A Green Bower

The tiny station of Garavan, nearby, built by Queen Victoria, is the last stop before
Italy, and sometimes from Blanch’s terrace you could see frontier patrols along the rock
heights that separate the two countries.

Her small pink villa was surrounded by a lush Mediterranean garden with cascading vines, flowering plants, a huge cypress and an ancient olive tree. Shusha Guppy writes, “An ardent gardener, Lesley Blanch has created a very personal enclosed garden, with fig and citrus trees, jacarandas and mimosas, as well as lesser shrubs and bushes. It is a green bower screened by tall cypresses and bamboos: ‘Annihilating all that’s made to a green thought in a green shade,’ Blanch quotes Andrew Marvell.”

The Fire

After Lesley Blanch’s home burned down in 1994, returning home to England was not an option as the quarantine laws would have separated her from her beloved cats. With great fortitude and her usual sense of humour, she wondered if “maybe it was meant to be.” Her cats would creep into the charred shell of the house and sit glumly on the remains of their mistress’ bed, waiting for better times.

She had her house rebuilt, set up her writing desk, and followed a favoured maxim: “Get up and get on with it.” Many letters and papers of interest survived the holocaust of the fire, while others were returned to her by friends.

Her archive of letters, articles, photos and other papers is now at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale (US). Research papers and sections of manuscripts for her books Pierre Loti and The Sabres of Paradise are housed at New College Library, Oxford (UK).

In 1994, a fire destroyed Lesley’s house and many of its contents, but she had it rebuilt. Photos © Estate of Lesley Blanch