Berlioz in London
76 Harley Street (now no. 27)
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Berlioz stayed here during most of his first visit to London, in a separate apartment from that of the owner, Jullien, who had engaged him as a conductor (see the Theatre Royal Drury Lane page). The house has been rebuilt since Berlioz lived there. This is how Berlioz described to his father, in a letter dated 7 November 1847, his arrival in Britain for the first time (Correspondance générale no. 1134, hereafter abbreviated to CG):
[…] I am staying with M. Jullien, a French musician married to an English woman; he is director of the Drury Lane Theatre where I conduct the orchestra. The crossing was delightful – the sea was calm and the ship sailed as though crossing a lake. I had as companion an English writer, M. Gruneisen [a music critic of the Morning Chronicle]. When we arrived at Folkestone he hastened to be the first to jump on land so as to be able to offer me his hand and say courteously: ‘Welcome on British soil!’ This is one of those good ideas of the English, prompted by their national pride, and it would never occur to anyone from continental Europe. London is terrifying by its immensity. It takes three quarters of an hour to go from Jullien’s to Drury Lane, and they call that distance just a few steps. […]
In another letter, to his friend Auguste Morel, he describes his social life in London in the weeks after his arrival (CG no. 1146; 30 November 1847):
[…] I am dreadfully bored in the nice flat which Jullien has given me. And yet I have received numerous invitations since I am here, and your friend M. Grimblot is kind enough to come and visit me often. He has had me admitted to his club; but God knows how little amusement there is to be found in an English club! A week ago Macready [1793-1873, a celebrated actor] gave in my honour a magnificent dinner; he is a charming man and anything but pretentious in his domestic life. He is very awkward at rehearsals, and is right to be so. I saw him the other day in a new tragedy, Philip of Artevelde; he is magnificent, and has staged the play in a really extraordinary way: there is no one here who understands as he does the art of grouping crowds of people and getting them to act. It is wonderful.
By mid-January 1848 the bankruptcy of Jullien forced Berlioz to take precautions, as he wrote to his sister Nanci on 14 January (CG no. 1163):
[…] Yesterday I had all my music removed from Jullien’s house, for fear of being the object of a seizure thanks to the oddities of English law. I carried these bundles, which for me are priceless, to one of my French friends, M. Grimblot, where they are safe. As for my clothes, laundry etc. I am assured that they cannot be seized, and I am staying here at Jullien’s waiting for him to pay me and to find out whether he can fulfill all his obligations to me.
In case he is not able to or does not dare to give my first concert, which is announced for 7 February, I will try to reach an understanding with the director of Her Majesty’s Theatre [Lumley], who is one of my friends and is even under obligation to me.
Everybody here tells me that I can secure a good position, which is now liberated and has become vacant through the death of poor Mendelssohn, the idol of the English. Indeed I do not have any serious rivals here, and I believe that with a little time the hopes of my friends will be fulfilled, if I can stay on for the whole of the season (i.e. until July). It would be a great opportunity in my favour. […]
On 24 April, in a letter to Auguste Morel in which he mentions that Marie Recio is arriving from Paris that same day to join him, Berlioz writes (CG no. 1191):
[…] I have had to leave Jullien’s house four days ago, as a new seizure had been carried out in the Queen’s name for the queen-tax that he had not paid.
The day before yesterday the London papers announced Jullien’s bankruptcy, and at this hour he is said to be in jail. So I have nothing more to hope from him. […]
Berlioz moved, with Marie Recio, to 26 Osnaburgh Street, Regent’s Park, which has since been demolished, along with all the residential buildings on the same side of the street, and replaced with a large block of flats. He stayed there until he returned to Paris in mid-July 1848.
All the photos reproduced on this page were taken by Michel
Austin in 2001. © Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin.
All rights of reproduction reserved.
Berlioz’s residence in Harley Street in 2001
General view of Harley Street
No. 76 (now 27) is the fourth house on the left.
General view of Harley Street
No. 76 (now 27) is the fourth house on the right. The street on the right in the foreground is Queen Anne Street; Berlioz stayed at no. 27 when he visited London in 1851.
© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin for all the pictures and information on this page.
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