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BRITISH SOUL

The most spiritual activities in London are to stroll under the trees of Kew Gardens or of the Japanese garden in Holland Park, appreciating the chromatic variations of green, or to educate the ear with a choir at Westminster Cathedral or St. Etheldreda.
But England has a merchant’s soul. English citizens are international islanders.
And the Roman Londinium, although the “docks” died in the 10 May 1941 blitz, is still the biggest emporium in the world, a tapis roulant of foreign objects and thoughts coming from nowhere.
Hence the necessity, exquisitely English, to comprehend them, evaluate them by Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and put them under vacuum-seal, as jam preserved for winter.
To understand this frame of mind, one can look at the V&A Cast Collection where, in a sort of conservatory, the Trajan’s Column is displayed under glass; or explore Soane’s house where, in the basement, the owner nonchalantly placed the sarcophagus of Seti I; or, finally, visit Lord Leighton’s house, glazed by Turkish tiles.
This island will sink under the weight of books and paintings.
The Wallace Collection, once and for all. Henry James wrote that the Englishmen became collectors in order to have something to contemplate during rainy days; however, bad weather or not, the best Italian painters are here, between the National and the Queen’s Galleries, and in the countryside, which hosts more works of Canaletto than weeds.
After enjoying the view of London from the top of the Monument, a column commemorating the destructive fire of 1666, get lost in the clews of little “crescents”, erratic escapes from the town plan, like clandestine stories.
One of them is Church Walk in Kensington, where you shall find the house of Ezra Pound, a gentleman’s shop full of wonderful trifles, and a boutique selling frivolous bonnets.
The walk terminates in Church Street, especially for those who love antiques such as those displayed at Raymond Horneman’s.
I also recommend a few shops with the three royal feathers: starting from Berry Brothers & Rudd for wine, Henry Poole & Co for liveries, Turnbull & Asser for tailored shirts, Davidoff for its smokers, endangered species, but not for its smoke, Purdey for hunting and shotguns lovers, Swaine Adeney, for leather, D. R. Harris for its perfumes since 1790, Hatchard’s for the best books, David Linley, Princess Margaret’s son, for furniture.
One wanting to buy a jewel by Fulco di Verdura goes only to Obsidian, one looking for an Italian fondo oro, to Moretti Gallery.
Several clubs have Italian partnerships and hotel rooms. Incidentally, the oldest, a gentleman’s exclusive club called The White’s, was founded by a Neapolitan, Francesco Bianco, at the end of the seventeenth century.
If I could, I would end my little tour just there, but, being a woman, I will go to Fortnum & Mason for tea and then to my favourite pub, The Blackfriar, for “a pint” of true English spirit!

Francesca Centurione Scotto


British Soul
 
Hatchard's
Francesca Centurione Scotto

 
Dinner-jacket

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