Pillars of Hercules
Opened in 1733, this pub on Greek Street is a mainstay throughout British literature. Charles Dickens perhaps frequented it in the 19th century; it is referred to in A Tale of Two Cities, and Manette Street, which neighbours the pub, is said to be named for the character, Dr Manette. The pub is also popular with more contemporary 20th and 21st century authors, reportedly including Martin Amis, Ian Hamilton, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan. Literary critic Clive James even named his second book after the pub (At the Pillars of Hercules), as most of the pieces in it were commissioned, delivered or written here. How’s that for some literary inspiration alongside your evening ale?
The French House
You’ll find the renowned Grade II-listed pub The French House on Dean Street. An iconic watering hole opened in 1891 (originally called the York Minster), this pub has a central place in literary and political history. It was here that General Charles De Gaulle penned his famous BBC Radio speech to the French people after he escaped from France in 1940. Actors, writers, comedians and artists have all rubbed shoulders here—Dylan Thomas once left a draft of Under Milk Wood under a chair, and Brendan Behan wrote sections of The Quare Fellow in the pub. Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and John Mortimer are all said to have been regulars.
The French House, 49 Dean St, Soho, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 7437 2477
Soho’s Blue Plaques
The blue plaques that you see on buildings throughout London are part of a project that started in 1866 that aimed to link the buildings of the present with the people of the past. The plaques display information, including where the residents were born, lived, worked and died. Here are just a few examples of plaques you’ll find in Soho.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived at 71 Berners Street between 1812 and 1813. Along with his friend William Wordsworth, Coleridge is famous for founding the Romantic Movement in England and was a member of the Lake Poets.
John Dryden (1631-1700)
Renowned poet of the 17th century, Dryden was thought to have resided at 43 Gerrard Street at some point in his life, but it was later discovered he actually lived at the site that is now 44 Gerrard Street. Although the original building was demolished in 1901, a plaque has been erected on the new structure to pay homage to the famous poet and playwright of Restoration England.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
An English Romantic poet, Shelley lived at 15 Poland Street in 1811. A highly influential poet of the 19th century, he was the author of many notable poems and plays that often dealt with social and political issues.
Washington Irving (1783-1859)
The American writer, historian and diplomat stayed at 8 Argyll Street from about 1830-1832, during his time as secretary to the American Legation. He put the finishing touches on his great work The Alhambra while living in Soho.
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Famous (to say the least) revolutionary author, Marx lived at 28 Dean Street from 1851-56. It was here that he worked on the first volume of his influential Das Kapital, which influenced politics around the world.
William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
Writer, painter and critic William Hazlitt took lodgings at 6 Frith Street in 1830, and died there that year. Considered one of the greatest essayists in the English language, he is renowned for a great number of influential works on art, literature and theatre.