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London Sculptures : A Conversation with Oscar Wilde by Maggi Hambling in Central London

Visitors to London will often come across many sculptures in the streets which give a fascinating insight into some of London’s characters. One of the larger than life characters of the late 19th century was Oscar Wilde who was an Irish poet and playwright. He became known as a ‘wit’ and became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s and also wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, a successful novel in the period.

However, despite his success, his involvement in a libel case led to his arrest and conviction. He spent two years in prison, after his release, he left for France and died in Paris at the age of 46. After his death, Wilde’s plays have been performed regularly in London and his life continues to fascinate the latter generations.

During the 1980s and 1990s, fans of Wilde’s work suggested their should be a permanent tribute to him in London and a committee which included Jeremy Isaacs, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen and Seamus Heaney decided on a fitting tribute to the playwright.

In the end, a work by artist Maggi Hambling was chosen for the memorial. The work is inscribed with a quotation from Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan: “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”. The sculpture is bench-like green granite sarcophagus, with a bust of Wilde emerging from the upper end, with a hand holding a cigarette.

The sculpture was unveiled in 1998, the location is Adelaide Street which between Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station, behind St Martin’s in the Fields church. The reaction to the sculpture was mixed with some who thought it was witty and amusing whilst others thought it was like a Madame Tussauds waxwork.

Due to its location, it is often missed by many visitors but is considered one of the more interesting sculptures in central London.

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The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre – 20 July to 20 October 2018


Classic Spring’s Oscar Wilde Season promises to cast new light on Wilde’s ground-breaking work.

Widely considered one of the funniest plays in English, Wilde’s much loved masterpiece throws love, logic and language into the air to make one of theatre’s most dazzling firework displays.

Jack, Algy, Gwendolyn and Cecily discover how unsmooth runs the course of true love, while Lady Bracknell keeps a baleful eye on the mayhem of manners.

‘It is very romantic to be in love. The very essence of romance is uncertainty’

Michael Fentiman’s witty new production stars Olivier-Award winner Sophie Thompson (Guys and Dolls, Chichester/West End; Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Jeremy Swift (Downton Abbey, ITV), alongside Fiona Button (The Split, BBC), Pippa Nixon (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, RSC) and Stella Gonet (Handbagged, Hampstead Theatre/West End). 

Important information

Child policy

5+

Running time

To be confirmed.

Performance dates

20 July – 20 October 2018

Content

Age guidance: ages 8 plus

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Booking website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre – 20 April 2018 to 14 July 2018

Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband explores corruption and morality, bringing an act of political sin into the heart of the English home. An ambitious government minister, Sir Robert Chiltern’s smooth ascent to the top seems assured. Until Mrs Cheveley appears in London with damning proof of his past financial chicanery.

A witty new production from director Jonathan Church, (Singin’ in the Rain and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Chichester; West End) An Ideal Husband opens at the Vaudeville Theatre (20 April – 14 July), before playing at the Theatre Royal Bath as part of their Summer Season (18 July – 4 August).

Starring real-life father and son Edward (The Audience, West End; The Day of the Jackal, ITV) and Freddie Fox (The Judas Kiss, West End; Cucumber and Banana, Channel 4; E4), Olivier Award-nominated Frances Barber (Silk, BBC; Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare’s Globe), Nathaniel Parker (This House, West End; The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, BBC)  Sally Bretton (Not Going Out, BBC; King Lear, Shakespeare’s Globe) and Susan Hampshire (Forsythe Saga, Monarch of the Glen, BBC).

Information

Child policy

Children under 5 will not be admitted.

Running time

2hr 45min (including interval)

Performance dates

20 April 2018 – 14 July 2018

Content

Recommended for ages 8 and above.

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Booking website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here

Book Review : The Street of Wonderful Possibilities by Devon Cox ( Frances Lincoln )

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Devon Cox’s book, The Street of Wonderful Possibilities focuses on Tite Street in Chelsea which became one of the most influential artistic quarters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Famous residents including James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sargent helped to forge the street’s reputation for a sanctuary for those who followed a bohemian lifestyle.

Even before Tite Street had been created, Chelsea had developed a reputation as a haven for writers and artists. In the 1830s, Thomas Carlyle became the ‘Sage of Chelsea’ and in the 1840s, the mysterious ‘Mr Booth’ who lived in a small Chelsea cottage was none other than J.M.W Turner. The 1860s saw Dante Gabriel Rossetti after the death of his wife relocate to Cheyne Walk on the Chelsea riverfront with poet Algernon Swinburne. It was also at this time American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler began his long association with the area. Both Rossetti and Whistler developed their own social gatherings and led to the idea that the area was becoming more bohemian. However, by the 1870s, the bohemian clique was beginning to relocate and even Whistler left Chelsea.

It was not only residents that were changing, Chelsea had been a small village in the first part of the 19th century but by the 1860s and 1870s it had become a part of the expanding metropolis. It was part of this development that led to the creation of Tite Street. The whole Chelsea riverfront was developed with a new embankment and Tite Street was developed to create a link between the Royal Hospital Road and the new embankment.

Whistler was looking for custom-built house with a studio and employed his friend and architect E. W. Godwin to create his dream house in Tite Street. For Godwin it was to be a more difficult task than he considered with Whistler often battling with the Metropolitan  board of works over the finer details of the house. Eventually The White House was completed in 1878 and become the first of an artist colony in Tite street, others followed including the young aristocrat artist Archibald Stuart Wortley, Carlo ‘Ape’ Pellegrini, Frank Miles and a certain Oscar Wilde. Whistler fresh from his success against the Board of Works began an ill-advised case against the respected critic John Ruskin. This case bought Tite Street into the public domain and although Whistler won his case, it was a hollow victory, he was given only a farthing damages. The building of the White House  and the court costs had financially ruined Whistler and he was declared bankrupt in 1879. Although he had lost everything, it proved only a temporary setback for the American who returned to Tite Street after a time in Venice and rented a studio at number 33. To improve his financial position, Whistler resolved to paint ‘ all the fashionables ‘.
This was the beginning of the golden age of Tite Street, the Prince of Wales and Lillie Langtry were amongst the first to visit Whistler’s new studio and soon the street was full of the carriages of the wealthy. It was not just the sitters, Whistler became a hero to a younger generation of painters who flocked to his studio, Mortimer Menpes and Walter Sickert were just two of his ‘pupils’. It was not just Whistler whose star was rising , Oscar Wilde was making his reputation with his plays, books and wit.
The book documents this period in detail, it was a time when the two ‘Titans’ dominated an area that had become the most important artistic enclave in London, but for all the success, there were clouds on the horizon which would envelope Tite Street.
The rise of fall of Oscar Wilde is well documented, however the photograph in the book of Whistler’s coffin being carried through a sparsely populated street is an indication that at the end, the artist’s ability to make enemies had surpassed his ability to make friends.

By 1903, two of the greatest ‘Titans’ of Tite Street had died and a number of the supporting cast had bought the curtain down on their careers. It was left to the more stable and popular Sargent to carry the flag for the bohemian enclave.  Following his illustrious compatriot Whistler, he began to paint the ‘fashionables’ and acquired  considerable wealth. When he died in 1925, the golden age of the street was over, other artists took on the baton but none reached the dizzy heights of Whistler, Wilde and Sargent. Augustus John bought some elements of bohemia but when he left in 1950, the world and the street had changed beyond all recognition from its glory days.

Although on the surface, the story of a street would not set the pulse racing, but this was no ordinary street. The author has bought together many of the interactions between the residents that often get lost in single biographies. Oscar Wilde watching Ellen Terry coming away from a Sargent sitting, costumed as Lady Macbeth and writing Tite Street “must always be full of wonderful possibilities” is a fine example of how the residents interaction provided inspiration for their work.

This is a fascinating, entertaining, well researched book with a number of illustrations which highlight some of the incredible pieces of art and writing produced behind the brick facades of Tite Street. Although the three ‘Titans’ dominate the book, the author acknowledges the parts played by a large supporting cast that included other artists, writers, models, mistresses, lovers, sitters, residents, pupils and critics. He also gives a voice to some of the women of Tite Street who tried to challenge the male dominated society, such as painter Anna Lea Merritt and the Welsh sculptor Edith Elizabeth Downing, who supported the suffragettes cause.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a copy of the book, visit the Frances Lincoln website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre – 24 June to 7 November 2015

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David Suchet stars as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s popular masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest which comes to the Vaudeville Theatre for a strictly limited season.

Directed by Adrian Noble, Wilde’s satire on Victorian manners is considered one of the funniest plays in the English theatre – the delightful repartee and hilarious piercing of hypocrisy and pomposity makes the play popular with the audience and the actors.

Two bachelor friends, the adorable dandy Algernon Moncrieff and the utterly reliable John Worthing J.P., lead double lives to court the attentions of the exquisitely desirable  Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. The gallants must then grapple with the riotous consequences of their deceptions, and with the formidable Lady Bracknell.

Cast
Lady Bracknell David Suchet
Gwendolen Fairfax Emily Barber
John (Jack) Worthing Michael Benz
Algernon Moncrieff Philip Cumbus
Cecily Cardew Imogen Doel
Miss Prism Michele Dotrice
Reverend Canon Chasuble Richard O’Callaghan

Creative
Playwright Oscar Wilde
Director Adrian Noble
Designer Peter McKintosh
Lighting Designer Howard Harrison
Music Larry Blank
Sound Designer Gareth Owen

Tickets

Ticket Prices
(includes a £1 Theatre Restoration Levy)
Stalls: £55, £45, £67.50 Premiums
Dress Circle: £55
Grand Circle: £37.50, £25

Performances

24 June 2015 – 7 November 2015

Monday – Saturday, 7:30pm
Wednesday & Saturday, 2:30pm

If you would like further information or book tickets, click here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here

Book Review : Terror and Wonder – The Gothic Imagination ( British Library Publishing)

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From the rise of Gothic Literature in the 1790s, the genre has occupied a prominent place in Western Culture. Gothic has found its way into fine art, music, film, fashion and many other media constantly mutating and transforming into different forms from the eighteenth century to the present day.
This book accompanies the major exhibition at the British Library and by considering the many objects in the exhibition provides an overview of the ‘Gothic imagination’ over the past 250 years.

The introduction written by Dale Townsend traces the birth of Gothic Literature to the publishing of the Castle of Otranto in 1764, its author Horace Walpole was a respected member of society and nervous of how the public would receive the book decided to invent a back history that suggested the book was a reprinting of a medieval text, supposedly translated from Italian to English by a William Marshal.
Only when public opinion of the book was deemed favourable did Walpole disclose his authorship and subsequent editions featured his name and the subtitle A Gothic Story. If the birth of Gothic Literature was shrouded in mystery, the success of the Castle of Otranto set an unfortunate trend of  hoaxes leading to many novels and other written works supposedly based on found and rediscovered texts.
By the 1790s, there developed a large market for ‘Tales of Terror’ mostly set in ancient, medieval or Gothic times. Such was the popularity of the genre that it led to many parodies most notably by Jane Austen in her novel Northanger Abbey.

In Chapter one, there is an investigation into what is the meaning of the word Gothic and how it became the label for this particular strain of literature. The origins of the word is traced back to the Goths, the mysterious Germanic tribe who defeated the might of the Romans. Although the Goths had their victory, it was the losers who began to use the term Goth to represent barbarism, the complete  opposite of Roman culture and civilisation. The later growth of Germanic or Gothic architecture suffered from this cultural baggage considered in many ways inferior to the more  classical Mediterranean style.
However by the time the Walpole novel is published, there is a movement to celebrate and romanticise a shared North European past and take pleasure in the old folklore that offered dark and macabre stories. After the Castle of Otranto, supernatural events in haunted medieval ruins became the template for early gothic literature.
Chapter Two takes on this theme and considers the pleasures of terror and shows how subsequent Gothic authors especially women played with idea of the damsel in distress. writers such as Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe and Charlotte Smith found the genre conducive to romance which would appeal to the largely female readership. Therefore the Gothic Romance developed in which women often had to overcome a series of ordeals before they were saved. If romance played a part in the Gothic Story, the publication of The Monk by Matthew Lewis introduced illicit sex and lust in a religious setting. Considered highly scandalous at the time, Lewis was accused of trying to corrupt Britain’s youth.
The publishing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had its own religious undertones but represented a move beyond the accepted Gothic  canon.

Chapter Three suggests that the changing times and political turmoil that gave birth to Frankenstein then leads to a new direction for Gothic Literature. technological advances bring about an explosion of cheap printed material, this expansion led to numerous newspapers, printed pamphlets and street literature. Street literature often presented lurid tales of crime and murder, cheap to buy these ‘penny dreadfuls ‘ became highly successful especially amongst the large working class readership.
Sweeney Todd, vampires and other urban monsters appeared in various guises to give credence to the argument that ‘Gothic is now firmly located in urban squalor’  It was in the urban squalor that Charles Dickens finds the inspiration for many of his Gothic novels. The Victorian obsession with death and monument led to a renaissance of Gothic architecture. Cemeteries, railways, churches and even the Houses of Parliament received a ‘Gothic’ makeover.
The Victorian’s love affair with Gothic literature seemed boundless with Wilkie Collin’s Woman in White, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre setting new standards for the Gothic novel.
Chapter Four offers the idea that the end of the century took the Gothic novel into other directions, the idea of degeneration began to filter into the literature. Decadence, concern about empire and religious doubts became crucial to the late Victorian mindset and novels by Oscar Wilde , Robert Louis Stevenson, H G Wells and Bram Stoker began to play with these fears and suggested behind the Victorian veneer of civilization there was anarchy, degeneration and animal passions.
The Whitechapel murders by Jack the Ripper seemed to confirm that the monster were not supernatural but evil individuals walking though London’s foggy streets.
Chapter Five begins by considering the paradox that even in an age of scientific enlightenment, Gothic literature with its supernatural elements is still highly popular. One part of the answer was that technological advances themselves breathed new life into the genre, the twentieth century creations of cinema and then television used the gothic novels as the primary source of the horror genre. Visual representations bought a new type of terror and wonder to audiences. The old traditional monsters of folklore the Vampire, the werewolf and the Zombie all had a renaissance.
The horrors of the First World War may have replaced the horrors of Gothic literature but belief in the supernatural was wide-spread as many people had to deal with death of their loved ones. Interest in spiritualism was endorsed even by the old ‘rationalist’ Arthur Conan Doyle as people struggled for reasons why a generation had been decimated.
Perhaps not surprisingly ghost stories became incredibly popular in the early twentieth century, however after the Second World War it was the nature vs human narrative that began to assert itself most notably in Hitchcock’s The Birds. Later in the twentieth century there is a movement to return the conventional fairy tale to its dark and macabre origins to explore themes such as animal desire and sexuality, this was illustrated most notably by Neil Jordan’s Company of Wolves. Susan Hill’s Woman in Black paid homage to the Victorian ghost story and there were major reinterpretations of Gothic favourites Dracula and Frankenstein by Frances Ford Coppola and Kenneth Branagh.

Chapter Six considers Gothic in the twenty-first century , one of the most prominent trends have been the sympathetic approach to Vampire’s in the Twilight saga which have created a distinctly modern Gothic romance. Another trend is that the cast list of Gothic villains have grown with demons, werewolves and predominately zombies  entering the fray.

However one of the most unusual trends has been the way that contemporary Gothic engages with the past. Fine Art, Fashion , Film design and illustration have all mined Gothic for inspiration to create a ‘Gothic’ look. The Chapman Brothers drawing doodles on Goya prints illustrate the tendency to pay homage to the past but also to deface it to create a modern idiom.

The Internet, video games  and different formats to read Gothic Literature have allowed the genre to mutate in many different directions and allow different degrees of participation. This is illustrated by the  final chapter which is a series of photographs from a Goth weekend in Whitby, the Goth subculture has developed from its punk origins into almost a costume play social convention where you can play out you Gothic fantasies.

This comprehensive, well written and lavishly illustrated book offers considerable insight into the ‘Gothic imagination’  and its appeal over many generations. Lucie Armitt in the section called Twentieth- Century Gothic offers perhaps the clearest explanation of its appeal ” in pursuit of what frightens us, we continually reshape our Gothic monsters to fit society’s changing fears .”  As the book  clearly shows, despite the rise of scientific explanations, we seem unwilling to let go of our supernatural traditions of the past.  However for all the ‘Terror’ of the genre it is important to remember that humour has played an important part in the ‘Gothic imagination’, in many ways we like to be frightened but we also like to able to laugh at those fears.

This book will appeal to a wide range of people ranging from fans of the Gothic genre to those who seek to understand the historic progression of  one of the most fascinating genres in literature.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

If you would like to find out more about the book or buy a copy, visit the British Library shop here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here

Great London Pubs – Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

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Ye Old Cheshire Cheese

Location – 145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU

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Just off Fleet Street.

If there was a competition for the most famous pub in London, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese would be one of the prime candidates. Rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of London of 1666, it has become associated with most of the great literary figures of London. Its greatest association is with Doctor Johnson who lived in nearby Gough square, but it also been frequented by Oliver Goldsmith, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, G.K. Chesterton amongst others.

It was the location of the Rhymers Club in the 1890s which included Yeats and Oscar Wilde amongst its members.

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In 1907, a visiting Mark Twain was appalled at his fellow Americans flocking to the pub as a shrine to Dr Johnson.As he sat in the Doctor Johnson room at the Cheshire Cheese he remarked.

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“Look at those fools going to pieces over old Doc Johnson call themselves Americans and lick-spittle the toady who grabbed a pension from the German King of England that hated Americans, tried to flog us into obedience and called George Washington traitor and scoundrel.”

His friend Bram Stoker of Dracula fame gently mocked the American by saying “Read Johnson plentifully, I suppose,” knowing that he had never read any of his works.

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The pub’s fame has seen it regularly visited by a wide number of famous people of the decades, and is a tourist attraction in its own right.

In the 1920s one of its most famous patrons a grey parrot called Polly died, this event was reported in hundreds of newspapers of the time. Polly’s fame was such that the bird was stuffed and put on display at the pub.

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More recently the pub is the location for the American children’s book The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy, Randall Wright and Barry Moser.

A more adult themed history was revealed in the 1960s when a number of sexually explicit tiles were found in an upstairs room, dating from the mid- eighteenth century it suggests that the room may have been used as a brothel. The tiles were donated to the Museum of London.

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The pub looks uninspiring from the outside but is a maze of small rooms and alcoves whose dark wooden panelling and smoky atmosphere from open fires transport you back in time. It was also made for visitors of a smaller stature, so beware banging heads on low beams on stairs and doors if you are above average height. If the pub is old, it has been suggested that some of the vaults underneath the pub are part of 13th-century Carmelite monastery.

Famous for being a Chop House over the centuries, food is still served and the Beer is relatively cheap by London standards brewed by the Samuel Smith Brewery.