This is going to be short and sweet — or, anyway, short — because I’m really tired, it’s late here, and I need to pack for a relatively early departure from London tomorrow morning.
We spent the forenoon and the first part of the afternoon today at the Tower of London. It was a bright, sunny day, and we were happy to be there, so our experience was distinctly unlike that of Queen Anne Boleyn, St. Thomas More, Lady Jane Grey, Queen Catherine Howard, Sir Walter Raleigh, the “two princes in the tower” (the child king Edward V and his younger brother, the Duke of York) and many others. We spent the afternoon in Westminster, near the Houses of Parliament and in Westminster Abbey, followed by a stroll over to Trafalgar Square. (It was yet another seven-mile-plus walking day, in addition to Tube travel. A bit stressful on the feet in an urban environment, but a very helpful way, thematically arranged, of coming to understand London and its history better.)
Westminster Abbey is always powerful for me. I enjoy seeing the tombs of the various kings and queens, but, truthfully, Poets Corner (Chaucer and Spencer and on down, including Browning, Dickens, Dryden, Hakluyt, Hardy, Johnson, Jonson, Kipling, Macaulay, Masefield, Olivier, Sheridan, Tennyson, etc.) absolutely captivates me, as does seeing the tombs of such scientists as Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and Charles Darwin and of others such as Laurence Olivier, Henry Purcell, and George Frederick Handel. The only place that approaches it, in my view, is the much smaller and Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, which houses the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Ghiberti, as well as an empty monument to Dante erected by a city that realized only too late how much it had lost by foolishly sending him into exile. (I’ve made the pilgrimage to Dante’s tomb in Ravenna.) The impact of Santa Croce upon me was especially stark because it was totally unexpected when I first wandered into that church as a teenager. As I went from funerary monument to funerary monument, I was absolutely stunned at the splendor of the names I was seeing. (As a Latter-day Saint, I also enjoy the Salt Lake City Cemetery, and for analogous reasons; it’s a fascinating place for a Church history buff.)
Our group broke up at Trafalgar Square. A few of us went to a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, followed by a performance of the play War Horse. I’d seen the movie, of course, but hadn’t been with my wife when she saw the play in New York. It was enjoyable.
Posted from London, England.