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

Linking Arthur Waley and George Chinnery on Brook Street, W1

Posted: August 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

George Chinnery died in Macao in 1852; Arthur Waley was born in Royal Tunbridge Wells in 1889. Of course these two men – the painter/roué and the Sinologist/translator (with his own troubled private life not unlike Chinnery) – never met. However, I suspect they inhabited the same space at different times. Here’s the link….

A couple of years ago, reading a biography of Chinnery, I noted that his last studio in London before he sailed for India and began his life in the East was at 20 Brook Street, W1 – the building, originally completed in 1737, still stands and still has a nice top floor with plenty of light for an artist (the reason Chinnery was attracted to the building). I blogged about that building here

I just happened this week to be reading A Half of Two Lives, the (sort of) autobiography of Alison Grant (then Alison Robinson and finally Alison Waley) who was for many years Arthur Waley’s companion/mistress (he remained attached to the dancer and translator Beryl de Zoete till her death in 1962) and eventually married Waley shortly before his death in 1966. Alison was herself something of an artist and poet and she lived with her husband at 20 Brook Street during the Blitz. She recalls the large windows and it seems Waley did visit her there, though neither I believe notice of it having previously been Chinnery’s studio. I assume she didn’t know as, I also assume, had she then this fact would have interested both Alison and Arthur given their Sinological leanings.

Anyway, here is the building today – you can still see the large windows on the top floor where, for a while, Chinnery painted, and where, for a later while, Alison and Arthur Waley took tea and (it’s a complicated memoir) did whatever!

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