I’m not gonna lie, the foundling museum hits different when you were adopted at nine months old. The Foundling Museum affected me more than I thought it was going to.
The exhibits were through a door surrounded by a roster of famous orphans and foundlings, historical and fictional. My people.
Tokens were mandatory. Those surrendering children had to leave something if only a hazelnut shell or a scrap of paper from a Vauxhall playbill, but some are wrenchingly personal.
Ledgers documented each baby received. This one, for Boy #8338 admitted May 1758, included his name embroidered on a ribbon and a poem on a scrap of paper. This one left me feeling hollowed out.
‘Go gentle babe! Thy future hours be spent
In virtuous purity and calm content
Life’s sunshine bless thee: and no anxious care
Sit on thy brow and drain the falling tear
Thy countrys grateful servant may’st thou prove
And all thy life be happiness and love’
His name was Philip Holland, and he was later reclaimed by his father.
Along with the objects and mementos, an oral history (by former clients? Inmates? Survivors?) ran continuously in an alcove that also displayed one of these iron cots.
Institutional life may be better than death by starvation and exposure, but it still sounded pretty grim.
The abandoned and surrendered infants were placed in foster homes until they were five and then brought into the highly regimented school setting. “It prepares you for life in the military,” was the most positive thing I heard, and the rest sounded bleak as hell. Canings and mandatory silence.
TIL: I did not know the composer Handel and artist Hogarth were ardent supporters. Hogarth designed the institution’s logo.
Handel wrote music for them and held fundraising concerts, including one of his Messiah.
Upstairs musicians were practicing for an evening performance. The rich and full sound filled the room and spilled down the staircase. It was glorious.
Afterward, I walked to nearby Ciao Bella, and it was another excellent Italian meal of prosciutto and melon and pasta with shellfish. Careful to leave on time for my next stop, I plugged in Dickens House on Google maps. Mistake. PSA: the Dickens House is not the Dickens House Museum and I ended up walking 30 minutes instead of 10.
Dickens House Musem is a small townhome where an unknown Charles Dickens, writing as Boz, brought his bride. He left with two children and a famous man. It’s a compact but comfortable, and seems just the right size for a newlywed couple.
During my visit, two small children rampaged through the rooms, culminating in screaming, kicking the floor fits. No matter what floor they were on, or room you were in, you could hear these kids wailing and shrieking. As distracting as it was, I imagine it was much like Dicken’s home life actually was, working with two babies in the small house. I’ve read he walked around London all day long, and you can imagine why after 30 minutes of toddlers throwing tantrums.
I thought about a coffee but at this point and needed calm more than caffeine. Back to the hotel I went. God bless Uber and all who ride in her.
I was in my quiet room when I found out our old dog Maddie had died peacefully in her sleep that morning, Palm Sunday. It helps me to know her life was a very good life, that she was loved and well cared for, and that she spun for joy at every mealtime up to her last day. I am sad that I am an ocean away from my beloved spouse. I am going to get what consolation I can from the Raphael exhibit tomorrow and light a candle for her at St Paul’s on Wednesday. She was a very good dog.