Visiting Lamb House, Rye, Sussex, England: memories of novelist Henry James

Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Lamb House, Rye
Lamb House, Rye | Source
Henry James (1843-1916)
Henry James (1843-1916) | Source
Map location of Rye, East Sussex
Map location of Rye, East Sussex | Source

Former home for a smoothly volcanic mind

Built in the 18th century, this fine and secluded brick house in Rye, East Sussex, England, is widely known as the residence of American-born novelist Henry James (1843-1916) between 1898 and 1916.

The main frontage of the building is Georgian in style. The name of the house is derived from a prominent local family; James Lamb built the house in 1723, and hosted King George I for a few days in 1726. Some of the rooms of Lamb House are open to the public, as is the garden.

When I visited Lamb House, which is managed by the National Trust, a guide was recalling the visit to the House by William James (1842-1910), Harvard philosopher and brother to the novelist (1).

Henry James was naturalized British shortly before his death (2) and was conferred with the Order of Merit, in the personal gift of the Sovereign. The secluded and quiet, walled garden, designed by Alfred Parsons and the 18th century house in a peaceful suburb of Rye mask their association with the silently volcanic mind responsible for writings which show psychologically powerful insights. Among his novels, noted for their realist and often ornate style, are The Portrait of a Lady , Roderick Hudson , and Washington Square . His theatrical work is less well known.

Some of Henry James's writings are known to have been accomplished in a garden pavilion at Lamb House, which has not survived.

Lamb House suffered some bomb damage in World War Two, but the structure as a whole survived. It remained in the James family until 1950, when it passed to the National Trust. The property is situated in West Street, in Rye, East Sussex.

September 5, 2012

Notes

(1) Diarist Alice James (1848-1892) was a sister.

(2) As an affluent, expatriate resident in the United Kingdom during World War One, Henry James was embarrassed by initial American neutrality, and this is thought to be a substantial reason for his decision to opt for naturalization.

Also worth seeing

In Rye itself, Mermaid Street, with an old Inn formerly associated with local pirates, has a picturesque cobbled road surface, and is often photographed. St Mary's Church is partly Norman in origin. The Ypres Tower dates from the 13th century and contains a museum.

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How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. There are rail links from London to Rye . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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