Fearful and Wonderful – in Bury St Edmunds

Earlier in October, an auction was held at Lacy Scott & Knight auctioneers in Bury St Edmunds. A descendant of Alfred Swaine Taylor’s passed away at the end of last year and in the attics and cupboards of their home was found Taylor’s papers, diaries, books, letters, photographs, salt prints, and even Taylor’s microscope. In the introduction to Fatal Evidence, I said that no letters and diaries of Taylor’s had survived – little did I know they were in a house in Suffolk! It’s a shame I didn’t have these materials to hand when I wrote the book, but I would’ve struggled to fit it all in – and my book was used by the auctioneers to work their way through the amazing hoard.

I wrote a preface for the auction catalogue, which you can read online, and I gave a talk on Taylor a couple of days before the auction. It was great meeting another packed room of people who wanted to hear about Taylor, and it really nice to be able to do that standing beside a huge portrait of him, while his microscope was in a glass cabinet right next to me.

I was allowed to have a look at the lots before the auction, and photographed a lot of the letters which were in the auction. You might see my transcriptions online at some point – I’m currently working through the letters between Taylor and his wife Caroline just before they got married. They’re a lovely mixture of adorable (“I cannot tell you with what pleasure I saw the postman with his scarlet jacket, come into our gate, because I flattered myself he was the Bearer of a letter from you.”), cheeky (“I find he is one of those who talk less in company than when tete a tete or as it would be with him nez a nez.”) and practical (“I have seen Mr Horne the person who altered what is to be your wardrobe, & asked him what would be the expense of some bookshelves.”).

So here’s some photos of my talk, some of the auction’s lots, and me wandering about Bury St Edmund’s. Many thanks to everyone at LSK, and to Alex at Moyse’s Hall. And to everyone who came along to the talk.

(Click on a photo to see it – click again to see a big version!)