Category Archives: Literary Locations

Literary Locations is a series of blogs revolving around travel and literary locales.

Literary Locations – Rome

 

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The trip to Rome was marked by searing summer heat and frequent searches for merciful shade. Standing in the colosseum, lounging on the Spanish Steps and sitting by the Trevi Fountain with a gigantic gelato were just some of activities that filled this particular city break. However, for a traveller with an eye for all things literary I quickly found myself on a quest to follow in the footsteps of writers who had walked along the narrow streets of the beautiful city.

Having described words dancing down Dublin’s River Liffey in a previous post, I can only depict the lyrical literature inspired by Rome as like the Tiber – rolling, heady and dense. The city encompasses history, romance and decadence. These characteristics are found within the texts inspired by and produced here. After all, Roman literature provided the cornerstone for the development of language, drama and poetry.

However, it became apparent that Rome had other offerings in relation to its literary past. I found a place that contained works penned by a Romantic traveller who succumbed to the temptation of the warmer climate of Rome. His fate was to find his final resting place in a sun soaked cemetery within the ancient city.

Image provided by HarshLight via Flicker.

Image provided by HarshLight via Flicker.

The Keats-Shelley house quickly became a ‘must-see’ spot on the itinerary. The unassuming building by the Spanish Steps seemed like many others that we had seen in the city. However, this house was home to one of my favourite poets. Moreover, it was a sanctuary to him. A final stop on the journey of life for John Keats. It was here that I felt I truly understood his words.

“We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the author.”

- John Keats

The property boasts a beautiful library housing works from the Romantics including Keats, Shelley and Byron amongst others. The room in which Keats lived, suffered and died is a place of quiet contemplation just a moment away from the bustle and dolce vita outside.

 

Photo courtesy of John Mosbaugh via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of John Mosbaugh via Flickr.

The city like the Keats-Shelley house is a cosmopolitan contradiction. On one hand it is bright and full of life but on the other, the spectre of death resides within the ruins, the catacombs and the museums. The very fibre of the city made me consider mortality in a deeper way than any other place I have visited. It is unsurprising that a location so beautiful yet built around, and sometimes literally upon, the bones of so many people should inspire such vivid yet melancholy words.

In conclusion, Rome is nothing short of inspirational for the travelling horror writer. The burning, vivid sunlight is juxtaposed with shadow-cast burial chambers and the towering gruesome arena of death that is the Colosseum. For those seeking the macabre there are places where the architecture is made from skeletons and there are the violent yet vibrant frescoes within the Vatican. They depict such brutal battles and visions of hell so vivid in their detail that to gaze upon them stirs the mind and raises the blood. I would highly recommend a trip to Rome as a journey for those who wish to see a city of two sides. It is a destination for those who want to seek the sun and also a place where you can stare into the deepest, darkest shadows.

 

 

NEXT TIME: OXFORD

Literary Locations – Dublin

 

The Winding Stair, Dublin.

 

As the train arrived in Connolly station it seemed the weather had turned for the better and a little jaunt around the literary spots of Dublin was in order. Dublin is a lyrical city where words seem to dance down the twisting river that runs through its heart. It bursts with bookshops, historical attractions and has played host to many literary greats as they travelled, worked and naturally wrote.

 

For those seeking a book based shopping spree the city has loads to offer. From the larger chain stores such as Waterstone’s and Eason’s to the smaller independent places like Chapters and The Winding Stair (pictured right) there will be something for every kind of book buyer.

 

 

 

Courtesy of William Murphy via Flickr.

Courtesy of William Murphy via Flickr.

Clutching a map in hand it was actually quite easy to find Dublin Writer’s Museum. This place proved to be a particular highlight for me as I gazed down on a glass cabinet full of horror related exhibitions. Items pertaining to Charles Maturin, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and of course, the legendary Bram Stoker featured. I stood transfixed staring at a note written in  Stoker’s own hand and a beautiful, if well loved, first edition of Dracula.

The museum is packed with information and exhibits about many Irish writers such as W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Flann O’Brien and Samuel Beckett. The Jonathan Swift collection was particularly fascinating. Gulliver’s Travels frightened me from the very first time I read it even though it was a picture book adaptation for children. As I grew older and delved into the original book it became even more harrowing. By the time I had reached university I had come to a level of understanding of Swift’s works contextually. He was commenting on how cruel, crazy and ridiculous humanity can be and often is. He also proved to be one of (if not the greatest) satirists in literary history with his essay A Modest Proposal.

 

With the day waning we visited Eccles Street in search of the famous fictional address of one Leopold Bloom. However, the street is not as it was in the time when Joyce immortalised it in his seminal work Ulysses and so we plodded by the James Joyce Centre taking in the wide elegant grandeur of North Great George’s Street. The guard’s whistle doesn’t wait for anyone so we had just about enough time to stop and bid farewell to this literary city before hopping on the train back home.

RELATED READING: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Selected Poems of W.B. Yeats, A Modest Proposal, Playboy of the Western World, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Collected Poems of Oscar Wilde, At Swim-Two Birds, Dracula, Waiting for GodotUncle Silas and, of course, Dubliners.

 

NEXT TIME: ROME

Inspiration

Paris in January. Such a lovely city and the perfect time of year to visit. The throngs of tourists aren’t bustling around and you are free to enjoy the eerie beauty of the capital in peace. From the well known sights to the secrets buried under the winding streets this place bursts with amazing, sometimes frightening features. Here are some of the places that have enchanted and inspired me during previous visits:

Eiffel Tower.

Seen sometimes as a simple symbol of the city that is found on keychains, mugs, caps and tee-shirts this structure is a place I visit every time I go to Paris. I don’t necessarily climb every time but I go to gaze at the amazing feat of engineering. Constructed to commemorate the centenerary of one of the bloodiest periods in European history, the French Revolution. A mountaineer scaled it, two men have parachuted from it and many scientific experiments were conducted at it. It is a marvel.

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The Gargoyles of Notre-Dame.

Another favourite place to visit is the rooftop of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Inspiration for the fantastic novel by Victor Hugo and residence of some particularly gruesome yet harmless gargoyles. This one is my particular favourite:

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Underground Paris.

Paris has many amazing features hidden below the old streets. From the interesting Metro tunnels and stops to the chilling catacombs. Descend to discover the darkest parts of Paris.

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Other places of Interest.

There are so many amazing places to see in this city. If you go please visit Shakespeare & Co. to pick up a book. The Sacré Coeur and The Madeleine Church are epic and evocative of the past. The Montmatre area is a must for those selling to channel the artistic side and the museums particularly Musée D’Orsay are well worth visiting.