The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘London’

Rare Beasts, Birds, and the Calaboose

September 22, 2016 | by

A brief history of London’s Tower Menagerie.

royal-menagerie

Royal Menagerie, 1812.

It was New Year’s Eve 1764, and John Wesley—founding father of Methodism, horseback proselytizer, teetotaler—stood before the structure now known as the Tower of London, accompanied by a flautist, who was, in turn, accompanied by his flute. Wesley had traveled to this sprawling complex in the hope of testing a hypothesis. Could music soothe the most savage of beasts? If it did, Wesley might clear up a burning theological ambiguity—the question of whether nonhuman animals had souls. With his contracted companion in tow, he marched through the tower, determined to find some big cats and to smother them with song.

Zoos, as we know them today, did not exist in Wesley’s lifetime—the zoological garden is a distinctly modern phenomenon. Even the London Zoo, one of the oldest “scientific” outdoor sites for animal rehoming, opened six decades after his tower trip. If Wesley wished to glean the spirituality of lions firsthand, the infamous citadel, all arched cages and grilles, was his best bet in England. (Spoiler: the reaction to a live flute performance was mostly lukewarm—only one out of five lions stirred and stood up on all fours—not quite what our preacher had been hankering for.)

For those unfamiliar with the capricious usage history of the Tower of London, it might be hard to imagine parts of the site used as a full-blown menagerie—one that lasted about six hundred years. But through its almost thousand-year history, the place has morphed like a sort of Room of Requirement, having served variously as a palace, a public-record office, an armory, a torture chamber, a private ground for beheadings, and the Royal Mint. Its most recent incarnation is as a magnet for jewel-ogling, cash-happy tourists. Today the tower’s official website reflects this diversity—it includes a Peasants’ Revolt Quiz (“Are you revolting?”), details on venue hire for weddings, and an e-shop peddling miniature armor and replica Lionheart shields. Read More »

Beauty Marks

September 1, 2016 | by

On Pre-Raphaelite muse Jane Morris.

John Robert Parsons’s photograph of Jane Morris.

A photograph of Jane Morris by John Robert Parsons, 1868.

“Defining British Art,” part of this summer’s 250th anniversary sale at London auctioneer Christie’s, included two lots by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Ligeia Siren (1873), a nude of an unknown model, and Portrait of Jane Morris, bust-length (ca. 1870), a chalk drawing of the legendary Pre-Raphaelite muse—née Jane Burden and known as Janey to her friends—who, despite being married to trailblazing designer William Morris for thirty-seven years, was the love of Rossetti’s life. Only the second work sold (for the tidy sum of £602,500), from which we might infer that Janey’s strange beauty, more than a century after her death, entices at least as much as Rossetti’s signature. A few years ago, his chalk drawing of Janey as Proserpine, goddess of spring and empress of Hades, sold at Sotheby’s for nearly £3.3 million—double the presale estimate.

Rossetti would be gratified indeed. Proserpine, which he reworked in at least eight versions, was his favorite creation, the fullest realization of an artistic drive fueled, above all, by his passion for Janey. A. S. Byatt, in pondering Rossetti’s painterly addiction to Janey in her new book, Peacock and Vine: Fortuny and Morris in Life and at Work, also sees this particular image as the culmination of Rossetti’s entwined artistic and erotic fixations. Byatt, however, is disquieted by it. “There is something appalling,” she writes, “in looking at a whole series of Rossetti’s images, more and more obsessive yet essentially all the same, brooding, dangerous, sexually greedy, too much. The best, and therefore the worst, is Proserpine.” Read More »

#ReadEverywhere: The Hygiene Edition

August 2, 2016 | by

lrbbath

In case you’re new around here: all summer long, we’re offering a joint subscription to The Paris Review and the London Review of Books for just $70 U.S. Already a Paris Review subscriber? Not a problem: we’ll extend your subscription to The Paris Review for another year, and your LRB subscription will begin immediately.

We’re also in the thick of the third edition of our popular #ReadEverywhere contest. The rules: post a photo or video of yourself reading The Paris Review or the London Review of Books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest and use the #ReadEverywhere hashtag and one of our magazines’ handles. We urge you to get creative. You might, say, bathe with The Paris Review. Give an issue of the LRB a (very) mild washing and drying. Or pass a few idle minutes by going through the car wash with both magazines.

The winner of the contest will receive a wide selection of Aēsop products. For inspiration, take a look at last year’s winners, or see what this year’s competition has already cooked up.

Now get yourself a joint subscription, head outdoors, and hashtag your way to victory.

lrbdryingrack

#ReadEverywhere, Even in the Trees

July 26, 2016 | by

Insert “literary magazines don’t grow on trees” gag here.

For the third consecutive summer, we’re offering a joint subscription to The Paris Review and the London Review of Books for just $70 U.S. Already a Paris Review subscriber? Not a problem: we’ll extend your subscription to The Paris Review for another year, and your LRB subscription will begin immediately.

We’re also in the thick of the third edition of our popular #ReadEverywhere contest. The rules: post a photo or video of yourself reading The Paris Review or the London Review of Books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest and use the #ReadEverywhere hashtag and one of our magazines’ handles. Swing from vines with our magazines. Ascend to jungle canopies with our magazines. Skin your knees clambering up the old oak tree with our magazines. The winner of the contest will receive a wide selection of Aēsop products.

For inspiration, take a look at last year’s winners, or see what this year’s competition has already cooked up.

Now get yourself a joint subscription, head outdoors, and hashtag your way to victory.

#ReadEverywhere, Even When You’re Down and Out

July 20, 2016 | by

papadiaTHUMB

An entry to this year’s #ReadEverywhere competition.

For the third consecutive summer, we’re offering a joint subscription to The Paris Review and the London Review of Books for just $70 U.S. Already a Paris Review subscriber? Not a problem: we’ll extend your subscription to The Paris Review for another year, and your LRB subscription will begin immediately.

We’re also in the thick of the third edition of our popular #ReadEverywhere contest. The rules: post a photo or video of yourself reading The Paris Review or the London Review of Books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest and use the #ReadEverywhere hashtag and one of our magazines’ handles. Venture to far and distant lands, or rest at home, reflecting on these bleak and troubling times. The winner of the contest will receive a wide selection of Aēsop products.

For inspiration, take a look at last year’s winners, or see what this year’s competition has already cooked up.

Finally: Get yourself a joint subscription, put on some tea, and hashtag your way to victory. These magazines may just help you make sense of the madness.

In Praise of Minor Literature

July 8, 2016 | by

houseboats

Houseboats by the Thames.

Some of the writers and books I hold in the highest esteem were discovered en passant: buried in the archives of a little-read blog; mentioned in a thirty-year-old essay devoted to more prominent writers; planted near the end of a long list on Wikipedia. (Idleness and obsession are the impetus for most of my discoveries.) Most of these books are rare tastes, not even well known for not being well known. They are not likely to come up at dinner parties, and they are not part of any canon or curriculum. I don’t get any credit for having read them. They are what some people call minor. 

What does it mean to be minor? It’s not the same thing as being obscure. Leon Forrest’s oeuvre is a megalith, but there seem to be about six of us who have read him. Nor is a minor writer a bad writer. Guy Davenport proposed that Thomas Love Peacock, Colette, Simenon, and Michael Gilbert were all “impeccable stylists” but also, next to Tolstoy, Cervantes, Balzac, and Proust, incontrovertibly minor. Davenport, a self-described minor prose stylist who was great enough to be genuinely self-effacing, said that “the theme of a major work must be universal and time-defying.” When judged by this standard, he suggested, even Borges and Poe were minor, since “a Martian could not learn about human nature from either of them.” Read More »