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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Historic excursion

Wednesday, August 11th., Cadogan Square, London.

I finished my nouvelle yesterday afternoon. 20,400 words written in 23 days. It may not be good, but it cannot be very bad. I now want a really striking title for it.

I have had the opportunity to visit Apsley House, London home of the Duke of Wellington, and took it. I was particularly interested to see memorabilia of the first Duke and wasn't disappointed. Most of the rooms I saw were more or less crammed with gifts given to the Duke to reward his defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo: ceramics, paintings, medals, swords .... What I hadn't realised, but should have known, was what a close run thing it was. Suppose Napoleon had won, which he might, how different the course of European history would have been.

It seems that the Duke had a great respect for Napoleon, though the two men never met except across the battlefield. There is a huge painting of the battle in one of the rooms, meant to be an accurate representation (I forget who it is by) which shows Napoleon in the foreground and Wellington in the middle distance; I wonder if they really could have seen each other and, if so, what their thoughts were? Apparently Wellington went to Paris to see Napoleon's tomb, and pay respects, when the body was returned from St. Helena and interred at the Invalides.

The rooms of course are very grand but what caught my imagination most was a feature of the 'Waterloo Gallery': the long windows which light the room can be covered by sliding mirrors for a banquet or ball making effectively a mirrored wall like something from Versailles; I thought this a clever detail.

What a pity that the road in front of the house (Piccadilly) is so busy with traffic. The house deserves a more tranquil and dignified setting.

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