The Portico Library and Gallery opened in 1806 as a Library and Newsroom and still occupies its original site - 'the most elegant and retired street in town' according to John Dalton. Its mainly 19th century collection is accessed by members as well as researchers in the UK and abroad.
The Library continues to flourish as a hub of cultural activity by hosting a thriving and active programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year. These are open to members and the public generally.
Emma and I have
recently had a meeting with Lindsey Holland of North West Poets to explore the
possibilities for collaboration between NWP and the Portico. We looked at
holding a regular series of poetry events in the Portico, to include workshops
and readings, but also using the library as an inspirational venue where
leading north west poets could meet and work on a theme, such as geology or
botany. I’m excited at the prospect of being able to use the book collection to
support events of this kind.
There’s more thinking to be done on both sides, but we have
provisionally agreed to hold a launch event in January or February for Andrew
Forster’s third collection, Homecoming
[Smith Doorstop 2014]. Forster, who is Literature Officer at the Wordsworth
Trust, recently read from Homecoming
during the Manchester Literature Festival, now being hosted at venues around
Most of the poems in the book relate to the north west, and
many are about Wordsworth, so this will give us an opportunity to showcase some
of our rich collection of material related to Wordsworth – I’ll be rooting for The Letters of Charles Lamb, and Benjamin Robert Haydon: correspondence and table-talk, with a memoir by
his son, Frederick
Wordsworth Haydon. Haydon senior
painted what is possibly the most well-known portrait of Wordsworth, now on
loan to the Wordsworth Trust from the National Portrait Gallery.
also Thomas de Quincey, who famously ran away from school in Manchester,
eventually washing up as the tenant of Dove Cottage after Wordsworth had left
it. The Portico has a copy of de Quincey’s Sketches
Critical and Biographical. Forster’s Homecoming
includes a poem entitled De Quincey’s
letter to Johnny Wordsworth 1809.
Here’s an extract from it:
He’s taken such care to make it legible:
the faded copper ink neatly blocked,
a contrast to his Confessions, where words
are splashed on paper and blurred by winestains.
It’ll be interesting to see
what Forster makes of the Portico’s early editions. Sheila Wild Chair of Book Committee, The Portico Library