track.  However, one of the not so nice things about this museum was that it was off of the tourist track.  Shoreditch was definitely grittier than tourist friendly, central London.  AND, more pungent!  But, the museum was a breath of fresh air!  Ha ha.  It's a restored almshouse built by a rich philanthropist.  I learned that an almshouse was a retirement home for nice, lower middle class old people.  The gardens were truly lovely.  They also started with Tudor gardening style and progressed up to current gardening fashions. 

Best of all, I finally had tea with scones and clotted cream!  I really like English puddings.  They do cakes and sweets very well.

At about 4 o'clock, I found myself sitting in the delightful tea room.  It was about 70 degrees.  The windows were open.  The butterflies and huge bumblebees were buzzing around.  And, I was eating a cucumber sandwich and drinking a proper tea.  It was a moment out of a Jane Austen novel, except,
I was writing on my I-POD instead of with a quill pen.

By the way, I was marveling over the size of these daisies.  I took several pictures but realized there was nothing else in the picture to show the perspective.  So, I asked this man if I could take a picture of him and his daughter.  I said, "My mother will never believe how big these daisies are.  We can't grow them this big in Texas."  Just as quick as a wink, he answered, "I thought everything was bigger in Texas," and I snapped the picture.  It was a perfect moment! 

I finished up the day by going to the British Museum for a second time.  It's really too big to see in one day.  Today I got pictures of the Elgin Marbles!  I can understand why countries like Greece are upset with England and would want to take their treasures back, but thank goodness the British were such rabid collectors!  It's scary to think how many amazing things would have bee lost or destroyed if British adventurers hadn't come along and scooped them up.  I did notice, however, that they didn't have anything from our country.  If those adventurers had scooped up a few American treasures, a few lawyers might have to get involved.

Well, tomorrow is my last day, she says as forlorn tears fall from her eyes....  I'm going to try to fit in as much as I can stand, well, as much as my feet can stand!


These are the Elgin Marbles.  It was an entire temple that Lord Elgin had moved and reconstructed in the British Museum.  This is only the right half of the room!  There is just as much behind me.

     This is a close up of some of the bas relief on the sides of the temple. Quite detailed!

I don't remember who this is suppose to be, but I took the picture because I think he looks a little like
Hugh Grant.

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