Visiting Raymond Chandler’s House in Streatham

In 1907 Raymond Chandler’s uncle Earnest moved Chandler and his mother from Dulwich to Streatham, a down at heel suburb of South London, a degree or two south of the social world of Dulwich. This is a picture of the house Raymond lived in with Florence. It’s small and unlovely – a basic up and down terrace. To paraphrase Joyce it as small imperturbable house that gazes consciously at its neighbors. It has one claim to fame though – it was in this building that Chandler wrote his first poem. It came to him in the bath, one Sunday afternoon and he called it The Unknown Love. It was published in the Chambers’ Journal on the 19th December 1908. It’s difficult to know what to make of the poem. It isn’t very good for one thing. It does hint at his future though – the lonely man in love with an unobtainable woman and the chivalric refrain that runs throughout (‘When you stormed my weak position’ / ‘As I stand before your dwelling,/ In my pilgrimage to where you lived…’). When you visit the road where Chandler lived the chivalric note is thrown into a certain relief by the oddly turreted nearby houses who must have been built by men with a grander vision than Streatham allowed them. And it is easy imagine the nineteen year old Raymond looking fondly at these out of place oddities and fantasizing about damsels trapped within. Later in life, in cities where there were no turrets, he would try and find women who needed rescuing again.

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