Category Archives: Literature

The Unhappy Countess

I was lured into reading about the melodramatic and unhappy life of Mary Eleanor Bowes (1749–1800), by the National Trust, who said, on its website on Gibside, one of her many homes, that she was a botanist. Further investigation revealed … Continue reading

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Ruskin Relics

I came across a reference to this 1903 book last week, and was fortunate enough to find a copy (on Abebooks), which arrived a few days ago. It was presented by ‘Miss Hutchinson’ to Alexandra Hall in 1905. Alexandra Hall … Continue reading

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A Secret Garden

Of course, a great many gardens in Venice are secret – that is, invisible to the normal passer-by in the calle. But the garden of Palazzo Soranzo Cappello is probably the most famous secret garden in the city (with the … Continue reading

Posted in Art, Botany, Gardens, History, Italy, Literature, Natural history, Printing and Publishing, Venice | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Blackbird

Has there ever been a spring/summer like this for blackbird song? (Except, obviously, the year in which, in late June, Edward Thomas’s train stopped unexpectedly at Adlestrop?) I’m especially fortunate in that I have two competing to outdo each other … Continue reading

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Object of the Month: February 2019

I first came across William de Morgan in the second-hand bookshop in the stables at Wimpole Hall, an alarming number of years ago. His novel, Alice-for-Short (published 1907), was available for 50p, and I availed myself, drawn mostly by the … Continue reading

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A Bizarre Story

Thompson Cooper (1837–1904) was the son of Charles Henry Cooper (1808–66), the distinguished Town Clerk of Cambridge, whose historical and biographical works on the city are still a major source of information. From 1842 to 1853 he published four volumes … Continue reading

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Aqila and Prisila

I have mentioned before the excitement of spotting something new in the display cases at the Fitzwilliam Museum (either because of a change-around, or simply because I’d never observed it before). The other day I noticed this ceramic dish showing … Continue reading

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Small-Coals and Concerts

Looking something up in the ODNB, it’s terrifyingly easy to get distracted. Who could resist the siren call of this entry heading: ‘Britton, Thomas (1644–1714), concert promoter, book collector, and coal merchant’? And, as you read on, the story of … Continue reading

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Printing R-Evolution

I have been reading Julian Barnes’s Keeping An Eye Open, in which he remarks (p. 166) that ‘normal ocular fatigue sets in after about ninety minutes’. This is a huge relief, as I had always thought it was just me, … Continue reading

Posted in Bibliography, Classics, History, Italy, Literature, Museums and Galleries, Printing and Publishing, Venice | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Object of the Month: June 2018

This fire screen, standing 104 cm (3 ft 5 ins) tall, must in the summer have graced fireplace of a well-to-do eighteenth-century individual, probably in France. When I first noticed it, I thought it was embroidered, perhaps by a daughter … Continue reading

Posted in Art, Cambridge, France, History, Literature, Museums and Galleries | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment