Rose Allatini’s London

I’m trying to find out everything I can about the author of Despised and Rejected, so on Saturday, Marion and I took a walk (and some bus rides) round West London, looking at some of the places where the novelist Rose Allatini lived.

She was born in Vienna in 1890, but soon moved to London. The 1891 census puts her in this stately white stucco mansion – number 18, Holland Park:18 Holland park.jpg

The area was, and is, one of the grandest and most expensive in London.  I’ve read recently of houses in this area going for fifty million pounds.  the prices were less extreme at the end of the nineteenth century, but it was still a stonkingly expensive and select location.Robert Allatini, Rose’s father, was a merchant with a large international business. The family of four lived in these spacious premises, with four servants and, in time, a governess for the girls.

18 holland park2

These days there is a brass plate on the gatepost asking that mail be delivered elsewhere. Does this mean that the building is one of those owned as an investment by a billionaire foreigner and left empty? It’s possible – London is an odd place these days.

Rose Allatini lived in Holland Park, I think, at least until the publication of her first novel, …Happy Ever After, in 1914 (apart from a brief stay in a boarding school which, judging by the treatment of such schools in her novels, she despised) .

After becoming a published novelist, she left home and lived independently, in Fitzrovia, west of Bloomsbury. In Requiem (1919) she describes the area as London’s quartier latin, and revels in its Bohemian unrespectability. She describes the building on Fitzroy  Street where free-spirited and free-loving artist’s model Cécile lives:

On the second floor of the house was a kosher butcher’s establishment, on the first a café and billiards saloon; the second was occupied by a registry office for foreign waiters; the third proclaimed in several languages that it was to let; and in the fourth, in two tiny attics and a back kitchen, Cécile lived and moved and had her disreputable being.

Rose Allatini herself seems not to have lived on Fitzroy Street itself, but in the rather posher Fitzroy Square (though it was an area vastly less wealthy than Holland Park). She lived at number 28, probably in a small flat. I suspect that the Square today is rather better looked-after than it was in 1918. Everything is very spruce and cleanly-painted.

28fitzroy square

Fitzroy Square back in the day was an area where you might expect to find the literary. The next door house, number 29, bears plaques boasting of its history, a standard blue plaque for Virginia Woolf, and a more hero-worshipping one for Bernard Shaw, saying: ‘From the coffers of his genius he enriched the world.’

29fitzroy plaques

Rose Allatini expressed her identification with Bohemian Fitzrovia by choosing ‘Fitzroy’ as her pseudonym for Despised and Rejected.

I don’t know how long she stayed in Fitzroy Square. By the time of her marriage to the composer Cyril Scott in 1921 she has moved back to west London, only  a few minutes walk from her parents’ house. The Times notice of the wedding (Friday 13th May, 1921) gives her address as Campden Hill Mansions. This is not quite as grand as it might sound, being a block of flats nearer to Notting Hill than to Holland Park.

campden hill mansions door

The ground floor of the block is a shop, currently an antique dealer’s.

campden hill mansions

At the time of his wedding, Cyril Scott was living in Newton Road, Bayswater. I don’t know if Rose and he lived there together. During the early twenties they traveled widely, and in 1927, settled, with their two children, in Hamilton Terrace in St John’s Wood.

They lived at number 33 (now re-numbered to 86 Hamilton Terrace, as I’m told by this useful site). Its decoration was in accord with Scott’s Pre-Raphaelite taste; his friend, the pianist Esther Fisher, remembered Burne-Jones stained-glass windows in the music room, copies of Florentine sculpture, wooden furniture designed by Scott, a faint smell of incense and a grand piano inscribed in gold letters: ‘Melody is the cry of man to God, harmony is the answer of God to man.’

I think the house probably looked more splendid in the past. Today it is under multiple occupancy, and seems a little unkempt. Ninety years ago it must have been a splendid house, though 9and there are some very smart similar examples in the street.

Seeing these houses has given me just a little more insight into Rose Allatini’s social background. I knew the family was rich, but did not realise quite how splendid her childhood home was. Does this affect a reading of the novels? I’ll have to think about it.

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4 Comments

  1. Tom Deveson
    Posted September 18, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    This is very interesting – will there be more? Thank you!

    • Posted September 19, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Tom.
      there will definitely be more about Rose Allatini. I’m currently finishing off a monograph about her. It’s the reason why I’ve not put too much on this blog recently – I’ve mostly been reading her WWII and later fiction, and I try to keep the blog for things that are at least vaguely WWI related.
      It’s been enjoyable research – there’s a lot more to her than Despised and Rejected.

      • Tom Deveson
        Posted October 3, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        I bought, read and enjoyed Blue Danube on your recommendation. Thank you!

  2. Posted October 3, 2018 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Tom –
    I’m glad you enjoyed Blue Danube. I’ve just written a full review of it for the Reading 1900-1950 website:
    https://reading19001950.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/blue-danube-1943-by-eunice-buckley/


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