Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Letter from London

London
May 5, 2009

Old Friend,

I write from the British Library, which, like the Globe theatre, also didn't exist in those old days when you and I rubbed elbows with the Indian Hindus, and Pakistani Muslims, and Persian princesses, and easily-offended Irishmen at the International Students House at 10 York Terrace East. Remember the excruciating embarrassment watching the evening news with fellow students in the common room as James Earl "Jimmy" Carter became the Democratic front runner in the presidential elections. As I recall there was nothing partisan about it, just the shame that such a small-souled sanctimonious squirt of a man could conceivably be president of the United States. I like to remember that our Pakistani friends, especially keen on questions of honor, would politely change the subject--"let's watch Starsky and Hutch!" Fortunately we got out of town before our future president confessed the lust in his heart--to Playboy!

But I do not mean to talk politics, even old politics. The British Library was conceived before our York Terrace East days, but gestated slowly and came into being only in 1998. It's just a few stone throws from where we would have hung our hat if we could have afforded one between us--near St. Pancras Station on Euston Road. If it had been around back then, we would have spent many of our days here. It combines, along with other important collections, what had been the library holdings of the British Museum, which--to give an idea of scope--Lenin said held a better collection of Russian books than he could find in St. Petersburg or Moscow. It's very easy to get a reader's card, and there's free wi-fi for whoever wants to stroll through the front doors. The manuscripts on display are splendid--some of your students would like to trace with their eyes the straight lines of Jane Austen's hand-written pages, resting on her personal writing desk. There's a well stocked café, tables all over the place to sit and read or eat or have coffee and talk. And for those who know, there are secret balconies where one can sit and enjoy a Henry Clay--or, on a quest like mine, a Romeo y Julieta--if one is so disposed, and still have wi-fi.

But you don't have to be here to enjoy some of the library's wonders. Following the Shakespeare trail, while sipping a white Americano among throngs of happy and lively folks also sipping various brews and speaking countless languages at the dozens of sprawling tables or reading books or tapping away at their laptops, I wander on my free wi-fi to a wonderful feature online. Here can be found "the British Library's 93 copies of the 21 plays by William Shakespeare printed in quarto before the theatres were closed in 1642." The page I link to compares the first page of the first quarto of 1597 with the first page of the fifth quarto, 1637, of Romeo and Juliet. Flip through the pages, zoom in, and marvel.

I, for one, am inclined on occasion to stand astride History and say--"Well done!"

Cheers,

CF

Discussions - 3 Comments

I heard Michael savage was banned from England for talking ill of imigrants. Thoughts? Shake the hand of Declan Ganley if he is around for me....just try to obscure it from the black cameras.

Yeah, Brutus--Michael Savage, banned from England for talking ill of immigrants. I don't like the loud mouth, but I've heard a lot worse on Speakers' Corner. Or I used to. Maybe now they'll only let people whisper quiet prayers there, to Diversity. Guess it's time to get out of here. Going back to California. A few years ago, California banned foie gras, which is pretty popular here, but also not a favorite of mine. But they delayed implementation of the law, so as not to damage the business of the only producer of foie gras in the state--a Salvadoran immigrant.

I figure I've been photographed over 3 million times during my stay here. Celebrity at last.

I don't like savage either, but that just struck me as a dangerous precident due to the reasoning behind it. I guess all is well as long as the cameras don't start addressing you directly and they don't put Savage up on screen to whip the people into frenzy of hate. Mabye they need to use the ref in the barca chelsea game to do that.

The shakespeare thing is really cool, I guess some technology can be used for good other than spying.

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