Below, Hokusai’s “Sumidagawa Sekiya no sato”
I could have fudged my photo a bit to make it match. I had been sitting on it for a while, building up a stockpile of horse photos. I could have covered up the blue van, perhaps added some shadow…. but I’m running out of time.
On Pultney Bridge.
Delia’s Grotto, Bath: [1. Elizabeth A. Linley, 2. Richard B. Sheridan, 3. The Grotto for Scandal, 4. History of Delia's Grotto 5. Design and Brief Context]
Below: Delia’s Grotto, now encased in a garden wall in back of No. 14 North Parade in early and late January 2007, as it is being prepped for a restaurant serving Greek cuisine. The toilets are now gone…but where? [See previous two posts: Linley and Sheridan]
John Ede’s terse description: “At the river end is a grotto in the garden said to be associated with Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Miss Linley,” indicates that not just the structure but a rich history is hidden in that overgrown riverside garden. –John Ede, Special Walks (Bath: Department of Leisure and Tourist Services, Bath City Council, 1984), 19.
Secretly married but barred from seeing each other, both Richard B. Sheridan and Elizabeth A. Linley clandestinely met against their parent’s consent at Delia’s Grotto, on the banks of the Avon, along the old Harrison’s Walk. After a particular grotto tryst [see this excellent historical illustration of archival merit] [ebbed] by Sheridan’s jealousy, he composed the now famous twelve verses:
Uncouth is this moss cover’d grotto of stone,
And damp is the shade of this dew dripping tree;
Yet I this rude grotto with rapture will own;
And willow thy damps are refreshing to me.
For this is the grotto where Delia reclin’d
As late I in secret her confidence sought;
And this is the tree kept her safe from the wind,
As blushing she heard the grave lesson I taught.
Then tell me, thou grotto of moss cover’d stone,
And tell me thou willow, with leaves dripping dew,
Did Delia seem vex’d when Horatio was gone?
And did she confess her resentment to you?
Methinks now each bough as you’re waving it, tries
To whisper a cause for the sorrow I feel;
To hint how she frown’d when I dared to advise,
And sigh’d when she saw that I did it with zeal.
True, true, silly leaves, so she did, I allow;
She frown’d; but no rage in her looks did I see;
She frown’d but reflection had clouded her brow;
She sigh’d; but, perhaps, ‘twas in pity for me.
Then wave thy leaves brisker, thou willow of woe;
I tell thee no rage in her looks could I see;
I cannot, I will not, believe it was so;
She was not, she could not be angry with me.
For well did she know that my heart meant no wrong;
It sunk at the thought but of giving her pain;
But trusted its task to a faltering tongue,
Which err’d from the feelings it could not explain.
Yet, oh! if indeed, I’ve offended the maid;
If Delia my humble monition refuse;
Sweet willow, the next time she visits thy shade,
Fan gently her bosom, and plead my excuse.
And thou stony grot, in thy arch may’st preserve
Two lingering drops of the night fallen dew;
And just let them fall at her feet and they’ll serve
As tears of my sorrow intrusted to you.
Or, lest they unheeded should fall at her feet,
Let them fall on her bosom of snow; and I swear
The next time I visit thy moss cover’d seat,
I’ll pay thee each drop with a genuine tear.
So may’st thou, green willow, for ages thus toss
Thy branches so lank o’er the slow winding stream;
And though, stony grotto, retain all thy moss,
While yet there’s a poet to make thee his theme.
Nay, more—may my Delia still give you her charms
Each ev’ning, and sometimes the whole ev’ning long;
Then, grotto, be proud to support her white arms,
Then, willow wave all thy green tops to her song.
With a gothick atmosphere created by the “moss cover’d seat,” and a picturesque ideal fostered in Delia’s Grotto near the willow and “slow winding stream,” it is easy to suppose this location was selected for mere romantic settings alone. Selecting this grotto as the rendezvous site most likely came about from four facts. First, as stated above, the area’s social popularity for fashionable daylight strolls had ebbed since it was first laid out and then later incorporated into the North Parade. Additionally, there was a degree of privacy on the Walk since no development in the area ever fronted the river.  Conversely, the area was already popular with Sheridan, who frequented the Parade Coffee House at night, as seen yesterday’s post. Finally, the most compelling motivation for the selection of the grotto as a meeting point was that it was two streets away from Pierrepont Street. Here, Elizabeth had lived during her formative years from the age of ten until she moved at age seventeen to the Royal Crescent, where she was quickly wooed to elopement by Richard. Thus, the romantic grotto not only avoided the crowds, it was situated near a coffee house Richard frequented and in Elizabeth’s old neighborhood and emotional home.
Above: Detail of altered ordnance survey map by the Bath Archeological Trust…Below: Current hidden location in the garden of No. 14 North Parade and in the shadow of the North Parade Bridge.
The meetings did not last since Elizabeth’s father exiled her to Wells (his hometown), and Sheridan’s father sent him to Waltham Abbey in Essex. But the two were able to meet again when Elizabeth performed at Covent Garden. Slowly opposition to their union finally eroded with a second and official wedding on the 13 of April, 1773 in the Marylebone section of London. As was customary following the marriage, Elizabeth retired from the stage and Sheridan only allowed her to perform in small private gatherings. He gained fame and wealth quickly with his plays The Rivals (1775) and The School for Scandal (1777) and with his investment in the Drury Lane Theatre, which he purchased with Elizabeth’s father, who sold off his own Royal Crescent house.  In 1776, Sheridan took up politics as a Whig. He was elected MP for Stafford in 1780, became Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1782 and Secretary to the Treasury in 1783. 
Through it all, Richard and Elizabeth remembered their courtship and on one occasion when Elizabeth was visiting her relations in Bath, Richard wrote to her poetically alluding to their grotto days:
Near Avon’s ridgy bank there grows.
A willow of no vulgar size.
That tree first heard poor Sylvio’s woes.
And heard how bright were Laura’s eyes.”
Elizabeth responded to her husband:
Soft flowed the lay by Avon’s sedgy side.
While o’er its stream the drooping willow hung
Beneath whose shadow Sylvio fondly tried.
To check the opening roses as they sprung.”
Nostalgic as this scene might be, the courtship turned out to be the happiest point in the couple’s lives due to Sheridan’s infidelity. After Elizabeth died of tuberculosis at the age of 38, biographer Percy Fitzgerald suggested that Sheridan had copied his love letters to Elizabeth to woo his second wife (Perhaps he recycled his gifts as well). Regardless, Sheridan’s verses certainly were true to Delia’s Grotto, which today occasionally bears his name, and represents an aspect of its folly architecture that it was created to engender.
(Tomorrow, see the grotto!)
 Michael Forsyth, Bath (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 210.
 Emanuel Green, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Thomas Linley, Their Residences at Bath with a Notice of the Sheridan Grotto (Bath: Herald Office, North Gate, 1904), 20-21.
 William Lowndes, Royal Crescent in Bath: A Fragment of English Life (Bristol, The Redcliffe Press, 1981), 38.
 Cedric Price, ed., The Letters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 27.
 Richard Brimsley Sheridan, “To Laura,” in Green, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Thomas Linley, 23.
 Elizabeth Ann Sheridan, “To Sylvio,” in Green, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Thomas Linley, 23.
 Lowndes, Royal Crescent in Bath, 39.
 Price, ed., The Letters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 27.
So who was there?
It’s hard for me to break down and categorize the individuals at the Hedge, due in large part to the vast diversity present. I’ll rely on my old undergraduate dissertation crutch and conform the myriad of groups into three relatively irrelevant entities: the devout (authentic Druids, New Age-inspired magicians, and the heavily intoxicated, most reverend at these events), the conventionally pious (LARPers, Aging Hippies), and the worldly (flat-out tourists). Since I’ve been out of the liberal arts loop for over a year, my classifications are not up to snuff. For the official, if now outdated, list of terms, check out the various joke guides that all play on the pseudo-scientific classification of subgroups   , but I’m just breaking down the groups to decide the order to post my photos.
First, a brief word that the “stewards” of Stonehenge, the security detail there that searched bags at the entrance and confiscated any glass bottles really controlled events brilliantly. The only serious incidents that occurred resulted from people accidentally falling from stones and suffering mild concussions. They were all quickly attended to. From my vantage point toward sunrise, I saw the security detail go into overtime and escort numerous people out for various infractions, including perching on higher stones….
Unfortunately, there were many people dressed like stewards who were not in fact stewards or had anything to do with security.
There didn’t appear to be any serious theft at the site, personal property was reasonably secure and there were few, if any, altercations between individuals.
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“This is a once in a thousand years event! (Even though it’s every year…)”
-Druids [see previous post]
-Possible Druids/ New Agers/ Grieving Family Members Illegally Disposing of Human Remains. Not sure what type of ashes these women were scattering over the crowd, but they got them on hundreds of people, and then proceeded to sprinkle them on the rocks too.
-Musicians in the Sacrificial Mosh Pit
-Industrious People on our former rock who raised a crystal rod to try to catch the sunbeams…sadly, there was no sun.
-the Disabled, this might be a bit un-PC to single them out, but I was shocked and impressed at the number of people there in wheelchairs and with walkers at the site. These people were camping out like the rest of us and I saw them touching the stones, making me wonder if they made this pilgrimage expecting something. That’s intense, especially because I often mistaked their walking canes and gray hair for cheesy wizard costumes.
-Long Distance Tourists/ and the extreme version: long distance tourist families.
-Witches burning basil/other herbs and shoving it into natural holes in the stones. Is it legal? This is a Grade I Ancient Monument – defacing it is a criminal offense.
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“So what do you think? Yeah, I guess it’s cool, kinda like a rave without electric.”
-Those surrounding the musicians in the Mosh Pit who cheered and snapped their fingers like they were at a lame poetry reading. I don’t know what they should have been doing, I was nearby and trying to sleep…
-Photographers going to the extra length standing on others shoulders, climbing the large post sarcens for the excellent picture while risking expulsion, bringing your own tripod… (I saw others who climbed great heights just to drink…maybe that’s in devout category, but it’s also stupid, should have brought a camera up there…)
-Artists of various sorts, their paintings and other work might not be spectacular but they can claim they did it from life and up close.
-Families: it takes guts to allow your kids to jump around on crowded slippery wet rocks over five feet high, while among the craziest members of society.
-Roving bands of costumed musicians, or simply the processional possessed.
-Political Message Mongerers, a***oles who brought banners to unfurl in the center of the Hedge at sunrise….they didn’t make it to the core, I think they were driven out in fact. “Save [Something]…” No idea what there message was since it was too packed.
-Stay still, you have Merlin on your neck! The beard here was real. It’s debatable if full beards and pointy hats should be added to the devout, I doubt that he grew it to fit in with this crowd…
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“Could all of you just bend your necks to the right, I NEED this photo…”
-Casual photographers, I can’t stand seeing so many people taking pictures with their cell phones. This ticks me off. They’ll claim they don’t have the cash to get a real camera, but then they’ll spend the rest of the day calling international talking about trivial things. These are people who need to have cell phones with them at all time, they need to be in touch at all time. Where’s the fun in camping out at the Henge and not being isolated from modern society. The photos is not going to come out, either, so why do they try?
-Posers, tourists who posed near the costumed folks…like this guy next to a warlock with a dead ferret on a stick.
-Tourists more interested in getting a group photo up close than with anything substantial in the background. A photo isn’t a photo unless it has a good structure somewhere in it. Why don’t these people wrestle back in their suburban homes?
-There’s nothing better than having reserved great spots and then contently sleeping through sunrise while occupying triple the ground area needed. It was so packed with people trying to get this close, that no one woke any of the multiple sleeping couples up out of spite for the space they continued to take. Who suffered there?
-People who quit the wait around the stones for the allure of the charcoal fire (no questions on how I have a photo of said fire.)
Camped out last night/this morning for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. It was quite an experience as there were thousands of people (as tomorrow’s post will detail) there and it was actually chilly. Normal visitors are not allowed to go near the stones while we camped out on them, so it was worth it to go just for that reason — I have now touched all the stones (and others did much worse). Below, an image the Druids might think was magic — all the cell phone cameras and digital camera screens glowing amidst the twilight and the ancient monument.
The “Cleopatra” in front of Bath’s Parade Garden shore and Hokusai’s Bushu Tamagawa. Right in back of the Cleopatra is where the “Roman Great Drain” empties into the Avon. It leads from the Roman Baths to the Parade Gardens, there it was extended during the medieval period. the short section that now empties into the Avon, right where the ground dips down, was built in the 1960s. The Roman brick drain is the oldest working structure in the city, and one of the oldest continuously working structures in the world. The concrete 1960s section of the drain collapsed last year….“no respect for stones.”
Another blinded window, although this one wasn’t designed as such. Someone’s lost their window privileges above the Mendips Fireplace Factory, which is really quite an interesting stucture above a stream, but the water is stagnant and seemingly lethal. What lowly fireplace factory worker is stuck in the windowless room? Since when did fireplace factories occupy telephone buildings? Since when have fireplaces been manufactured in factories?
Don’t worry, both are alive (but probably sending out S.O.S messages in bottles).