Henry James at the Morgan

Pictured below: the guestbook of the Morgan Library from 1911. The novelist Henry James visited on January 18 of that year. His signature appears fourth from the bottom. I photographed this page a few years ago during the exhibition of Henry James and American Painting which I reviewed at the time.

Greenwich Village in Winter

Henry James described New York City as, “in certain lights almost charming.” Below: his and my old stamping ground in Greenwich Village after the snow. One of these terraced houses along Washington Square was the setting for James’s 1880 novel of the same name. 

A few blocks northeast, the Narnia-esque churchyard of Grace Episcopal Church opens onto Broadway. The black urn is an ancient Greco-Roman artifact.

The Headless Horseman Bridge

“Over a deep part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by over-hanging trees, which cast a gloom about it even in the day time, but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favourite haunts of the headless horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered.” — Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

See also: At the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow.

At the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow

This year is the bicentennial of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The story first appeared in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, which was published in serial between 1819 and 1820.

To mark the occasion, I attended a dramatic reading of the story at The Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York. The church itself features prominently in the story. It was an old feature on the landscape when Irving lived nearby in Tarrytown. Built in 1685 by Frederick Philipse, the Lord of Philipse Manor, whose vast patroonship extended south all the way to Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, the building is still owned by the Dutch Reformed parish in Tarrytown.

Prosperine at Auction

Two very important Pre-Raphaelite paintings go up for auction at Christie’s in New York later this month. An 1878 version of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Prosperine and John William Waterhouse’s The Soul of the Rose will be offered at European Art Part I on October 28.

I have written about the models Jane Morris and Muriel Foster who are depicted in the paintings on this blog and in my book Victoriana.

Both works are expected to sell for between three and five million dollars—a far cry from mere decades ago, when the Pre-Raphaelites were out of favor, and David Lloyd Webber saw Leighton’s Flaming June for sale in a London shop for £50.

London Windows in New York

The London glaziers firm James Powell and Sons of Whitefriars, commonly called Whitefriars Glass, produced windows for Anglican churches on both sides of the Atlantic during the interwar period. James Humphries Hogan, who was chief designer at the time, devised windows for the cathedrals of Hereford, Rochester, Exeter, Carlisle and Winchester.

In the 1920s Hogan traveled extensively in the United States, setting up a satellite office in New York. Among other commissions, he designed windows for Saint Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue, arguably the finest stained glass in the city. These windows recently underwent complete restoration from the lead cames to the nine million individual pieces of glass.

An example below features the Powell and Sons “white friar” maker’s mark.

Fifth Avenue Heraldry

The choir of Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in New York is the premier Anglican choir in America, our answer to King’s College, Cambridge. This is reflected in the parish heraldry.

The College of Arms in the United Kingdom granted arms to Saint Thomas in 1975. Below is a blazon from the grant, which hangs in the Parish House.

Arms: Or on a Cross formy throughout Azure between four closed Books saltirewise Gules garnished and each charged with a Long Cross a Spear Or headed Argent.

Crest: On a Wreath Argent and Gules Issuant from a Celestial Crown Or five Trumpets fanwise Argent garnished Or Mantled Azure doubled Argent.

Supporters: On either side a Chorister vested in Red Cassock with White Surplice and Ruff proper holding in the exterior hand a Book also proper bound Sable.

A Golden Age of Transportation

James Howard Kunstler on getting around in upstate New York at the turn of the twentieth century:

There was a time just before the First World War when a person could get around this part of the world by train, trolley, boat, automobile, horse, or on foot, and in fact each mode of transportation had its place. This rich variety of possibilities is hard to imagine in our age, when the failure to own a car is tantamount to a failure in citizenship, and our present transportation system is as much of a monoculture as our way of housing or farming. Factory workers walked or took the trolley across the Hudson. Shoppers walked to market. Stores delivered orders too big to carry. Freight moved long distance by rail or boat, and by truck or wagon only locally. Anybody who had urgent business with the greater world at large could hop on a train and get to Albany in an hour or New York City inside of five.

From The Geography of Nowhere.

Manhattan in Better Days

Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer writing in The Century Magazine (May, 1897):

There have been times when the word “suburban” rang pleasantly in the ears of the citizen of New York. Such must have been the times, long ago, when Greenwich village and Chelsea village were the summer resorts of local magnates, and when Harlem village (legend affirms it) was a health-resort so placidly umbrageous, Dutch, and small that people who could not sleep in town were sent out there, assured of a week of unbroken slumber. And such, again, were the nearer times when all the isle was still suburban north of Washington Square, covered with farms, and dotted with country mansions that were often set in forest-like domains, and often fronted on the East or the North or the Harlem River.