J. R. R. Tolkein (see previous post) was an undergraduate at Exeter College from 1911 to 1915, and Professor of Anglo Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College from 1925 to 1945. From 1945 to 1959, he was Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College.
Merton is one of the oldest Oxford colleges and the chapel is from 1289. We took a day trip to Oxford, during our visit to London in October 2016, and enjoyed a stroll along the river and up the High, remembering when we lived there for 12 months in the late 1970s.
The seaside town of Geraldton, 415km north of Perth, was the birthplace of writer, Randolph Stow. Born on 28 November 1935, Stow wrote about his childhood in and around the town of Geraldton in the novel, “The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea”.
There are several different merry-go-rounds in the novel. The one in the sea was actually a shipwreck off the main swimming beach, but the beach has been redeveloped and the wreck is gone.
The second merry-go-round is the one that appears in the opening chapter of the novel. Amazingly, it is still there, beneath a spreading Moreton Bay fig tree alongside the old two storey library building. The current merry-go-round is a replica of the one in the novel, which had already fallen into disrepair during the closing chapters of the book.
Have just finished reading “The Last Man in Europe” by Dennis Glover, which is a partly fictionalised biography of George Orwell. The book includes vivid descriptions of life in London during World War II. At the end of the war, Orwell was living at 27B Canonbury Square in Islington after his previous flat in Kilburn had been destroyed by a bomb. We visited Canonbury Square last year and posted a blog about a nearby interesting tower.
Now a gentrified neighbourhood, Canonbury Square was, when Orwell lived there, a working class area and he uses it as a setting for the home of Winston Smith in his last novel, “Nineteen Eighty Four”.
Ludovico Ariosto, also from Ferrara, and from the same era as Savonarola (previous blog) had an entirely different outlook on life. He was a poet and playwright who first coined the word, “humanism”. He is most famous for the romantic epic poem, “Orlando Furiosa” which is a story of chivalric knights, but with fantasy elements, including a trip to the moon.
Ariosto’s house is now a small museum in Ferrara which is open Tuesday to Sunday and has free entry.
Johnson was born in Lichfield and inside his house, which is now a museum, there is a 19th century stained glass window which is a portrait of the great lexicographer with Lichfield Cathedral in the background.
Today is the birthday of Samuel Johnson, the creator of one of the most important dictionaries in the history of the English language. The London house where he lived from 1748 to 1759 and where he wrote the dictionary, is now open as a very interesting museum.
Another later occupant of Hogarth House, was Henry Cary, a clergyman, scholar and author who published a translation of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” in 1814. His translation in blank verse is still in print.
Hogarth House in Chiswick is a little hard to find, but is well worth the visit. Hogarth bought the house as a summer retreat and even though it is now a museum it still has the feeling of being lived in. Many of Hogarth’s prints are on display.
Nearby is neo-Palladian Chiswick House and its impressive garden which you can also visit.
Jerome K Jerome is another late 19th century/early 20th century writer who is remembered with a plaque in Bloomsbury. Jerome, the author of “Three Men in a Boat”, lived briefly at 32 Tavistock Place.
Jerome was a friend of J.M. Barrie (see previous post) and a member of Barrie’s amateur cricket team along with other writers such as Rudyard Kipling and H. G. Wells.
Today is the birthday of J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. While in London, we passed by one of the first places where he lived when he came from Scotland in 1885. A blue plaque marks the spot where Barrie lived in lodgings, on the corner of Grenville and Bernard streets, in a building which no longer exists. In Peter Pan, this house became the Darlings home where Peter flew in to meet Wendy.