Love knows no uniformity. It is colourful and diverse – and stirs up turbulent emotions in the lover, the beloved and the world beyond. This trail strings together art, letters, books, literature and natural beauty in celebration of our extraordinary passions.
The Scandalous – Rodin’s provocative sculpture The Kiss outraged Sussex residents when it was displayed in Lewes Town Hall in 1914. It was commissioned by Lewes-based collector Edward Perry Warren who, after declaring himself a pagan, made a special point of asking for the genitals to be prominently displayed rather than modestly hidden. Local headmistress, aptly named Miss Tutt, feared it would dangerously inflame the passions of soldiers billeted in the town and put public morals at risk. She successfully campaigned to remove it from view. The sculpture was hidden away until 1929 when it was loaned to The Tate where it has a permanent home.
The Chaste – Love blossoms at a railway station when a passing steam train blows grit into the eyes of a beautiful woman and a dishy doctor comes to her rescue. Brief Encounter stirs up strong emotions, but rather than carry on a steamy affair the pair dutifully repress their feelings. It is all in impeccably good taste, with minimal fuss, but nonetheless tugs, unbearably, at the heart strings. Carnforth Station in Lancashire has lovingly restored the platforms and tea room where David Lean filmed the classic British tale of thwarted love . It’s a great nostalgic hang out. But you don’t get grit in your eye like you used to.
The Scarlet Woman – The sexy red nightie of the “brazen” American divorcee who stole the heart of the Edward III, leading him to abdicate from the throne in 1936, is displayed at All Hallows Museum of Lace in Honition. Wallis Simpson was famously chic and fashion collectors will pay hundreds of pounds to get their hands on items from her lingerie drawer. Critics say she used fashion as a weapon – to win the King of England. It is said that she was determined to be the best dressed woman in the world, although perhaps not the most beautiful. This slinky relic is a testament to her taste. It also brings to mind the high price the lovers paid for their affair. They changed the course of British history, were forced into exile and shunned by society.
Sex, censorship and smuggling – Britain was morally outraged by Lady Chatterley’s Lover when it was published in 1928 – and it was at the centre of an obscenity trial in 1960. DH Lawrence’s infamous love story was filled with the swear words F*** and C***. It gave meticulous descriptions of romps between a society lady and her gamekeeper. It is hard to tell which was the greater transgression – sex, swearing or the open cavorting between the upper and lower classes. Nonetheless the book was a big hit. Fascinating relics held at Merseyside Maritime Museum are a testament to this. Deep in the vaults are old editions of the love story along with customs ledgers revealing that 120 copies of the “obscene publication” were seized from ladies on foreign tours and high ranking military men on board cross channel ferries during the early 1930s. Love and sex were major themes in his writing, but visitors to Lawrence’s birthplace will search in vain for clues of this. This drab working class home in Nottinghamshire is a reminder that great passions lurk beneath modest exteriors.
The Bitter End? The heartbroken are fatally attracted to Beachy Head. Sadly, Britain’s highest cliff top in the South Downs National Park is one of the world’s most notorious suicide spots. But it is also an exhilarating place which, for the most part, lifts the spirits of the love lorn. The blustery winds and stunning views expand horizons and help put the past behind.
The Love Letter – The British postal service delivered around 2 billion letters during World War One, thousands of these are love letters held in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. Touching humdrum details, old fashioned expressions, ornate copper plate handwriting and repeated instructions not to worry are the common themes. It is inspiring to read the unceasing and abundant expressions of tenderness and care in the face of uncertainty, death and horror.
Devotion – When you have had a gutfull of earthly love, why not look towards heaven to express yourself? Saintly relics held at the British Museum were said to bridge the divide between man, woman and the divine. They helped people express their passions in a more rarefied way. This calm maiden is made from painted oak and has a secret trap door in the crown of her head which once held the skull of a female saint. She is far from a sex goddess. Her discreet beatific smile is supposed to transform turbulent human feelings into a soothing meditation on spirituality and the heavenly realm.
The ever changing face of love – is the subject of Love is All, a film that captures 100 years of love and courtship. The cinema montage ranges from the first screen kiss in a railway tunnel in 1899 to the first hugely controversial gay snog in My Beautiful Launderette in 1986. A Richard Hawley soundtrack without narrative or words make this a great anthropological study of smooching, shy smiles and the sweet, silly state of being love struck.