I have just got back from the Kent Library and History Centre in Maidstone, where I spent the day up to my elbows in manuscripts and as happy as the proverbial pig in the proverbial you-know-what. It was my first time in the archives in seven years and, although I did feel a teensy bit like a fraud (last time I was in an archive I was a legit research student; now, I’m… well… I guess technically I’m a novelist, but I still feel kind of odd describing myself as such given I’m not published yet). But I now have that lovely almond-crossed-with-gunpowder old-document-handling-smell on my hands and I can’t believe how much I have MISSED it.
I unearthed a few treasures, some of which I will have to share at greater length later:
1) Unexpectedly opening a folder to find http://www.historicalportraits.com/Gallery.asp?Page=Item&ItemID=54&Desc=William-Pitt-by-Sir-Thomas-Lawrence-PRA-|-Sir-Thomas-Lawrence-PRA staring back at me (… which I find odd as apparently it is also held in a private collection, according to the site I’ve linked to here: presumably there were several copies floating about as the one I saw was definitely in pencil and looked legit)
2) Comedy moments as I tried to decipher the first Lord Camden’s handwriting, which looked like a number of spiders caught in a pile-up on the M25
3) Finding a bundle of notes on Pitt’s household expenditures around the turn of the 19th century, in which he clearly had his mind on other things (one of them has a pencil drawing of the ground plan of a stately home on the back….)
And much, much more.
It only took on average 5 minutes to get the documents up when I ordered them, too. That’s a vast improvement on what I remember. In this respect a certain record office which will remain anonymous, but which we will refer to here as Bloucestershire Brecord Boffice, holds the record at an hour and a half per order.
Feeling quite blissed out now.