February 15, 2015

Sir John Soane´s Museum

Our last day in London we finally managed to make it to a museum that has been at the top of my list for years, but we have not been in London those few days during the week when it is open. I am talking about Sir John Soane´s Museum at Lincoln´s Inn Fields. I first read about it in an article about Swedish actor Peter Harryson and his annual trip to London. (I imagine it was a travel magazine.) He made it sound like a treasure palace of odd, wondrous things.

From the look of it, it was more office and exhibition space than a proper home. Soane was an architect and built the house himself. To me, it had the feel of a tomb more than a palace, not unlike Swedish doctor Axel Munthe´s villa San Michele on Capri, which we visited some fifteen years ago. It all those collections of mummies and gravegoods, tombstones and such, I think. Makes me cold all over, I can´t help it; it´s not conscious at all, more of a physical reaction. It´s so very Victorian to collect things like that; every man with means seems to have been an amateur antiquarian.

Soane - and his home - was quite famous even in his lifetime. He came from modest beginnings as the son of a bricklayer, trained at the Royal Academy where he distinguished himself as a very gifted student, got a scholarship to make his Grand Tour and was even knighted in 1831 after a fairly successful career. I got the impression that Soane was never at the forefront of architectural fashions, but rather a representative of the traditional, classic styles.

Soane had a very happy marriage, but was tragically disappointed in his two sons, one of whom was ill and died young, while the other was a rake, living with two women, gambling, and ending up in prison for fraud. When the younger son anonymously wrote an article slandering his father, Soane´s wife was so upset she died just a few months later. His final hope was for his grandson to be an architect, but the young man was rejected by the architect with whom he was studing, on account of being homosexual.

Interesting fact: the tomb Soane designed for his wife was the inspiration for the red telephone box that is such a classic British symbol.

Unfortunately it is not allowed to take photographs inside the museum, so I can´t share anything from the interior. There isn´t much in way of photo galleries at the website either, so for the Sir John Soane´s Museum experience, I guess you have to go there.

We had never been in this part of town before, and Lincoln´s Inn Fields turned out to be a nice little park, with a densly populated lawn. There was a television crew there and the husband was approached to take part, something about asking questions to politicians. This happens to us often, that we are taken for natives, asked for directions and what not. He declined to go on British television.

After this we walked along Oxford Street and don´t ask me how, but we found our way to the roof of the department store John Lewis, where we found a slightly plastic garden; there we had a drink and looked at the bustling shopping street below. A great place to relax!

And the day after, we went home. Not very many weeks later, we booked tickets to Heathrow for the summer of 2015. We still haven´t decided how to fill those two weeks, but I am beginning to think about it now. I guess it helps to have something to look forward to.

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