The pleasures of staying here begin with the sight of the Mediterranean reaching from the end of the garden to infinity. Then there are the comforts of an English middle class house with all its settled, slightly scruffy but well-polished usedness - the occasional small garden tool resting under a chair - it’s a pair of blue-handled shears I can see from here - and the furniture conversing quietly in shuttered sitting rooms, combined with wickedly soft French beds to lie in, while listening to the sea, and passing trains.
The books are everywhere, shelved in alcoves and lining rooms. Not paperbacks (there are those too, in piles and cupboards) but proper books in solid bindings with gold lettering, heavy enough to need one of those tables with patterns let into the top that stand around not looking too useful until Lord Curzon of Keddlestone’s account of life in India is taken down and weighs so much it has to rest on one of them.
Lord C. got into a dreadful bate about the denial of the Black Hole of Calcutta atrocity by later, indigenous historians, writing a century and more afterwards. He gives 20 or so pages of contemporary accounts, travellers’ tales, drawings of the monument erected over the ditch where the bodies were thrown the next morning (with asides on the inborn incapacity of French and other non-English observers to correctly recount anything they saw, never mind these matters).
He locates the exact site of the notorious store room, since over built, outlines the original old fortress in brass lines let into ground and extant buildings; the floor area of the Hole itself he has laid with black marble.
The first monument having been demolished after falling into dereliction, he has a life-size statue of an illustrious former statesman moved from where he has occupied the site, and builds a fine monument in lasting materials (marble shipped from southern Italy) paid for from his own pocket; he even adds to the numbers of the commemorated and finds out their Christian names. After having carved on another face of the monument a harsh condemnation of the Nabob responsible, and a brief account of the even harsher reprisals taken against him, he reckons the whole thing is nailed.
Mentioning this at dinner, someone said, ” Oh, I was reading something recently about the Black Hole of Calcutta and that it was all made up to justify later repressive measures against the local rulers’ resistance."
Did I hear ‘sigh’ from Lord Curzon in the next door room?
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