Oscar Wilde, ca. 1882, by Napoleon Sarony (left); Virginia Woolf, 1902, by George Charles Beresford (right)
London is a writer's city where poets, playwrights, and novelists have found welcome. Drawn to its lively intellectual scene, diverse figures including Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf made London the center of the literary world for decades. In neighborhoods from Chelsea to Bloomsbury, these writers and their friends and colleagues nourished—and also critiqued—one another and their work.
British social historian Virginia Newmyer and Susan Willens, emeritus professor of English from George Washington University, delve into the literary contributions and distinctive worlds of some of city’s authors and their close friends, exploring the houses and clubs, parks and gardens, art galleries, and favorite restaurants that defined the cultural milieu of their London.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Three Urban Romantics: Byron, Shelley, and Keats
In their brief lives, these writers revolutionized poetry, drawing on London's energy and variety.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Taking the Stage: Wilde and Shaw
Humor, daring, and innovation marked the work of these playwrights, who electrified their London audiences.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:15–3 p.m. Exploring London: Dickens and Woolf
Separated by nearly a century, these novelists shared a zest for city life that drove the intensity of their work.
London’s 130-year-old Cadogan Hotel was long a center for the creative set, and Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde were among its patrons—although as the site of his 1895 arrest, Wilde’s feelings about the Chelsea establishment might have been mixed. Learn more about the Cadogan’s history and take a look at its recent transformation.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)