The marshy manor

From the Hidden London website:

“Ebury was one of just a handful of Saxon settlements that lay in the vicinity of what is now Westminster. Arranged around a manor house, the village consisted of 29 households in 1086. In the 16th century Ebury Farm covered 430 acres and its farmhouse stood where Victoria coach station is now.

The estate was regularly leased by the Crown to court favourites until James I sold the freehold in 1623. A Temple barrister, Hugh Audley, purchased the marshy manor and it descended in 1666 to his grand-niece Mary Davies, then one year old.

Eleven years later Mary married Sir Thomas Grosvenor of Eaton in Cheshire. Their union was not a happy one: she went mad and he died young. But the Grosvenor family profitably developed the land and, as Belgravia came into existence and grew, the Ebury name dropped out of widespread usage. It is remembered today primarily in the context of street names.

Westminster council has designated the site of the medieval village an area of special archaeological priority.

In 1764 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first symphony, Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, when staying with his family at what is now 180 Ebury Street…He was eight years old at the time.
Ebury Street residents have included Ian Fleming, Noel Coward, Thomas Wolfe, Vita Sackville-West, and George Moore, who wrote Conversations in Ebury Street in 1924.

From Wikipedia:

“A local estate, “Eia”, is mentioned in the Domesday Book.

Where Ebury Street meets Pimlico Road is a triangular public paved area with seating and a bronze statue of Mozart (aged 8) by Philip Jackson. The triangle was known for many years as “Pimlico Green” (and still is by older residents) but was renamed Orange Square for some strange reason, the latter reflecting the localised misnomer of “squares” in two notable instances: a very thin rectangle grid with a main road running through its longer bisection forms Eaton Square and Chester Square is likewise more street than green. A minority of houses have been converted to hotels.”

Simon Thomas wrote at stuckinabook.com on 20.10.15:

“This 1924 Club choice wasn’t quite what I was expecting to kick off with. In my reading (both recreational and academic) I’ve often thought of the 1920s primarily as the time when lots of new things were beginning and developing in the literary world, but (of course) for some writers it was also the end of an era.

One of those writers was George Moore – known now I believe chiefly, perhaps solely, for Esther Waters, which I have not read. In 1924 he was in his 70s (he would live to 1933) and had dozens of books under his belt. As such, he can be forgiven quite a self-indulgent idea: Conversations in Ebury Street is essentially a collection of musings, literary and otherwise, some of which are dramatised as conversations with real people – including notables like Walter de la Mare and Edmund Gosse.

…I might have valued his view of Agnes Grey even higher if I’d known how difficult his approval was to secure. As far as I can tell, Moore does not like anything or agree with anyone. This can be quite fun to read about when he is tearing apart excerpts from Thomas Hardy or Tennyson; indeed, his literary and artistic analyses (though a bit self-congratulatory) make for good reading, even if the dialogues suggest that all Moore’s conversational opponents eventually recognise that he is right and they are wrong.

But what purpose, asked Mr. De La Mare, will be served by this critical examination of Mr. Hardy’s English? We are three men of letters, I answered, and it is our business to inquire why the public should have selected for their special adoration ill-constructed melodramas, feebly written in bad grammar, and why this mistake should have happened in the country of Shakespeare.

This is all good fun…What is not so entertaining (and it would be remiss of me not to mention this) is his opinions on almost everything else. This makes up relatively little of the book, which is indeed focused on literary conversations, but sadly quite a lot of that comes at the beginning. His views are pretty repellent. He is openly racist, he doesn’t believe the working class should be taught to read (‘to bring about a renaissance of illiteracy, upon my word I would welcome a reawakening of theology’), and is generally against education:

every workman is aware that a boy released from school when he is fourteen is set upon learning a trade, but if he be kept at school till he is sixteen he very likely becomes part of the vagrant class.

Oh lordy me…some of his opinions must have been widely reprehensible even in 1924.

I want to lace my recommendation of this book with a dozen caveats about things I don’t agree with, but I think they’d be obvious to anybody picking it up. So I’ll focus instead on what I did enjoy: it’s the sort of literary discussion that wouldn’t get published now, weaving from author to author, quoting line after line in analysis (particularly in creating a collection of ‘Pure Poetry’, being those written entirely without subjectivity, which was also published in 1924), and offering depth and knowledge in support. And, around this, hangs the history of Moore’s life and his ancestors’ lives, and the surroundings of Ebury Street. It’s a delightful setting in which to settle down, as though nestling in a deep armchair. It’s just a pity that it comes accompanied with so many unpleasant opinions outside the realm of literature…”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s