London Connections

Caroline Gladstone, Jennifer Anderson, and Liz Gray

I am privileged to have family connections in London. My wife’s birth mother lives here; she welcomes us in, feeds us, schedules shows for us, schools us in all things British, and most of all makes this a loving place to be. Her sister, Jennifer Anderson, a former headmistress of the Francis Holland School, a girls’ school in London, lives nearby. She is an authority on Dante and has led multiple trips to a number of places in Italy. She also knows Latin and is currently taking a course that is reading the Aeneid. The course is taught by another former headmistress, Isabel Raphael, this time of the Channing Girls’ School. Jennifer recognizes and appreciates my love of ancient history, literature, and languages, and it was she who arranged for me to meet her friend and Latin teacher, classicist Isabel Raphael.

Meeting Isabel was exhilarating. We talked about the current state of Latin pedagogy, about what she sees as the success of the Cambridge Latin Series, about teaching girls, about the collegiality so necessary in teaching, and about specific authors and texts. She told me her current “retired” schedule. She teaches a number of classes to adults, all people who very much want to be there. She has cleverly offered classes to interested people, and they love them. When I told her that I planned to make a return visit to the Hellenic Book Service store right around the corner from where we were, she lit up and told me to look for the owner, Monica Williams, and some specific texts. Last time I was in London, I found some treasured used books at this store, and I was looking forward to combing the shelves again.

Unfortunately, it was the end of our trip, and funds were getting low.  We also could only carry a small number of books back with us.  Otherwise, I would have bought out the entire store! In their new location, on the main floor, you can find new Latin and Greek books on a multitude of topics and for a wide range of ages. I didn’t have any time for this floor, as I immediately headed downstairs to the shelves of used books. Here you can find centuries-old textbooks, and it is absolutely fascinating to watch how cyclical the dialogue on methodology is. Often when I talk to people, they wonder why I would want something so old, when so much has changed over time. But the changes follow a cycle: grammar/translation to reading to direct method and around and around again. I bought more than I could carry, had a great time talking to Monica, and promised her that I would tell everyone about her fabulous store. I look forward to my next visit to London; I’ll be taking an extra suitcase with me.


Ancient Isles

In the past two weeks, I have communed with islands. I spent time in England, Scotland, including the Outer Hebrides, and I attended the British Museum’s exhibition on Sicily: Culture and Conquest. While in England, I visited the Museum of London about ancient Londinium from the point of view of the British, rather than from the writings of Julius Caesar. While I never had the chance to visit Hadrian’s wall (saved for a future trip!), I did get to see the remains of the walls around Londinium. I also took a day trip to Chichester, home to Fishbourne, the Roman palace of ancient Noviomagus Regnorum. Here, in addition to seeing some amazing mosaics saved from plows and threatened by subsidence, I was impressed by the museum’s educational signage and programming for children and loved hearing a local archaeologist discuss their collections discovery center. 

While in Scotland, I visited Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard that surrounds Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. Here, I saw many beautiful Latin epitaphs as well as the tombstone of Thomas Riddell, one of the many inspirations for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I also began an elementary and very informal study of Gaelic, while viewing the bilingual signs throughout the country and purchasing a few books on the language. And in the Outer Hebrides, I had the opportunity to visit the Callanish Stones. The purpose of the stones remains a mystery, but one theory is that a ceremony for goddess worship took place there. There was a definite spiritual air about the place. I finished my tour of islands with the British Museum visit.  Although I have been to the island of Sicily twice, I discovered much that was new in this exhibit.  I knew about the history of the island during the Greek and Roman periods, but I didn’t know as much about the Arab and Norman periods, and I was thrilled to discover what a multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual place it was during those eras.

It is amazing to me how much jockeying for control happens around these islands, surrounded by water which has been traveled in for centuries upon centuries. They are both beautiful and politically influential. I would like to go back to a period when many religions and languages and ethnicities were celebrated and appreciated.

Collections Discovery Centre at Fishbourne in Chichester, England

Welcome signs in four languages, including Latin!

Remains of the wall around Londinium

Tombstone in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland

Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Location of our cottage with an amazing view on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides