Jean Rhys’s flat receives the blue plaque treatment

As reported in The Guardian . . .

The Chelsea flat where the novelist Jean Rhys lived with her literary agent, after her affair with Ford Maddox Ford but before she penned her most famous novel  Wide Sargasso Sea, has been commemorated with a blue English Heritage plaque, unveiled by her granddaughter.

The Dominica-born Rhys moved from Paris to London in 1928 following her affair with Ford and the breakdown of her first marriage. She married her agent, Leslie Tilden Smith, in 1934, and they moved to Flat 22 in Paultons House in 1936, living there for two years. Rhys wrote her acclaimed novel Good Morning Midnight  –the e story of a young woman in 1930s Paris – in the Chelsea apartment, spending her mornings in a bed “strewn with pages”. Wide Sargasso Sea, her response to Jane Eyre in which she imagined the Caribbean upbringing of Mr Rochester’s first wife, was not written until 1960, when Rhys was living in the village of Cheriton Fitzpaine in Devon.

A plaque commemorating the celebrated novelist Elizabeth Bowen was also installed yesterday at 2 Clarence Terrace, Regents Park. Bowen wrote some of her best-loved works, The Deat of the Heart and The Heat of the Day, while at Clarence Terrace, her home for 17 years until 1952.

Both authors, said blue plaques historian Dr Susan Skedd, “drew on their personal experiences during their time in London to create the stories and fictional worlds inhabited by their characters”, with Bowen writing “one of the most compelling portraits of life in London during the Blitz” in The Heat of the Day.

Former poet laureate Andrew Motion said that both Rhys and Bowen “made invaluable and unforgettable contributions to writing”, and that “in honouring them, the blue plaques scheme does honour to itself”. English Heritage chair, Baroness Andrews, described Rhys and Bowen as “two of our most important female writers”.

“Although different in many ways, each voice was distinct as they drew on their own experiences to create their work,” she said. “Each made a vivid mark on literature, and they have left us with a great legacy.”

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