Lakeside Hall of fame
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Hundreds of notable writers, artists, musicians and poets have visited Lake Geneva over the centuries. For cultured nineteenth-century sophisticates, the lakeside was as important a stop on the Grand Tour of Europe as Paris, Florence or Vienna, and where one artist settled others inevitably followed, drawn – depending on individual circumstance – by the fresh air, the Château de Chillon, political neutrality, or the numbered bank-accounts.

Edward Gibbon spent long periods in Lausanne, meeting Voltaire there in the 1750s, and completing his monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire during an eleven-year stay between 1783 and 1793. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a native of Geneva, set his La Nouvelle Héloïse, completed in 1761, in Clarens near Montreux. Wordsworth came through Lausanne in 1790 and 1820. The English artist Turner first visited the area in 1802, painting watercolours of the landscape around Chillon. In 1816, while Mary Shelley stayed in Geneva to write Frankenstein, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley set off on an eight-day boat tour of the lake; they both almost drowned off St Gingolph, then toured the Château de Chillon, which inspired Byron to dash off The Prisoner of Chillon in his Ouchy hotel room. Robert Southey waxed lyrical about Lausanne following a visit in 1817, as did Victor Hugo in 1839. The famous English actor John Kemble died and was buried in Lausanne in 1823. Alexandre Dumas, on one of his many Swiss journeys, wrote of a visit to Chillon in 1832. Tennyson, Thackeray and others dropped in to visit Charles Dickens, who began Dombey and Son while staying in Lausanne in 1846; Thackeray himself worked on The Newcomes in Vevey in 1853. George Eliot spent nine months writing in Geneva over the winter of 1849–50. In 1861, Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Ice Maiden in Montreux. Tolstoy and Dostoievsky both passed through Lausanne, the latter spending two years in Geneva writing The Idiot, followed by a summer writing The Gambler in Vevey; Gogol began Dead Souls in Vevey, which was the setting for Henry James’s Daisy Miller and which was also where Arnold Bennett spent 1908–09 writing The Card. Tchaikovsky composed his Violin Concerto in F major (Op.35), and also began Eugène Onegin while in Clarens in 1877–78. Stravinsky spent 1911–14 in the same town, where he composed his revolutionary The Rite of Spring; he spent the World War I years working in Lausanne. T.S. Eliot convalesced in Lausanne in 1921 and 1922 while writing his equally revolutionary The Waste Land. In 1952, at the age of 63, Charlie Chaplin moved to Vevey to escape Hollywood’s McCarthyism, and died there 25 years later. Noël Coward lived in Les Avants, above Montreux, from 1958, while Audrey Hepburn lived in Tolochenaz, near Morges, from 1963. Vladimir Nabokov spent the last sixteen years of his life in Montreux (after 1961); and Graham Greene died in Vevey in 1991. Of the dozens of pop musicians who’ve dabbled with second, third or fourth houses on the lake, Freddie Mercury had a particularly soft spot for Montreux, and returned many times during the last ten years of his life.

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