The Homes of English Men of Literature

Published on

Edith Romaine

The Homes of
English Men of Literature

The Tuck’s Post Card set number 9089 first appeared in the company’s catalog of March 1906. The accredited artist was Sydney Carter. The work sessions that ended and ultimately resulted in the six paintings included on the cards finished circa 1905 when the artist was in his early thirties. He had by that time completed his studies at the Buckhurst Hill Art School and the Walthamstow School of Art in East London, where he earned an art teaching certification.

Born on April 2, 1874, Carter spent his early years “in” school and his later years “at” school. He held full-time teaching positions in England and South Africa. He married Elizabeth Crosse on December 23, 1922, in Devonshire. Sydney and Elizabeth relocated to South Africa in 1923 and in a very determined fashion they explored the entire nation. By the summer of 1925 he found himself in the Orange Free State where he settled in for a year and worked diligently for the Society of Arts and Crafts. The Carters moved to Johannesburg in 1926.

When the 1927 school year opened, Carter won an appointment to the staff at the Witwatersrand Technical Arts College. Carter was for more than a decade among the most popular professors on the campus. His teaching methods in oil and gouache were legendary. Unlike many other successful artists of his era, he remained devoted to portraiture, natural topics, and townscapes.

He died at age 71 on December 21, and was buried in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1945.

Because of full-time work schedules and distance, Carter did very little work for Tuck. He completed only two six-card sets. His first was the Brown Paper Series that appeared in the 1904 catalog. The set sold well but was never offered for sale outside the United Kingdom.

Carter’s second set appeared with the title Homes of Literary Men. It is one of Tuck’s most popular sets. The set contains the usual six cards, which are individually titled after the men who lived in the pictured homes: Tennyson, Litton, Dickens, Kingsley, Johnson, and Thackeray


Just down the road from a 15th century church in Somersby (in Lincolnshire) which had at one time the father of Lord Alfred Tennyson as its rector, is the cream-colored rectory where Alfred was born. He was the fourth of twelve children born to the Reverend George Tennyson. Today, the Georgian style building with a pantiled roof is a private house.

Alfred was encouraged to learn and at age six he composed his first poem on a topic dear to his mother’s heart, the flowers in her garden.

There is a delightful piece of family lore concerning Alfred’s grandfather that is often repeated, but when it occurred has been lost to time. Alfred’s grandfather asked him to write some verse about his grandmother who had just died. After Alfred had written them, his grandfather gave him ten shillings and said, “There, that is the first money you have earned by your poetry, and take my word for it, it will be your last!”


Edward Bulwer-Lytton does not enjoy a reputation like other English writers because his writings never found favor in America. His literary career began in 1820 with the publication of a book of poems. He wrote in several genres, including historical fiction, mystery, and romance but from a list of his works, Americans would be hard pressed to identify a single title, with the exception of The Last Days of Pompeii that he wrote in 1834.

There is however, an expression attributed to Lytton that is known by everyone who ever sat in an English literature class. Bulwer-Lytton was the English novelist who wrote the words, “The pen is mightier than the sword” in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu in 1839. 

The home known as Knebworth House was the Lytton family home since 1490. It was altered throughout the sixteen- and seventeen-hundreds and finally remodeled in a Tudor-Gothic style around 1845.

The writer was Knebworth’s most famous resident. He lived there until his death in 1873.

The one and only other notable resident was Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia. Michael was the fifth son of Russian Tsar Alexander II, and the youngest brother of Tsar Nicholas II. He leased the home for £3,000 per year while in exile during the revolution. Less than five years later he was murdered by the Bolshevik secret police in the Russian village of Motovilikha.

Much of the interior of Knebworth House was redesigned in the early twentieth century. The only part of the estate that still commands public interest is the herb garden once tended by Lady Emily, the daughter of the Lytton Earl who served as the Viceroy of India between 1876 and 1880. The garden was plotted by Gertrude Jekyll in 1907 in an interlaced quincunx design, but it lay dormant until its first planting in 1982. Jekyll was an award-winning British horticulturist, who also worked in America on plots sanctioned by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.


There are few homes in south-east England with as much history as Gad’s Hill. No one has yet discovered who Gad was, but it is remembered that the home was built in 1780 for Thomas Stephens, a former Mayor of Rochester. As long ago as 1558 there was a ballad about the robbers who made Gad’s Hill their roadside haunt. The first written bit of Dickens’s history comes from when Charles was nine years old. He and his father took a walk through the village one day and came upon Gad’s Hill Place. The story goes that the senior Dickens said to his son Charles, “were you to be very persevering and work very hard, you might one day live there.”

Dickens himself remembers it in a similar way. He remembered his reply, and wrote, “When I was not more than half as old as nine, it used to be a treat for me to be brought to look at the house. And then when I was nine, I would go by myself to look at it. And ever since, I could recollect, father seeing me so fond of it, had often said to me, “If you were to be very persevering and were to work hard, you might someday come to live in it.”

And live in it, he did. Dickens bought Gad’s Hill Place in 1856. It was used primarily as a summer residence, and it was in a Swiss chalet that sat in the garden that Dickens wrote many of his later works. In 1870, he died there too.


Artist Sydney Carter was not the only British artist to paint Eversley Rectory; it was one of the most often illustrated buildings in the Victorian era. The reason was not that it was architecturally unusual, but because of its association with Charles Kingsley, who served as the Rector of Eversley for more than thirty years.

It is thought to be a sixteenth or seventeenth century structure with eighteenth century alterations.

Charles Kingsley was more of a priest in the Church of England than the university professor, social reformer, historian, and labor organizer that his biographers would have us believe. He was however a successful novelist and published six influential books that helped change the hearts and minds of many. He was also a close friend and frequent correspondent of Charles Darwin.

The most successful of Kingsley’s six novels came in 1855 as Westward, Ho! It may go without saying that it is the only of his works known by most Americans. It is also interesting to note that the novel inspired the founding of the only village in England with an exclamation point in its name – the village was named Westward Ho!, after  Kingsley’s novel.

Charles Kingsley died on January 23, 1875, at Eversley and buried there in St. Mary’s Churchyard. He was 55.


The 18th-century English writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson, lived and worked in the house at 17 Gough Square for eleven years. It is where he compiled his famous Dictionary of the English Language.

The home is a timber-framed, brick townhouse built in the late 1600s by a wool merchant named Richard Gough. The four-story building is now a museum devoted to its former occupant, and as a historic home it is open to the public to see such things as the anti-burglary devices that include heavy chains with corkscrew latches and spiked iron bars over the fanlight. 

After Johnson left the property in 1759, (he lived another 25 years and died in 1784 and was buried in Westminster Abbey) the house was used as a small hotel and when the hotel closed, it was a studio and workshop for a local printer. By 1911 it had fallen into disrepair and was purchased by Cecil Harmsworth, a Member of Parliament who restored it and opened it to the public in April 1914.

During World War II, the museum curator and her daughter were granted permission to run an informal canteen in the building for the Fire Service.  The house later became a social club for the auxiliary firemen – known as ‘the heroes with the grimy faces – giving many a tired fireman some respite from the bombing during the blitz.

The property was struck by bombs on several occasions, but the fires were always put out in time to save the building. After one very intense bombing it was discovered that the garret was badly damaged, and a new roof had to be constructed. Right after the war a second restoration commenced.


Makepeace Thackeray found his home as a derelict property and completed its purchase in May 1860. He among others of his era had a keen talent for the “turn of a phrase;” he told his family and friends that he made the deal using money he “made out of the inkstand.” If that was true, he had held onto his cash for a good, long time. He wrote his most successful and famous book, Vanity Fair, over a decade earlier.

The rebuilding of the structure was completed at a cost of over £8,000 – a “princely sum” it was said. Thackeray hired an architect to do the detailed work but he insisted that he be given any work that he could handle. The result was a townhome faced with a handsome red brick in the neo-Georgian style. It was described by Thackeray in 1861 as “the reddest house in all the town.”  

Thackeray’s family wanted him to name his home “Vanity Fair” because it was so lavish, but he refused. He did, however make his feelings known when he wrote, “… it is one of the nicest houses I have ever seen, and I have a strong idea that in the next world I shan’t be a bit better off.”

Thackeray died in the house on Christmas Eve 1863. The house, which was altered again in the 1880s, is now the home of the Israeli ambassador to the Royal Court of Saint James.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Interesting – thanks

Most excellent article along with most excellent illustrations by Sydney Carter. It seems that in order to be a noted author in those days you needed to have either a beard or sideburns – except for Dr. Johnson.

Bulwer-Lytton also wrote the novel Paul Clifford, whose first line begins “It was a dark and stormy night”, which Snoopy employed as his typical literary opening salvo in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x