Tomb of Heloise and Abelard 1814

Calamities of the Heart

  It’s winter and the Père Lachaise Cemetery is awash in grays. The sky, the bare limbs of the trees, the pavers and the stone cladding the tombs coalesce into one monochromatic composition as I climb the hill. I walk along a path made knotty by the roots of trees as they attempt to nudge […]

Edith Wharton's home in France

What Libraries Might Teach Us

  I’m on my way back to Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University tomorrow, one of my all-time favorite research libraries, and it occurred to me that it would be a good time to share with you what I’ve learned so far from delving into the papers of some heavyweight writers at […]

Classical and Modern architecture meet at Yale

Touching Literary History

  I will once again be touching literary history soon, as the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University reopened yesterday following a 16-month renovation to upgrade the 50-year-old building’s climate-control system, expand its classroom space, and restore the landmark to its original luster. The building’s architectural features—an exterior grid of granite and […]

Stephen Paul Johnson as a beset King Lear in HVSF

Celebrating Shakespeare

  Celebrating Shakespeare The 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death is April 23rd, the date he passed in 1616 at the age of 52 believed to be his birthday. It’s a milestone for which the UK in particular has been prepping for quite some time so celebrating Shakespeare in England has never been easier. But […]

The Palette of van Gogh in Starry Night

The Palette of Van Gogh

  You can see the passion in Vincent’s stare. Is there a hint of malice or is it a touch of despair? He was certainly a tortured man, though such a talented one. I stood and stared at this self-portrait hanging in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for quite some time one […]

Antonio Cotti paints "Dante in Verona"

Reading Dante in Milan

  “I’d like that sunny table near the windows under the beautiful mirror,” he says to the hostess at Le Vrai, pointing to the niche set with two café tables, perfect for reading Dante all afternoon. Only a few decades earlier, the waistcoat and watch fob dangling from its pocket would have been out of […]

Michelangelo on the facade of National Arts Club

The Italian Reformation and Gifting

  Peering back into the mists of time to ascertain how relationships between men and women played out has its challenges, particularly when the era limited contact between the opposite sex of a certain rank such as during the Italian Reformation. Last week, I took readers on a literary design adventure that found the Renaissance master […]