Karen Lee Street
Brown’s Genteel Inn: London’s first hotel, 1837
When initially researching and writing Edgar Allan Poe and the London Monster, I needed to find Poe somewhere to stay during his investigation in London. Brown's Genteel Inn seemed the perfect place, in part due to its name -- surely Poe would stay in a genteel inn (rather than any old inn). Its location in Dover Street, Mayfair was also perfect as a large number of the London Monster attacks occurred close to that vicinity.
Brown’s Genteel Inn first opened in 1837, run by James Brown and his wife Sarah Willis. Brown had been Lord Byron’s valet and Willis was Lady Byron’s personal maid, which seemed to give them good grounding in managing an elegant hotel.
Lord Byron - bas-relief portrait in Brown's Hotel
I found that literary connection of interest as Poe had been influenced by Bryon when he was a young writer; his poem “Tamerlane” in particular is said to be influenced by Bryon’s works.
James Brown initially bought the house at 23 Dover Street for his Genteel Inn, which expanded over the years until eleven houses formed the premises. Suites were provided for Brown’s guests, each with its own dining room and servant’s quarters; eventually there were sixteen suites in total. James Brown and his wife Sarah Willis Brown continued to run the establishment until 1859.
Brown’s Genteel Inn, which became known as Brown's Hotel, has attracted a number of literary guests over its history. Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book during his stay there and a suite is named in his honour.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, JM Barrie, and Oscar Wilde also enjoyed visiting Brown’s, as did Agatha Christie who often stayed there. The hotel in which Miss Marple vacations in Christie’s detective tale At Bertram's Hotel is said to have been inspired by Brown’s Hotel.
Further, the first successful telephone call was made at Brown’s in 1876, by Alexander Graham Bell. Other well-known guests include Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie, Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, and Cecil Rhodes. Theodore Roosevelt stayed there the night before marrying Edith Kermit Carow in 1886 at St. George’s, Hanover Square (another location used in my novel). Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt honeymooned at Brown’s Hotel in 1905. And finally, Brown's Hotel was apparently Queen Victoria's favourite place for afternoon tea, which is still the hotel's specialty (and delicious!)
In Edgar Allan Poe and the London Monster, both Poe and Dupin also enjoy the admirable accommodation offered at 23 Dover Street, until mysterious and disturbing events begin to occur and they must wonder who sent them the elegant advertisement for Brown's Genteel Inn...
Brown’s Genteel Inn 23 Dover Street, Mayfair, London Located in close proximity to Green Park, London’s theatres and historical locations, and shops patronised by the fashionable Ladies of London. This inn for Gentlefolk is furnished to the highest standard with the strictest attention given to the comfort of those who may favour it with their patronage. All servants are charged for in the bill. Meals provided. Proprietor: Mr. James Brown, former valet of Lord Byron
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