Saturday, 14 August 2010

Lord Leighton’s House

This week I visited Lord Leighton's House in Kensington. It was rather a gloomy and chilly day, strange for August! My first impressions were that I loved the gold details and the rich colours within the house. The Arab Hall was stunning and I felt myself transported to some far flung courtyard somewhere in the Middle East. However, I only truly felt 'at home' upstairs on the first floor in which the rooms were bathed in light (for mainly having a tinted glass roof).  I agreed with my friend that this it seemed was where Lord Leighton truly lived and worked and not on the ground, which was maily for show.

I had picked up the booklet about the house and Lord Leighton but hadn't read it till after I had left. I found a passage which to an archivist saddened me a little.

' Leighton left no diaries and his letters are telling in their lack of reference to his personal circumstances. No definite primary evidence has yet to come to light that effectively dispels the secrecy that Leighton built up around himself' Leighton House Museum

He was, it seems a very private man. There may have been no mystery at all about his sexuality or whether he had a child by one of his models. These suppositions were damning for the period if they were found to be true. Also I can sympathise with someone who feels their lives are not for the show of others. But now we will never know. In an age much more free to talk and share, maybe it would have been more of a burden for him in this period than the one he lived and worked.


  1. Re. the lack of diaries left by Lord Leighton. It is wonderful how much can be learnt from diaries - both personal information and information about the society, politics, economics etc of the time. I do worry just how much of this type of information is being lost now with the loss of letter writing and the prolific use of e-mail and other online forms of communication as I don't think the majority of people think to keep or archive this type of communication in the same way - or maybe (in the case of personal archives) we just have to trust it to serendipity as I guess as happened throughout time!

  2. I agree. I have never been a great diarist myself but I do try to write letters. There is something comforting spending an hour focussing your thoughts and preparing the letter. When communication is so easy now, I think it shows effort by the writer and appreciation of the person that will receive the letter. Plus it gives some 'quiet time' back to me.