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September 18th, 2014 • Posted in Edinburgh

Take a literary walk in Edinburgh

Credit W. Lloyd MacKenzie Wiki   Walter Scott monument, largest  for any writer in the world. 

This from the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group

Countless writers have lived and worked in Edinburgh over the centuries. Get to all the important literary sites on a city centre walk, or pick up a copy of the ‘Explore the City of Literature on foot’ leaflet so you can recommend locations to visitors.

1. Start on the High Street at St Giles’ Cathedral, where there’s a plaque commemorating the life of Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island). He was born, raised and attended university in Edinburgh before living out his final years in Samoa. The huge west window of the Cathedral is inspired by the works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard.

2. Continue down the Royal Mile to St Mary’s Street where a plaque commemorates the visit in 1773 of Dr Samuel Johnson, the author of the first, authoritative dictionary of the English language.

3. Make your way up to the Tron Kirk and along South Bridge to the beautiful Old College buildings of the University of Edinburgh. Among the many noteworthy people educated here are famous writers such as David Hume (historian and philosopher), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), and J. M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan). More recent graduates include Ian Rankin (the modern crime novelist) and Alexander McCall Smith (author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and 44 Scotland Street series).

4. Take a walk up Chambers Street and you’ll find a plaque commemorating the birthplace in 1771 of Sir Walter Scott. Famous for writing books such as Waverley, Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, Scott is perhaps the most celebrated Scottish writer in Edinburgh. Scott never wandered far from here. He spent much of his childhood at 25 George Square (also marked with a plaque) and then went to the University of Edinburgh.

5. You can follow more of Scott’s story around the city. Make for George IV Bridge and the National Library of Scotland with its original copies of important pieces of Scottish literature.

6. At the Royal Mile end of George IV Bridge are Lawnmarket and The Mound where, down a narrow close, you’ll discover The Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Court. The museum is inside the charming Lady Stair’s House, which houses collections relating to the lives and works of Burns, Scott and Stevenson.

7. Head over Princes Street to Castle Street. At number 39 is a plaque and a seated statue of Sir Walter Scott above the door. (While you’re there, take a look at number 30 where you’ll also see a plaque commemorating the birthplace of Kenneth Grahame, author of ‘The Wind in the Willows’.)

8. Back on Princes Street again and the garden side is dominated by a huge monument to Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter Scott sits under a 200-foot high canopy with Maida, his dog, at his feet, surrounded by 64 characters from his many books.

9. Carry on down Princes Street and along Waterloo Place until it becomes Regent Road. On the right is the Robert Burns memorial.

10.After all that walking, it’s time for some refreshment. Stop off in Young Street at the Oxford
Bar, Rebus’s favourite pub.

September 18th, 2014 • Posted in Oxford

Famous authors who attended Oxford University

J.R.R. Tolkien Exeter The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings

Rose Macaulay Somerville Towns of Trebizond

Dorothy Sayers Somerville Lord Peter Wimsey – e.g.Gaudy Night

Graham Greene Balliol The Quiet American

Algernon Swinburne Balliol Ballad of Bulgarie

Matthew Arnold Balliol Scholar Gipsy

A.E. Housman St John’s A Shropshire Lad

Philip Larkin St John’s High Windows

Robert Graves St John’s Goodbye to All That

De Quincey Worcester Confessions of an Opium Eater

Richard Lovelace Worcester Lucasta

Barbara Pym St Hilda’s An Academic Question

T.E Lawrence Jesus Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Dr. Johnson Pembroke English Dictionary

John Donne Hertford The Flea

Evelyn Waugh Hertford A Handful of Dust

John Galsworthy New Forsyte Saga

C. S. Lewis Magdalen The Chronicles of Narnia

Oscar Wilde Magdalen De Profundis

Walter Pater Brasenose Marius The Epicurean

Thomas More St Mary Hall Utopia

Max Beerbohm Merton Zuleika Dobson

T.S. Eliot Merton The Waste Land

Charles Dodgson Christ Church Alice in Wonderland

September 18th, 2014 • Posted in Istanbul

Beautiful Persian Manuscript: see it in Istanbul

Kelileh va Demneh. Persian manuscript copy dated 1429, from Herat, depicts the Jackal trying to lead the Lion astray. This 15th century treasure is kept at the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

September 17th, 2014 • Posted in Providence

H.P Lovecraft walking tour of Providence, Rhode Island


Lovecraft’s College Hill Walking Tour

The following map and descriptions were used as a basis for walking tours at the 2013 NecronomiCon conference 




[Map of College Hill]

  1. Roger Williams National Memorial Park — Commemorating the site on which Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636.
  2. Cathedral of St. John, Episcopal, 271 North Main Street (1810) — Founded in 1720 as King’s Church, both Lovecraft and Poe haunted the graveyard of this church. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Site. (SH, CDW)
  3. Sarah Helen Whitman House, 88 Benefit Street (1783-92) — Home of the poetess courted by Poe.
  4. Sullivan Dorr House, 109 Benefit Street (1809) — Designed by John Holden Greene, this house sits on land that was once owned by Roger Williams, and where he was originally buried in 1683.
  5. F.E. Seagrave House, 119 Benefit Street — In 1933 Lovecraft nearly moved into this house instead of the Samuel B. Mumford House.
  6. Stephen Harris House, 135 Benefit Street (1763) — “The Shunned House” of Lovecraft’s story, which Lovecraft referred to as the Babbitt House. This house was abandoned and in poor condition during Lovecraft’s day. (SH)
  7. The Old Court Bed & Breakfast, 144 Benefit Street (1863) — Originally built as a rectory for St. John’s Episcopal Church, this building is now a lovely B&B. In Lovecraft’s Providence & Adjacent Parts, Henry L.P. Beckwith comments that this building was Lovecraft’s basis for the home of Dr. Elihu Whipple in “The Shunned House” although the Benjamin Cushing house (see number 9) is a much more likely candidate. (SH)
  8. The Old State House, 150 Benefit Street (1762, 1850-51, 1867, 1904-06) — From this building Rhode Island declared its independence from Great Britain on May 4, 1776 — two months before the other colonies did so. It is now a National Historic Landmark. (CDW)
  9. Benjamin Cushing House, 40 North Court Street (1737) — A more likely candidate for the Dr. Elihu Whipple house, this “Georgian homestead with knocker and iron-railed steps” is the oldest house on College Hill. (SH)
  10. Shakespeare’s Head, 21 Meeting Street (1772) — John Carter, apprentice to Benjamin Franklin, published the Providence Gazette and Country Journal in this building, which was also a post office and bookstore. It is now home to the Providence Preservation Society. (CDW)
  11. The Brick Schoolhouse, 24 Meeting Street (1769) — Built to serve as a school and for town meetings, this building became the temporary home for Brown University when it moved from Warren to Providence in 1770. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. (CDW)
  12. Site of the Golden Ball Inn (1783) — Demolished since Lovecraft’s day, this inn had such illustrious visitors as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Edgar Allan Poe. (SH, CDW)
  13. Home of Franklin C. and Lillian D. Clark, 161 Benefit Street — This was once the home of Lovecraft’s uncle and aunt.
  14. The Marine Corps Arsenal, 176 Benefit Street (1840) — This building is the armory of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery.
  15. The Colonial Apartments, 175-185 Benefit Street (1929) — Lovecraft bemoaned the fact that this “wretched ultra-modern apartment-house with all urban sophistications” replaced the “bit of actual country remaining” on College Hill.
  16. Benefit-Dexter House, 187 Benefit Street — Once the Knowles Funeral Home, where the funerals of Lovecraft and his aunt, Lillian, were held.
  17. Providence Art Club, 10 and 11 Thomas Street (1786-89 and 1791) — Lovecraft and his aunts attended art shows here. (CC)
  18. Fleur de Lys Studio, 7 Thomas Street (1885) — This house was built by Providence artist Sydney Richmond Burleigh, and was given as the home of artist Henry Anthony Wilcox in “The Call of Cthulhu.” (CC)
  19. First Baptist Meetinghouse, 75 North Main Street (1775) — The congregation was founded in 1638 by Roger Williams, and this is the third church they built in Providence. It is the oldest Baptist church, the mother church of the Baptists, and a National Historic Landmark. (CDW)
  20. Market House, 4 South Main Street (1773-74) — The lower floor of this building served as a market, while the second was used variously as a banquet hall, barracks, and office for the first mayor. It was the site of the “Providence Tea Party” in 1775. Markers at the southwest corner of the building show the high water marks during the gales of 1815 and 1938. (SH, CDW)
  21. Providence County Superior Courthouse, 250 Benefit Street (1924-33) — This immense building houses the State Supreme Court, the Superior Courts, the Attorney General’s department, and other offices.
  22. Joseph Brown House, 50 South Main Street (1774) — From 1791 to 1929 this building was occupied by the Providence Bank, the oldest banking institution in New England and second oldest in the country. It is now an office building. (CDW)
  23. Stephen Hopkins House, 15 Hopkins Street (1707, 1743) — Hopkins was the first Chancellor of Brown University, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Rhode Island, ten times governor, and signer of the Declaration of Independence. A National Historic Landmark. (CDW)
  24. Providence Athenæum, 251 Benefit Street (1836-37) — A frequent haunt of Lovecraft’s, Poe courted Sarah Helen Whitman here. The library owns a copy of the American Review in which Poe signed below his anonymously published poem, “Ulalume.” (SH, CDW)
  25. Pendleton House, 232 Benefit Street (1904-08) — Lovecraft visited this museum which was the first in the United States to have an American wing. It contains Charles L. Pendleton’s collection of 18th Century American furniture, silver, china, and paintings.
  26. List Art Building (1969-71) — Lovecraft’s final home was moved from this location in 1959 (see number 30) to make way for the List Art Building. From the kitchen of the Mumford house, Lovecraft claimed he could look into the stacks of the John Hay Library.
  27. Van Wickle Gates (1901) and Brown University (1770) — These gates are opened twice a year: once to allow new students in, and once to allow graduates out. A photograph inSelected Letters shows Lovecraft seated here and has the caption, “Lovecraft in Brooklyn.”
  28. John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street (1910) — Named after the Brown graduate who was Assistant Private Secretary to Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State under Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. It holds the largest collection of Lovecraft manuscripts. (CDW, HD)
  29. H.P. Lovecraft Memorial — Erected in 1990 through the efforts of S.T. Joshi, Will Murray, Jon Cooke, and the Friends of H.P. Lovecraft.
  30. Samuel B. Mumford House, 65 Prospect Street (1825) — Lovecraft’s final home, moved to this location in 1959. Lovecraft describes it not only in his letters, but as the home of Robert Blake in “The Haunter of the Dark.” (HD)
  31. First Church of Christ, Scientist (1913) — This site, one of the highest points in Providence, was used for a warning beacon against Indians in 1667 and against the British in 1775. It was claimed that the beacon could be seen as far away as Cambridge, Massachusetts. (CDW)
  32. Prospect Terrace, 75 Congdon Street (1867) — This small park was one of Lovecraft’s favorite haunts. The third resting place of Providence’s founder, Roger Williams, is here. The statue in honour of Williams was erected in 1939. (CDW)
  33. Henry Sprague House, 100 Prospect Street — The address of this house was used as the address of the Ward house in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  34. 10 Barnes Street — This was Lovecraft’s home from April 1926 to May 1933. It was also the home of Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  35. “Little white farmhouse” — A colonial home mentioned in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  36. Halsey House, 140 Prospect Street (1801) — Built by Colonel Thomas Lloyd Halsey, this home was reputed to be haunted in Lovecraft’s time. It served as the Ward house in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  37. Jenckes Street — One of the steepest streets on College Hill; better walked down than up… (CDW)

CC – “The Call of Cthulhu”
CDW – The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
HD – “The Haunter of the Dark”
SH – “The Shunned House”

For more information visit The H.P. Lovecraft Archive here.  Call of Lovecraft is a walking tour of Providence, Rhode Island, accessible through your mobile device.

September 17th, 2014 • Posted in San Diego

Audio: Rae Armantrout on Poetry, Place, and San Diego

Rae Armantrout is an American poet generally associated with the Language poets. Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California but grew up in San Diego. She has published ten books of poetry and has also been featured in a number of major anthologies. Armantrout currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego, where she is Professor of Poetry and Poetics.

On March 11, 2010, Armantrout was awarded the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for her book of poetry Versed published by the Wesleyan University Press, which had also been nominated for the National Book Award. The book later earned the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Armantrout’s most recent collection, Just Saying, was published in February 2013. She is the recipient of numerous other awards for her poetry, including an award in poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2007 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008.

Source: Wikipedia.

We met recently to discuss her poetry, William Carlos Williams, place, and how to be a literary tourist in San Diego. Please listen here: 

September 16th, 2014 • Posted in Boston

Boston Literary Cultural District is the first of its kind in the U.S.

Brattle Bookstore
(Boston, MA)— The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) Board voted unanimously today to approve the designation of the Boston Literary Cultural District. This is the first Massachusetts Cultural District to focus specifically on one art form.

The effort to establish the district was led by GrubStreet Founder and Executive Director Eve Bridburg. GrubStreet’s headquarters are located in the district which runs from Copley Square to Downtown Boston and is also home to the Boston Athenaeum, Boston Public Library, and the annual Boston Book Festival.

“I’m thrilled to announce the designation of Boston’s second Cultural District,” said MCC Executive Director Anita Walker. “We recently celebrated the designation of the first 25 Massachusetts Cultural Districts and I’m delighted to add the Literary Cultural District to this extraordinary group of communities.” 

A cultural district is a compact, walkable area of a community with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. MCC’s Cultural Districts Initiative grew out of an economic stimulus bill passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2010.

It is designed to help communities attract artists and cultural enterprises, encourage business and job growth, expand tourism, preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance property values, and foster local cultural development.

About the Boston Literary Cultural District

Shakespeare on the Common. A speakers’ forum featuring Alice Walker, or a book festival with Doris Kearns Goodwin. Walking tours that take you past Sylvia Plath’s apartment, just around the corner from Robert Frost’s residence, and Khalil Gibran’s….

All that, and more – poetry slams, writing workshops, readings, signings – can be found in Boston’s Literary Cultural District, the first such district in the country. From Washington Street to Exeter, from Beacon Hill to Boylston, Boston is crammed with literary happenings and history – probably more so than any other city in the country. Where else would you find an annual conference where aspiring novelists can meet literary agents who might be willing to peddle their work? Literary giants like David McCullough to Dennis Lehane? A vibrant community of writers and readers who partake of Boston’s rich literary life via readings, discussions groups, and other programs and events? An unparalleled literary heritage with a broad and diverse set of writers ranging from enslaved poet Phillis Wheatley to Henry David Thoreau, Anne Sexton, and Eugene O’Neill?

Hotels in the district offer literary tour packages. Restaurants like Carrie Nation offer themed literary menus. And institutions from the Boston Public Library to the Boston Athenaeum, Emerson College, Suffolk University, and GrubStreet have ongoing programs and events that cater to those who enjoy their relationship with the written word – or will develop one now that all things literary in Boston have been made more visible.

September 15th, 2014 • Posted in Rome

Video: A Humorous look at Rome by the always entertaining Clive James

September 13th, 2014 • Posted in Los Angeles

Literary Tourist visits Los Angeles: The Serendipitous sequel

As happens so often with book lovers, serendipity (sadly not the late, lamented bookstore of the same name) was at hand during my recent visit to Los Angeles. 

It showed up in a book (of course), a book that I’d bought at

Sam: Johnson’s Bookshop (highly recommended). During the day in question, I’d made a special trip to  

Powell Library on the UCLA campus. I wanted to have a look at the ceiling of the dome

in the reading room. It has painted on it the imprints of 30-40, 15th and 16th century printers, the most famous of which is probably that of

Aldus Manutius

Prior to this we’d been at the glorious Getty Museum, ostensibly to check out the

Research Library but, seeing as it was closed (one of the few days of the year that this is the case), to take in the great view,

the garden, the art,

and the temporary exhibitions (notably one called ‘Chivalry’ that presented some lovely illustrated manuscripts and

Book(s) of Hours.

From here we headed downtown for a browse through The Last Bookstore: ‘The Strand on the West Coast’. Big selection of books here

upstairs and

down. The building used to house a bank. The more collectible books are found in the old vault…a two volume set caught my eye: Vasari’s  Lives of the Painters published by The Limited Editions Club. SIGNED by the printer and designer Giovanni Mardersteig on the colophon page. It only cost $40. I’ve seen some going for as much as $300. Needless to say it now sits on my bookshelf.

On the way out of town, in Pasadina, we visited the

Huntington Library, with its extraordinary ‘highlights’ exhibition featuring important editions of Newton, Shakespeare and Chaucer among others. Interesting how big some of these dudes’ handwriting was, especially

Jack London’s and

Henry Thoreau’s. Once through this we were treated to a whole wall full of different editions of The Origin of Species, and some lovely bird and animal

prints (notice how squared off the tails are..!). The Huntington is surrounded by some lovely gardens, including a Rose Garden which unfortunately, due no doubt both to the time of  year and a water shortage, was a bit worse for wear. I sat for a time under a bower outside the coffee shop savouring a very potent double espresso.

About ten minutes drive from the Huntington you’ll find one of the great indie bookstores in California. Vromans has been in business since the 1890s providing a wonderfully wide selection of titles, sponsoring many high-profile author events, and giving back to the community. It’s located next to a theatre, and several blocks away from a very decent used bookstore, Book Alley

Which brings us back to serendipity. That evening after all of this literary touristing, I sat down to read my Sam: Johnson acquisition, a  history of the Ward Richie press. The foreword happens to have been written by one Lawrence Clark Powell, the guy they named the Library after (he was chief librarian there for many years). In it, he thanks Richie for getting him his first job…at Vromans. 

September 11th, 2014 • Posted in London, England

London’s Book Benches

Literary London. I loved these painted book benches in London. Name this book? 

— Megan Oteri (@memomuse1) September 11, 2014

September 10th, 2014 • Posted in London, England

Paddington Bear set to attract visitors to London

This from James Ruggia at Travel Pulse:

Once again, destination marketing will find a comfortable seat on the coat tails of movie marketing. From Hobbits to Harry Potter, attracting movie makers to use your destination as a location has enormous benefits for both film maker and tourism promoter. In the upcoming promotions by London & Partners using the soon to be released Paddington film by STUDIOCANAL, vulnerable children will also be beneficiaries.

In anticipation of the November release in the U.K. and the U.S. release in December of Paddington, a movie based on the affable bear in the stories by Michael Bond,  is joining with STUDIOCANAL and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), to promote the Paddington Trail, which will be unveiled in October.

The trail is the creation of many artists, designers and celebrities who are supporting the campaign and the funds it will generate for the NSPCC in its efforts to protect children. Bond’s original Paddington story, now some 60 years old, is ideal as a narrative to open up a city new to first time visitors.

Read the rest here.