A Special Moment in Time – Part Two

7th June 2012
Today's post is a continuation of an article I wrote in January about one of my favourite paintings from the 18th century. You can find it here: special-moment-in-time.

It also serves as a further 'clue' for those of you having a go at the Guess-the-Title Competition (CLOSED) for my 3rd novel.
A special location, too

When I wrote the special-moment post in January, I was naturally already well into writing the novel. I knew what the cover would be. It would take us be back to that particular spot on the south embankment of the Thames looking across to Westminster once again. What I did not reveal in that article was that, as a youngster in my early teens I used to travel to all sorts of places to draw, and sometimes even to paint outdoors. One of my favourite locations was this very spot. And I remember in particular being fascinated by the neo-Gothic buildings of our present Parliament (Big Ben and so on). The location itself seemed quite wonderful and magical. 'X' marks the spot in this aerial photo.
ariel view of Green Park and environs, with Thames - Google Earth

An easy choice

Any paintings or sketches I did are long since vanished (probably just as well). But when writing the novel I suddenly realised that there was only one picture that could go on the cover. I would probably have to do the art work myself. And it would encapsulate the spirit of the age as perceived by the characters in the story. This I have done. It depicts a scene on the evening of 27th April 1749 when a performance of Handel's 'Music for the Royal Fireworks' was staged in the newly named Green Park. (Formerly part of St James Park.)

As the name suggests, the music itself was accompanied by a gigantic firework display, which sadly went a little awry and resulted in a fire. It was, however, a great moment, a special moment in time. Many, people attended, and the rehearsals of the music in Vauxhall Gardens a week earlier went without mishap. Thousands of people would have been enthralled. It is also an event that has left us with some of the finest and most joyous music of the Georgian era itself.

The scene

If you were standing on the embankment looking west at the time, there would have been no Houses of Parliament as we know them today. Those were built in Victorian times. But what you would have seen would have been Westminster Abbey with the two newly extended towers of Hawksmoor. To the right of this would be the medieval Westminster Hall. And behind them all would have been St James Park and the slightly higher ground of Green Park. It was here where a great podium was placed for the pyrotechnic display itself. There would have been quite a flotilla of craft on the river, with a royal barge or two.

Another special moment in time, but from the same location. And yes, it has quite a lot to do with novel #3 and its cover. Will that help with guessing the title? Maybe. But it definitely provides some background for the mood and theme of the story itself, which is largely one of exuberance and celebration. (A Story Concerning Different Kinds of Love)

Not everything is entirely as it seems, however. And in the next post, I will shed a little light on what might be going on behind those masks.
black and white drawing of a carvival mask, with ribbons
Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

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