The Link Between Bram Stoker, Henry James & Enid Blyton
It’s time to rediscover more parts of London I’ve forgotten; Some north London towns have changed very little because they’re awkward to reach by public transport, like Crouch End, Stoke Newington and Muswell Hill, where the land was too hilly for underground trains. But there’s a good change that if you live there, or in the Finchley or Barnet areas, you might choose to be cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium. For although the immediate area is famously Jewish, its crematorium is secular and accepts all faiths and non-believers.
Well over 300,000 Londoners have come to rest here, including 14 holders of the Victoria Cross, HG Wells, Anna Pavlova, Sigmund Freud, Ray Ellington, Neville Chamberlain, Peter Sellars, Rudyard Kipling, Sid James and the above three. There’s a Communists’ Corner and 12 acres of gardens with lakes and fountains, and on a sunny day it’s a very pleasant place to wander about in (on a gloomy one it’s bloody depressing).
While you’re up there, there are a surprising number of grand houses, many of which are open to the public, from Bruce Castle to Forty Hall and Myddelton House. North London also had a number of lunatic asylums, some of which have been turned into apartments (now there’s a basis for a story). One of these can be seen in my graphic novel ‘Menz Insana’, beautifully drawn by John Bolton, who toured the asylum in Crouch End and lovingly rendered it in the book before it was converted.
Asylums made me think of Henry Maudsley, the doctor whose uncompromising belief in the physiological and pathological nature of insanity led him to believe that lunatics were simply by-products of evolution, not fit for treatment. He felt that nothing could heal them, but that heredity and inheritance were keys to understanding the disease. Maudsley was openly critical of the medical role played by asylum superintendents. He was hostile to flawed therapies and chemical sedatives. Asylums themselves, he argued, only damaged their patients. Launching an attack on his own profession, he ridiculing its pretensions to cure the insane, and was universally condemned, his colleagues insisting on the usefulness of ‘moral’ therapy. Today the Maudsley Hospital bears his name.
To these thoughts of death and insanity, I take a stroll through nearby Clissold Park and rest on its beautifully renovated lion’s head benches.