As Long Ago...
Having gathered some background information, and some ideas, the next step is deciding on a book structure which might be sympathetic to the content I wish to include. I have decided to use an accordion fold. This allows movement through the book with some areas which can be discovered as the pages unfold.
Working with a clean sheet of paper is always a bit daunting so my favourite method of getting underway is to make some marks on the paper. This gives me something to respond to, and generally allows me to stay 'loose'.
I start with the image of the plaster walls on the top floor of the house. The wash of colour gives a warm aged tone to the pages. The book evolves and becomes a book of rememberance of two widows, the first lady of the house Dorothy Bell and the last, Constance Harriet Mahonensa Kerr.
The marks guide my next step. They suggest a ghostly faded atmosphere onto which the portraits Lord and Lady Hobart look across the page to each other. He in all his finery, her in h widow attire. I wanted these portraits to be soft suggesting their presence remains in the fabric of the building.
I used the idea of muslin curtain as the central heart of the book. Diffused light filters through suggestive of mourning. It reminded me of the old custom of drawing curtains when someone in the house had passed away.
On the other side of these dark pages are the portraits of William Kerr, 8th Marquis of Lothian and his wife Lady Constance.
The folded concertina structure allows hidden images to be 'discovered' as the book opens, revealing an angel from the tomb in St Andrews Church. The tomb, by Watts, was commissioned by Lady Constance when her husband died.
The tomb is of it's time - typically Victorian full of sentiment and romance. It is beautifully carved and captures the love, and grief Lady Constance may have experienced.
I included a few lines form a contemporary poem by Christina Rossetti which capture some of this Victorian sentiment.
Come to me in the Silence of the Night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.
Yet come to me in dreams that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath;
Speak low, lean low
As long ago, my love, how long ago.