“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

London’s Vienna Cafe – Where the Talk was often of China

Posted: December 20th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

So often when Chinese art and culture was discussed in London – when TS Eliot or Ezra Pound wanted to think about Chinese art or poetry, when the latest discoveries of Aurel Stein had been displayed at the nearby British Museum, when Bloomsbury gathered to talk of Things Eastern….it was to the famous and beautiful Vienna Cafe at 24-28 New Oxford Street that they retired. Just how many translations of Chinese poems, monographs on brushwork or initial findings regarding artifacts were first discussed in these rooms is hard to imagine. It was certainly Pound’s place – he lunched their most days apparently and lived in the area. He mentioned it in one of his Cantos and as well as things Chinese Pound and friends plotted the overthrow of romanticism with the Vorticists who made the Vienna Cafe their primary hang out (see this interesting tour of the locations the Bohemians plotted in)

And so here some interior pictures of the, now sadly long lost (see PS below), but lovely Vienna Cafe…

(PS: a quick note for dedicated Londoners – I’m afraid the site of the Vienna Cafe was lost to the bastard Luftwaffe in the Blitz – the site was replaced in the late 1940s with the impressive St George’s Court, one of the better and more thoughtful London office blocks to arise out of the bomb damage. It was, as many Londoners of a certain age – i.e. my age or thereabouts – will recall the central London HQ of the Ministry of Defence for many decades until they eventually moved out and it was converted to general office use around 2002).

 

 

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One Comment on “London’s Vienna Cafe – Where the Talk was often of China”

  1. 1 ROBERT TODD said at 12:45 am on March 11th, 2020:

    Virginia Woolf, Letters, vol. 1, p. 481, refers to ‘dining at this sordid place alone’ in a letter to Lytton Strachey of November 1911 written at ‘The Vienna Cafe’. She went on:'[I] chose all the wrong things. The waiter has been cheeky to the young lady–she threatens to tell Mr. Joseph’.


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