Still Grieving Lost Children

Still Grieving Lost Children

This is really sad, from Joseph Leech’s Rural Rides, from the churchyard at Keynsham, though the author could have been a bit more diplomatic: My attention was attracted by 2 very antiquated crones, who came hobbling towards me over the graves which, in the course of nature, they ought to have long since filled; both … Continue reading

Life and Death of Sir Thomas Lawrence

Life and Death of Sir Thomas Lawrence

Bristol has produced a lot of famous people, most of whom are ignored by present inhabitants. One of the most criminal cases of neglect is that of Lawrence, who is one of my favourite artists, and the first to become a superstar artist and antiquarian. This is from Latimer’s Annals: Sir Thomas Lawrence, President of … Continue reading

Paupers Riot 1830

Paupers Riot 1830

Here’s another horror story from Bristol’s past which serves as a warning of where we may be heading. The 1840s was a time of massive social upheaval across Europe, echoing the previous century’s ‘hungry forties’, but the problems were soaring in the 1830s. In Bristol, trade declines, so many workers were reduced to pauperism and … Continue reading

Wellington’s Victory Dinner Service

The Duke of Wellington is one of Britain’s greatest military heroes, but he was also seen as a saviour in Spain and Portugal. In the V&A is this huge dinner set commissioned by these grateful nations, produced 1813-16  

Art for Peace

Art for Peace

This follows on from the previous piece, how to deal with the many unemployed servicemen after wars end. Traditionally, they became vagabonds, criminals and generally troublesome, so Duke Carl of Brunswick created a scheme to employ men after the end of the Seven Years’ War. The skills of beadwork were new – at least in … Continue reading

Arms to Luxury Furniture

Arms to Luxury Furniture

One of the biggest problems governments had at the end of wars was what to do with the unemployed servicemen and the factories which had been churning out arms. Peter the Great of Russia learnt a lot when he lived and worked in England. I think he may be the only one to build an … Continue reading

UK Royalty and Race

UK Royalty and Race

There’s a lot of discussion about how the present royal family is dealing with Prince Harry’s present partner, but I am increasingly fascinated by what defines race. This is an article by Kate Williams takes definitions of race onto a new level: Queen Charlotte, the German wife of “mad” King George III and mother of … Continue reading

Karel Capek’s Apocryphal Stories

Karel Capek’s Apocryphal Stories

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:
In this week’s Dispatches from the Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads the charming short stories of Karel Čapek The modern meaning of the word ‘robot’ has its origins in a 1920 play by Czech writer Karel Čapek. The play, titled R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), begins in a…

Forth Bridge and Britain’s Decline

Forth Bridge and Britain’s Decline

This is from a piece by Ian Jack who remembered the opening of its predecessor 53 years ago. What has been lost? Odd little things: a quiet pice of shoreline a view, a further erosion of Fife’s separateness – which could be argued is for the good. The argument against the car is a bigger … Continue reading

Rudolph II & Daughter Sophie

Rudolph II & Daughter Sophie

I have often noted how rare are images of children from the past; here’s an unusual pair of wax portraits. The first is of Rudolph II,(1552-1612) son and heir to Maximilian II Holy Roman Emperor. It was made in the dreaded year 1666. He is noted for being a bad ruler, helping cause the 30 … Continue reading