The walking tours for which the notes appear below were written by me and delivered during the 14thInternational DH Lawrence Conference, London Calling: Lawrence & the Metropolis, which took place 3rd-8thJuly 2017 at New College of the Humanities in London.
I divided Bloomsbury into South/West and North/East tours as follows:
|NAME OF TOUR||SOUTH/WEST BLOOMSBURY||NORTH/EAST BLOOMSBURY|
|LENGTH||2.1 miles||2.1 miles|
|APPROXIMATE TIME||1 hour 30 minutes||1 hour 30 minutes|
|PLACES VISITED TO INCLUDE||§ Ottoline Morrell’s house on Bedford Square
§ Bloomsbury Square, where Josephine and Aaron (perhaps) sit in Aaron’s Rod)
§ British Museum, which DHL visited several times
§ Wyndham Lewis’s house on Percy Street
§ Tour Eiffel Restaurant (centre of Vorticism), on Percy Street
§ Fitzroy Tavern, literary pub on Charlotte Street
§ Studio of Duncan Grant, Omega Workshops, and house of Virginia Adrian Stevens, on Fitzroy Square
|§ Site of Faber and Faber offices on Russell Square
§ H.D.’s flat at 44 Mecklenburgh Square
§ Virginia Woolf’s house, and the Hogarth Press on Mecklenburgh Square
§ King’s Cross and St Pancras Stations
§ The (new) British Library
§ The Birrell & Grant bookshop on Taviton Street
§ Houses of various Bloomsberries on Gordon Square
§ Gordon Macfarlane’s flat on Gower Street
§ Ottoline Morrell’s London house of her later years, on Gower Street
|NOTES||A figure-of-eight repassing NCH half way through, this tour may easily be broken by anyone who is tired at this point. It includes Charlotte Street, which contains the best restaurants close to NCH, and is therefore one to get to know.||A tour which takes us up to the very Northern limit of Bloomsbury, the busy Euston Road, and the terminus stations King’s Cross and St. Pancras, which Lawrence knew.|
Parts of these tours may be heard as podcasts, linked to a map, on the New College of the Humanities website here.
1] 19 BEDFORD SQUARE
19 Bedford Square occupies what was formerly a private house, built as part of the rest of the square between 1775 and 1783. The square constitutes one of the best-preserved ensembles of Georgian architecture in London. It was originally occupied in large part by aristocrats, some of whom were also lawyers, since London’s Inns of Court are only a short walk to the South-East.
One of the most pleasant features of this square is the fact that – in common with several of Bloomsbury’s squares – it has a key garden. Residents or employees in local buildings have keys to the garden, and only they are allowed in. There was a derogation from this in WWI,I when the railings were removed to be melted down for the war effort. This pragmatic measure incidentally chimed with the greater democratic and egalitarian spirit of that period of English history, just as it chimed with the immediate post-war period that the railings were put back up again afterwards. Due to Lady Ottoline Morrell’s residency at no. 44, Nijinsky played tennis with Lytton Strachey in the Bedford Square garden…
Bloomsbury has two dimensions – psychological, and geographic. I will assume that the former is well known by those interested in this tour, so I will concentrate on the latter.
It is just North of the centre of greater London, and was first developed in the 17thand 18thCenturies. To its East is the city of London. To its West is Westminster. There was nothing in between, until in the 17thand 18thcenturies it started being filled in, from South to North, which is why you find the oldest buildings in the South. Having said that, a lot of the 17thC ones have been destroyed, making Bedford Square – though only eighteenth century – one of the older extant squares of Bloomsbury.
The area was developed, particularly by the Russell family, into a fashionable residential area, although never as fashionable as the West End, Mayfair, Kensington and Chelsea. Hence the names of Russell Square, and Bedford Square – since the heirs of the Russell family are the Dukes of Bedford. Bertrand Russell, erstwhile friend of DH Lawrence, was the third earl Russell – one branch of the family having been created earls in 1861.
The current landlord of NCH is Andrew Ian Henry Russell, 15th Duke of Bedford (born 1962), the eldest son of the 14th Duke.
But in the early 19thC Bloomsbury went into a decline. Perhaps inviting, perhaps helped along by this, higher education establishments arrived, starting with UCL in 1826 – the nucleus of the University of London, which was established in 1836 – astonishingly late for a university in a European capital city.
By the early 20thC the area was seen as rather studenty, cosmopolitan, and slightly seedy; and therefore attractive for artists with not a huge amount of money, and Bohemian instincts, to move to.
In other words, it was precisely because it was no longer an aristocratic area that it is now so rich in literary associations.
3] 44 BEDFORD SQUARE
This was the house of Lady Ottoline Morrell, born Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, society hostess, patron of the arts, interior and garden designer.
With her middle class solicitor husband Philip Morrell, she moved here in 1906, and lived here until 1927, when for economic reasons she had to sell it and her Oxfordshire country house Garsington, and move to 10 Gower Street round the corner.
Once she moved in she started her famous ‘Thursdays’ – her salon, as it were. These took place in her drawing room, designed by herself in yellow taffeta
The point was that a splendid house like this offered a better venue than for example Clive and Vanessa Bell’s home in Gordon Square or Virginia Steven’s home in Fitzroy Square
Famous people who attended her salon included Henry James, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant,
Augustus John, Dorothy Brett, G.E. Moore, John Singer Sergeant, the Chestertons, Hillaire Bellock, Jacob Epstein, Walter Sickert, Lytton Strachey, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington, Bertrand Russell, Duncan Grant, WB Yeats, L.P. Hartley, Henry Green, Vernon Lee, Stanley Spencer, Aldous Huxley, T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf.
‘here used to be a great lady in Bedford Square who managed to make life seem a little amusing & interesting & adventurous, so I used to think when I was young & wore a blue dress & Ottoline was like a Spanish galleon, hung with golden coins, & lovely silken sails.’
So where does Lawrence come in? He first came to this house in 1914, the year that Ottoline acquired Garsington Manor, on around 13th August, having been introduced to Ottoline by Gilbert Cannan. Lawrence was virtually unknown at that time, but Ottoline had read two of his earliest novels, The White Peacock and Sons and Lovers. He visited her there several further times, and met several of the people who were to become important in his life.
4] BLOOMSBURY SQUARE
This is one of the earliest London squares, being in the South of Bloomsbury, which developed from South to North. Originally it was built in the 16thC, but what you see now is 18thand 19thC redevelopment, and the whole of the East side is now an early 20thC building, Victoria House. Gertrude Stein lived on this square in 1902 at no. 40.
As far as Lawrence is concerned, it is the probable setting of a very striking scene in his 1922 novel Aaron’s Rod:
It is evening. The characters Josephine and Aaron are taking a late evening walk. It is always great when you discover that your partner for the evening lives on a square with a key garden, and has a key:
‘they pursued their way through the high wind, and turned at last into the old, beautiful square. It seemed dark and deserted, dark like a savage wilderness in the heart of London. The wind was roaring in the great bare trees of the centre, as if it were some wild dark grove deep in a forgotten land.
Josephine opened the gate of the square garden with her key, and let it slam to behind him.
“How wonderful the wind is!” she shrilled. “Shall we listen to it for a minute?”
She led him across the grass past the shrubs to the big tree in the centre. There she climbed up to a seat. He sat beside her. They sat in silence, looking at the darkness. Rain was blowing in the wind. They huddled against the big tree-trunk, for shelter, and watched the scene.
Beyond the tall shrubs and the high, heavy railings the wet street gleamed silently. The houses of the Square rose like a cliff on this inner dark sea, dimly lighted at occasional windows. Boughs swayed and sang. A taxi-cab swirled round a corner like a cat, and purred to a standstill. There was a light of an open hall door. But all far away, it seemed, unthinkably far away. Aaron sat still and watched. He was frightened, it all seemed so sinister, this dark, bristling heart of London. Wind boomed and tore like waves ripping a shingle beach. The two white lights of the taxi stared round and departed, leaving the coast at the foot of the cliffs deserted, faintly spilled with light from the high lamp. Beyond there, on the outer rim, a policeman passed solidly.
Josephine was weeping steadily all the time, but inaudibly. Occasionally she blew her nose and wiped her face. But he had not realized. She hardly realized herself. She sat near the strange man. He seemed so still and remote—so fascinating.
“Give me your hand,” she said to him, subduedly.
He took her cold hand in his warm, living grasp. She wept more bitterly. He noticed at last.
“Why are you crying?” he said.
“I don’t know,” she replied, rather matter-of-fact, through her tears.
So he let her cry, and said no more, but sat with her cold hand in his warm, easy clasp.
“You’ll think me a fool,” she said. “I don’t know why I cry.”
“You can cry for nothing, can’t you?” he said.
“Why, yes, but it’s not very sensible.”
He laughed shortly.
“Sensible!” he said.
“You are a strange man,” she said.
But he took no notice.
“Did you ever intend to marry Jim Bricknell?” he asked.
“Yes, of course.”
“I can’t imagine it,” he said.
Both were watching blankly the roaring night of mid-London, the phantasmagoric old Bloomsbury Square. They were still hand in hand.
“Such as you shouldn’t marry,” he said.
“But why not? I want to.”
“You think you do.”
“Yes indeed I do.”
He did not say any more.
“Why shouldn’t I?” she persisted. “I don’t know—”
And again he was silent.
“You’ve known some life, haven’t you?” he asked.
“You seem to.”
“Do I? I’m sorry. Do I seem vicious?—No, I’m not vicious.—I’ve seen some life, perhaps—in Paris mostly. But not much. Why do you ask?”
“I wasn’t thinking.”
“But what do you mean? What are you thinking?”
“Don’t be so irritating,” said she.
But he did not answer, and she became silent also. They sat hand in hand.
“Won’t you kiss me?” came her voice out of the darkness.
He waited some moments, then his voice sounded gently, half mocking, half reproachful.
“Nay!” he said.
“I don’t want to.”
“Why not?” she asked.
He laughed, but did not reply.
She sat perfectly still for some time. She had ceased to cry. In the darkness her face was set and sullen. Sometimes a spray of rain blew across it. She drew her hand from his, and rose to her feet.
“Ill go in now,” she said.
“You’re not offended, are you?” he asked.
They stepped down in the darkness from their perch.
She strode off for some little way. Then she turned and said:
“Yes, I think it is rather insulting.”
“Nay,” he said. “Not it! Not it!”
And he followed her to the gate.
She opened with her key, and they crossed the road to her door.
“Good-night,” she said, turning and giving him her hand.
“You’ll come and have dinner with me—or lunch—will you? When shall we make it?” he asked.
“Well, I can’t say for certain—I’m very busy just now. I’ll let you know.”
A policeman shed his light on the pair of them as they stood on the step.
“All right,” said Aaron, dropping back, and she hastily opened the big door, and entered.’
5] BRITISH MUSEUM
The British Museum first opened to the public in 1759 in Montagu House, a 17thC mansion on the site of the current building, which was built in 1850. The North Wing is from 1914, and it has recent extension of 2015-16.
The famous Round Reading Room, which was designed by the architect Sydney Smirke, opened in 1857. For almost a hundred and fifty years researchers came here to consult the Museum’s vast library. It closed in 1997 when the national library moved to a new building at St Pancras.
The space around this former Reading Room is Queen Elizabeth II Great Court- the largest covered square in Europe – with a glass roof designed by British architect Norman Foster.
Lawrence went here several times. He wrote in a 1910 letter about Chinese poetry, that such poetry was: ‘full of the lofty Chinese spirit, abstract and noble, which I admire so much – it is the same in their paintings in the British Museum.’
He also definitely went to the British Museum in 1914, when the Egyptian and Assyrian sculpture spoke to his sense of the ‘tremendous non-humanquality of life.’ He wrote of his belief in ‘tremendous unknown forces of life, coming unseen and unperceived as out of the desert to the Egyptians, and driving us, forcing us, destroying us if we do not submit to be swept away.’
Lawrence was long interested in Egypt. When he was twenty-three, he wanted to visit it. When he was forty-two (on the far side of the Tutankhamen craze, that tomb having been opened in 1922), he still wanted to visit it. The only thing that put him off going was the expense, and his concern that Cairo in winter might not be good for his ‘damned bronchials’. He wrote to the man inviting him:
I expect Egypt is irritating enough from the modern side. But I’d like to look at the pyramids and to go up the Nile: the old Egypt, spite of tourists, interests me and I’ll have a look at it one day. The very very old world was the best, I believe: before the 4thdynasty. (Letter to Bonamy Dobrée, Les Diablerets, 24 February 1928, 6L 300)
Four months later he wrote the second part of his story ‘The Escaped Cock’, in which a resurrected Jesus wanders into Sinai and has an affair with a Priestess of Isis, who had previously had both Caesar and Anthony as lovers. After them she had turned away from Roman modernity back to Osiris and the ‘very very old world’ which Lawrence, who had read many ‘fat books’ on the subject, thought ‘the best’.
His friend and mentor Dr Richard Garnett, father of Edward Garnett, was Keeper of Books at the British Museum, and was father of Lawrence’s friend David Garnett, nicknamed Bunny.
The sections of the Museum particularly relevant to Lawrence are those on Egypt (West side on Level 0, North on Level 3), Mexico (North East on 0), North America (North East on 0), Etruria (West on 3) and China (North West on 2 and 4).
6] PERCY STREET
No 4 (currently by Soho Wine Supply) was inhabited by Wyndham Lewis – novelist, essayist and painter, around the time that he and Ezra Pound founded Blast: Review of the Great English Vortex. The first issue of this journal was 20thJune 1914. On 1stJuly 1914 Lawrence met Lewis: ‘Wyndham Lewis came in, and there was a heated and vivid discussion.’ There were a few overlaps in the two writers’ thought. In terms of Lewis’s Vorticism, Lawrence also talked about the stillness at the source of struggle. But Lewis and Pound conceived of themselves as artists, in a way that Lawrence did not. He sought transformation of the self through living, not art. So, after their meeting, he carried on plowing his own modernist furrow, separately from Pound.
Incidentally: the brother in law of Hitler lived in that house before, and in 1912 was visited by him there.
No 18 – the upper flat was lived in by George Orwell’s second wife Sonia Brownwell, and was the basis for the love tryst flat with Julia in 1984.
7] TOUR EIFFEL
At the corner of Percy Street and Rathbone Place used to stand the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel
In 1908 the Poets’ Club began here. This was a group that aesthetic philosopher T. E. Hulme helped set up. He was its first secretary, and wrote its charter document: ‘Rules 1908’. The group was made up mainly of amateurs and met once a month for dinner, the reading of poems, and presenting of twenty-minute papers on topics relating to poetry. At around the end of 1908, Hulme read out to the Club his ‘A Lecture on Modern Poetry’.
Then, slightly later, Wyndham Lewis lived nearby at number 4 Percy Street, and the restaurant duly became a kind of base for Vorticism and its journal BLAST. Lewis devised a vorticist room in 1915–16 with the permission of Viennese owner Rudolph Stulik, the walls were painted with violent, dynamic paintings of skyscrapers. The artists Walter Sickert and Duncan Grant also attended. But in 1938 the restaurant went bankrupt due to economic depression.
8] 16 C CHARLOTTE STREET
Here stands Fitzroy Tavern, which in the early 20thC was a meeting place for many of London’s artists, intellectuals and bohemians such as Jacob Epstein, Dylan Thomas, Augustus John, and George Orwell. Lawrence may well have drunk here, setting part of his 1922 novel Aaron’s Rod in this area.
9] 33 FITZROY SQUARE
Here for a time, at the South West corner of the square, were located the Omega Workshops, of which the directors were Roger Fry, Duncan Grantand Vanessa Bell. These were closely associated with the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press
10] 29 FITZROY SQUARE
Virginia and Adrian Woolf moved here in 1907.
11] 22 FITZROY SQUARE
Here was the studio of Scottish artist Duncan Grant, which Lawrence visited with Frieda and E. M. Forster on 22ndJanuary 1915, the day after they had dined at Ottoline Morrell’s. Grant – one of the leading painters of the Bloomsbury group, who lived and worked with Vanessa Bell – had joined after dinner for dancing, along with Mark Gertler and Dora Carrington, and had then invited the Lawrences for tea.
On seeing Grant’s studio, Lawrence launched into an apparently lengthy and hostile diatribe about the paintings.
This is David ‘Bunny’ Garnett’s account:
‘We all sat in silence as Duncan brought out one picture after another. Then Lawrence rose to his feet – a bad sign – and walking up and down the studio, began to explain to Duncan what was wrong with his painting. It was not simply that the pictures themselves were bad – hopelessly bad – but they were worthless because Duncan was full of the wrong idea. He was barking up the wrong tree and would have to learn to approach his subjects in a completely different frame of mind if he wanted ever to become an artist.’
As he talked, ‘he held his head on one side, as though in pain, and looked more at the floor than at he pictures’
‘Finally, in despair, Duncan brought out a long band of green cotton on two rolls. I stood and held one roller vertically and unwound while, standing a couple of yards away, Duncan wound up the other, and a series of supposedly related, abstract shapes was displayed before our disgusted visitors. That was the worst of all.’
Grant didn’t attempt a word in his defense, though Frieda encouraged him to be kind about them. Koteliansky arrived to collect Lawrence and Frieda, but this did not stop the diatribe:
‘He sat down and the lecture was resumed. Duncan himself appeared to have developed toothache and sat with his hands on his knees, rocking himself gently in his chair, not attempting a word in defence of his works. Everything, however, has an end, and at last Lawrence, feeling he had done his good deed for the day, said that they must be going.’
The next day, Lawrence wrote to Ottoline:
‘Dear Lady Ottoline,
We liked Duncan Grant very much. I really liked him. Tell him not to make silly experiments in the futuristic line with bits of colour on moving paper. Other Johnnies can do that. Neither to bother making marionettes – even titanic ones. But to seek out the terms in which he shall state his whole. […] The way to express the abstract whole is to reduce the object to a unit, a term, and then out of these units an terms to make a whole statement. Do rub this in to Duncan Grant and save him his foolish waste. Rembrandt, Corot, Goya, Manet have been preparing us our instances – now for the great hand which can collect all the instances into an absolute statement of the whole. I hope you aren’t bored, but do tell this to Duncan Grant.’
This inspires the passage at the end of Chapter 18 of Lady Chatterley’s Lover; Mellors is taken to Duncan Forbes:
‘His art was all tubes and valves and spirals and strange colours, ultra-modern, yet with a certain power, even a certain purity of form and tone: only Mellors thought it cruel and repellent.’
Ottoline bought several of Grant’s paintings.
1] SENATE HOUSE LIBRARY
Previously the University of London administration had been based in Kensington. Beveridge, who was then the University Vice-Chancellor, described the university as one ‘for the nation and the world, drawing from overseas as many students as Oxford and Cambridge and all the other English universities together’, and specified that ‘the central symbol of the University on the Bloomsbury site can not fittingly look like an imitation of any other University, it must not be a replica from the Middle Ages. It should be something that could not have been built by any earlier generation than this, and can only be at home in London … (the building) means a chance to enrich London – to give London at its heart not just more streets and shops […] but a great architectural feature […] an academic island in swirling tides of traffic, a world of learning in a world of affairs.’
The architecture is monumental art deco – some might say fascistic. Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, intended to use the building as Parliament in the event of him taking power; it is also thought that Hitler planned to make it his headquarters after a successful invasion of London.
Soon after it was completed, Senate House was used by the Ministry of Information during the Second World War.The building inspired Graham Greene’s 1943 novel The Ministry of Fear, and its 1944 Fritz Lang film adaptation.It also inspired George Orwell’s description of the Ministry of Truth in his 1948 novel 1984:
‘Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer; though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometre away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste–this was London, chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania.
The Ministry of Truth–Minitrue, in Newspeak [Newspeak was the official language of Oceania. For an account of its structure and etymology see Appendix.]–was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in
elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.’
In the 1984 film of the novel directed by Michael Radford, the Ministry of Truth is filmed at Senate House.
2] FABER AND FABER
At the North-West corner of Russell Square may be found a blue plaque:
‘TS Eliot worked here for Faber and Faber 1925-1965’
The Faber and Faber Literary publishing house was founded 1919, and had its original offices here. Eliot was its most famous editor, and his relations with Lawrence were famously strained and complex.
In an article of 1937 he wrote:
‘Lawrence, even had he acquired a great deal more knowledge and information than he ever came to possess, would always have remained uneducated. By being “educated” I mean having such an apprehension of the contours of the map of what has been written in the past, as to see instinctively where everything belongs, and approximately where anything new is likely to belong.’
Nonetheless, he did publish Lawrence, including posthumously – for example ‘Pornography and Obscenity’, and Nettles, a late collection of twenty-fivepoems.
And on several points he was fascinated by and admired him, most of all for his religious spirit. In the same essay of 1937, he wrote:
‘Whatever his disadvantages, a man of the ability of Lawrence, and with such an addiction, can be of very great value indeed; and it is as an investigator of the religious life – as a kind of contemplative rather than a theologian – that he seems to me to take a high place with most right. I think of Lawrence neither as an artist, nor as a man who failed to be an artist; I think of him, as I have suggested, as a researcher into religious emotion.’
3] 44 MECKLENBURGH SQUARE
Here lived American-born Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle); a blue plaque commemorates her residence here between 1917 and 1918.
It was in 1917, from c. 20thOctober – 30thNovember that Lawrence and Frieda lived here shortly after their eviction from Cornwall. They shared the big drawing room on the first floor and a room. Also living there was Dorothy (‘Arabella’) Yorke, the American lover of H.D.’s husband, poet, soldier, and, later, Lawrence’s biographer, Richard Aldington. Lawrence took the room upstairs, while Frieda and Arabella shared the double bed and HD slept on a camp bed, all in the first floor room.
InAaron’s Rod(1922), which was begun ‘in the Mecklenburgh Square days’, the characters of Julia and Robert Cunningham are supposedly modelled on H.D. and Aldington, and Josephine Ford on Arabella Yorke. H.D. gives the name ‘Julia’ to her fictional avatar in Bid Me to Live(1960), her roman á clef of the Mecklenburgh Square days, in which Arabella Yorke appears as ‘Bella Carter.’ H.D. appears in ‘The Nightmare’ chapter of Kangaroo(1923) as the ‘American girl’ who takes Richard and Harriett in after their expulsion from Cornwall: ‘She was beautiful, reckless, one of the poetesses whose poetry Richard feared and wondered over.’
4] 37 MECKLENBURGH SQUARE
Virginia Woolf lived here 1939-40. The building was destroyed in War, and is now William Goodenough House, part of Goodenough College, a halls of residence for international students. Arguably, the loss of this house was one of the blows that led to Woolf’s suicide in 1941.
5] HOGARTH PRESS
In 1915 the Virginia and Leonard Woolf leased Hogarth House in Richmond and established the Hogarth Press. They later moved the press to the South of Tavistock Square – and later still to here, on the North side of Mecklenburg Square Gardens. In 1946 the Press became an associate company of Chatto and Windus
6] 38 BRUNSWICK SQUARE
In 1911-12 Virginia, Grant, Keynes, Leonard lived here.
7] KING’S CROSS STATION and 8] ST. PANCRAS STATION
Saint Pancras Station is on an East-West line with King’s Cross, Euston, Marylebone and Paddington Stations, because planning restrictions prohibited station buildings South of the Euston Road. The building’s bricks are red rather than the London-yellow of neighbouring King’s Cross, because they were brought from the Midlands by the Midland Railway Company, which created both the station and hotel. George Gilbert Scott – King and Stakhanovite of high Victorian architecture – won the competition to design the hotel, and did it lavishly, with a grand central staircase (used by the Spice Girls in their video 1996 Wannabe), gold leaf on the walls, and a fireplace in every room.
But in 1935 it closed as a hotel, mainly because there were problems installing en suite bathrooms since the original, concrete floors were hard to run pipes through. The building became railway offices until the 1980s, when it was vacated and was nearly demolished. Finally in 2004 it was decided to reopen it as a hotel. This was accomplished, with lavish and meticulous historical accuracy, by Harry Handelsman of the Manhattan Lift Corporation in 2011.
One of the little biographical puzzles I have come across as a Lawrencian is which London train terminus Lawrence and his characters arrived at from Nottingham.
About half of the mentions in the letters are to King’s Cross, and half to St Pancras. In fact, both ran lines from Nottingham, from two different stations, whereas now there is only one Nottingham station and all its trains arrive at St Pancras.
Women in Love suggests St Pancras, because of the mention of Bedford
This is from the chapter ‘In the Train’:
‘The evening was falling. They had passed Bedford. Birkin watched the country, and was filled with a sort of hopelessness. He always felt this, on approaching London.
His dislike of mankind, of the mass of mankind, amounted almost to an illness.
‘”Where the quiet coloured end of evening smiles
Miles and miles—”‘
he was murmuring to himself, like a man condemned to death. Gerald, who was very subtly alert, wary in all his senses, leaned forward and asked smilingly:
‘What were you saying?’ Birkin glanced at him, laughed, and repeated:
‘”Where the quiet coloured end of evening smiles,
Miles and miles,
Over pastures where the something something sheep
Gerald also looked now at the country. And Birkin, who, for some reason was now tired and dispirited, said to him:
‘I always feel doomed when the train is running into London. I feel such a despair, so hopeless, as if it were the end of the world.’
‘Really!’ said Gerald. ‘And does the end of the world frighten you?’
Birkin lifted his shoulders in a slow shrug.
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘It does while it hangs imminent and doesn’t fall. But people give me a bad feeling—very bad.’
There was a roused glad smile in Gerald’s eyes.
‘Do they?’ he said. And he watched the other man critically.
In a few minutes the train was running through the disgrace of outspread London. Everybody in the carriage was on the alert, waiting to escape. At last they were under the huge arch of the station, in the tremendous shadow of the town. Birkin shut himself together—he was in now.
The two men went together in a taxi-cab.
‘Don’t you feel like one of the damned?’ asked Birkin, as they sat in a little, swiftly-running enclosure, and watched the hideous great street.
‘No,’ laughed Gerald.
‘It is real death,’ said Birkin.’
9] BRITISH LIBRARY
Since 1998, the British Library has been located in a purpose-built building just outside the northern edge of Bloomsbury, in Euston Road. Its greatest collection of Lawrence papers is in the Koteliansky bequest; Lawrence’s Ukrainian Jewish friend SS Koteliansky bequeathed all his papers to the British Library on his death out of gratitude to the country which had sheltered when he left his homeland in order to escape pogroms. Lawrence wrote more letters to Koteliansky than to any other friend, and it is fascinating to see the range of styles that Lawrence’s handwriting takes, depending – it seems – on the paper available to him, the amount of time he had, and his mood.
10] 19 TAVITON STREET
Here was the Birrell & Garnett Bookshop from which Bloomsberries, including the Woolfs, bought books. David Garnett (the writer) and Frederick Locker Birrell (the journalist, biographer, and drama critic) set it up together after the First World War.
Before that, the pair had visited the Lawrences in Sussex in April 1915. Unfortunately Lawrence had a terrible reaction, similar to that he had had to gay people in Cambridge.
He later wrote in a letter:
‘When Birrell comes – tired and a bit lost and wondering – I love him. But my God, to hear him talk sends me mad. To hear these young people talking really fills me with black fury: they talk endlessly, but endlessly – and never, never a good or a real thing said. […] They made me dream in the night of a beetle that bites like a scorpion. But I killed it – a very large beetle. I scotched it – and it ran off – but I came upon it again and killed it. It is this horror of little swarming selves that I can’t sand: Birrells, D. Grants, and Keyneses.’
He then wrote to David Garnett in April 1915:
‘Never bring B. to see me any more. There is something nasty about him, like black-beetles. He is horrible and unclean. I feel as if I should go mad, if I think of your set’
We don’t know that Lawrence ever visited the shop, but in 1921 Lawrence wrote that he had heard about it. In 1924 David Garnett left the bookshop to focus on his writing.
11] 46 GORDON SQUARE
Here there is a Blue Plaque to John Maynard Keynes’ residence 1916-46.
12] 50 GORDON SQUARE
In 1904 Virginia, Vanessa, Toby and Adrian left 22 Hyde Park Gate in Kensington to come to 46 Gordon Square. Nearby also lived David Garnett, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant, and John Maynard Keynes.
13] 73 GOWER STREET
From 22nd– 29thOctober 1925, Lawrence stayed in Gordon Macfarlane’s flat here.
He was the younger brother of Catherine Carswell, and Lawrence had sold his typewriter to him for £5 in 1919. Then Lawrence read Macfarlane’s book about war, The Natural Man, published under his pseudonym Patrick Miller. Lawrence thought that the description of war itself was well done, but that the book as a whole needed to be more intense and definite. Almost in the same breath, he asked Gordon whether he could stay in his flat – which request was granted.
14] 10 GOWER STREET
Lady Ottoline Morrell moved here in 1927 after 21 years at 44 Bedford Square, leaving her old house to Margot Asquith, wife of Prime Minister HH Asquith, and mother-in-law of Lawrence’s friend Cynthia Asquith.
In the following year, 1928, she developed cancer of the jaw, and in 1938 she died.
Shortly after deciding on the move round the corner to Gower Street, she wrote:
‘It is indeed a damnably difficult thing to live fully, richly, georgeously and yet courageously. To live on the grand scale’
But there was a potential advantage to her move: she wanted her friends there to treat her as one of themselves, rather than directing their inverted snobbery – as they had previously, painfully done – at her wealth and title.
She worked hard to make it habitable, with Georgian bookcases for the first floor library, and pink and silver curtains. She put in the communal gardens – which others didn’t use – three favourite statues from Garsington. Virginia Woolf helped to arrange furniture, and Ottoline said that she could for once say, in this, that Virginia was less clever than herself.
After it was ready she held a weekly tea party in the drawing room overlooking the gardens, where it was the rule that nobody should be allowed to dominate. By this stage she used a black ear trumpet, because of her encroaching deafness.
Lawrence had been estranged from Ottoline since 1916. But he got back in touch with her, when he heard that she was in hospital. He wrote: ‘don’t say you feel you’re not important in life’ ‘You’ve been an important influence in lots of lives, as you have in mine: through being fundamentally generous, and through being Ottoline. After all, there’s only one Ottoline.’
At this, they picked up their friendship from where they had dropped it. She read Lady Chatterley’s Lover. And if this made her think of her relationship with Lionel, she did not say so.
Lionel Gomme was a stonemason and gardener who in 1920 came to Garsington to work on plinths and to lay a terrace. She took him on a tour of the Oxford colleges and gave him tea. And then they became lovers. She wrote:
‘The purity of it carried away the doubts […] It is not an easy thing to have met across the great gulf of the world, conventions and positions, etc. But – I jumped and he jumped and we both stand on an island of the soul. I used to call for a lover, and now God has sent him…I have loved to give – now I am allowed to receive. It is a miracle.’
Tragically, he died in her arms of a brain haemmhorage, and, encouraged by Yeats and his wife, she practised spiritualism, and received messages from him.
Mark Gertler, who knew of this relationship, was in contact with Lawrence’s friend Dorothy Brett, who wrote to Lawrence. Therefore it is just possible that it was an influence on Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
There are after all some similarities between the two women: Connie and Ottoline are both highly intellectually developed, and live in country house on an inadequate income with a husband with whom they are not physically connected.
However, if either of them thought of the connection, they left no record of it.
Ottoline read Lawrence’s recent poems, and she told him they were among the finest things he had ever done. She then got her husband’s niece, Dorothy Warren, to organise the exhibition of Lawrence’s paintings at her London gallery. After a number of the paintings were then impounded for indecency, she herself came to the paintings’ court case. She arrived late, causing a pause in the proceedings. Eventually the prosecutor resumed. She then stood up, pointed at the magistrate, and declared that he, not the paintings, deserved to be burned. Seven months later Aldous Huxley came to tell her that Lawrence was dead. ‘It fell on me as a great blow’, she recalled.
It is only here, at 10 Gower Street, that there is a blue plaque to Lady Ottoline Morrell.