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Lives of Houses

Kate Kennedy Hermione Lee

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Princeton University Pres
01 September 2020

A group of notable writers - including UK poet laureate Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes, Margaret MacMillan and Jenny Uglow - celebrate our fascination with the houses of famous literary figures, artists, composers and politicians of the past.

What can a house tell us about the person who lives there? Do we shape the buildings we live in, or are we formed by the places we call home? And why are we especially fascinated by the houses of the famous and often long dead?

In Lives of Houses, a group of notable biographers, historians, critics and poets explore these questions and more through these fascinating essays

Editors Kate Kennedy and Hermione Lee are joined by wide-ranging contributors, including Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes, David Cannadine, Roy Foster, Alexandra Harris, Daisy Hay, Margaret MacMillan, Alexander Masters and Jenny Uglow. We encounter W H Auden living in joyful squalour in New York's St Mark's Place, and W B Yeats in his flood-prone tower in the windswept West of Ireland. We meet Benjamin Disraeli struggling to keep up appearances, and track the lost houses of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen. We visit Benjamin Britten in Aldeburgh, England, and Jean Sibelius at Ainola, Finland.

But Lives of Houses also considers those who are unhoused - unwilling or unable to establish a home - from bewildered poet John Clare wandering the byways of England to exiled Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera living on the streets of London.

With more than 40 illustrations, this book illuminates what houses mean to us and how we use them to connect to, and think about, the past. The result is a fresh and engaging look at house and home.


Alexandra Harris on moving house

Susan Walker on Morocco's ancient Roman House of Venus

Hermione Lee on biographical quests for writers' houses

Margaret Macmillan on her mother's Toronto house

a poem by Maura Dooley, 'Visiting Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts' - the house in which Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her novel Little Women

Felicity James on William and Dorothy Wordsworth's Dove Cottage

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst at home with Tennyson

David Cannadine on Winston Churchill's dream house, Chartwell

Jenny Uglow on Edward Lear at San Remo's Villa Emily

Lucy Walker on Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh, England

Seamus Perry on W H Auden at 77 St. Mark's Place, New York City

Rebecca Bullard on Samuel Johnson's houses

a poem by Simon Armitage, 'The Manor'

Daisy Hay at home with the Disraelis

Laura Marcus on H G Wells at Uppark

Alexander Masters on the fear of houses

Elleke Boehmer on sites associated with Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera

Kate Kennedy on the mental asylums where World War I poet Ivor Gurney spent the last years of his life

a poem by Bernard O'Donoghue, 'Safe Houses'

Roy Foster on W B Yeats and Thoor Ballylee

Sandra Mayer on W H Auden's Austrian home

Gillian Darley on John Soane and the autobiography of houses

Julian Barnes on Sibelius and Ainola

Edited by:   ,
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780691193663
ISBN 10:   0691193665
Pages:   304
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Kate Kennedy, a writer and broadcaster, is the Associate Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and a Research Fellow in Life-Writing at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Hermione Lee is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Oxford. Her books include biographies of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and Penelope Fitzgerald.

Reviews for Lives of Houses

A series of interesting essays about the houses of famous writers, composers and politicians. ---Martin Chilton, The Independent Lives of Houses is an enjoyable and at times outstanding gathering of idiosyncratic voices. ---Kevin Jackson, Literary Review A rich and eclectic collection of essays about the role houses play in people's lives and our fascination with the homes of our creative heroes. ---PD Smith, The Guardian [A] thoughtful, meticulously edited collection of essays. ---Lara Feigel, The Spectator The joy of the book lies in the sheer variety of its subjects' domestic routines. . . . Life-writing of this kind has the power to animate its subjects in ways that Sunday afternoon tours cannot. ---Helen Barrett, Financial Times Lives of Houses is a delight for bibliophiles. ---David Luhrssen, Accessible, though with an obvious intellectual bent, Lives of Houses does not try to really answer the question of what houses mean to the people who live in them, but rather, calls readers to consider more broadly why these structures have such a hold-both physically and in how they frame the concept of home. ---Michelle Anya Anjirbag, Shelf Awareness Pilgrimages to the houses of late artists and writers are often destined to disappoint. Many of us go with grand hopes of finding something revelatory-we're not sure what-that will make us feel closer to the person, perhaps lead us to discover something hidden about their work. Lives of Houses . . . is a collection of essays largely centered on such pilgrimages and what we unexpectedly find. ---Elisa Wouk Almino, Literary Hub An anthology with a concept both interesting in itself and unintentionally topical. ---Carol Rumens, The Guardian Lives Of Houses is a collection of 20 or so essays, and several poems, on the houses of an eclectic selection of people - some of them famous, some obscure, ranging in time from the Roman Empire to the present day. ---Constance Craig Smith, Daily Mail The real object of study in Lives of Houses . . . is not the fascination with celebrity relics or the gossip over the scale and provenance of literary real estate, but the actual nature, tone and temperament of our attachment to place and home as dream-habitat and creative source. ---Gregory Day, The Australian Crammed with picturesque detail. ---Lindsay Duguid, Times Literary Supplement Lives of Houses . . . brings together some of the best writing about the home that I've ever had the pleasure to read-and, crucially, loads of black-and-white photographs and illustrations. . . . Kennedy and Lee pleasingly assert the freedom to consider not only houses, but also house-related themes. ---Kate Bolick, New York Review of Books Lives of Houses centres human stories first and foremost. . . . Each morsel of information provides a jolt of recognition as we see that many of the common activities of life have not altered. ---Charles Pidgeon, Oxford Review of Books

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