Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Travel sickness

Well, I certainly intended to blog this trip properly, but it didn't really start as expected. I found it very hard to leave my home and family this time; and it's taken the best part of a week in England to throw off a dark cloud of anxiety and depression. I won't go into all the ins and outs and whys and wherefores, but it is not to be recommended, travelling in such a state. It's certainly not conducive to blogging.

Anyway, I've caught up with my sister's family, and some dear friends, and eventually moved myself into a rather nicer hotel than I was before, and things have looked up a bit. I'm now in Leeds, catching up on the blog instead of trying to finish my paper for tomorrow.

I am experiencing a bit of déjà vu this time, actually, as last time I was in London, in April last year, I remember blogging about feeling homesick, and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the archive.

Similarly, this year, I'm really conscious that my work on the Order of the Garter has to steer quite a difficult line between the extensive records, and the conceptual work that has the capacity to make it a more interesting book. I finally spoke to someone at the College of Arms today, and I will go there next week, but it seems unlikely they have anything on the issues I'm most concerned with. I'm so accustomed to working in places like the British Library, and the National Archives, that it takes a while to realise places like the College, and the Royal Archives at Windsor work with quite a different brief, and mission. That is, the research of Australian academics is not their highest priority, and there are real limit to what they can make available.

That's ok: I have plenty of material, and enough to shape the book around. Found a nice thing in the National Archives in Kew yesterday; a letter from the English ambassador in St Petersburg in 1742, reporting that the Czarina would quite like to be offered the Garter. Here's the quote:
Your Lordship cannot conceive how much the Czarina is pleased with these Distinctions; and I am sure, that nothing in the world would be more agreeable to Her than if the King would send Her the Order of the Garter. I do not know whether it be practicable, but if it can be done, I am persuaded it would have a very good effect. The Czarina frequently appears in Man’s Clothes, and the new Ornament of the Garter would, I am sure, please Her above all things.
Looks like another quote for the Queer Garter section.

What else have I done?
  • my nephew's school music concert in St Mary le Bow (if you're born within sound of their bells you're a true cockney)
  • several days combing through Garter books and papers in the British Library, transcribing these verses from Gilbert West's Garter masque of 1771:
I.
O the glorious Installation!
Happy nation!
You shall see the King and Queen,
Such a scene,
Valour he Sir,
Virtue she Sir,
Which our hearts will ever win;
Sweet her face it
With such graced,
Shew what goodness dwells within.


II. O the glorious Installation!
Happy nation!
You shall see the noble Knights!
Charming fights!
Feathers wagging,
Velvet dragging,
Trailing, sailing on the ground;
Loud in talking,
Proud in walking,
Nodding, ogling, smirking round—
O the glorious, &c.
  • Had dinner in Walthamstow with my friend Mac
  • Saw Leonard Bernstein's Candide at the Coliseum theatre
  • Booked a ticket to La Bohème for next Sunday
  • Went for a late-night fox-watching walk with David and Rita around Coram Fields
  • Bought leather jacket on sale to fend off summer wind and rain
  • Went to church to hear my nephew sing at Temple Church, where he is a chorister
  • And just now, had a fabulous Indian meal with a lovely bunch of medievalists.
I'll try and get a bit more detail happening in the blog soon, now that my spirits are back on a bit more of an even keel.

2 comments:

Pavlov's Cat said...

Lovely Garter stuff, but I'm very sorry to read that the trip has been so hard so far -- don't like to think of you travelling in that state. Glad things are improving. It sounds like a very music-rich trip -- perhaps too much so!

David Thornby said...

Glad to hear that your trip is looking up. I'm curious though -- if the brief of the College of Arms and the Royal Archives isn't to provide 'stuff' to historians and documenters of things of cultural significance, what is it? I'd have thought that the sight of someone proposing to analyse and document their material in a broad historical and cultural context, in a sensible and sensitive manner, and in that sense to (probably) produce an independent thesis on why they as organisations might still have some real cultural relevance in the early 21st century would have had them jumping out of their socks, Dr Seuss style, with delight.