Saturday, May 25, 2013
The World's Most Famous Literary Pub...Almost
Chaucer began the creation of English Literature just outside. Shakespeare mentioned it in a play and had his work performed in its grounds. Dickens was a regular visitor. Visit today, and you can still feel the echoes of the three great pillars of English letters as you contemplate the liquid poetry that is a foaming pint of cask ale.
But the story of the George Inn is a typically English tale, combining comedy and tragedy, farce and failure, with a sprinkling of Great British scatological humour. A happy tale of these three greats enjoying their beer at the same bar across the centuries would be far too simple.
Today the George Inn remains a paradox. Tucked inside a quiet courtyard off an insanely busy street just south of the mighty Thames, it’s the last survivor of a row of giant hostelries. Many who have lived and worked in the area for years have no idea it’s there, while tourists from the United States and Japan fly to London to seek it out.
The English pub is never straightforward.
Pubs are pretty unimportant as mere bricks and mortar. What makes them special are the people who drink in them, which depends in turn on their location. And the George Inn was built on the most interesting street in the world.
A few minutes walk from the George’s bar, there’s a point on the River Thames that the Romans decided was still deep enough to be navigable for ships, but was also narrow enough for them to build a bridge across it. They built the city then called Londinium at the north end of that bridge, and all major Roman roads led to this point.