Spring has sprung at Gladstone’s Library and Easter is not far behind it!

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While researching for this blog, I found myself on all manor of websites, from the Telegraph to Clarion Review, and the websites of both Cadbury and Godiva. All these sites showcase their take on the Easter holidays, be that for marketing purposes or for the enjoyment of their readers. If anything, this shows the breadth of the holiday in the 21st Century. Much like Christmas, Easter has an equally commercial value in today’s society but still its roots and traditions are religious by nature. When I think of Easter I’d be lying if I didn’t immediately think of decedent chocolate eggs in all different shapes and sizes but then shortly after, the more rational side of my brain remembers the meaning of the holiday to Christians, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Springtime and by association Easter are synonymous with new beginnings, the very symbol of commercial Easter is an egg, and the resurrection a statement of a new life. Spring and new beginnings is of course self-explanatory, with new flowers and baby animals cropping up all over the country.

Being as I am writing this blog for Gladstone’s Library, it would be silly not to include a paragraph or so about our founder and his faith, as well as our extensive theological books, many of which are either centred around, or include chapters on Easter. Gladstone once said to Queen Victoria,

My political or public life is the best part of my life: it is that part in which I am conscious of the greatest effort to do and avoid as the Lord Christ would have me do and avoid.

After working in a place built in his memory for the past three months, I can safely say that he did conduct his political and personal life with what he considered strict Christian values.

Looking at Gladstone’s life from the angle of new beginnings is actually far easier than first anticipated. From his fall into politics at age 22 – he had previously considered joining the clergy or studying law – to his move from the Conservative party to the newly formed Liberal Party in 1859, his life is riddled with new starts. You can even look at his last three premierships as new beginnings as he expected to leave parliament shortly after his first one and be known for his four stints as Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, Gladstone did not end his career after his first ministry and is in fact known as one of the preeminent statesmen of the 19th Century. So, William Gladstone’s ‘new beginnings’ ended up as a staple of British history.

Cutting back to the Christian roots of Easter, we here at Gladstone’s Library have a collection of over 50,000 theology books within our 150,000 strong collection, as a reminder of the passionate Christian that our founder was. In connection with this, the main working space in our library is called the ‘Theology Room.’ Our books on the subject of Easter range from classmarks B ‘The Bible’ through E ‘Christianity: Doctrine’; F ‘Christianity: Practice, Ethics, Spirituality, Mysticism’; G ‘Christianity: Worship’ and; I ‘Church History.’ I’m sure you could locate some with Easter in the title in classmark M for ‘History’ but these will be more inclined towards the 1916 Easter Uprisings, which may be as interesting, but for this blog they are slightly off topic. Just a few examples:

  1. Dennis, Trevor, ‘The Easter Stories’ E 53/77
  2. Mosshammer, Alden A., ‘The Easter Computus and the origins of the Christian Era’ I 13/11
  3. Ambrose, Gill, ‘Together for a season: all-age seasonal resources for Lent, Holy Week and Easter.’ G 10.7/77
  4. Pritchard, John, ‘Living Easter through the year: making the most of resurrection’ G 11/132
  5. Benedict XVI, Pope, ‘Journey to Easter: Spiritual reflections for the Lenten season’ G 30/65
  6. Richards, Hubert J, ‘The first Easter: what really happened?’ E 53/75
  7. Hockley, G. W., ‘Sermon preached at Hawarden parish church: Easter 4, May 2nd, 1920’ GX/U/8
  8. Goulburn, Edward Meyrick, ‘Thoughts upon the liturgical Gospels’ vol 1 and 2 WEG/G 27/GOU

Playwright and novelist Mehmet Murat ildan said.

'When there is nothing left to learn from the winter, move on to the spring!'

In my opinion this quote embodies the spirit of spring and Easter. Just over a week ago was the spring equinox signalling to those lucky enough to be in the Northern Hemisphere that our days will slowly begin to get longer and nights shorter until we reach the summer solstice. Spring is the season of new beginnings with flowers beginning to bloom, lambing season in full swing and spring cleaning being present in almost every household. Easter is celebrated at the height of spring, even though there is no exact date on which Easter Sunday falls, it is always held around the same time as Jewish Passover due to their historical connection which is celebrated on the first full moon following the equinox. For myself and, I know, many other people, warmer weather and more frequent sunny days do wonders for my mental health – and physical! I am far more inclined to be active when it’s not freezing cold and blowing a gale – so there is no wonder that this season holds a significant place in religion and culture.

So that’s it, spring is here, Easter is less than a month away and there are new beginnings all around. Although this blog seems to be a mismatch of all things Easter, in fact I think they work rather well together, with the right amount of information about our library and as well as Easter and spring, and of course a little bit of chocolate thrown in to tie it all together!

By Rhiannon Perrin, Graduate Work Experience