Turkish baths in fiction:
notes on some of the baths that are imaginary,
and on some of the ones that are real

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline
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Adams, Nene - The Madonna of the Sorrows     Saki - The Chronicles of Clovis
You are here     Thorne, Guy - When it was dark
Galsworthy, John - In Chancery     Waugh, Alec - Kept
Ibbotson, Eva - Morning gift     Wentworth-James, G - A Mental marriage
Moore, George - Esther Waters     Wilson, AN - Daughters of Albion
Rita - The mystery of a Turkish bath    
Doyle, Arthur Conan - Sherlock Holmes     Trollope, Anthony - The Turkish bath
Hornung, EW - The chest of silver     Woodhouse, PG - Psmith in the City
Joyce, James - Ulysses    



Mr Clive and Mr Page  

Mr Clive and Mr PageNeil Bartlett's Mr Clive and Mr Page (published in the States as The House on Brooke Street) 'takes the reader from the brittle glamour of the twenties into the violent repression of the fifties; from Mayfair dining rooms to the steam room of a gentlemen's Turkish bath' as it describes gay relationships during a period when they could not be talked about openly.

There are no scenes specifically set in a Turkish bath, though the narrator repeatedly refers to his Saturday visits to a Turkish bath in Jermyn Street as visits to the London and Provincial at Number 76.

But the London Hammam, owned by the London & Provincial Turkish Bath Company, closed just before the end of 1940, only months before the building was destroyed on 17 April 1941 during the London Blitz. So far as we know, it was not a known meeting place for homosexual males. The Savoy Turkish Baths at No. 92, however, was such an establishment and was frequently under police surveillance.

Since the Savoy closed in 1975, two decades before the novel was published, there is no obvious reason for the identity of the baths to have been camouflaged. When this was raised with the author, he wrote that he had wanted to set the story in 'the baths where Rock Hudson was thrown out for importuning in 1952'. However, the newspaper article documenting this incident refrained from naming the establishment, specifying only that it was an 'all-male Turkish Bath on Jermyn Street'.

However, for the general reader, moving the baths a few doors further down Jermyn Street is of no significance since the book itself, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year, is an excellent read and the story continues to exercise the mind long after the last page has been turned. (No pun intended!)

Mr Clive and Mr Page Neil Bartlett (Serpent's Tail,1996)

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