Italians in Soho

‘English Lessons at a school for Italian children in Soho’, c. 1910, photographer: Topical Press Agency.

Saw this image at a recent exhibition of photographs about Soho at the Getty Images Gallery, which recalled Rezia’s Italo-English heritage:

‘The English are so silent,’ Rezia said. She liked it, she said. She respected these Englishmen, and wanted to see London, and the English horses, and the tailor-made suits, and could remember hearing how wonderful the shops were, from an aunt who had married and lived in Soho.

In his notes to the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Mrs Dalloway David Bradshaw writes on Soho ‘a cosmopolitan and bohemian district of central London, nowadays revelling in tawdry disrepute’ which is now somewhat out of date; it is much less tawdry and disreputable these days, though still distinctively different from other areas.

But ‘from the late 17th century until quite recently’ the area certainly was ‘densely populated with foreign immigrants, many of them French, German, Swiss, or Italian in origin.’ The original Patisserie Valerie, for examplewas up the road from the French House pub (which, incidentally, when it actually was the pub of choice of Free French officers, was called the York Minster).

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