We’ve just got back from a visit to Shandy Hall. I sure I’ve written about it here before: it was the home of Laurence Sterne, the writer of Tristram Shandy. Sterne was the vicar of Coxwold and Shandy Hall, at that time, was the vicarage.
I find it an inspiring place. In addition to the house itself and the garden, there is an excellent second-hand bookshop which leans heavily (as Sterne himself did) towards the off-beat and the experimental. They also sell plants. We bought one or two (along with A William Burroughs Reader). I like the idea of bringing a bit of there back here. I suspect there is a bit of the primitive sympathetic magician lurking in all of us, whether we like it or not.
The Laurence Sterne Foundation also make imaginative use of the small exhibition space at the hall, staging exhibitions with a Shandean edge. The current exhibition, Paint Her To Your Own Mind, is based on a blank page in Tristram Shandy. Sterne invites his readers to fill it for themselves with an an idealized vision of female beauty:
To conceive this right, —call for pen and ink— here’s paper ready to your hand, —Sit down, Sir, paint her to your own mind—as like your mistress as you can —as unlike your wife as your conscience will let you—‘tis all one to me— please but your own fancy in it.
For the exhibition, 147 artists, writers and composers were invited to carry out Sterne’s instructions. It’s well worth a visit and runs until September 16th.
When we got home, I felt moved to write a haiku:
footsteps through the grass leading
to the next chapter