Home Is Where the Art Is: The Childhood Homes of Celebrated Authors

Ever wondered where some of your favorite authors grew up? Last week Flavorwire investigated the childhood homes of twenty famous writers. Looking through the collection, it’s entertaining to imagine how each one might have spent their formative years, and how their respective neighborhoods, from the Cornish countryside to the deep South, might have influenced their writing. Certainly, from some of the stories that accompany these old buildings it’s plain to see that personalities–and possibly writing styles–are formed at a young age.

Below is a small sample. The full list can be found here.

William Faulkner’s childhood home in Oxford, Mississippi, built in 1855. The writer moved here just before his fifth birthday and lived in Oxford on and off for the remainder of his life. Heavily influenced by his Southern surroundings, Faulkner spent his boyhood listening to family histories and began writing poetry in his adolescence.

Hunter S. Thompson’s surprisingly idyllic home in Louisville, Kentucky was far less peaceful on the inside: apparently, during a later remodel, workers found and had to scrape up a stubborn black circle in the middle of the house. After asking the neighbors it was discovered that the circle had been drawn by a young Hunter S. Thompson, who referred to it as “his own portal to hell”.

The house in which Franz Kafka was born and spent a troubled childhood, in the Old Town Square of Prague, is now the permanent home to an exhibition in his memory. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in this St. Paul, Minnesota building in 1896 and lived there until the age of two. From there the Fitzgeralds moved to New York. The writer’s two older sisters sadly died of influenza in this house shortly before his birth.

Virginia Woolf’s summer home of thirteen years in St. Ives, Cornwall. She describes her childhood there briefly, saying, “The pleasantest of my memories… refer to our summers, all of which were passed in Cornwall… There we bought the lease of Talland House: a small but roomy house, with a garden of an acre or two all up and down hill, with quaint little terraces divided by hedges of escallonia, a grape-house and kitchen-garden and a so-called ‘orchard’ beyond.”

Mark Twain’s childhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. The building is now the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum.

Tennessee Williams’ ornate Southern home in Columbus, Mississippi. It seems to adequately fit Williams’ mother, “the archetype of the ‘Southern belle’, whose social aspirations tilted toward snobbery and whose behavior could be neurotic and hysterical.” The future playwright was confined to this house for the better part of a year due to an illness. The women who surrounded him there have been said to have greatly influenced his writing and inspired many of his female characters.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fern Cottage, tucked away on the outskirts of Birmingham. I love this one–you can just imagine the future fantasy novelist flexing his imagination in the secluded gardens of this 250 year old house.