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30 April 2009

Visiting Mayfair--and some news

I came back from a quick visit to London last week. I packed a lot into a very short time, including a visit to the Regency Town House in Brighton--I blogged about it last week at the Riskies, where today I'm blogging about my newest favorite place in London, the excellent and fabulous Fan Museum in Greenwich.

But while I was there I blatantly played tourist by going on a London Walk of Mayfair--something I've never done before. A couple of other Americans talked the entire time about some poor woman in their town whose ears must have been burning and I took (mostly dreadful) photos. The walk was pretty good, but obviously previous walkers were fascinated by London real estate so a lot of the information given was about house prices (ridiculously high).

Mayfair was originally the site of a fifteen-day May Fair, renowned for its rowdiness and finally banned in 1708. Architect/developer Edward Shepherd was commissioned to develop the area and by the mid-eighteenth century completed the site, which included paved alleys, a duckpond (aaw!) and a two-storey market topped with a theater. (Now I'm kicking myself because I think that building still stands and is a pub and I didn't photograph it).

So in the center of the grand Georgian houses we associate with Mayfair there's a charming area of picturesque alleys, shops and restaurants, Shepherd Market (according to our guide, it's a busy red light area at night). I do enjoy a bit of sleaze and narrow alleys...

I really loved the frontage of this shop that sold statues and I wished I'd used this setting in The Rules of Gentility when Philomena and Inigo go shopping together. Next time I'm going back to look inside...

But yes, the grand houses. This was the area where Caroline Lamb and Florence Nightingale lived (although not together or at the same time, although their houses have gone--either knocked down by the Blitz or developers) and many other big names. Handel lived next door to Jimmi Hendrix (although not concurrently) and the BeeGees also get a blue plaque (honest).

Here's Beau Brummell's house (left) and the house of the Duke of Clarence, Mrs. Jordan and their ten offspring (right). The blue plaque at the Duke's house, however, celebrates a more respectable resident whose name I can't remember.

Here's Berkeley Square and one of its venerable plane trees (two hundred years old). And on the right, the London home of American president John Adams.

Here's an interesting factoid about the shift of the fashionable from Soho to Mayfair. After the rich and famous moved to the new development (which was pretty much in the country then, thus achieving the Georgian ideal of the pleasures of the town with the salubrious effects of the countryside), Soho became a lower class, artisan area. William Blake set up shop there. So did several thousand French emigres, mostly weavers, which I thought was really interesting, because I wrote something one time where the heroine lived in the ground floor of a Soho house which resonated to the thud of a loom above. My critique group said, as one woman, huh? But I was right; something, sometime, had lodged in my brain and come out at exactly the right moment.

And now the big news... remember, you heard it here first unless you came from the Riskies...

I've sold a two-book deal to HarperCollins, Immortal Jane, and the first is about Jane Austen joining forces with sexy vampires against a French occupation of Bath (and you should have heard me cackle when I wrote the proposal). My working title is... yep, Blood Bath (I really, really hope they let me keep it). It's scheduled to come out next summer so I'd better get busy.

So since I'm supposed to end a blog with a question, have you ever taken a walking tour in London? Or any other city? What did you think?

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5 Comments:

Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

First, Janet -- Congratulations!!! I love the title "Blood Bath" and I do hope you get to keep it.

Some years ago I took a London Walks tour of the East End. As I have ancestors who were London Jews (or Jewish Londoners), I was particularly interested in the area. One of my favorite stops along the way was Temple Bevis Marks (I had never been inside a Sephardic synagogue before and it is laid out differently from Ashkenazi ones). It was at Bevis Marks where I learned one of my favorite stories about Disraeli (pere et fils, actually).

1:45 PM  
Blogger Janet Mullany said...

I wanted to do that one too, Amanda, b/c our family geneologist is researching my grandfather and the Jewish side of the family. But as usual, not enough time.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Janet, I've taken that same walking tour of Mayfair. I absolutely adore London Walks. I try and take at least one on my trips to London. Over the years, I've taken tours of Oscar Wilde's London, Along the Thames pub crawl with Emily Richards and a tour of the London theatre district with Edward Petherbridge. And of course, the famous or infamous Jack the Ripper walk with Donald Rumbelow. One of my favorite stories was on the Oscar Wilde walk. Apparently Wilde was so lazy that he would take a carriage just to go around the corner!

My other favorite walk is when I took the "shetel called Whitechapel tour." We went into the oldest synagogue in London, where the guide from the synagogue showed us Sir Moses Montefiore's chair. When Prince Charls came for the 300th anniversary of the synagogue, he had his own royal blue yalmulke with the prince of wales feathers embroidered on top.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Maire Creegan said...

Hiya!

Congrats on your deal.... And I am jealous about your trip. I lived in London and miss it all the time. I did do the ghost tour which was full of fun and gruesome facts about the multiple and heinous deaths in the city. I really wanted to do the Mayfair, but the guide never showed. Sigh.

I did get very lucky and took The History of London. Every Tuesday we had a two hour lecture and then d a 2 hour walk every thursday for three months... Starting in February. Can we say freezing and lots and lots of rain! Still, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Congrats on the book deal, Janet! Fabulous premise and title.

I was talking with a friend today about our favorite things to do in London, and walking was high on both our lists. I haven't taken a formal walking tour, but I love exploring and "location scouting" for my books. I dragged my friend Penny on most the route Charles and Mélanie take in "Secrets of a Lady" looking for their son. And I love sitting in Berkeley Square beneath the plane trees and soaking up the atmosphere. There's a house in Berkley Square that I use as the model from Charles & Mel's house, so it's like I'm visiting them.

I found Shepherd Market on my most recent visit, thanks to my U.K. editor. I sat writing over a glass of wine in an 18th century Public House called the King's Arms, which I've subsequently used in a book.

8:36 PM  

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