Fear in Writing: Great writers, Great homes

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Great writers, Great homes

I was shocked to find that Arthur Conan Doyle's home, "Undershaw," is in a state of disrepair and set to be converted to multiple residences.  Where are the museums?  The funds to preserve this landmark where works such as The Hound of the Baskervilles became a park of the canon?  This is the home that saw the likes of J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Virginia Woolfe (Mrs. Dalloway), and "famous Sherlock Holmes actor" William Gillette (wiki).  Where are the preservationists?

It turns out, as much as they object, the money just isn't there.  And I have to wonder if the public cares.  Is it just an American thing that every piece of brick touched by famous hands is preserved eternally?  Perhaps it is only normal that homes and other buildings throughout Europe would be renumbered and recycled.  After all, there are hundreds of more years of history and less land on which those generations have lived.

Dickens House
But there are some exceptions--many, as it turns out.  The Dickens Museum is located at 48 Doughty Street, where the Victorian author wrote The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist.  A plaque resides at the 17th century home of diarist Samuel Pepys.  A home at 29 Fitzroy Square shared (at different times) by George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolfe bears plaques for both writers.  Samuel Johnson's locale and home have been preserved.  Author Thomas Carlyle's home is even furnished in the likes of his style.
Faulkner House

In the US we have no problem marking something "historic" and setting up a foundation.  Edgar Allan Poe has a museum at his homes in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Yorkand Richmond, Virginia.  You can visit Thomas Wolfe's house across my state in Asheville, North Carolina.  William Faulkner has his home in Mississippi,  Mark Twain in Connecticut, and F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota.

Are these places important?  Do they add to one's experience of the literature?  I think so.  What do you think?


  1. I think Arthur Conan Doyle's home is worth keeping as a literary and historic site. The British know how to make a good museum if they want to. The British Museum in London is one of my very favorites ... and it's free entrance >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  2. Michele - Really interesting question! I certainly think that Conan Doyle's home should be preserved. Admittedly, funds are always an issue. But in some cases (and this is one), someone's contributed so much to a country's national character, culture and literature (and in Conan Doyle's case, those contributions when far beyond England) that her or his home should be preserved.

  3. I have never read any Doyle, that I can think of, but I can't believe this is even a topic. I would have sworn that anything he touched would have been on national registries. I'm really quite surprised. Hopefully something will be done before it's too late.
    Thanks for posting,


  4. Preservation takes a lot of work. Organizers, grant writers, promoters, people to run "friends of" groups, and folks with a while lot of creativity and grit to keep pushing. Too bad there aren't more of them trying to save this house and make a showplace out of it.


  5. I think these places can help us gain more of a sense of the author. Can you imagine not being able to visit Walden Pond?

  6. I hear what you're saying and agree that Doyle's house should be marked in some way as a literary landmark but I also see the other side of it.

    Property costs so much in Europe that it has to be used in some way for people to go to the effort of keeping it in a good state. In Inverness the house that Mary Queen of Scots used to live in is now a shopping mall. What else are they supposed to do with it?

    Americans like to think that they preserve their historical buildings but the truth is that they only have three hundred years worth of very few buildings to look after. England and the rest of Europe has, literally, thousands of years of heritage to preserve. We can't save everything.


  7. Things will be changing everywhere, even in the US. The money just isn't there.
    Unless the very rich take on these projects a lot of museums will become something else or disappear. People don't have the money to fix, upkeep or even to visit.
    At least the house will be used.