Hello from the British Library, everyone! The reading rooms are packed today so I’ve resorted to writing this entry on a bench in the foyer of the building. Other scholars are doing the same; students and professors sit side by side on the floor with their laptops and printouts. It’s funny how we all want to work in the British Library despite the fact that the reading rooms are filled. Studying in this space, it seems, isn’t just about utilizing the materials in the collection. Merely sitting in the British Library (even on a bench outside of the bathroom!) is energizing; being in here makes one want to work. Speaking of work, my paper on Wordsworth and Wallace Stevens is going very well. As the Wordsworth Conference approaches, I find myself fantasizing about the essay’s delivery in August. When I lie in bed at night, I like to imagine my paper’s reception. Blown away by my eloquence, the conference coordinators will bestow me with some sort of relic, like Wordsworth’s nose hairs, as a token of their admiration. A girl can dream, right?
Yesterday I went to Buckingham Palace. I visited the Queen’s Gallery—the Royal Family’s personal art collection which boasted a number of exquisite Rembrandt and Rubens paintings. In the museum, gigantic portraits of the various kings and queens were hanging in ornate, gilt frames. Though the works were beautiful, I am starting to get a little irked by the pomp of the royal family. I think if I have to see one more portrait of Prince Richard VIII, son of the late King Henry IV, third husband of Dame Catherine of Cockfoster, the sixth heir to the greater Essex-upon-Jubilee, who was the second wife of Duke Phillip of Yorkshire, I’m going to be “quite miffed, indeed.” The rigid ceremony and pomp of the Royal Family registers first as quaint, then as amusing, and then as just annoying. While most Brits are relatively indifferent to the Royal Family, some people do seem to worship the King and Queen as real icons, as the following anecdote will reveal. When I went to buy a postcard in the gift store, the two saleswomen were gossiping as they shelved chocolate bars in the shape of Prince Albert.
“I heard the Queen herself was in the gift shop last night!” one clerk whispered to her colleague. Her fellow worker let out a squeal of ecstasy.
I overheard this, and wondered what the Queen would be doing in the gift shop of Buckingham Palace at night. Stocking up on royal wedding memorabilia? Prince Harry dishtowels?
“I wonder if she bought a postcard of herself!” I joked to the two women.
My comment went over like a lead balloon. “Oh, no, how absurd! Why on earth would she need a postcard of herself? The queen is the queen!” the clerk retorted dismissively.
That’s all for now, everybody. I’m off to meet friends at the museum before heading to the Globe Theater to see Doctor Faustus, a wonderful play by Christopher Marlowe that I read this past year with Professor Benston! I’ll let you know my thoughts on the production; I’m so looking forward to seeing a play in such a famous space.