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Literary Bloomsbury

Ottobre 2013
Un quartiere dalla vocazione culturale, per la presenza del British Museum, e soprattutto letteraria, grazie al famoso Bloomsbury Group e agli scrittori liberali e anticonformisti che l'animarono nei primi decenni del secolo scorso. Ma non solo: A Bloomsbury c’è anche il museo del fumetto e quello dei giocattoli!

di Linda Ligios

File audio:

Bedford Square
Bedford Square
David Tucker
David Tucker

Bloomsbury is the area in Central London which is home to the British Museum. It's also the university district. Here you'll find the University of London Senate House, a bleak piece of 1930s architecture which became the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. The building provided the model for the "Ministry of Truth" in George Orwell's 1949 masterpiece, 1984, but that isn't Bloomsbury's only literary claim to fame...

BOHEMIAN

For many Londoners Bloomsbury is synonymous with a group of Bohemian writers and artists who had a strong influence over English intellectual life in the generation before Orwell. The circle was known as "the Bloomsbury Group" because its members lived there, even though they often had homes in the country. Virginia Woolf, for example, also had a house in Sussex and it was there that she was to commit suicide in 1941. She was born Virginia Stephen in 1882 and changed her name when she married Leonard Woolf in 1912. Before that she and her family had lived at 46 Gordon Square, where her neighbours included the economist John Maynard Keynes and the author Lytton Strachey, who was played by Jonathan Pryce in the 1995 film, Carrington. Strachey wrote the entertaining Eminent Victorians, while Woolf's most famous books include the novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando, as well as the essay, A Room of One’s Own. She moved to another Bloomsbury address when she got married. This was in Tavistock Square, which now hosts a bust of her.

PETER PAN

Other famous authors associated with the area include Charles Dickens (1812-70), who wrote Oliver Twist while living at 48 Doughty Street, which is now a museum, and Poet Laureate Ted Hughes (1930-98), who lived at 18 Rugby Street. Last but not least, J.M Barrie (1860-1937) didn't live in Bloomsbury, but he did leave the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children. A statue of Peter Pan outside the Hospital commemorates this act of generosity.

INTERVIEW

AN AMERICAN IN LONDON

LANGUAGE LEVEL C1 (ADVANCED)

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

Bloomsbury is the area which is home to the British Museum and University College London. It also gave its name to the Bloomsbury Group, a literary circle that was prominent in English intellectual life in the first half of the 20th century. Several of its members lived in Bloomsbury, not least the writer Virginia Woolf, who was to commit suicide in 1941, at the age of 59. About 30 years after that a young American called David Tucker fell in love with Bloomsbury when he came to study at “UCL.” Today he and his wife run a company called London Walks. This offers tours with hundreds of different themes, but Bloomsbury is a favourite. We asked David Tucker what sort of places visitors were likely to see: 

David Tucker (Transatlantic accent)

Well, it depends on whose walk you’re talking about, but obviously Gordon Square: I think there are three plaques there, so they’re (the people on the walk - ed) looking at the house that she was living in with her sister and brothers, but just a door or two away is the house that John Maynard Keynes, the economist who did so much to leave his stamp on the post-war economic order, but he was a member of that circle, and, again, a door away is Lytton Strachey, a very important member of the circle, and... you know, it's... not actually far from there it’s Fitzroy Square, where Virginia Woolf moved after her sister Vanessa got married, and one of the brothers died, she and the surviving brother moved over to this very fine house in Fitzroy Square.

TIME TRAVEL

So does David Tucker himself have a favourite place?

David Tucker

I think, probably, Woburn Place (he means Woburn Walk - ed): it’s just a little bit up from Tavistock Square, and I mean, you think you’re stepping straight into the world of Jane Austen. It’s probably about 20 years later than that, but Yeats lived there for a time, so it’s got a wonderful feel. It’s a real find, it’s not something that people would come across off their own bat, unless they were extremely lucky, and you leave about two centuries behind when you step in there, so Woburn Place, probably.

THE WEATHER!

Of course, some people might be worried about the weather when going on a walking tour of London, but David Tucker has some surprising statistics:

David Tucker

This is London: if you let the weather stop you, then you don’t go anywhere! And, actually, Rome gets more average annual rainfall than London; Chicago gets twice as much! It’s just that it always looks like it’s going to rain!


THE OTHER BLOOMSBURY

Bloomsbury isn't only about literary and academic life: you can also find attractions dedicated to cartoons, toys and magic!

Pollock’s Toy Museum, 1 Scala Street, London W1T 2HL

Situated in the heart of Fitzrovia (the area around Fitzroy Square), it hosts a large collection of antique toys including teddy bears, wax and china dolls, board games, optical toys, folk toys, nursery furniture, mechanical toys and doll’s houses.

Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH

www.cartoonmuseum.org
Another museum off the beaten track! It features a wide ranges of comics, caricatures and cartoons, including classic war cartoons.

The Magic Circle, 12 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD

www.themagiccircle.co.uk
This is a private members society for magicians and hosts public events and seasonal shows. It also has a museum containing a large collection of posters and memorabilia relating to the history of mystery. 

LONDON WALKS

The "Literary Bloomsbury" walk is organised by London Walks, which first started operating in the 1960s. The company runs about 100 walks per week and can also arrange private walks on request. They are listed on its website www.walks.com. You can also pick up one of the organisation's white leaflets at St. Martin in the Fields. No pre-booking is required and you can simply turn up at the designated starting point (entrance of Holborn tube station in the case of the Literary Bloomsbury walk).
London Walks' other popular tours include; Jack the Ripper, Subterranean London, Harry Potter film locations and The Blitz.


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Explains

Woolf, Keynes. In inglese la pronuncia delle parole è molto difficile: figuriamoci per i cognomi! Woolf di solito si pronuncia Woolf ma Tucker dice Woof. Keynes di solito si pronuncia Kanes ma Tucker dice Keens. In inglese la pronuncia si presta a svariate interpretazioni a seconda di chi parla.

Transatlantic accent.
David Tucker è un americano che vive a Londra da molti anni e di conseguenza ha un accento ibrido, un misto di americano e britannico. Questo fenomeno è talmente diffuso (ci sono anche tanti inglesi negli Stati Uniti) che ha un nome: Transatlantic accent, oppure Mid-Atlantic accent.

It’s a real find. È una vera scoperta. In inglese si tende a usare il sostantivo find più che discovery (che è più scientifico).

It’s not something that people would come across off their own bat. Da notare il phrasal verb to come across (scoprire, trovare per caso) e la frase fatta off their own bat che significa da soli, di propria iniziativa. Bat qui significa mazza e si riferisce sia al cricket sia al baseball. Da non confondere con l’altro senso del sostantivo bat (pipistrello)!