Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
If you know me, you are certain to know this one thing about me that my love and admiration for Charles Lamb, an English essayist, is unparalled. Last July I went on a pilgrimage to Charles and Mary Lamb’s grave and followed it up with an epic visit to The Charles Lamb pub in Islington.
This time, I wished to find Charles Lamb’s bust on Giltspur Street and as I did the last time too at his grave, leave him a love letter. There was no exact address but just the street name. I printed my maps and was determined to find it. But you know how it is when Catharine is around, I only need follow her, my map angel. It is no exaggeration to say, Catharine can find anything anywhere, especially more in London.
Finding the bust was a special experience as we got off at the Temple Bar. I recognized all these places, streets from his essays. The impressive arch of Temple Bar, designed by Christopher Wren again, found a mention in Lamb’s essays and letters, he was also quite impressed by the Inns of Court, where the stalwarts of legal profession gathered.
After lingering around this area, we found ourselves on Threadneedle Street. I had just read a Lamb essay that morning which mentions this street. I felt incredibly lucky to be at a place that my hero Charles Lamb was so familiar with. From the bus I spotted the portal to the South Sea House that Lamb has written an essay on, a grand entrance that Lamb laid much praise on.
This was proving to be a true Lamb pilgrimage. I guess it amuses Catharine greatly to see my unreasonable excitement, my squealing with delight and my pointing at things and saying “he wrote about that in an essay, he wrote about this in a letter!”
Soon we got off the bus and there were at least 3 streets ahead of us, I would never know which one to take but Catharine always does! We found the Giltspur Street and kept walking in. Google told me that the bust is right opposite the Bartholomew’s Children Hospital. The Hospital could be found at a distance. It was very cold and I couldn’t see very well. However, I could soon tell that there was a bust and when we got closer, it was Charles Lamb!
I grew very emotional. In July, when at the grave, Catharine left me alone and wandered around Christ Church’s graveyard to give me some private time. Here on Giltspur Street there wasn’t much chance, there was nowhere to go except for a pub. I asked Catharine to go buy herself some beer and food at the pub while I write a love letter to Lamb in the cold. She laughed at the idea but did think it was a smart one.
The Viaduct Tavern is only minutes away from the Charles Lamb Bust on a Watch Tower opposite Bartholomew’s Hospital. With Catharine gone to get a pint, I wrote my letter on a lovely card. I debated whether or not to make it romantic. Lamb’s been my most favourite London man and I was single, I imagined him as someone who’d treat me very well. I gathered courage and wrote a romantic card. After all, what’s wrong with love?!
I stood there at the bust on the lonely street, looking into the windows of Merill Lynch building right opposite, wondered who those lucky souls are who worked on those busy desks with the Lamb bust for a view. I wondered about how many countless times Lamb walked up and down this street and how he looked at it differently each time. In my head, I was trying to create Charles Lamb’s London.
Catharine soon returned. She said she didn’t feel very comfortable in there with suited men and serious women talking of business and politics. The place seemed too serious for a young adventurer as Catharine, maybe I wouldn’t be comfortable there either.
I wanted Catharine to read the letter, she did. Perhaps she was shocked as her reaction didn’t say much. I left the beautiful card there, right beside the bust – with my name, who knows what stories that might bring in this age of Internet.
I loved to imagine what would be of it, who would find it, would they think I am some kind of a psycho or would they understand my deep love for this man who lived over 200 years ago? I imagined all night and still do sometimes. Maybe I always will.
I Googled the St Sepulchre’s Church Watch Tower outside which is this bust and was quite shocked to know these details about it. From Britannia.com, I learnt that this was a place for executions, a gory place of death. Dead bodies were often stolen from graves here and sold to doctors at Bartholomew’s Hospital. From the website: “Ironically, the Great Fire stopped suddenly only a few yards away from St. Sepulchre’s and it is worth turning into Giltspur Street to see the curious monument that was put up to mark the spot.” Looks like I must go back to this street to visit the Watch Tower next time along with the bust. Here’s a daytime picture of the Tower and the bust, again, Googled.