Key PagesA life on line |
Changes [Feb 27, 2009]Curriculum Vitae
In 1929, the distinguished Cambridge scientist, Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, OM, travelled to Stockholm to collect the Nobel Prize. The founding father of British biochemistry was accompanied at this most distinguished gathering by his proud and devoted wife, and by his youngest, 19-year-old, daughter. In the dazzling golden mosaic rooms of the Stadhus, Jessie Jacquetta Hopkins charmed a prince – and shared her father’s limelight.
The attractive dark-haired teenager, poised for Cambridge to read for the new degree of Archaeology and Anthropology, quickly caught the attention of the media and, not least, of the Crown prince of Sweden. He was himself an archaeologist, and insisted that this radiant young woman should have a specially conducted tour of his National Museum.
This was an early indication of Jacquetta Hawkes’ unswerving ability to stand out from the crowd; in later life this would win her friends and plaudits, as well as the less welcomed distinction of being both a brilliant, but difficult, woman.
She was born into a traditional Cambridge academic household on the 5th of August, 1910. She was enthralled when her mother, Jessie, told her that when six month pregnant with Jacquetta she observed Halley’s comet. This gave the child a personal interest in the comet, and the adult, perhaps a sense of being destined for great things.
Jacquetta, always known by her unusual second name, was the youngest of three children. Her sister, Barbara, was too old to be a childhood companion, and although she was devoted to her brother, Frederick - known as “Hopper” or “Boy” -Jacquetta's formative experiences appear to have been enjoyed on her own, or with adults such as her nanny, or her mother, Jessie, to whom she was particularly close. There were succesful family holidays, however, and Jacquetta, an enthusiastic photographer. loved to record them.
The Hopkins family was marked by its strong characters. With his own father dead, Frederick Hopkins had a guardian, his Uncle James, who wanted him to be a doctor. Frederick leant more towards practical science. He eventually trained as a Home Office analyst, and only at 28 did he begin training at Guy's Medical School. Showing the same self-determination as his youngest daughter would need to employ in in her own life, Frederick worked in a private laboratory in the evenings, gained an external science degree and, when he qualified as a doctor, won a gold medal for chemistry. When he met and married Jessie Ann Stevens in 1898, the couple began their married life at Uncle James'. But they rapidly found independence with an invitation to Cambridge, where in 1910, Frederick became a science Fellow and Preaelector at Trinity College.
Jacquetta's individuality was most pronounced in her lyrical writing which, unfashionably and unwisely for an academic archaeologist she was to find, drew together arts and science. Jacquetta's own highly developed imagination, seen at its most extreme and controversial in the reflective and controversial work of fictive-autobiography, A Quest of Love, published in 1980, was teased and nurtured throughout her childhood.
Imagination it was rooted in familial traits. Her father's great creative mind was described by his biographer, Professor Ernest Baldwin, as being `of such power that it could not fail to influence the thought and activities of everyone who had the good fortune to work in his department'. And Jacquetta's great-grandfather was the second cousin of the renowned nature poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins.
But her inspiration came not from a close relationship with her father, whom she felt was weak rather than gentle, but her own ability to absorb sights and sensations from an early age. She recalled the vivid memory of being an infant in a pram and the `Tarry smell from those dark boards, the shed. That mysterious breath of out-of-doors on my cheeks. The canopy ripples and stills, ripples again. It ripples against the blueness - the bluest blue....'.
It was not a demonstrative household, and Jacquetta was surprised when her father cried about death of his mother. But it was a happy home, producing a happy childhood: one Jacquetta described as `steeped in sweetness and light and no awareness of harsher ways'. Jacquetta regarded her parent’s relationship as nothing less than harmonious.
Jacquetta's childhood was framed by academia. There was no religious instruction at home, as one of her closest friends, the writer Diana Collins notes: `Intellectual integrity was an absolute in the Hopkins family'. At Trinity, the college statutes were altered to accommodate Hopkins' principled agnosticism. (Jacquetta's son, Nicolas, from her first marriage to the archaeologist, Christopher Hawkes, also received no religious education from his parents and in later life adopted Quakerism.) The family's moral convictions were sound, particularly against lying and stealing, which led to great trauma for Jacquetta when she once transgressed them and she admitted becoming confused over the position of `white lies'. On Sundays, undergraduates came to tea, and once the young Jacquetta stole a tiny Swiss roll. Her mother, prompted more by Jacquetta’s constant denials than by the act itself, said that her daughter had told a lie. The effect of this on the impressionable and imaginative Jacquetta was profound: ‘I sobbed and sobbed until I was exhausted. I was a liar. I had committed the unforgivable sin. I was wrapped in darkness and bereft for ever and ever of love and happiness,’ she recalled. This openness with intensity was a major part of her character. In later life her honesty would be often be read as bluntness, her directness as caustic criticism.
Hopkins' Trinity College position, which came with an improved salary, allowed the funds for the family to have a house built at 71 Trinity Road, Cambridge. Jacquetta was 16 months old when they moved in. “Saxmeadham” was a fine home, still there today, with a gravelled drive and overlooking the playing fields of St.John’s College. There was a large garden to the rear, and adjacent buildings barely noticeable from the inside, giving a sensation of being a part of the country. The house and its evolving garden brought the infant Jacquetta profound delight. “Open country lay beyond the fence, and as soon as I could walk I loved to escape into it. I looked for wild flowers and birds’ nests, climbed trees and, later on, wove a secret hut on an island in a small lake,” she recalled in A Quest of Love. And, tellingly for her burgeoning interest: “In our own garden a syringa bush sloping against a wall provided a cave where I hid away, shaped slates into implements and scatched mamoths and bison on the bricks”.
The brilliant colour of the laburnum tree against a canopy on a summer’s day is etched onto Jacquetta’s earliest memory: ‘Against the blue swing yellow flowers. Trails of flowers swing from that tree.What joy the yellow and the blueness.’ The Hopkins’ were now able to afford staff, and for special entertaining they could have food delivered from the Trinity kitchens.
Saxmeadham was filled with lightness and charm. Lady Hopkins was a woman of great taste, reflected in the antiques and china she bought personally for the home. She was a practical woman, who supported her husband totally, hosting gatherings for his colleagues and young students, and leaving both at ease.
The new home was close to her father’s laboratory, and Hopkins' colleagues were among the callers. Jacquetta was sometimes taken there and it was there that her father told her about atomic fission and its possible dire consequences: possibly the seeds were being sown at that moment for many years later, Jacquetta's concerns with unchecked science, to which she returned time and again, and culminated in her very public involvement with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 40 years later.
The move to Grange Road did not come without cost. The honour of a Trinity College Fellowship had come after Jacquetta's father suffered a breakdown prompted by his unrelenting research and the pressures of teaching.
Even after he recovered his health, Jacquetta would recall him sitting in the midst of people, scribbling formulae into a notebook. This image of doggedness and concentration, a mark of Hopkins' genius, must have come back to haunt Jacquetta in the throes of her marriage to Christopher Hawkes. His brilliance and fanatical drive also produced what was, in all respects, a breakdown due to overwork. ( Christopher, after his eventual divorce from Jacquetta, wrote a revealing letter to his new wife-to-be, Sonia, which suggests that he too, had been juggling scientific pragmatism with the instinctive excitement of discovery: `..to archaeology I've been grateful ever since I took it up as a boy; because it's such an endlessly gay and exciting subject...I like gay things and amusing things and interesting things and strenuous things and beautiful things...' , he wrote.,)
If Jacquetta's imagination was fired by her ability to absorb and recall, in a Proustian fashion, the sensations of her childhood and her first experiences of self-consciousness, the forming of her intellect also marked out her individuality. She was a loner and a reader with a critical eye for poetry. At Miss Sharpley's school in Cambridge, she preferred the company of a few rather than a crowd, a trait to continue into undergraduate days. Her isolation was often self-induced - she had a passion for tree-climbing. The drive of the woman who was to respond so well in later life to the championing of causes, such as CND and the Homosexual Reform Bill, was seen first here in the kidnapping of `the pale fragile child of well-to-do parents', snatched at the behest of Jacquetta who felt he needed an afternoon away from his parents.
Her father’s career progressed, in the midst of the First World War. Her mother’s nursing abilities came to prominence when she was asked to be matron of a war hospital in Wordsworth Grove, some distance from the family home. With both of her siblings away - her closest, brother Frederick, was now at public school - Jacquetta had to feed her own imagination. She had a Nannie, who left when Jacquetta was five, only to visit one day, confiding to Lady Hopkins that Jacquetta was a more ‘interesting’ charge. Jacquetta revelled in this memory, as she did her father describing her eyes as ‘sparkling’ when she walked with him around historic old buildings in Cambridgeshire. She said later she remembered every word he said - ‘Why Jacquetta your eyes are really sparkling’ - as they indicated to her that ‘somehow I was I, whole and visible, a separate being. This was truly my first experience of self-consciousness’. This abiding memory nodoubt fuelled her later explorations of the evolving self in Man on Earth.
By now, Jacquetta was also developing a keen visual sense. She chose two pictures for the wall of her nursery, ‘The Cat that Walked by Itself’ which was an illustration of Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So story, and a painting by the classc fairy-tale illustrator, Arthur Rackham, showing Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and inscribed with the quotation: ‘Lord what fools these mortals be’. Another time she was at the home of her friend Kitty Turner. Her mother was entertaining an artist friend, and asked Jacquetta to nominate her favourite miniature painting. She chose a skilful study of an old lady dressed in black, with white hair and lined face. The artist friend was apparently dazzled by this sophisticated choice from one so young, and Jacquetta was delighted to overhear her remark. It was not a one-off: Jacquetta’s good eye – her discerning taste and artistic patronage - was a significant part of her life.
At Miss Sharpley’s dame school in Cambridge, Jacquetta was not a brilliant pupil. x She was not particularly unhappy there, but as Diana Collins described ‘she was not a natural schoolgirl’. Her love of what might be called ‘loner’ pursuits, and her self-containment and independence, coupled with a preference for one or two special friends rather than a group, was at least mediated by getting into the great outdoors. She loved tree-climbing and birds-nesting, flower collecting and pressing, and also relished the school outings to study the local churches, and to do brass-rubbings. These were all practical things; Jacquetta was not at her best when contained.
When she was eleven years old, she moved to the Perse School for Girls. Her sister Barbara, regarded as more clever, had gone to Cheltenham, but one senses Jacquetta’s school reports at this time do not do justice to her growing intellect. She shows signs of being dyslexic – her handwriting barely legible, and worsening through life, and her ability at anything requiring imagination over the ‘learning’ subjects such as maths and Latin. The school-teachers’ comments that she did not work hard do not tally with her obvious love of gathering knowledge outside the classroom when, as her journals indicate, she was hardly a slacker. As she reached adolescence, more than ever Jacquetta showed her independence; she refused to wear a school uniform or to take part in organised games. And she got away with it.
Jacquetta's rebel-love of climbing was matched by that of bird-nesting and then bird-watching, a life-long interest she later instilled into her son. Birds were a familiar theme in her work. Perhaps it is evoked by the singing, whistling and calling that fall into millions of ancestral ears and there left images that we all inherit', she wrote in A Land. As a young teenager, she became friendly with Emma Turner, an eminent ornithologist and bird photographer, who took her to the Norfolk Broads and the Brecks. (When Jack Priestley's second wife, Jane, began an affair with an ornithologist, so easing his divorce and re-marriage to Jacquetta, the irony would hardly have been lost on the pair.)
Jacquetta made nature diaries from an early age, illustrated the birds she saw, and began to record them in photographs. Her friendship with Turner, a pioneer in bird photographer, was highly significant. She encouraged Jacquetta’s interest, but Lady Hopkins was not in favour of this friendship. When her daughter returned dazzled by her adventures with the ornithologist, she found her mother less than receptive. Jacquetta eventually understood: “I cannot now either remember or imagine how realisation came to me, but I know it was sudden as a physical blow. My mother was jealous. That my mother, who was normally as calm as a summer’s day, as reliable as the air itself, should be jealous was utterly appalling. I did not try to do anything to reassure her, as usual with me I thrust the pang into my I internal safe…It was, as I see now, just one of those shocks of growing up’.
Now in her early teens, and notwithstanding her mother’s criticism, Jacquetta would later regard these adventures with Turner as formative. As well as joining her on excursions in her houseboat, The Ark, Jacquetta used the security of this understanding and supportive mentor to explore her own sense of adventure. One feels her description of seeing an osprey unexpectedly offers up a memory which is both about nature and her own charged and changing state; it becomes positively Yeatsian: ‘Waking early one still morning, I decided to venture out in the Canadian canoe. I felt like a trespasser in the calm beauty of the natural scene. It was happiness just to glide along, dipping the double paddle left and right, left and right as softly as I could I thought of nothing, but opened up my consciousness to the rising sun…Suddenly there is a violence in the air, the stillness is shattered as a great bird, wings folded, talons thrust out before it, strikes the surface…’.
A further deep impression was left on Jacquetta by another feature of the Brecks, the ancient mineworkings known as Grimes Graves, to which she would return in A Land and in other writings. She was fascinated by the process of the digging, and the pock-mark pits left on the landscape by the Neolithic men working with antler picks. Once, when the Forestry Commission had planted young conifers all over her precious ancient pits, she flew into a rage and uprooted the saplings.
Relishing the outdoors and the family holidays she particularly loved trips to different landscapes, such as the Lake District, North Wales, and the North of England.. Not fond of the sea because of sea-sickness (she was confined to her cabin for the crossing to America on the fateful UNESCO trip), her images of rugged Cornwall are poetic in their balance of headland and water. Her sensitivity for this place of liminality is shown to great effect in the script she wrote for the 1953 BFI film, “Figures in a Landscape” about the Cornwall-based sculptor, Barbara Hepworth.
Inspired to the encourage her photography, by Emma Turner and others, Jacquetta began to record family outings and holidays, placing them neatly into albums. These images which showed an early regard for composition and content, also reveal a love of landscape and history. In one extraordinary image, what appears to be a landscape photograph of an ancient hill fort, is in fact a sand-castle Jacquetta had made in the shape of an ancient age fort, complete with defensive ditches and other attributions of the Iron Age in Britain, and then photographed. She possibly knew it would thwart all but the keenest eye.
And the journals she kept at this time also show she was developing a keen eye for detail. Read with her photographs they present a picture of an emerging archaeologist, although this is with hindsight. Her journals and photographs could also have represented a child who went on to be an ornithologist, or an astronomer, or a modern historian, or a photographer. The life would have to be filled, that much was for sure.
In one example, Jacquetta, now aged 16, records a visit to West Witton, Wenslydale, to observe a total eclipse of the sun. It is June, 1927, and the Hopkins family is joined by another, the Camerons, whose daughter, Jane was a great school friend of Jacquetta’s.
Her descriptions of buildings, some with diagrams, are interspersed with detailed bird-sightings; the bird photo she mentions taking below, is in a surviving family album, now in the archive at Bradford.
‘On way down I saw a curlew run into some rush grass. Went and looked in it, found baby curlew crouched down. I picked it up … It was still all fluffy though the feathers were beginning to grow, beak beginning to curve. Legs very long greyish green. Took a snap of it in Jane's hand then put it down, it ran along beating its tiny wings like an ostrich.’
‘Evening I went out and wandered up to slopes of Penhill, watched wheatears black-headed gulls etc. Found wall which composed of fossil lily stems… went on saw a plover which was very alarmed went and looked couldn't see anything for some time but heard something squeak when parent bird called. Saw baby plover, just about day old held it for some time, very sweet.’
Eclipse day dawned: Wednesday, 29th June
‘Got up at 4.30. When went out clear sky overhead but clouds over sun. Had several peeps of sun between clouds during first phase. Had one quite long one about 2 secs before totality then went behind cloud. Suddenly became pitch dark in few secs (26) grew light very suddenly when totality was over. Saw several more peeps during last phases, saw moon pass off altogether. At about 9 am Camerons being gone Ma and I went to park where we saw pied flycatcher. Saw several sandpipers which flew about and ran on boulders in the river. Also saw a dipper fly past making funny little squeaks Then at last saw pied wagtail it flew from tree to tree once (hovered?) in the air like humming bird then settled on ground. very beautiful.’
Jacquetta includes great detail about church interiors. It may have been that she did a great deal of this church-going alone but she shared this interest with her parents, likewise ancient ruins.
In August, 1927, the family travelled to the far north of England, staying at Gilsland near Hadrian's Wall. It was a ‘hotel holiday’ as Jacquetta recalls, but she wasted little time in leaving the comfortable base every day, to explore the local Roman sites. She was either with her mother, or joined they were by her father. Chesters museum was visited twice. One day the family joined their friends, the Dyers, and another friend to visit the house of a Mr.Chapman, who as Jacquetta described in her journal was: ‘ a big game hunter and bird man. Saw his collection of skins birds eggs etc.’ This was in fact Abel Chapman, a noted hunter and naturalist, who travelled the world and wrote books which are now much prized. Perhaps, some years later, Jacquetta remembered the thrill of this visit when encouraging the childhood collection of another aspiring naturalist, David Attenborough.
This was an active family holiday, with much solo exploring and walking, by Jacquetta, who seemed unbothered by the poor weather. She describes archaeological finds along with the rudiments of the day.
“Walked nearly to Great Chesters (Aesica) Had lunch in pine wood where we saw possible foundations of earth wall. Went on to Aesica looked over it. Then walked to Haltwhistle caught bus home.’
Towards the end of this week in the far north, Jacquetta explored the environs of Camboglanna Roman Fort, near Gilsland. She had hoped to see the excavation, but found it began the day after the holiday ended. Her Cambridge life would allow her not least to take opart in Roman excavations, and at one site, she would meet her furture husband.
The arrival of the next day of her brother ‘Hopper’ put paid to Jacquetta’s recording, as her 1927 journal ends here.
On an Italian holiday the next year, shortly before going up to Cambridge, she expresses the typical uncertainties of a young woman on the cusp of being a grown-up. Watching her writing develop over time, there is something different about Jacquetta’s tone in this journal. It is a subtle distancing from childhood, and a move toward maturity ansd self-discovery, which she would retrun to many times in her consideration of the role of female sexuality. It appears first the introduction to her Italian diary for April 22 to May 22, 1928: ‘If anyone but myself ever reads this diary I trust they will remember that all the entries were made when I was half asleep and consequently my literary style leaves much to be desired!’ And resurfaces in casual jottings: ‘We had dinner in a very gaudy restaurant in the Paris station, mother and I (all the ladies) were presented with carnations…’. Another time she observes a woman “with auburn hair and crimson nails’.
The difference in the journal Jacquetta kept just a year before this is obvious. Here we see a young woman about to embark on a Cambridge life, which, given the competition must have given her confidence a tremendous boost. She is also embarking on possibly her last ‘family holiday’ or the sort she had enjoyed. This was indeed, a month to savour.
Her first impressions of Mussolini’s Italy are quickly formed: ‘the town houses were dreadfully dirty or artificially grand…’ Jacquetta gives a general impression of Rome: ‘One of the most interesting things is the crowd, there is such an extraordinary variety of types and nationalities’. She very much liked architecture and flower stalls: ‘The most unpleasant side of the town was the grasping money grabbing ways of many of the people and the exorbitant charges’.
Further, as a church, St.Peter’s was ‘rather disappointing …it is very magnificent but little else. We saw many people kiss the toe of the old statue of St.Peter but most of them seemed to regard it rather as a joke…’
The Colisseum was better received. ‘quite fulfilled our hopes…we wandered around for some time while the sun began to set and make the building a marvellous colour’ . The family visited the Diocletian Baths and Palatine forum, the Capitol, and the Tarpean Rock. ‘Walked down to the Forum and sat on a wall by the tabulariums trying to puzzle out the plan, and we succeeded partially…the remains of the temple of Saturn and Castor are almost the most striking but of course it is all wonderful.’
‘We were very intrigued by the frogs in the baths of the house of the vestal virgins they made lovely musical bubbling sound while the bath was festooned with strip after strip of their eggs. Our guide, although his English was almost as weak as our Italian, was very enthusiastic and made it very enjoyable.’ At the Embassy tea rooms ‘we feasted on waffles but were well fleeced!’
On April 26th the family went by cart to the Pantheon ‘it is wonderful that the dome has stood so long’. Jacquetta noting hundred of cats at Trajan’s Column (still there today as cats are protected in Rome), and a ceremony of schoolboys at the recently completed Victor Emmanuel II monument, the vast, gleaming edifice designed by Sacconi, and made from white botticino marble, which overwhelms Rome’s architectural palette, the Piazza Venezia, and the city skyline,
Visiting the Sistine Chapel on a free Saturday, was less than magical: ‘The whole place was filled with a swirling mass of smelly people many of them belonging to pilgrimages’. she notes. ‘Daddy, by the way, was cheated of about 25L at the lunch place, how he managed it we can’t think, he also gave a small sum to two young imps whom we afterwards saw gambling with it!’ The chapel was ‘frankly disappointing’ she said, and its decoration ‘monotonous’.
During their time in Rome, the family had tea with a Mr.Ashby, an archaeologist for whom they had a letter of introduction from Lady Garrod, the wife of the physician, Sir Archibald. Jacquetta recalled Mr Ashby: ‘We found him a rather odd man, but I quite liked a certain twinkle he had’. But any hope she had of an inside guide to Rome was disappointed: ‘He proved to be singularly unobliging he wouldn’t tell us about anything we asked’.
Of the 13th century cloisters in the great church of San Giovanni in Laterino, Jacquetta notes: ‘…we were enchanted’ and gives a very detailed description of them. In the Baptisty of San Giovanni, she saw baptisms: ‘Quite a number of bambinos were waiting to undergo the ordeal, a little black horrid one which we watched howled with the usual violence; there is an implicit of holding a huge burning candle over the infants at one point in the ceremony’.
The Baths of Carcacalla also impressed: ‘Many of the rooms are paved with mosaic of gray, white and red, leaning against the walls are large fragments of the same, depicting animals and men, these, I imagine, originally covered the walls’.
On a visit to the Catacombs: ‘We were each given a thin taper and lead (sic) down dark steps into the bowels of the earth!… Our visit was made funny by a dreadful couple (English infadel) an old painted lady and an old semi drunken man…’.
On April 30th, getting up too late for early train to Ostia had caused ‘a slight family explosion but it blew over!’ Arriving at the ancient site of Ostia Antiqua, Jacquetta detailed the ‘splendidly preserved but ugly wall paintings… frogs, lizards, beautiful flowers and birds…’.
There is an unexpected interlude when Jacquetta is seen by a doctor ‘because I have had a mysterious pain when I walk for some days’, but all is deemed to be well.
The family journeys onwards: ‘…we got into a carriage with one man that kept spitting and another repulsive mountain of lard who ate garlic sausage with a knife and great relish’. The crtiicism continues: food at the Rosetta hotel, a famed Peruga institution, was, almost absurdly, ‘rather too Italian’ for Jacquetta. While her tone recording the city’s Palazzo Publico – ‘the building itself is most venerable and has looked down upon many bloody scenes’ reads like a guide book entry.
The Hopkins party travels by cart to the Etruscan tombs of Volumnia ‘extraordinarily interesting’. On tomb produces a glimmer of the typical Hawkesean style as Jacquetta writes : ‘In front of this chamber hangs a lovely little lamp, it is wonderful to think it has hung there for over 2000 years. That is partly why the place is so fascinating having been discovered in 1840 by an ox falling into the entrance it is quite untouched and everything is in its original position (as the guide assures one rather unnecessarily frequently)…The road back being rather steep we took it in turns to walk and ride in the cart so that the horse should not be exhausted…’
On May 4th, 1929, the family reaches the Tomb of St.Francis in Assisi: ‘When we emerged (after a curious meeting with the Ashbys who fled at the sight of us) it was raining hard, feeling very depressed we tried to find a restaurant daddy knew of but failed and were dumped at a very unpleasant one where we had a disagreeable lunch’. The Ashby incident remains something of an family enigma, perhaps linked to the tea taken with Mt.Ashby earlier in Rome.
Eventually they reach the church of S.Dominica. ‘Even as we arrived the sun came out and we felt happy and at peace with the world. We were shown round by a dear old fat monk who spoke English after a fashion…There is a darling little chapel repaired by St.Francis with his own hands. From here we peeped into the refectory just as it was in their day, then we saw Clare’s little garden where St.Francis composed the hymn to the sun’ . Jacquetta, ever the bird-eatcher, writes about the nightingale singing in the olive trees. The family turns down the offer of a harmonium performance by an elderly clergyman, but accepts an invitation to service next day where Sir Frederick acted as churchwarden ‘a new experience for him’. The sermon, however, ‘was very bad’.
Jacquetta describes the Etruscan Museum with a particularly aesthetic appreciation. ‘The Etruscans evidently loved jewellery…’ she remarks, and she singles out ‘an opal pendant of great artistic beauty (much coveted by mother)’. It was a memorable visit: ‘The huge number of Etruscan inscriptions made one long for the solution to the riddle’ (of decipherment).
There is a description of a jolly family picnic in the Umbrian countryside, and then onwards to another Etruscan location, about which Jacquetta confidently writes: ‘There is a good charm about this town, its venerable age gives it what the Americans call ‘character’.’ She astutely suggests: ‘Wrought iron seems to be their speciality perhaps a relic of Etruscan tradition’.
And then comes an incident which graphically illustrates the social divide: ‘Mother fed crowds of pigeons on the steps of the Palazzo Publico, an old lady came and begged for some of the bread’.
Then the train to Florence, and more anthropological observation: ‘We travelled first but a queer little man was in our carriage who we felt hadn’t 1st class tickets…another man came in a most tearing rage and addressed himself to the little man who did nothing but smile and stumble. Then the other had a fierce argument with the guard. I never saw a man in such a rage…we longed to know what it was all about’.
There are overall good memories of Florence, seducing Jacquetta to lyricism: ‘Everything was peaceful and beautiful and we were contented…After the best dinner we have had since leaving England… we watched Florence as her lights twinkled and gleamed, stretching wide below us, the nightingales sang and the scent of the wisteria was overpoweringly sweet. To bed by nightingale.’
On May 7th Jacquetta read some Browning in the garden before breakfast. ‘The beginning of ‘Old Pictures of Florence’ was most appropriate.’ She loved the Ponte Vecchio - ‘it gives an idea of what old London bridge was like’ – but was disappointed by the Duomo: ‘The glass is beautiful but terribly dirty and neglected…’. Jacquetta is also astonished ‘at the feebleness of the Italian cheers’ when king paid a visit to the city, to which ‘he saluted wearily’.
The Church of S. Croce brings out a confidence gleaned from church-going with her father, and an unexpected comparison of site: ‘In spite of anything Ruskin might say I think the general effect of this church is the most beautiful of any I have seen in Florence or Rome, although of course the classical introductions in the aisles are an absolute sight…I do not consider any classical tombs a patch of those, for instance, at Tewkesbury’. An unexpected comparison.
‘Giottos (sic) frescoes in the Peruzzi and Bardi chapels are wonderful even if touched up,’ she ventured, and denounced Mr.Ruskin as ‘rather a hypocrite’.
And then an odd discovery, which has no further explanation: ‘I discovered today a large list of inscripts the front door and arm written with a flourish eg ‘The Hon’ J.Hopkins. I must live up to it.’
The statue of David in the Bargello she thought disappointing: ‘David should not be muscular as he was but a boy, but I felt this to be too feminine.’ The Pitti Palace was ‘an enormous rather ugly building’. The baby in the Madonna of the Grand Duke viewed there, was “ too fat”.
The journey continues to the Etruscan remains in Fiesole, a few kilometres above Florence. A little monk who showed them around a garden paid a compliment she felt worth recording: (he) ‘told mother and daddy that they were very good parents and I was their consolation at least that was what we understood him to say!’. He gave them flowers and asked to be sent foreign stamps for the missions. After staying to watch a procession, a walk back was almost disastrous: ‘…we were very nearly killed by a motor that took a bend at a reckless rate – all our hearts went pit-a-pat’.
May 10th and Jacquetta loved the Medici chapel, also much praised by her sister, Barbara. ‘I never saw anything more brilliant or decorative…’. Later, her joy is over donuts bought at the usual café at 25c a piece – “excellent!’”.
The next day she had got into a 3rd class part of tram by mistake ‘and had to share it with a crowd of soldiers, besides being rattled about like peas.’
Onwards to Pisa, May 13th. ‘We decided on the Hotel Vistoria but are now afraid it will be very expensive’. They did not detract from the view from outside, which inspired a vivid description: ‘The sky was a deep blue above fading to a kind of peacock green in the west this was reflected in the curving river together with innumerable lamps, above all floated a jolly little crescent moon.’
She was ‘quite staggered’ by the pristine beauty of the Leaning Tower with no traffic, although the arrival of hundreds of soldiers was a surprise ‘somehow their sunburnt sweaty faces added to our sensations’. Jacquetta notes dutifully that 53 shiploads of earth were brought from Jerusalem to form the Campo Santo, the burial place of Pisa. The Duomo, she thought, was ‘extraordinarily eastern’ She ‘staggered up’ the tower: ‘When we reached the top we tried to imagine we were Galileos’.
On the journey to Portofino, and some respite before home, Jacquetta has a quite different distraction: ‘a young man was in the carriage with us who seemed to have travelled all over the world…’ sadly, the rest of that sentence is crossed out. She continues: ‘We had heated arguments with him on American education in English’.
Jacquetta’s father had telegrammed ahead and the party arrived at the ‘Hotel Splendid(e)’. She is exhilarated by the natural beauty of the area: ‘…the scenery is really wonderful, there is a little bay and harbour below the hotel with a craggy headland projecting beyond. The hills below are covered with trees and are beautifully grouped, the sea intensely blue.’ Later, she makes this self-conscious entry: ‘It really was glorious out there under the olive trees with fireflies flashing all around and the harbour lights reflecting in the water below (I am afraid this is a shocking entry)’.
On May 15, waking earlier than usual, Jacquetta went to bathe, possibly naked. ‘I began to get conscious because I had no bathing dress’ she writes. Later she goes for walks in woods discovering looking for ‘fresh varieties of orchids’. She hired a bathing dress at bay for further swim. At S.Margherita, soap, jam, a bathing dress, a dress tie and two collars were purchased. ‘I am very proud of the bathing dress as it is made of nice closefitting stockingette of a brilliant green hue’. It was evidently a memorable purchase and she later notes: my bathing dress filled me splendidly’. She was taken with all the fashion possibilities, however, giving a short shrift to lace-makers she encounters. ‘Unfortunately they will not leave you in peace but rush up if you so much as glance at their stall’.
The journal records the family spent many happy hours bathing, gathering orchids, lazing in sun, watching fireflies, walking to viewpoints. And the lack of a built environment, however ancient or historic, would have given Jacquetta the chance to consider the broader landscape, echoes of which would reappear 10 years later in her observations of the coast and sea in her prehistory of Jersey, and of Britain in A Land. ‘From here it is possible to see the straight Ligurian coast up on one side, and the curving one of the Riviera upon the other, this conjures up a sudden picture of the whole of Italy and one can picture it lying there in the blue sea’.
She takes walks alone – ‘each place I came upon seemed better than the last’ – gaining a spatial independence through walking the landscape, and again adding to her archaeological armoury.
The learning continues. She enjoyed being educated in prisms by a man at a lighthouse. ‘He also took us out on the roof and showed us various mountains and towns through a kind of telescope’. On May 19th there was a family picnic and an odd observation as Jacquetta recalls her father looking embarrassed like ‘the proverbial schoolboy sneaking jam when some Italian girls stood near the party’. Later, she returns to the natural world: ‘The fireflies were not very numerous, they evidently do not appreciate moon light’.
May 20th and a last bathe and she discovers a place to dive. Her mother bought a tablecloth and Jacquetta notes: ‘I haggled with the woman in the proper style, I got quite a reduction in the end’. She and her mother took some orchids, gladioli, and other plants from the woods to take home to Grange Road ‘…we felt a little guilty but there are such masses’.
The daily journal entries end, but the Jacquetta resumes back in Cambridge: ‘Over a month later I find that I never wrote up our return journey…safely home after a rather unpleasant night in the company of a murderous looking German who got in after midnight. The crossing was wonderfully smooth’.
Given the relaxed paace, the numerous notes about playing Rummy, having tea and so on, suggests this was a warm family holiday, with few ‘explosions’. It also gave Jacquetta plenty to think about as she embarked on her next journey, to Cambridge, and to archaeology proper.
Forward to Chapter Two
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