Eighteen years ago, I formed an LLC called Gower Street. “Is Gower Street where you live?” some ask. Sort of. In the past. Another lifetime.
The company is named after Gower Street in London. It’s a couple blocks from the Goodge Street underground station, Russell Square, and the British Museum. It’s near the University of London campus, where I studied for a semester. I lived in a Victorian brownstone on Gower Street, just a block from the most glorious three-story Waterstones Bookshop in the history of ever. New books, used books, many lifetimes of learning in one stunner of a building.
A few years back, a former professor told me that Waterstones closed that location. For a moment, I felt short of breath. As if I had learned of the death of an old friend. I later learned my professor was wrong. A case of mistaken identity.
Gower Street is where I studied Shakespeare and chemistry and read books to Sarah and learned to love room-temperature Guinness and ate free cereal for breakfast and lunch and gathered with a dozen others to watch Twin Peaks on Monday nights. It’s where I returned from daily wanderings, some solo, some with 30 fellow students, some with Mary, Melissa, Rob, and the Pauls. It’s where I first experienced the joy of being lost. It’s where I learned to get my bearings.
Gower Street Is Named After John Gower
The street is named after John Gower (1330-1408), a contemporary of Chaucer. He was a poet who wrote in Latin, French, and English. The fact that he wrote poetry in English was and is a shocker. The yet nascent language wasn’t often used in formal writing at the time. He saw possibility, experimented, played with the new language, helped shape it. Some call John Gower the first English-language poet. He’s interred in London’s Southwark Cathedral on the South Bank. His tomb can be found in the cathedral’s nave. You can visit him there. I have.
A line from G. K. Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy references Gower Street. He writes:
Nothing can save [the madman] but a blind hunger for normality, like that of a beast. A man cannot think himself out of mental evil; for it is actually the organ of thought that has become diseased, ungovernable, and, as it were, independent. He can only be saved by will or faith. The moment his mere reason moves, it moves in the old circular rut; he will go round and round his logical circle, just as a man in a third-class carriage on the Inner Circle will go round and round the Inner Circle unless he performs the voluntary, vigorous, and mystical act of getting out at Gower Street.
How to break the “circular rut”? Perform “the voluntary, vigorous, and mystical act of getting out at Gower Street.” Sound advice indeed.
Today, my company, Gower Street, does business as CarolynDaughters.com. But we are and always will be Gower Street at our core.
It was my home. The place where I fell in love. London will always and forever be my first.
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