Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Yorkshire

I arrive in New York on Friday afternoon. The sky is blue but the weather report says it's five below zero, in case I hadn't felt the cold's bite on my rump, in my nose that bleeds every time I sneeze. I get to where I think I'm supposed to be only to be told abruptly "Go outside and cross the road". 

Across the road - how could I have missed this?

 New York Public Library is a palace. I'm ecstatic. For today and tomorrow I will be working in here, eating lunch in here, drinking tea (yes, somewhere in NYC that offers HOT tea), and generally feeling I am in a fairy-tale in here.

I turn to look at the ceilings, walls, artworks, from every angle. 

I write a post-it note and add it to the wall.

After my bag is searched I go to check it and my outerwear into the cloakroom, before I look for the Berg Collection Reading Room.

 But before I can enter the Berg Collection Reading Room, I have to register for a library card and an entry pass.

 The library cards are issued from this room with a mural of sky overhead.

 And the door panels were carved into beautiful reliefs.

 The Berg Collection was waiting for me at the end of a long red corridor lined with illustrations.

Perhaps because it reminded me of my subject, this was my favourite.

Then I was lost in my research for the rest of the day, and when I reentered it, the city was a blur.


Saturday disappeared the same way. I transcribed, made notes, wrote questions. Strained my eyes at Mary Taylor's finely wrought handwriting, each letter so uniformly drawn, brown ink on blue paper, like old buildings against ice-blue sky.

And the sun shone again for my trip to the Morgan Library and Museum, a place that is to New York Public Library what James Bond is to Buckingham Palace, as I describe it to a friend.

Though both libraries allowed me to photograph Mary Taylor's correspondence with Charlotte Bron, I'm not allowed to share the pictures I took. But here's a taster of what they had in their Charlotte Bronte Exhibition. You'll have to wait a little longer to see what I discovered form their archive, but I think it will be worth it.

 I had travelled half way round the world from my New Zealand home, and half again from where both I and Mary Taylor originated from in Yorkshire, to read her letters in New York. We had grown up just an hour apart by train, yet I had flown for sixteen hours to find her and now her words are in my head where I feel they always have been. If not my Yorkshire, a New Yorkshire. If I can transport even a scratch of that feeling onto the page, this research trip will have been worth every nosebleed.

This research trip was funded by a Creative New Zealand Arts Grant.