‘A Sultry Month’ by Alethea Hayter

Lucy Scholes at The Paris Review:

One hundred and seventy-six years ago today, on the evening of Monday, June 22, 1846, the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon—sixty years old and facing imminent financial ruin—locked himself in his studio in his house on Burwood Place, just off London’s Edgware Road. The month had been the hottest anyone could remember: that day, thermometers in the city stood at ninety degrees in the shade. Despite the heat, that morning Haydon had walked to a gunmaker’s on nearby Oxford Street and purchased a pistol. He spent the rest of the day at home, composing letters and writing a comprehensive, nineteen-clause will.

That evening, only a few streets away in Marylebone, Elizabeth Barrett penned a letter to her fiancé, Robert Browning. The poets’ courtship was still a secret, but they wrote each other constantly, sometimes twice a day. Like everyone else, Elizabeth was exhausted by the weather; earlier in the month she had complained to Browning that she could do nothing but lie on her sofa, drink lemonade, and read Monte Cristo.

more here.