As a child of London, Cleopatra’s Needle has long been present in my memory and my imagination. But it wasn’t until I began researching my book City of Verse: A London Poetry Trail* that I learnt that when this ancient obelisk was erected on the Victoria Embankment in 1878, a pair of what would nowadays be called time capsules were sealed in its base. Read More
Stonehenge may be the best-known Neolithic monument in Britain but it has never stood in glorious, awe-inspiring isolation. In fact, it is situated within what archaeologists call a ritual landscape, defined by Frances Pryor as a ‘concentration of funerary and ceremonial monuments that were constructed in the Neolithic (4000- 2500 BC) and Early Bronze Age (2500-1500 BC)’. Read More
‘Nevertheless, it is strange that many of us think much the same about Olympia. To us – pray do not take it ill, brother she appears singularly stiff and soulless. Her shape is well proportioned – so is her face – that is true! She might pass for beautiful if her glance were not so utterly without a ray of life – without the power of vision. Her pace is strangely regular, every movement seems to depend on some wound-up clockwork. Her playing and her singing keep the same unpleasantly correct and spiritless time as a musical box, and the same may be said of her dancing. We find your Olympia quite uncanny, and prefer to have nothing to do with her. She seems to act like a living being, and yet has some strange peculiarity of her own.’
(‘The Sandman’ – ETA Hoffmann)
After Brian Epstein’s death, the Beatles were effectively managing themselves for a time and the business that was the Beatles took off in new and sometimes strange directions. Freed from what had become Epstein’s erratic oversight, the band felt liberated to conduct business experiments, more often than not with expensive consequences (though by this time they were making so much money that the losses were manageable). Read More
An angel that sulf nyght to that mayde cam
And bad hire oute of the kinges syght wende, that was so grame.
The levedy wende by nyght fram hure sustren tho
With somme that heo with hure toke – tweyne, witthoute mo.
To Temese heo yede and fonde a bote al preste, thorw Godes sonde,
And therin heo fonde an angel that broght hem to the londe.
For dred of the king heo wende, as God hit wolde,
Ne dorste heo come at non toune, to dwelle at non holde.
In a wode that Benesy yclyped ys al day
Thre wynter in an hole woned, that seylde me hure say.
A mayde that seve yere ne myght nothing yse
Cam to hure in the wode, and felle adoun a kne.
Hure eyghen that holy mayde wysche with water of hure honde,
And as hole as any fysche that maide gan up stonde.
An angel to the holy maid appeared on that same night
And bid her flee as best she could the furious king’s might.
The lady fled by night from her sisters all;
Only a few she took with her —two of them, no more.
To the Thames she went and found a boat waiting, by God’s plan,
And therein she found an angel who took them to the land.
For dread of the king she fled that place, as God it did provide,
But dared not go to any town, nor in any house hide.
As best she might she hid herself in a wood called Binsey
Three winters in a cave she lived, where no one could her see.
A maiden who for seven years nothing could see
Came to her within the wood, and fell down upon her knee:
Her eyes the holy maiden washed with water in her hands
And as whole as any fish the maid again did stand.
(from the South English Legendary, 14C, translation by Eleanor Parker)
Within the collection of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford are a number of objects varnished with the patina of past celebrity. Here are Elizabeth I’s astrolabe, Lewis Carroll’s photographic developing kit, and a blackboard, its chalk-inscribed equations intact, used by Albert Einstein. Read More