Sunday, 24 June 2012

Taking it Easy

We went to Beningborough Hall yesterday - a National Trust property near York. It contains a lot of portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. I can't tell you much about it, as I enjoy such visits most when I just look around without reading a lot - I can never remember what I've read anyway. There were a lot of 18th century portraits - you could tell what they were because the people in them were wearing wigs. It's a period I find quite interesting. The only trouble is, history went in one ear and out the other at school and still does. I know it kind of began with Handel and ended with Haydn, that it was the era of Voltaire, Thomas Paine and of Dr Johnson (I think my interest was triggered by visiting his birthplace in Lichfield and reading his book Rasselas not so long ago). The fashions were cool, I think. People wore buckles on their shoes, men wore wigs and (when not bewigged) floppy silk hats and banyans. Then there were the coffee houses, where people discussed ideas and politics. And it wasn't all thinking, talking and writing: the century ended with the French Revolution.  As I write this I'm suprised I know even this much (assuming I've got it right): perhaps it just goes to prove the best way to learn anything is just to let it soak in.

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A photo of Notre Dame on The Solitary Walker's blog reminded me of this. Cathedrals always do. The composer, Messiaen, was the organist just up the road at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité.  For me, it's music with a phwoar! factor...

13 comments:

tony said...

Beningbrough Hall looks a worthwhile place to visit.Somewhere I wouldn't mind investigating .Thanks for the tip.

Rachel Fox said...

I'm a bit the same with history... I am interested but I don't retain it very well. I dropped it early in school because it was that or German for O levels and languages were my thang.
x

Rachel Fox said...

Poor excuse but it's either that or the dog ate my homework, sir.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What is a banyan? I always thought it was a tree.

GOAT said...

The buckles: yes, very cool, sort of a distant precursor to 60s rock star fashion! As were the wigs, I suppose, but they must've been an enormous pain in the behind to prepare each day, not to mention the discomfort. Think I'd rather take my chances with the peasants.

All I really "know" about that century is the American Revolution and as all Australian students know, or used to know, 1770 (a date easy to remember) was the year Captain James Cook "discovered" the Great Southern Land.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this enlightening introduction to the 18th century, Dominic. It's a tremendous summary, and it's also introduced me to the non-arboreal meaning of the word 'banyan', for which I thank you.

And thanks for the link! That organ is damned impressive. I've actually seen it 'in the flesh' on my Arles - Puente la Reina walk.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments!

tony: Well worth it.

RF: Watch it. I'm writing reports this week.

WG: Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banyan_%28clothing%29

Goat: Thanks - two more events, both of which underline what I like about the century.


SW: Cool clobber, isn't it? I could quite easily get into dressing like that, only the rest of the world would think I'd lost my marbles.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Dare I say that history IS what it used to be?

Sandy's witterings said...

Dr Johnson may not have been all that complementary to Scotsmen (oats indeed!) but he's a strangely compelling character with an interesting attitude and he liked a cup of tea (a lot), so if he comprises a big dollop of your memory of 18th century history, it's quite a good start.

By gum that that organ music has fairly swept the cobwebs out of this wee tin box that calls itself my lab!!

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments...

TFE: You may.

Sandy: Sounds like you have the luxury of big speakers attached to your computer. Certainly the best way to appreciate that piece, short of sitting next to an organ.

Friko said...

Hello, miserable git,

not so miserable here, I see. History is/was my favourite subject at school, but I don't do Kings and Queens, and I certainly can't remember any in sequence.

But what you've remembered of the 18th century is not bad, I doubt I could come up with as much as this. Unless you were reminded by what you saw during the visit?

Dominic Rivron said...

Friko: Your quite right. This post is pretty cheerful.

And kings and queens... It was like anyone who didn't have a right-brained facility for remembering lists and dates just found themselves adrift in school history as I was taught it. Had one excellent teacher who regaled us with gruesome tales of red hot pokers and the like, but otherwise...

I don't think I was reminded as such - rather it's what I've picked up over the last couple of years as, when I came across these things, I found them interesting.

A Cuban In London said...

The 18th century also gave us "The Dangerous Liaisons", one of my favourite books. Plus, intrigue and corruption.

Nice post. It reminded me of the time when I fell for all things French from that century. :-)

Greetings from London.