Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Paul Hamlyn Library

I discovered a new library in London yesterday: the Paul Hamlyn library in the British Museum. This is open until 20.30 on a Friday night - which is useful, since the British Library closes at 17.00 (and starts nagging its readers to pack up at around 16.30) on Friday.

The library has been temporarily relocated to the fifth reading room in the history of the museum and was in use during the nineteenth century. It is a small place, each wall lined with books, and there is a peaceful atmosphere, which is more relaxed than the hushed one of the British Library. There is a children's corner, and the books lining the shelves are many and varied, and freely accessible. There are various computer terminals (which access just the British Museum website), and the tables are lit with bright fluorescent lights.

Charles Darwin worked here, as did the novelists William Thackeray and Charles Dickens, and if I lived in London, I think I would work here too. I felt cossetted by the place. The murmurings of the other readers and the delicate chiming of a nearby clock were oddly comforting. As I worked there the characters in my book grew more definite in my mind, and I hope on the page. All's well, sang the clock, and for a couple of hours, it seemed like it could be.

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Blogger jem said...

I felt all tickely and warmed just reading your description of the library. I think the presence of many books has a magical power, and I can imagine working someone that other significant writers worked would make you feel inspired and supported.

Mon Oct 06, 11:04:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, thanks Jem! Reading what you've written here reminds me of that German film with all the angels in the library.

Mon Oct 06, 06:40:00 pm  

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