I am composing this entry from an Internet café near the Victoria and Albert Museum. I returned to the collection today to see some of the galleries that I had missed during my first visit. Today I was especially dazzled by (of all things) the collection’s 18th-century snuffboxes. The tiny receptacles looked like treasures that a mermaid princess would keep in her cove; each one was embellished with glittering gems and opalescent inlay. In the medieval gallery, I was delighted to discover there was some sort of interactive instillation taking place; visitors could try on replicas of ancient garb! I donned a long, linen tunic that (according to the provided information) was a version of what a farmer would have worn in the early 12th century. Unfortunately, no one else in the gallery seemed particularly excited about trying on the outfits. I was regarded with tight-lipped smiles of bemusement as I admired my medieval self in the mirror.
After weeks of rain, (the worst summer weather in 18 years, according to The Guardian) we finally had a beautiful weekend here. On Sunday afternoon I went to Regent’s Park to worship the sun with all the other light-deprived Londoners. Just like the fragrant flowers stretching their green shoots to the sky (“More sun, please!” I imagine the blossoms chirping), the people in Regent’s Park on Sunday seemed similarly nourished by the clear, bright day. Friends sat with picnics and paint sets, lovers canoodled and families made noble efforts to engage in self-conscious fun (I watched a tween in a sparkly tube top lackadaisically swing a croquet mallet as her father and mother looked on). The flowers themselves were spectacular; the damp, fragrant petals of the roses seemed quietly obscene. I think Gertrude Stein was right when she wrote that “a rose, is a rose, is a rose.” The flower transcends metaphor and simile in its aesthetic sublime. Though the rose may surpass poetical device, I must admit that someone did a great job naming its different species. The “Galileo” rose was neon indigo. The “Conspicuous” rose was a dashing, imperial red. “Sun Gleam” and “Razzle Dazzle” were orange and dappled electric fuchsia. After admiring the rose gardens, I sat on a bench and watched a Bengali bride and groom have their wedding photographs taken. The couple sat in a flowerbed flanked by lilies. The woman was covered with some sort of body glitter so her whole body shimmered as she sat amidst the blossoms.
On Thursday evening I went to see a terrific production of “Doctor Faustus” at the Globe Theater. It was wonderful to see the play that I read with Professor Benston in such a famous venue. For those who haven’t read Christopher Marlowe’s tragedy of the Enlightenment, “Doctor Faustus” is the story of a scholar who gives his soul to the devil in exchange for all the knowledge of the universe. The play emerges, I think, as a cautionary tale: a critique of a certain kind of intellectual gluttony in which one hoards information without truly understanding any of it. The production’s marvelous set design and costume really served to highlight the play’s apocalyptic motifs. I felt like I was watching a William Blake etching of the fires of hell come to life. Actors wielded huge, demonic puppets, books caught on fire, and minstrels in ghoulish masks strummed frenzied chords on mandolins. At intermission, I got myself a glass of wine and sat by the Thames watching the sun go down. “Remember this,” I told myself, marking my profound joy. I marveled at my astonishing luck and the sheer beauty of the universe: the light on Saint Paul’s, the fact that I was seeing a play at the Globe Theater that I had read during my intellectual awakening this past year, the anticipation of meeting my friends after the play that evening, the upcoming Wordsworth conference, my new, keen affinity for my own company—it was (and still is!) too good to be true. As I sat by the Thames I felt truly “blest in thoughts that [were] their own perfection and reward,” as Wordsworth writes. I will carry that “Moment-of-Intense-Happiness-During-The-Intermission-of-Doctor-Faustus” in my “deep heart’s core,” as Yeats writes. Okay, okay, I’m off to get a jacket potato before I quote myself into oblivion. Thank you for reading, everyone!