'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Inside The Museum

To Keswick with the Renaissance Man & Woman for the opening of 'Daffodils', an exhibition of predictably Wordsworth-related art. Nothing jumped off the walls, but the location was a real eye-opener.
The Keswick Museum is a deeply peculiar place. It is as if you have stumbled into a Victorian gentleman's collection of curiosities: nothing seems to have been touched or changed since the century-before-last. Stuffed birds of every local species. A mighty slate glockenspiel played before Queen Victoria in 1848. A 500-year-old mummified cat from Crosthwaite church. Someone's collection of minerals. All presided over by a stuffed badger of malevolent aspect. Go and see it today, because the gossip last night was that consultants have been engaged to recommend modernisation.
Rapidly bored with the Daffs, I wandered over to the side-gallery & stared at two 19th century folk-paintings of local worthies. In the first the burgers of Keswick are lined up outside the Moot Hall, in the second they're striking ice-skating poses on a frozen Derwentwater. Unerringly, I found my attention drawn to one of the Moot Hall worthies: an old, white-haired and bearded man with a wide-brimmed hat; a hard man, his face rough as the Gates of Borrowdale, his eyes set solid and challenging. The crib by the painting told me this was Isaac Hodgson of Crosthwaite.
A few questions to the Renaissance Man confirmed my suspicions. The front wall of the cottage where I live has three initials and a date set into the bricks. They've been cleverly done, because they're recessed into the inside wall too, giving the place a touch of the Rachel Whitereads and incidentally providing useful niches for small objects. (The first letter stands above my bed & holds a shook of dried barley-sheaves). The letters, of course, spell out 'IEH 1861'. In that year Isaac Edwin Hodgson of Crosthwaite built the house in which I live.


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