2 May 2010

Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, PRB, Lady Ottoline Morrell, and Charles Darwin, Gower Street, Bloomsbury: Literary London #12

Bloomsbury is a roughly rectangular area confined within the boundaries of Euston Road to the north, new Oxford Street/High Holborn to the south, Tottenham Court Road to the west, and Gray's Inn Road to the east. Its many grassy squares and its lavish houses set it some distance apart from its very close geographical neighbor, Fitzrovia.

The blue plaque at 2 Gower Street reads:

'Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett 1847-1929 pioneer of women's suffrage lived and died here'.

Millicent Fawcett wrote a number of works on the women's movement and political economy, and just one novel: Janet Doncaster (1875).

And at 7 Gower Street:

'In this house the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848'.

This lower part of Gower Street is rich in cultural history. At number 10:

'Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938) Literary Hostess and Patron of the Arts lived here'.

In Graham Greene's It's a Battlefield, Lady Caroline Bury lives in a house modeled on this.

Much further north of Gower Streeet, a blue plaque reads:

'Charles Darwin 1809-82 Naturalist lived in a house on this sight 1838-42.'

Charles and his wife Emma Darwin's first home was 12 Upper Gower Street, a spot now occupied by university premises. In 1839, Darwin's son recalled the house as 'a small common-place London house, with a drawing-room in the front, and a small room behind, in which they lived for the sake of quietness, [...]. The only redeeming feature was a better garden than most London houses have, a strip wide as the house, and thirty yards long. Even this small space of dingy grass made their London house more tolerable to its two country-bred inhabitants.'

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