Day 23: Treasures Tour at the British Library

Hello Everyone!

Yesterday was our penultimate day experiencing London, and we all had a lovely time. The morning and early afternoon was free for us to do as we wished, so we split off into smaller groups to explore the city.

Nicole and I started off the day going to Kensal Green Cemetery, which was gorgeous and gigantic. After waiting for a majorly delayed Bakerloo line train out of Kensal Green, we explored Hyde Park. It had a beautiful and fragrant rose garden that was just begging to be photographed. Then we found Harrod’s, which is the poshest department store I have ever seen in my life!

At 3:00, we met up with the rest of the group at the British Library for our tour of their Treasures Collection. It was incredible! We saw THE manuscript of Beowulf and heard about the history of it. It’s quite amazing that the copy survived all the centuries of neglect. We also saw a folio and a few quartos of Shakespeare. Our tour guide showed us the progression of first pages, which demonstrated Shakespeare’s rise in importance (not mentioned at all on the first several publications to other authors using his name to sell their works). One of the coolest things for me (after the Shakespeare stuff, of course) was seeing the original hand-written copies of Beatles lyrics! Each one was accompanied by a little plaque giving background information. It would take far too long to tell about all of the interesting things we saw and learned about in the Treasures Collection, but I hope you enjoyed my few highlights.

After the British Library, we went out to a fantastic Italian restaurant called Strada and enjoyed a delicious meal together. To top off an already wonderful day, ten of us got a bird’s-eye view of the city from the London Eye!

We will all be sad to leave England tomorrow, but we look forward to seeing all of our friends and family back home.

Day Seven: Dove Cottage and Wordsworth Museum

“It was a threatening, misty morning, but mild.” This line from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal entry on 15 April 1802 accurately describes the weather this morning as we took the bus into Grasmere.  The low-hanging clouds obscured the rolling mountains and covered us in a light, chilly drizzle.

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We met Catherine, our tour guide, outside of Dove Cottage, and she led us into the house that siblings Dorothy and William Wordsworth moved into in December of 1799. The first room was the Wordsworths’ dining room, and we were all glad of the warm fire glowing in the fireplace.  The dark wood panels and low ceiling teetered on the border between cozy and claustrophobic.

Next, we were shown Dorothy’s bedroom.  It had a double washing table with dogwood toothbrushes, a silhouette portrait of Dorothy, and a painting of Mary Wordsworth (William’s wife) in her later years.

Then we were led to the kitchen, which had the coal room, a dry pantry, and a small room for fresh food storage attached.  There, Catherine showed us an old sheep’s-fat candle (cheaper than beeswax candles at the time).

Upstairs, we saw William’s prized cuckoo clock above the landing.  Sadly, we were all in another room when it chimed at ten o’clock and missed seeing the cuckoo pop in and out, even though we dashed into the hallway to try to catch it.  We saw William’s bedroom, the sitting room, and the guest bedroom.  The guest bedroom was wallpapered with newspapers.  The sitting room had three portraits of William at different stages of his life.  Catherine told us that his favorite of the three was the one where he was 48 years old because he thought it made him look like a pirate.  His least favorite was the one in which he was 35 years old because he thought it made him look too handsome. We all thought that was a bit of an odd complaint.

We took a brief walk around the back of the house to see the garden and then moved on to the archives, which John talked about in his blog.  Then we had some time in the Wordsworth Museum, which was full of interactive displays.  We listened to some of his poems on headphones hanging on the walls, tried our hands at writing with a feather quill (our fingers are stained from the attempts), and read many interesting tidbits about the Wordsworths.

It was a sleepy, rainy Sunday, but we all learned a great deal about the Wordsworths and the Romantics.  The stunning setting helped to cement the imagery that we had read about in the readings for today, and made for an incredible classroom.  Even though we will be excited to go to Oxford tomorrow, we will be a little sad to leave the gorgeous landscapes of the Lake District.

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