Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Yorkshire

I arrive in New York on Friday afternoon. The sky is blue but the weather report says it's five below zero, in case I hadn't felt the cold's bite on my rump, in my nose that bleeds every time I sneeze. I get to where I think I'm supposed to be only to be told abruptly "Go outside and cross the road". 

Across the road - how could I have missed this?

 New York Public Library is a palace. I'm ecstatic. For today and tomorrow I will be working in here, eating lunch in here, drinking tea (yes, somewhere in NYC that offers HOT tea), and generally feeling I am in a fairy-tale in here.

I turn to look at the ceilings, walls, artworks, from every angle. 

I write a post-it note and add it to the wall.

After my bag is searched I go to check it and my outerwear into the cloakroom, before I look for the Berg Collection Reading Room.

 But before I can enter the Berg Collection Reading Room, I have to register for a library card and an entry pass.

 The library cards are issued from this room with a mural of sky overhead.

 And the door panels were carved into beautiful reliefs.

 The Berg Collection was waiting for me at the end of a long red corridor lined with illustrations.

Perhaps because it reminded me of my subject, this was my favourite.

Then I was lost in my research for the rest of the day, and when I reentered it, the city was a blur.


Saturday disappeared the same way. I transcribed, made notes, wrote questions. Strained my eyes at Mary Taylor's finely wrought handwriting, each letter so uniformly drawn, brown ink on blue paper, like old buildings against ice-blue sky.

And the sun shone again for my trip to the Morgan Library and Museum, a place that is to New York Public Library what James Bond is to Buckingham Palace, as I describe it to a friend.

Though both libraries allowed me to photograph Mary Taylor's correspondence with Charlotte Bron, I'm not allowed to share the pictures I took. But here's a taster of what they had in their Charlotte Bronte Exhibition. You'll have to wait a little longer to see what I discovered form their archive, but I think it will be worth it.

 I had travelled half way round the world from my New Zealand home, and half again from where both I and Mary Taylor originated from in Yorkshire, to read her letters in New York. We had grown up just an hour apart by train, yet I had flown for sixteen hours to find her and now her words are in my head where I feel they always have been. If not my Yorkshire, a New Yorkshire. If I can transport even a scratch of that feeling onto the page, this research trip will have been worth every nosebleed.

This research trip was funded by a Creative New Zealand Arts Grant.


Kass said...

This is so wonderful! I am so jealous. You are/were in one of my favorite places. Tell us/me more about your research. How much longer will you be in the states?

Rachel Fox said...

Happy travels, happy writing!

Unknown said...

Wonderful write-up. Thank you for sharing!

Rachel Fenton said...

Awe, no need to be jelly, Kass! I am back in NZ now - just a short trip to visit libraries and gather material for my biography project. I'll be off to the UK next to visit the Bronte Museum, fingers crossed. Thanks for your lovely comment.

Rachel Fenton said...

John, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it! The libraries were wonderful.

Rachel Fenton said...

T'other Rachel - thank you! I have a painting for you on the theme of "Inside Outside", by the by.

Anonymous said...

Kia ora Rae. Great to catch up with your New Yorkshire adventures online. Looking forward to Gommersal and Haworth. Mauri ora.

Rachel Fenton said...

Kia ora, Robert - ka pai!