At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Francis Marion Crawford – author

Novelist found inspiration while living in Sorrento


A picture of Francis Marion Crawford in Sorrento
Francis Marion Crawford
The American writer Francis Marion Crawford was born on this day in 1854 in Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany.

A prolific novelist, Crawford became known for the vividness of his characterisations and the realism of his settings, many of which were places he had visited in Italy.

He chose to settle in later life in the coastal resort of Sorrento in Campania where he even had a street named after him, Corso Marion Crawford.

Crawford was the only son of the American sculptor, Thomas Crawford. He spent his childhood going backwards and forwards between Italy and America and studied at various American and European Universities.

He spent some time in India where he found the inspiration for his first successful novel, Mr Isaacs, which was published in 1882.

In 1883 he returned to Italy to settle there permanently. He lived at the Hotel Cocumella in the village of Sant’Agnello just outside Sorrento to begin with. He then bought a nearby farmhouse, from which he developed the Villa Crawford, an impressive clifftop residence easily identifiable from the sea by the tall buttresses Crawford added as a safeguard against erosion.

The Villa Crawford, now a guesthouse, has a prime  position overlooking the Bay of Naples
The Villa Crawford, now a guesthouse, has a prime
position overlooking the Bay of Naples
He was married to Elizabeth Christophers Berdan, daughter of the American Civil War General, Hiram Berdan. They had two sons and two daughters, one of whom became a nun and lived at the Villa Crawford when it became a convent after her father's death.

The Villa, which was donated to the order of the Daughters of Maria Ausiliatrice, has recently been refurbished as a guesthouse.

Many of his later novels have Italian settings, such as Don Orsino, published in 1892, which is about the effects of social change on an Italian family.

His novels sold in thousands in the United States, gaining him fame and prestige as a writer.  He would often return to America to deliver lectures on Italian history, about which he wrote several books.

He died at the Villa Crawford after suffering a heart attack in 1909.  He was buried in the cemetery of Sant'Agnello.

Travel tip:

Bagni di Lucca, where Crawford was born, is a small town in Tuscany that became popular during the 19th century because of its thermal springs. For a while the town was the summer resort of Napoleon and his court and a casino and dance hall were built there. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband, Robert Browning, spent their summers in Bagni di Lucca during their time in Italy in the 1840s and 1850s.

The entrance to the Grand Hotel Cocumella in Sant'Agnello, where Crawford lived before buying his clifftop villa nearby
The entrance to the Grand Hotel Cocumella in Sant'Agnello,
where Crawford lived before buying his clifftop villa nearby
Travel tip:

The Corso Marion Crawford in the seaside resort of Sant’Agnello leads down to the sea from Corso Italia, the main road connecting Sant’Agnello with the resort of Sorrento. The historic Hotel Cocumella, where Crawford stayed during the 1880s, is in Via Cocumella, just off Corso Marion Crawford.

More reading:


Lady Blessington's Neapolitan Journals

Torquato Tasso - Sorrento's Renaissance poet


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