Prisoners Of Albion


01Paul Verlaine: Flashing Blades In Camden Town20040319

On a cold foggy day in 1872 the french poet Paul Verlaine arrived on the boat train at Charing Cross station.

He was on the run from his wife and accompanied by his lover, Arthur Rimbaud.

In a new series, expatriot Muriel Zagha, presents three unique portraits of Britain across the centuries by the Frenchmen who were trapped here: Paul Verlaine, Voltaire and Victor Hugo.

In the first programme she seeks out those who were inspired by the writer's time in Britain, including actor and writer Simon Callow who brings the streets of Camden to life, visiting the house where Verlaine and Rimbaud lodged together, and where they wrestled naked with knives wrapped in towels before heading out for wild nights in the taverns where they would learn ENGLISH from prostitutes and barmaids.

What effect did this exile in Britain have on the poets, and what effect, if any, did they have on their host?

02Victor Hugo: Turning Tables Beside The Seaside20040326

Lovers of Les Miserables may be surprised to discover that Victor Hugo did not in fact write his great tome in FRANCE, but in the Channel Islands. Exiled for 18 years on Jersey, and then Guernsey, for his vociferous objections to Napoleon III, Hugo fell in love with these tiny lumps of granite in the channel, where he found himself surrounded by the poetic presence of the sea and by Celtic memories of the Druids. This tested the author's rationalism, and he dabbled in the occult, communicating with the spirits through revolving tables. Hugo's letters also reveal his preoccupation with nude bathing in Jersey and his interventions in British politics. It was also during this period that he wrote Les Miserables: would he be surprised by his work's enduring success on the LONDON stage? Muriel Zagha dips a toe in the freezing water to find out Hugo's legacy on the islands.

03 LASTVoltaire: Enlightenment And The Anglo-files20040402

When Voltaire was faced with the choice between imprisonment and ENGLAND in 1726, he chose ENGLAND. Living with aristocrats in Wandsworth and among Huguenot refugees in COVENT GARDEN, we see 18th century ENGLAND through his eyes. He hated the east winds, and thought that Shakespeare was a bit crass. But, as Muriel Zagah discovers, he also loved the liberty he found here. He loved the gardens, and he immersed himself in ENGLISH language, teaching himself by going to the Drury Lane Theatre every night.