A history of writing

From the eighteenth century to the present day the peace and quiet of Barnes has attracted poets, playwrights and novelists.

The satirist and novelist Henry Fielding (Tom Jones) is reputed to have spent time in Milbourne House overlooking Barnes pond during 1750 when he wrote one of his less distinguished novels, Amelia.  Later in the century the Irish playwright John O'Keefe (Wild Oats) lived on The Terrace about the same time that Matthew 'Monk' Lewis the author of the gothic novel The Monk was living at Hermitage Cottage.

Barnes failed to spawn or attract any great Victorian writers but by the turn of the century Barnes was becoming a hotbed of literary endeavour. The great Edwardian novel of derring-do Beau Geste was written in Church Road by P C Wren and, in the twenties, Dodie Smith the author of I Capture the Castle and 101 Dalmations lived in Riverview Gardens.

Eric Newby the author of the most famous of travel books 'A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush' grew up in Castelnau Mansions, and Kathleen Hale the creator of Orlando the Marmalade cat worked as a Land Girl in the market gardens around Castelnau in the first world war.

Perhaps, however, the most quintessential Barnes writer was Barbara Pym, the great chronicler of suburban mores. She lived for many years at 47 Nassau Road and immortalised Barnes as the 'respectable' south of the river suburb in the novels Less than Angels and No Return of Love.

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