Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Dickens, Hardy & London

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November 28, 2008

The Prime Minister and Thanksgiving Dinner

Roger Market ’09 - On Thursday, our sixth day in England, we traveled by Tube to the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, and then went for a walk in Hampstead Heath (to Parliament Hill and back down). While these sites were indeed interesting, I was particularly intrigued by two minor events that I noticed throughout the day.

First, while riding the rail to the Heath, I noticed a timid young woman sitting adjacent to me, rocking forward and backward. I thought maybe she was nervous because she was sitting between two men she didn’t know, a black gentleman and Wabash’s own Mitch Palmer. Whatever her true feelings, she made me think about the state of the world now versus the state of the world in Victorian times. Certainly, there are similarities: For instance, just like Jack the Ripper terrorized London for three months in the autumn of 1888, we have serial killers today that remain at large for long periods of time, some even longer than Jack the Ripper. Perhaps the crime world of today is not necessarily any larger than it was in those days, when considered as a percent of population, but it is certainly more noticed and sensationalized. If I were that girl, stuck between two strange men, on a modern-day Underground rail system, I might be nervous as well.

Next, as we were walking through Hampstead Heath, an English woman came up to Dr. Herzog and asked him if he knew how to get to Wells Street. Though we were in the middle of the Heath, Dr. Herzog knew exactly how to get to Wells Street, and he directed the woman there without a problem. I was amazed at and wildly impressed with his ability to orient himself with London/England so well, as I have been on numerous other occasions throughout this very well planned/timed trip. Standing on the Heath, in the cold, misty rain, listening to Dr. Herzog’s directions, I was reminded that the world is a big place, that London is a big place; thus, it was particularly incredible that Dr. Herzog—who we know to be American from Indiana—could tell an English person how to navigate one of her own cities. I wonder if the woman knew he was American when she decided to ask him for directions, and would she have addressed him if she knew his nationality beforehand?

When we got back to the hotel that evening, after a long day on the Tube and in the Heath, we took some time to get cleaned up, and then put on the best clothes we brought with us and went to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner at Cosmobia, an Italian restaurant situated about a block from the Russell Square Tube station. The food was good, but the prices were a little steep. If any readers are planning a trip to London, be relieved when I say that this twenty or thirty pounds spent at dinner is actually the most I have spent at any one location. London can be expensive in some cases, but for the most part, I think the astronomical pricing we hear about in the States is overstated. There are plenty of decent prices here. Of course, with a terrible world economy and low currency exchange rates, now is about the best time to tour London, and that probably has something to do with the surprisingly good deals we are regularly encountering across “the Pond.”

Great Views From Historic Sites

P. Campbell Robbins ’09 - Today was our designated “science day,” as we traveled to Greenwich to straddle the Prime Meridian. Before we climbed up the steep hill to the Royal Observatory, Professor Porter gave us a highly informative lecture on longitude and the many excruciating and lengthy years spent trying to precisely determine the location of the Prime Meridian. Once on top of the hill, we found ourselves with a magnificent view of London.  We spent about an hour visiting exhibits where early telescopes and other such instruments are encased.

Following lunch, we traveled to Hampstead. There, Dr. Tobey Herzog led us on a walking tour off the town (including the flat where he and his family lived in 1984). Among the sites we saw were the poet John Keats’ home and a restaurant that George Orwell frequented. From the town, Dr. Herzog led us to Hampstead Heath, which soon became one of my favorite parts of our trip. We walked all along and through the massive green lands all the way up to Parliament Hill, where, once again, we were treated to a gorgeous view of London.  

Dr. Herzog informed us that Charles Dickens would often walk up to Parliament Hill from his house in London. The weather was rainy and muddy, but the beautiful green heath along with the gorgeous view certainly made up for the weather.  

By the end of the day, we had once again received our fair share of exercise. I, for one, definitely built up quite an appetite from the day’s excursion and was more than enthused to have our group Thanksgiving meal at a wonderful Italian restaurant.  \There was a general consensus among the group that the only thing missing was AMERICAN football.

In photos: Top right, the Royal Observatory. At lower left, Robbins checks out a plague outside the Prime Ministers.

Dorchester Citizens Quite Friendly

Thomas Hanewald '09 - Today we went to Dorchester to visit “Thomas Hardy Country.”  Rather than elaborate on how we spent 5 hours on a train or how we walked along the British countryside for 4 hours, led by our esteemed leader, Prof. Herzog, I think it would be more interesting to talk about the people that inhabit the countryside.

London resembles most large cities; the people walking to and from the public transportation are solely interested in arriving at their destination. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them rude, but the description would definitely be suitable.  

When we stepped off the train into Dorchester the first thing I noticed about the inhabitants was their politeness. Every person that made eye contact with us always smiled and responded with a “hello,” “good day,” or a “cheers.” It was interesting to see the dichotomy between London and Dorchester.  People were genuinely very friendly and very receptive to a group of 20 people trouncing around their countryside.  

Another interesting side note was the noticeable difference in the cleanliness of two cities.  London might be the cleanest large city I have ever been to. Much cleaner than LA., New York, Philadelphia, and maybe even Chicago (but Prof. Herzog will not admit to that). I would not call Dorchester dirty, by any means, but I saw a lot more trash on the ground, much more littering.  

 One last side note, the British countryside looks remarkably like rural Indiana but to quote my fellow student Joseph Hawkins, “It is much more Britishy.”

Wessex a Bustling Little Town

Mitch Palmer '09 - Today we visited Dorchester in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. Since it is located in the British countryside, I assumed at first that it would be pretty much like the cornfields and whatnot we see in Indiana. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

For one, the town was much more active than I originally imagined it would be. On one street in particular, which was closed off in order to accommodate pedestrian traffic, it was as crowded as some of the places we have seen in London. The rest of the town was fraught with stores, pubs, inns, and street vendors, and in some places one might forget that London was 2 ½ hours away.

Once we started to pass out of the town and move more into the country, however, I was reminded a little more of home. On the other hand, there were some significant differences between what I’m used to in the States and what I saw here. Most noticeable (and most disappointing) was the lack of road apples. But we did see several kinds of ranches and farms that one would expect to find in the States. One major difference was the heavy presence of forest area among the farms; there was not nearly as much open field as we have in the states.

Finally, before leaving, we saw Thomas Hardy’s cottage. One of the first things I noticed was the height of the door – probably about 5’ 8” or so; Hardy was not a large man. But the gardens surrounding the cottage, as well as the autumn forestry made for an extremely beautiful, extremely serene scene. After seeing the cottage, we were on our way back to the train station, and upon settling myself on the train, I began my second 2 ½ hour nap of the day.

November 27, 2008

Understanding London's Connection with its Past

Brett Sanders '09 - Tuesday was undoubtedly full of more sights that involved London’s lovely landscape.  Although it is safe to say that our legs were close to falling off, Professor Herzog kept us traipsing through the London cement jungle.

After discussing some of the places that are seen in Bleak House, that are placed within Chancery Lane, our trip took us down to the heart of London.  What was most striking to me was the fact that while in the city, tremendous buildings spring up before your eyes at every turn, it seems.  Nearly every building has some unique aspect of architecture that fills the mind with a sense of wonder and astonishment at how well these ancient buildings have been maintained.  One of the most fascinating structures was St. Paul’s Cathedral that acted as a beacon of hope for the London people during World War 2.  It is a massive neo-classical structure that holds some of England’s most important people’s remains.  Also, it managed to stay intact during the Second World War, which allows it to be considered a monument to Britain’s past and present.

After walking a bit further, we were able to cross London Bridge, which is an amazing historical structure.  Even though London Bridge was bought by an American and sent to Arizona, the one that we walked down seemed to hold within it a sense of the past and the present.

Throughout our walks and discussions of the myriad buildings that London contains, one is struck with the sense that all of London contains one common theme within it—a social and architectural connection between the past and the present.

Learning and Sightseeing in London

Rob Fenoglio ' 09 - Tuesday was our fourth day in London, but the sightseeing has not slowed down at all. We spent the day touring Chancery Lane and Regent Street.

One of the coolest parts of the day was hearing Mr. Bowen talk about the infamous “Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce” case from Charles Dickens’ novel “Bleak House.” The reason he brought it up during our tour of Chancery Lane was because the origin of the word chancery came from legal cases that were being taken up by the chancellor because the court system wasn’t covering every angle the people wanted. Furthermore, this gave Professor Herzog a reason to bring up a situation where Dickens was heckled by a lawyer, so Dickens punched the lawyer, and the lawyer struck Dickens in the eye. Professor Herzog joked that this was the impetus for Dickens loathing lawyers.

The rest of the day was spent walking through Regent Street – the British equivalent of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and New York’s Time Square. It was really interesting to see all of the lights and Broadway signs in a city where architecture is usually the focus. Professor Herzog’s son, Joe, is an architect and mentioned that a lot of the architecture in London is not original, even though it looks and feels old, because of the many fires and bombings the city has endured. He mentioned that one building was even built from bricks, but then was covered in stucco to create the look that it was an older building, when it was in fact fairly new. The building, which is located right across from Regent’s Park, was given an arched shape so that it made the park seem more open.

It’s things like these a student could never fully understand or grasp if it wasn’t for an immersion trip like this that really lets us experience the culture of the great country of England. Cheerio!

November 26, 2008

Trustee Steve Bowen Shares With English Class

Shawn Crane '09 - Other than the educating experience we had touring Dickensian London today, we were also fortunate enough to have a law expert explain the English legal system and a tour guide chillingly describe Jack the Ripper for us.

As a lawyer in the United States, the new head of trustees at Wabash, Mr. Bowen, gave a brief lecture on the significance of English Law, the Magna Carta, and how such applications affect our daily lives in the states. Since many of us are interested in someday practicing law, it was especially interesting to hear about how the subject that we are preparing to study is so deeply rooted in our connection to England.

On a perhaps more exciting than educative note, later that night, we were taken on an interactive walking tour of the city of London and stood in the very places that Jack the Ripper committed his heinous crimes in the 1880s. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and made the tour interesting and exciting. Given the chilly, foggy conditions of the night, it made the tour especially chilling and realistic.

 We ended the day after about 8 hours of walking, and while my feet and knees were absolutely killing me, I saw and was told things that could just not be experienced in the U.S. Overall the day was pretty intense as far as walking goes, but we visited some amazing sites and had some very knowledgeable experts explain their fields of study and how they relate to us.

In Photos: Top right, Chairman of the Wabash College Board of Trustees Steve Bowen shares insights with the students. Lower left, the guys get a "Jack the Ripper" tour.

Exploring the London Dickens Knew

Joseph Hawkins '09 - Today we went on a walking tour of Dickens’ London.  It was cool to see the places Dickens visited and lived during his life.  It really helped us to be able to put pictures with the names of places in the books we’ve been reading throughout the course.

We visited the Charles Dickens House Museum, which was located in one of his old houses in the city.  In the museum we saw a lot of artifacts from Dickens’ life, including the desk that he designed to be used during his speaking tours.  We also saw manuscripts from those speaking tours, in which Dickens would act out all the dialogue from his works as each character.   Reading the manuscripts was a lot different than reading Dickens in book form because he wrote himself a lot of notes, including at one point telling himself to “shudder” at certain parts of the writing.  This gave me an insight into Dickens as a performer, which is something that has interested me since we started reading Oliver Twist.

One of the funnier things that we learned during the day had to do with the place that Dickens’ father worked during his childhood.  The building was a huge, beautiful structure that housed the headquarters of the Royal Navy in London.  That in itself is not funny, but about one hundred feet down the street was the chapel in which Dickens’ mother and father were married.  This, of course, led to numerous jokes by the group about his father getting married and then running back to work as fast as he could to get away from her.

We’re walking a lot, but we’re also learning a lot, and I’m having a great time. 

November 24, 2008

Art Comes to Life in London

Joe Barriga '09 - We started out the day by visiting the Tate Britain Museum of Art.  It was a great opportunity to reflect on some powerful pieces of art from many different time periods of British history.  One piece of art that stood out to me in particular was JMW Turner’s Venice, The Bridge of Sighs (1833). Having seen the bridge of sighs last fall in Venice, I was amazed at how the painting drew me in like I was there all over again.  

 I can’t wait to visit the Tate Modern Museum  Friday to see some of the art I have been studying in an art class back at Wabash.  It’s amazing how my classes always seem to tie in to one another at some point.  This trip has been very helpful to my understanding of the class and I have really enjoyed seeing some of the same sights that inspired Dickens in his novels.   

 Experiencing the nightlife in London has been very fun as well.  Last night we mingled with Londoners at a pub in the city center and tonight I had some of the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted. When I left Milan, Italy last fall, all I could think about was getting back overseas.  I am so happy and thankful to be having such an amazing experience during my last year at Wabash. 

 In photo: Prince Albert Memorial.

First Few Days in London Amazing

Pat Patterson '09 - Today was our second day in London. Thus far, I have already had an amazing experience. Since I did not study abroad my junior year, I was very excited when I learned that my senior seminar included this immersion trip. 

Flying over London was an experience in itself. No words can describe the miles and miles of the bright lights of the city seen from above. It is very eye opening to be in a different country. This is my first time outside of the United States and it is fascinating being immersed in the culture of England. It is a big change travelling from the small town of Crawfordsville to the largely populated city of London. 

 The sites that we visited today were both fun and educational. For each place that we visit, a student in the class was assigned a report. Another great source of information is professor Herzog’s son Joe who is an architect. He has been describing the different types of architecture that we have seen. One of my favorite places that we have visited so far has been Hyde Park and Speakers’ Corner. Speakers’ Corner had several people giving speeches about whatever they like. There was even a man who claimed that he “was to sex what J.K. Rowling is to children’s literature.”

I advise all students to take a class with an immersion trip if given the opportunity. I look forward the next few days and the adventures that lie ahead. Cheers mate.

In photo: A marble arch dominates this London street scene.

November 21, 2008

Herzog Describes English Immersion Trip

English Professor Tobey Herzog - Students in my current seminar entitled “Place, Space, and Community in the Lives, Worlds, and Writings of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy” are embarking on the third version of this immersion trip for senior English majors.  In the spring of 2003 and during Thanksgiving break 2005, I took groups of 11 students enrolled in this seminar to London and Dorchester, England.  For many of them, the seven-day trip was, as some have repeatedly said, the highlight of their Wabash College experience. For many, it was also their first experience traveling out of the country.  My goal for this year’s version of the trip is once again to make it a meaningful and memorable experience for the twelve students traveling with me; assistant group leader Professor Lon Porter (chemistry); his wife, Professor Maureen McGolgin (biology); my youngest son Joe (architect); my wife, Peggy; and Steve and Joanie Bowen (he is Chair of Wabash’s Board of Trustees).  I want to share with the students and our guests my passion for London, which is my favorite city in the world.  It is also a city with which I am very familiar, having lived there with my family on three different occasions and having visited it many other times.  London’s attractions for me are numerous: its beauty, accessibility, history, culture, and most important its close association with one of the world’s most important novelists—Charles Dickens.   But the other place that we will visit on this trip—Dorchester, England—also has its attractions.  This small agricultural town in Dorset (birthplace of novelist-poet Thomas Hardy and setting for many of his novels) provides an interesting contrast to places, spaces and the hectic urban lifestyles of London.  With its quaint shops, historic sites, and close proximity to rustic villages, Dorchester will provide a perfect one-day country interlude in our London sojourn.

Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy were novelists of place and space, influenced by their urban and rural ramblings as they created settings, characters, and themes for their writings.  As flaneurs, we will engage in our own ramblings in order to experience these places and spaces that the two novelists wrote about, as well as places and spaces associated with contemporary London and Dorchester.  My son will lead us on architectural tours; I will lead the group on literary walks; Professor Porter will take us to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich; Mr. Bowen (a lawyer) will take us to two of the British Inns of Court; and my wife will provide the encouragement, enthusiasm, and “motherly concern” that she gives to all of my Wabash students.  The theme for the trip is connections as we explore writers’ and literature’s connections to specific spaces and places and as we develop our own connections to the city, to the country, and most important to each other.

This is the first of our blogs. I hope those of you reading this will join us on our travels as two students, each day, provide blog entries.