The following day was my talk and a trip to Greenwich.
Sir Hans Sloane
We started that day at the local college to give lectures on various topics to the Loyola law students. I’ve been talking about something historically relevant to the area for the last six year. This time, I talked about the complicated Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). He was the most famous physician in London during his day; he was physician to three monarchs. But he is probably most famous for his incredible collection of objects, including “23,000 coins and medals, 50,000 books, prints and manuscripts, a herbarium (a collection of dried plants), 1,125 ‘things relating to the customs of ancient times‘” (British Museum). His collection (along with some smaller collections) became the foundation of the British Museum.
He is a complicated man because his success came from slavery. As a young man, he traveled to Jamaica as the personal physician of the Duke Albemarle. There he befriended plantation owners, served as their physicians, saw the abuses of slavery…and upheld the system. Later, he married a widow in London whose wealth was in plantations in Jamaica. He invested in the slave trade as well. So his incredible collection (and thus the British Museum) have their roots in slavery. Which most things do in modern Western Civilization. I used heavily the recent biography Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum by James Delbourno for my research along with other sources. Fascinating read about a man of the Enlightenment era.
After my talk, it was time to go to Greenwich. I have been at least once but had not been there in years. My husband had never been. I thought he would love the National Maritime Museum there since I recalled that it had a lot of exhibits on Lord Admiral Nelson. Actually, my family called it a shrine.
Before we got on the Tube, we stopped by a bookstore near the college that I had never been to before. A member of the Loyola Law congregation had mentioned it in passing. It is a tiny bookshop called Persephone Books that publishes women authors, many who are otherwise out of print. The books are astonishingly beautiful; each book has a special pattern that goes along with it. I highly recommend going there to find some wondrous treasures!
Greenwich is now really easy to get to from London. The Tube divides London and the surrounding areas into zones. Central London is Zone 1, the next Zone 2, etc. Greenwich is Zone 2. We got to ride the London Overground, which is like the London version of the El. It was astonishing. We spend most of our time in central London that it was surprising to see so many skyscrapers outside of the City. Canary Wharf is a whole other world!
Our first stop in Greenwich was a Steak and Pie shop. I was peckish and this was the perfect spot. They had eel on the menu, one of the few places allegedly that still did. So naturally, we ordered some stewed eels and a beef and mash pie. We could have gotten jellied eels but they recommended against it. The server put this vinegary green sauce on the eels and it was delicious!
No visit to Greenwich is complete without a tour of the Royal Observatory. That’s where you can stand at the Prime Meridian and be in two hemispheres at once. It’s a fine place with various exhibitions on astronomers, the development of the clock, etc. But you visit to get your picture taken at the line.
From the observatory, you could see Central London and Canary Wharf. Crazy times!
We trundled down the hill to the National Maritime Museum. Our first stop was a giant painting by J. M. W. Turner who painted a giant painting of the Battle of Trafalgar. I don’t like Turner, something about his line and colors throw me off but Scott loved it. They had a audio component that talked about the painting. I liked that it included letters from sailors. I was most struck by the one that talked about how it could take hours for ships to get close enough to start battle. Craziness!
Scott loved the shrine to Nelson; they even had the clothing he died in, including the blood stained underwear… I liked the exhibition since it talked about the lives of the men in the Royal Navy. There was also an exhibition about the slave trade, which I felt was not nearly as critical or thorough as it should be. They did have some beautiful mastheads! We ended up staying until the museum closed.
That night, we saw a play in the West End called the Ferryman. Not sure why we thought this but my parents and I thought it was a musical. Instead it was a tragedy about an Irish family in the 1980s, dealing with secrets and the IRA. It was very good despite the mixup!
That’s all for now!