30 April 2010

The Literary Pubs of Fitzrovia: Literary London #5

The Fitzroy Tavern on 16 Charlotte Street was a key drinking spot in the pre-World War II years for such writers as Dylan Thomas, Julian Maclaren-Ross and John Singer, and the artists Augustus John and Nina Hamnett.

Ed Glinert gives an amazing story about the Duke of York on 47 Rathbone Street. On one occasion in 1943, Anthony Burgess and his wife Lynne were drinking there when a razor gang invaded, tipped beer on the floor, smashed glasses and menaced the customers. When Lynne protested about the waste of beer, they poured a large number of pints and challenged her to drink them, which she did. Such was their subsequent respect for her that they paid for the beer and offered Lynne protection from any other gangs.

The Newman Arms on 23 Rathbone Street was the model George Orwell used in the argument about socialism between his characters Gordon Comstock and Ravelston in Keep the Aspdistra Flying (1936), and also the model for the prole pub Winston visits in 1984.

The Marquis of Granby on the corner of Rathbone Street and Percy Street was thought too violent for many literary Fitzrovians, but it appears to be the very reason why Dylan Thomas chose to go there.

The Wheatsheaf, on 25 Rathbone Place, is where the Fitzrovians, tired of the attention they were receiving at the Fitzroy Tavern, felt forced to move to. Here, Augustus John introduced Dylan Thomas to Caitlin Macnamara, who would become his wife. In Anthony Powell's A Buyer's Market (1952), X. Trapnel is modeled on the hard-drinking, frequently in debt, Julian Maclaren-Ross, who wore a teddy bear coat and carried a silver-topped cane. Raynor Heppenstall's character Dorian Scott-Crichton in The Lesser Infortune (1953) is also modeled on Maclaren-Ross.

Tucked away on tiny Gresse Street, the Bricklayers' Arms was a quiet place for the Fitzrovians if the mood so took them. Glinert says that this was known as the Burglars Rest following a buglary in which the culprits drank themselves senseless and fell asleep.

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