Since it’s the month of Francis Bacon’s 455th birthday, we’ll start the new year with pictures of Baconish things.
Here’s his statue at Gray’s Inn. Next time I go to London, I’m going to get there the minute the gate opens, in hopes of taking a picture with no cars in it so I don’ have to crop so fiercely.
I especially like the garter tied in a bow and the puffy bow on his shoes. A person can be serious of purpose and still wear jazzy shoes; a lesson we have needed to re-learn in our age.
That’s the Gray’s Inn griffin. Such a beautiful beast! I’m certain the emblems of the four Inns of Court formed the foundation for the different schools at Hogwarts. Naturally, you’d choose this fine gryphon if you could. Lincoln’s Inn has a purple lion on a gold field, but they don’t splash it about much. The Middle Temple has a sheep with a flag on a red cross. The flag is somewhat thrilling, but it’s still a sheep. The Inner Temple has Pegasus – a flying horse – which I’ll grant you is pretty fine.
Here’s Gray’s Inn hall. Francis ate most of the dinners and suppers of his life in this building. It was badly damaged during the Blitz and has been substantially rebuilt. Still, he would feel at home, especially because a painting of his father still hangs in it. I’m not sure how warm his reception would be.
Here’s a sketch of the probable layout of Gray’s Inn in 1590. Bacon lived in the building catty-corner from the hall, in the bottom left corner of Chapel Court. There’s an ‘a’ marking the spot; you can barely see it. The hall is marked ‘i’. Bacon would have seen green fields and trees out his chamber window.
My characters Tom and Ben lived for a while in the building opposite the hall, called the Middle Gallery. They moved to the T-shaped building at the left end of the hall, closer to Bacon’s building. The kitchens are on the ground floor of this building.
The roads are still the same, or rather, in the same place, but the city has long since overgrown those open fields. Bacon laid out his walk, which is still there today, in the space labelled ‘pannierman’s close.’ The close was an orchard and vegetable garden –produce carried to market in panniers, except of course it was probably all eaten by the gentlemen of Gray’s.
Jacques, David. 1989. “‘The Chief Ornament’ of Gray’s Inn: The Walks from Bacon to Brown.” Garden History, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring, 1989), pp. 41-67.