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Longer Swinburne walks

Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Long Swinburne walk on Dr John Dunn. Philip Henderson, Swinburne: The Portrait of a Poet, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974, P.237

St Mary's Barnes 1888 engraving

Longer Swinburne walks

Every day now, wet or fine, he left The Pines at eleven o’ clock for his morning’s walk across Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common, his destination The Rose and Crown Tavern - ‘Pelting along as fast as I can go’ with his quick, springy steps, he became a well-known figure in his wide-brimmed black felt hat and frock coat. There was something a little odd and mechanical in his movements. If he met anyone he knew on his walks, he would not appear to recognise them. At the Rose and Crown in Wimbledon High Street he was equally anxious to preserve his privacy and took his beer alone in the coffee Rome. Should anyone come in while he was there, he immediately escaped to the landlord’s private room or, if he had nearly finished his bottle, he would get up and bolt into the High Street, where he stopped at the Misses Frost’s stationers’ and book-sellers’ shop at the corner of the Ridgeway to buy a daily paper or a further supply of the blue foolscap he always used for writing. Sometimes a celebrity-hunter would recognise him and try to engage him in conversation. When this occurred, after a freezing glance at the intruder, he would escape into the Misses Frost’s private room until the coast was clear. He had extra large pockets made in his coat, which he called ‘poacher’s pockets, to hold any books he had ordered, and these had to be made to balance equally on each side of him before he set off on his return journey.

… Sometimes Swinburne would vary his walk by going along the Richmond Road to the Mortlake Arms and then across Barnes Common as far as Barnes Green and the church - a considerable walk. In those days, of course, this area was almost rural. Barnes was a village - as it is still to some extent - and there was practically no traffic, except for an occasional cart and horse, carriage or pony-trap, and the odd rider on his or her way to Richmond Park. Walking there could still be a pleasure, and Priory Lane, leading to the park from the Richmond Road, was still a country lane, bordered on the one side by the Beverley Brook and on the other by a few large houses and extensive market-gardens.

Posted by John Dunn.

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