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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

My History Valentine: Frederick John Horniman (1835 – 1906) SocialReformer, Tea Endorser and South Londoner.

To my Darling Frederick John Horniman, 

Since our first introduction four years ago I have been struck with one of your many beautiful arrows and my life has changed. From a mere presence to an obsession you have shown me the world through your ethnographic pieces, Victorian curiosity,  love of tea and politics. 

All of this information has been learnt through your presence in history and what I have seen in your collection. I long to view your hand stroke the merman you so desired, the other clasped tightly around your spears whilst ogling the beautiful butterfly named in your honour. But you have been gone since 1906. 

My great love for you is fueled by your drive, to think that your enthusiasm to collect and subsequent philanthropy were all down to Tea. My love for the magical substance is as strong as those freshly packaged leaves, but I would give India's supply up to be your cup of tea. 

Your drive to collect may not have been as strangely obsessive as Henry Wellcome's, but your interests were specific to ethnography, India and natural history unlike that American who collected anything 'medical.' Your selection of ethnographic objects brought the world to Forest Hill, anthropologists out of their armchairs and south Londoners to an awesome museum they can call their own.

 I love to read about how your collection swallowed your home, filling all of the gaps. Your wife Rebecca's ultimatium,  (her or the collection!) disgusted me. I would have relished in the expansion of your curiosities,  prancing about the house dusting the beautiful objects and hopefully admiring your handsomeness.

Your passion as a social reformer, a man of politics and power drives me wild. I love a man who knows what he wants and will give it all up for the sake of the public, when I heard you had donated your collection to the London County Council in 1901 my heart flutted like the Papollo Horniman

I can continue to praise you but will you ever love me back? I would and will continue to love you more than you loved your collection and wife combined. I know your standards are high, I heard whispers that you thought your own daughter to be so ugly that she couldn't be painted, so could my beauty match that of your ethnographic masks?

 I only hope we can meet one day, and I can find out if your name reflects your personality.

Yours forever, 


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