7. The fictional chambers of Brancaster & Lane, New Street
We cheered ourselves up with a silly walk along New Street, retracing the steps of those real-life solicitors and barristers who had no doubt ‘silly-walked’ there before us.
We spotted a doorway which evoked the entrance to Charles Brancaster’s chambers, and sparked the memory of the scene of Edith rushing to a door just like this one, to tell her love Josephine of the passing of the Abolition Act. Beyond that door excitement was replaced by heartbreak as Edith stumbled upon Josephine’s engagement to William Wright. Just like in real-life the door is a silent witness to the dramas that unfold behind it.
An extract from chapter thirteen –
28th August 1833
“Yes! Yes!” Edith ran with all her might through the city streets, dodging market stall holders’ baskets, skipping over stagnant puddles, narrowly avoiding the wheels of carts and the hoofs of horses. The church bells of St. Martin’s rang out in celebration, their peel of notes carried on the wind up and over rooftops and out beyond the city to the workers in the fields. Edith would not stop running. She lifted her skirt up from the floor with her right hand and she held a copy of the Leicester Chronicle tightly in the other. Her legs had all but given way, and her chest burned as she reached the steps of Brancaster and Lane. Edith leaned her back against the door with exhaustion and knocked at it with the heel of her shoe. She felt a gust of warm air at her legs and the pungent smell of ink as the door opened. With a last gasp of breath, she said, “Good morning, Mr. Brancaster. I have just heard the news!”
Charles beamed at Edith and held the door open for her to enter. “Good morning, Edith. Yes, truly a day to remember indeed.”
When Edith found her breath once more she said in one hurried string of questions, “And has Jo heard? Does she know? What has she said? I have already composed what our response should be. I think we shall not boast. No. Our words will be modest, as the facts will speak in proud ever-increasing volume for themselves. So has she? Heard? Mr. Brancaster?”
8. St Martin’s Church, now Leicester Cathedral
One of my favourite scenes in Love’s Portrait takes place in our next stop St Martin’s Church. The scene describes the moment Josephine marries William. Everything about it should have been joyful and the beginning of the future, yet everything about it is shaded in sadness and the sense of ending.
Cathedrals are the perfect setting for rites of passage and the perfect place to reveal the often stark contrast between formal public obligations and duty with personal sacrifice and private pain.
An extract from chapter thirty-one –
The congregation stood and the organist began to play. William turned and glanced behind him with the glint in his eyes of emotion caught in the candlelight. Josephine lifted her head as one who bravely faces that which they fear most. “I am ready.”
It was Charles who found his feet reluctant to move forward. He wanted to say, I am not, but he would not default in his duty and walked Josephine slowly towards the altar, each step a peculiar anguish towards his daughter’s fate.
Releasing Josephine’s hand into William’s, he quickly looked away knowing that William would now see the tears beneath the veil and feel her sadness at his side.
He felt some relief to hear William whisper, “I love you,” and Josephine solemnly reply “I know.”