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Lamb House in Rye has had the distinction of being home to three well-known writers over the years.
They all loved the house and between them were responsible for more than 200 books.
The best known was Henry James, the American novelist whose ponderous prose is not much read today. He moved there in 1898 and stayed until his death in 1916.
James spent much time alternating between England and the US, eventually settling in Sussex. He found the peace of Rye enabled him to write extensively there.
His writing improved as he grew older and he was highly regarded in the Edwardian era. He also wrote many plays and essays.
He was so upset by the outbreak of the First World War that he took British nationality. But soon after he suffered a major stroke and died a few months later. Although James wrote some of his best-known works at Lamb House including The Ambassadors, The Wings Of A Dove and The Golden Bough, none of them has any reference to Rye or Sussex.
Nothing could be less true of his successor, EF Benson, who moved into the house shortly after the death of James.
He stayed there until his own death in 1940 and played such a full part in the life of Rye that he even became Mayor for three terms.
Benson doesn’t have the same literary reputation as James but he is a good deal more readable.
A prolific author, he wrote more than 100 books including ghost stories, royal biographies, memoirs and a shoal of novels.
Edward Frederic Benson was well connected – his father had been Archbishop of Canterbury.
His elder brother, AC Benson, wrote the words of Elgar’s Land Of Hope And Glory at the request of King Edward VII soon after he had become monarch.
AC Benson also wrote a personal diary of more than three million words, but it was never published.
EF Benson’s fame rests on a series of slight stories started in 1922 about two ladies called Mapp and Lucia.
They appeared in separate novels until 1931 and lived in a town called Tilling, which is clearly Rye.
Their adventures and clashes are skilfully portrayed with understated humour and became immensely popular.
Many of them were drawn from Benson’s own experiences in Rye and he even had Lucia, like him, elected as Mayor.
More than 40 years after his death, the books were turned into a series of well-regarded television stories, which brought them to a much wider audience than ever before.
Benson, who never married, was ambivalent about his sexuality but in keeping with the times, never declared himself as gay.
There is still an EF Benson Society to celebrate his work and a Tilling Society dedicated to Mapp and Lucia.
Rumer Godden, who lived at Lamb House between 1968 and 1973, was also prolific, writing 60 novels.
Although she was born in Sussex and returned here later, many of her books are about India, where she lived for many years.
Godden also wrote a memoir about Lamb House and the famous writers who had lived there. She died in 1998, aged 90.
Lamb House is now owned by the National Trust and is open during the summer months.
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