Pointing out aspects of the front room she pointed out the piano that Chopin had played when he came to visit and how many of the furnishings were the very ones shown in this painting. Standing in what was the china closet just off of the dining room I imagined Mary, a servant, giving birth in there while Thomas was at home. Each room had a guide to highlight items in the house such as the second-hand sofa that Jane bought and wrote excitedly to Thomas about. She also wrote to friends requesting they bring her pictures to help with a collage she was making to cover a large folding screen that still stands in a lounge. Mrs Carlyle exhibits a wonderful sense of humour in her letters which is rather surprising considering her ill health and how drawn she looks in portraits, poor thing.
The most interesting bit of architectural detail in the house is the pulley system that operates sliding doors on the ceiling in Thomas' study on the upper floor. Flooding the room with extra light would have reduced eye strain during his long hours of reading and writing as well as the amount of money spent on candles. The back garden is small but lovely and the kind gentleman who lives in the house as a National Trust tenant even picked a fig from the tree for me. It was delicious!
I went about things a bit backwards as I knew next to nothing about the Carlyle's before visiting 24 Cheyne Row. But having a feel for the rooms and hearing anecdotes from the lovely staff has really added to my reading pleasure of Thea Holme's delightful book The Carlyle's at Home published by Persephone Books.
Thinking it would be best if I made tracks for Bloomsbury if I wanted to have some notes left over to mail The Heiress, I decided to have dinner at a bookshop. Simon and Claire had enjoyed the quiche on offer at the London Review Bookshop so I requested the same with a delicious quinoa salad. I love how they have you grab a seat at a very large table and goodness only knows who may join you!
My last night in London was spent on the The Old Knightsbridge Village Pub Walk with Fiona as our guide. Meeting approximately twenty others at the South Kensington tube station we set off along roads lined with expensive sports cars and once it got dark we craned our necks to peek inside some very distinct houses. Fiona told us about a couple who lived on the route and how they used to host a dinner party every Friday evening. Now she hadn't guided this particular tour for two years and was just filling in for a friend so she laughed as we passed the very house and they had company for dinner! How lovely of them not to draw their curtains so we could admire their exquisite furniture. Delighting in anecdotes, examining architecture and stopping at a couple of pubs, Fiona took us well over the two hour mark and I knew there was a kettle being boiled in my honour downstairs in the kitchen at The Morgan. So I rode the tube back to Russell Square to pack my bags and have a cup of tea.
The next morning my bill was paid, my bags were safely installed in the manager's office and I had a couple of hours to kill before heading to the airport. Skoob Books is situated at the back of the Brunswick Shopping Centre and well worth a visit. Were it not for a tired body and the thought of hauling my heavy bags to the airport I could have scooped up an armful of novels but bought only one, The Unborn Dreams of Clara Riley by Kathy Page. Saying goodbye to Russell Square I found a seat on the tube and pulled my latest book from my bag and before I knew it we were at the end of the line at Heathrow.
But I'll be back....