1) This week, I FINALLY made it to Cologny! It’s a suburb of Geneva right on the French border, and it’s known as the Beverly Hills of Geneva. Why go there? Because that’s where Byron and the Shelleys (okay, so technically not the Shelleys yet — Percy was still married to his first wife when he eloped with both Mary AND her half sister Claire, who had the hots for Byron and then, thanks to that summer, his love child) lived in the summer of 1816 and had one of the most famous literary house parties ever when they stayed up reading ghost stories and Byron challenged them all to write their own. Polidori (Byron’s doctor) came up with The Vampyre, who was modeled on Byron and became the basis of future vampire stereotypes. Mary came up with Frankenstein.
Right. So clearly this was super exciting. The Villa Diodati is a private residence, and part of the reason Byron rented it is because it had once been owned by a friend of Milton’s, and in 1639, the poet stayed with him there. Byron and Shelley had a thing about following their literary heroes (not that THAT’s familiar or anything), and they especially had a thing about Milton’s Satan (Byron? Liking Satan? Now there’s a surprise.) We couldn’t go into the Villa itself, but there’s a park next door, so we picnicked there and enjoyed the view.
2) The other reason we went to Cologny was to visit the Fondation Bodmer, a library and book museum. One expects to find treasures in places as grand as the British Museum or V & A. This museum was tiny, but I exclaimed over almost every display.
They have manuscript pages from all sorts of writers, from Byron and Keats to Borges, Proust, Goethe, Saint-Exupéry, and more. They have Shakespeare’s First Folio from 1623, an actual Gutenberg Bible (the entire thing, not just a page or two), one of four remaining copies of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses — the list goes on! Oh, did I mention the actual Egyptian Books of the Dead? Talk about dying and going to bibliophile heaven — this was it! Oh, and seeing Voltaire’s copy of Rousseau’s Émile with his annotations? So cool. Nothing like a philosopher’s indignant marginalia.
3) I love seeing original manuscript pages for so many reasons — handwriting, doodles, edits — in addition to the reverent response to a literary relic. I couldn’t get a good photo of Borges’ Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, but he crossed out lines and made his edits upside down at the top of the page. Interesting, huh? And I also didn’t photograph Flaubert’s Madame Bovary manuscript, but the man couldn’t write straight to save his life. Some writers drew lines on their pages to maintain an even script. Flaubert’s lines all ended in an optimistic, upward curl. And then there’s Antoine de Saint-Exupéry — do I feel for him!
4) This isn’t literary, but I’ve been cooking and baking a lot this week and finally made it to another level. I’ve mentioned that I’m not the most confident or intuitive cook, so I was excited when I finally started to modify some recipes. Well, this week I finally began to read a bunch of recipes before starting and then making things up along the way. Results thus far? Excellent zucchini raisin walnut muffins, a strawberry rhubarb pie in a super flaky shortcrust that I finally appear to have mastered, stuffed peppers, and mini lasagnas (made with wonton wrappers in a muffin tin instead of pasta). Yay! I’ve never been one of those “Look in the fridge, see what’s there, and make something” people, but I’m getting there. My mum made Indian food almost exclusively when I was growing up, so everything else — bread, pie, sauces — has been self-taught, which is why I’m so excited about each breakthrough.
5) I shot the photo below from the train window, and it reminded me of Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere journal:
I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing.
– DW (April 15, 1802)