Friday Fun: Writers Houses, Mostly French

I thought I had already shown you most writers’ homes in France, but it turns out I’ve barely scratched the surface. So here are some more, plus an extra one a little further afield!

Winter falls on Rousseau’s house in Montmorency, from museejjrousseau.montmorency.fr
Francois Mauriac’s little chateau in Vemars, L’Express.
An older house, for the playwright Corneille, from tourmag.fr
Alphonse Daudet bought this house from his first royalties, which must have been greater in those days, maison.alphonse.daudet.overblog.fr
Surprisingly, Jean Cocteau had the most romantic house outside Paris, in Milly-la-Foret. From L’Express.
Last but not least, this amazing House for Writers from Tbilisi, Georgia. From itinari.com

Strawberry Hill Forever!

I had the great good fortune of visiting St Mary’s University in Twickenham on a sunny day, which allowed me to take a walk through its lovely campus and visit its next-door neighbour Strawberry Hill House: indeed, there is a door leading from the wing of one to the old building of the other.

St Mary’s University leading to Strawberry Hill House (in white).

It was the summer house built to house the art collection of the extravagant and eccentric Horace Walpole, politician, art historian and writer. He was not all that rich when he acquired a plot of land with a cottage and a nice view over the River Thames in Twickenham, but he had very strong ideas about what he wanted to create: an architectural folly to entertain guests who would come upstream to visit him, a backdrop for his legendary literary and artistic parties.

Period view of Strawberry Hill House by E. Sandby.

He had a passion for the Gothic style and pioneered its revival a good half century or more before the Victorian revival of it. He even pioneered it in literature, starting a new genre: the Gothic horror with The Castle of Otranto. As he got richer, he kept adding another wing or redecorating the house, and of course he spent a fortune on his collections. Not just objects of artistic value but also of historical importance – for example, the clock that Henry VIII gave to Anne Boleyn on their wedding day or Cardinal Wolsey’s scarlet cardinal hat. Before visiting, I had the impression that Walpole made it up as he went along and created a mish-mash of styles without much thought and planning. But I discovered just how meticulous a historian he was and how accurate all his reproductions were (of wallpaper and silk hangings for example).

The oldest part of the house was a sort of two up two down cottage, and Walpole added a wooden turret to it.

And it was not all about extravagance. He was also astute at spotting a bargain – for instance, most of the stained glass in the windows was reclaimed from Flemish salvage yards. Unlike most private collectors, he was not about keeping it all for himself, but saw Strawberry Hill as a cultural centre to be shared with others. He started a printing press, and exhibited most of his possessions like a museum.

He had a wonderful life surrounded by all his favourite objects, showing them off to visitors, living exactly as he pleased. But the sad coda to this tale is that when he died without an heir, his entire collection was auctioned off. Fortunately, for a short time only, much of it has been brought together again (on loan or reproduced) and until the 24th of February you can see Strawberry Hill as its owner wanted it to be seen in the Lost Treasures exhibition.

You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, but I have to show you the promotional picture of the library, which can be hired as a wedding venue, I believe.

The view over the Thames has been lost, sadly, and the gardens border onto St Mary’s athletic track, but what other garden has got a shell-shaped seat with a whole book dedicated to it?

Friday Fun: Writers’ Houses from Other Continents

I tried to find Asian writers’ houses and guess what? There aren’t many of those still around. Space being at a premium, the land being earthquake prone, writers not necessarily coming from wealthy families, a climate hostile to conservation, a lack of literary tourism… lots of reasons for the lack of memorial homes. There are literature museums instead. So I tried to see what was happening on other continents.

Australian writer Ethel Turner’s house in Sydney, from smh.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stefan Zweig’s last home, in Brazil. jstheater.blogspot.com

Edgar Allen Poe’s house in the Bronx. From Chicago Tribune.

Faulkner’s plantation house, from Lonely Planet.

Karen Blixen house in Nairobi, Kenya.

Pablo Neruda house in Isla Negra, Chile.

Rimbaud’s house (in which he probably only wrote the accounts) in Harar, Ethiopia. From Society of Architectural Historians.

Mazo de la Roche’s house in Canada, an inspiration for the Jalna series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fun: Houses of Famous Writer All Over the World

This week I am wandering around Europe with famous writers, while next week I plan to go a little further afield.

Haworth Parsonage, home of the Bronte sisters. From Visit Britain website.

Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy. From World Nomad Journals.

Camus’ modest house in Lourmarin, bought with the proceeds of his Nobel Prize. From Pinterest.

Caragiale museum in Romania. From skytrip.ro

Romanian national poet Eminescu’s birthplace in Ipotesti. From Wikipedia.

Victor Hugo’s house in exile in Guernsey. From Visit Guernsey.

Philip Pullman’s garden shed, from Authors’ Houses.

Schiller’s house in Weimar, from deutschland.yakohl.com

Goethe’s garden shed in Weimar, from planetware.com

Friday Fun: More Writers with Magnificent Homes

We can never get enough of the homes and workplaces which inspired famous writers, can we? Here are some truly enviable ones from all over the world.

Tennessee Williams stayed at this windmill on the Stony Brook campus and wrote a play. From Long Island Press.

Nietzche House in Sils Maria, Switzerland, from NietzcheGesellschaft.de

Rimbaud’s house in Harar, Ethiopia. After he gave up writing. Maybe he had a point, after all. From 3roadblog.wordpress.com

Gogol’s stately home in Moscow, from freefortourists.com

Tolstoy’s country estate Yasnaya Polyana, from Pinterest.

Gore Vidal’s legendary clifftop house on the Amalfi Coast, Italy. From Architectural Digest.

Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford House, on the Scottish Borders. From e-architect.com

 

Friday Fun: Writers’ Homes in the English-Speaking World

I’ve presented quite a few homes of writers and artists in France, but what about some homes for English-language writers in the US and UK? I don’t want to neglect Africa, Australia or New Zealand, so if you know of any noteworthy houses there, be sure to let me know in the comments section.

Evelyn Waugh certainly had plenty of inspiration for Brideshead, if this house is anything to judge by! From The Prose Blog.

Jack London’s study shows his passion for travelling, but also art. From QED.

It seems F.H. Burnett had some inspiration readily available for The Secret Garden or Little Lord Fauntleroy. From The Guardian.

Upton Sinclair’s home in California. From Pinterest.

Enid Blyton opted for the thatched cottage style. From Daily Mail.

As did Thomas Hardy. From Open Culture.

All right, this is in France again, but it’s James Baldwin hard at work in his St Paul de Vence study.

Finally, in this one you can actually stay overnight courtesy of AirBnB.

Steinbeck’s study in Pacific Grove, California. From AirBnB.

 

 

Friday Fun: Famous Writers and their Studies

There is an enduring fascination with the writing spaces and rituals of famous writers. Perhaps by mimicking some of their surroundings or habits, some of the talent might rub off on us!

Charles Dickesn in his purpose-built Swiss Chalet, the garden shed to crown all garden sheds. From Nicolebianchi.com
Charles Dickens in his purpose-built Swiss Chalet, the garden shed to crown all garden sheds. From Nicolebianchi.com

Rudyard Kipling was likewise not a struggling writer, clearly... From Art of Manliness.
Rudyard Kipling was likewise not a struggling writer, clearly… From Art of Manliness.

Hnery Miller did not even use his study much, other than for posing. From Booktique.com
Henry Miller did not even use his study much, other than for posing. From Booktique.com

Ernest Hemingway's study in Key West. From earthxplorer.com
Ernest Hemingway’s colourful study in Key West. From earthxplorer.com

Pablo Neruda looked out on a beautiful view, just as I imagined. From Pinterest.
Pablo Neruda looked out on a beautiful view, just as I imagined. From Pinterest.

While Anne Sexton looked at the camera, giving us plenty of attitude. From This Recording.
While Anne Sexton looked at the camera, giving us plenty of attitude. From This Recording.

Finally, Norman Mailer had such a fancy library-like house over two storeys, that he could not work there. He would go to write in a bare little studio a block away. From Art of Manliness.
Finally, Norman Mailer had such a fancy library-like house over two storeys, that he could not work there. He would go to write in a bare little studio a block away. From Art of Manliness.

Good fortune and good writing spaces are clearly wasted on some people…

In my next Friday Fun, I will show living authors and some more non-English ones.