By sheer good luck, when we dropped in on Durham Cathedral (this sounds a bit like ‘when we dropped in on the Palace) it was evensong. The full choir resounding in 1000-year-old stone was a sound so profoundly captivating that I could hardly persuade Chiara to leave. We needed to make it to Edinburgh that night. Only seven people were present for evensong; a few more arrived late. The choir sang, full-throated. Apparently they are obliged to stage a full evensong, by law (civil or ecclesiastical?). The law of the land, seemingly. If I lived in Durham, or anywhere near, I would never miss evensong in this setting. The empty pews bespoke the barrenness of the age more completely than anything one could imagine. No photography was allowed, but Chiara sneaked in a couple of good ones, the great pillars evoking their contemporaries in Ely.
We dutifully explored Edinburgh in mid-Festival, in and out of rain, picture galleries, and Festival theatres. I fell upon a painting that delighted me – ‘Landscape with Monks’! – cicrca 1706, attributed to the Riccis, uncle and nephew: uncle Sebastiano painted the monks and nephew Marco the landscape, it is thought, and St. Bruno is featured, with a halo; and a mystery: in a rather exalted eatery full of grand paintings, a Sargent of Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve read that Sargent painted RLS 3 times, but can only find two: the infamous and absurd painting of RLS and his wife in which Fanny is tucked away ‘like a ghost’ as Stevenson said, in a corner of the painting, and the wonderful portrait of RLS seated with his long legs crossed. Judge by my photos: the one we saw in the restaurant seems unmistakably a Sargent (or a masterly fake?): it’s the RLS and Fanny portrait – without Fanny. But it’s the very same RLS. I’ve scoured the internet without a glimpse of a solution. Claire suggests the Sargent we saw (clearly attributed to him) could be a study for the ‘RLS and wife’ painting.