Today I visited what remains of a Twelfth-century Cistercian monastery somewhere near the edge of Sherwood Forest. In the dim light under growing storm clouds – the like of which had affected my reading of Kierkegaard only two days ago – I stepped down through a medieval arched doorway into the undercroft.
Here, in the cool air protected by the cold stone, History still felt like History and not a commodity, despite the attempts to treat it as such.
But of course, my experience of this space, as a Literary Critical Detective, was not just historical; it was also informed by the literary and the theological, if not actually the wholly spiritual.
There was a moment when I could almost imagine myself to be in those medieval spaces so beloved of gothic romance. If I squinted a little, and allowed my imagination to run away with itself, I could almost (but not quite) believe that this was what Udolpho looked like. A moment later I thought such a place could inspire a Poe-like tale.
I saw no casks of sherry during my visit.