Conclusion: “Bloomsbury” in Play

  • Matthew Ingleby
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


On 2 January 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson penned a letter to the novelist James Payn, in which he addressed his portrayal of Bloomsbury in a book published the previous year. The Dynamiter, discussed in Chap.  5, placed the (anti)climax of one of its stories in West Central London, a bomb comically failing to detonate in a house in the vicinity of one of Bloomsbury’s many hospitals. Payn’s daughter Alicia had apparently recognized her own house in Queen Square from the author’s description, provoking her father to enquire whether Stevenson had borrowed it as the setting for his and his wife’s co-written extravagant fiction about inadequate terrorism. Rather than denying the parallel, Stevenson insisted that the address had not been chosen by the authors at all but was based on the account he had received of a real event that had occurred there:

…I beg to explain how it came about that I took her house. The hospital [Alexandra Hospital, in Queen Square] was a point in my tale; but there is a house in each side. Now the true house is the one before the hospital: is that No. 11? If not, what do you complain of? If it is, how can I help what is true? Everything in the Dynamiter is not true; but the story of the Brown Box is, in almost every particular; I lay my hand on my heart, and swear to it. It took place in that house in 1884; and if your daughter was in that house at the time, all I can say is she must have kept very bad society.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Ingleby
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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