Spotting Mermaids: from William Clift to Sir Henry Wellcome and beyond with Ross MacFarlane – at the Royal College of Surgeon’s Hunterian Museum. “With over fifty years’ connection with the collections of John Hunter, naturalist William Clift (1775–1849) is one of the most important figures in the history of the Hunterian Museum. This talk will focus on one aspect of Clift’s career – his analysis in 1822 of a mermaid on display in a Coffee House in London – and from there chart a journey from the shows of P T Barnum to the collections of Sir Henry Wellcome, in a search for these mysterious creatures.”
It’s interesting to learn of these early coffee shops alone, without sea monsters creeping into the mix. Cropping up in the 1700s across the City, these coffee shops were gathering points for the learned gentlemen of London to share radical ideas, trade, use as a poste restante, try new goods from around the globe and enjoy coffees from Turkey, the Levant and beyond.
I had a rather curious and confusing conversation with someone at a market in Berlin recently. I was asking about Lovage and the trader said, “yes, this is the stuff that you Brits love – its in mermaid.” Really, I didn’t know we were so keen on mermaid…and what is mermaid? Well, he’d managed to confuse Marmite with mermaid. What a lovely mistake.
More information, tickets £4, Tuesday 24 September, 1pm . 35-43 Lincolns Inn Fields, London WC2. Book on 020 7869 6568.