Thursday 27 September 2018

'A very great lover'

Today I was down in deepest Sussex, on a mission to see a monument – this extraordinary piece of work, by the wayward John Bushnell, maker of the Fulham monument. It commemorates Jane, wife of William Ashburnham, and carries a touching epitaph which tells how William, 'coming from beyond sea, where he was bred a soldier, married her and after lived almost five and forty yeares most happily with her, for 'she was a very great lover'. The monument is suitably packed with emotion – William watches, grief-stricken, as a putto crowns his dying wife with a heavenly wreath – but, alas, it's rather clumsily expressed and unconvincingly carved. Bushnell didn't know enough anatomy to get the figures quite right and make them properly inhabit their robes. But, boy, he certainly went for the High Baroque emotion and drama, and, drawing on his continental experience, he gave England something the like of which it had never seen before.
  It's a terrific, audacious design, and in more competent hands it would be a great monument. As it is, it actually packs less of an emotional punch than Epiphanius Evesham's Teynham monument of half a century earlier. But it's a fascinating piece  – a failure perhaps, but a glorious failure.
  And, as I walked up the path to the church (St Peter, Ashburnham), a pale female Clouded Yellow flew down and settled briefly on the churchyard grass. My only one this year, and a fitting finale (if finale it is) to an extraordinary butterfly season.


  1. Dear Sir Ness, autumn is here. Winter, as we know, cannot be far behind. Now is the time to sit down and write that book. I am aching to read it and visit all the wonderful places you have mentioned in yur many deliteful bogs.