The Literary Scene

Bermuda has long been a haven for writers, and has figured in many works of literature, beginning with Shakespeare's The Tempest. Shakespeare never visited the island himself but was inspired to set his play here by accounts he had read or heard of the island.

The Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852), who visited Bermuda for several months in 1804, was moved by its beauty to write:

Oh! could you view the scenery dear That now beneath my window lies.

Moore left more memories -- literary and romantic -- than any other writer who came to Bermuda. He once stayed at Hill Crest Guest House in St. George and soon became enamored of Nea Tucker, the adolescent bride of one of the most prominent men in town. "Sweet Nea! Let us roam no more," he once wrote of his beloved.


It's said that the lovesick poet would gaze for hours upon Nea's veranda, hoping that she'd appear. One day a jealous Mr. Tucker could tolerate this no more and banished the poet from his property. Moore was chased down a street that now bears the name Nea's Alley to commemorate his unrequited romance.

Today, one of the most popular restaurants in Bermuda is Tom Moore's Tavern. The building was once the home of Samuel Trott, who constructed it in the 17th century. Unlike Tucker, the descendants of Samuel Trott befriended Moore, who often visited the house. Moore immortalized the calabash tree on the Trott estate in his writing; he liked to sit under it and write his verse there.

Following in Moore's footsteps, many famous writers visited Bermuda in later years. None, however, have left their mark on the island like Tom Moore.


For Americans, it was Mark Twain who helped make Bermuda a popular tourist destination. He published his impressions in the Atlantic Monthly in 1877 through 1878, and in his first book, The Innocents Abroad. He became so enchanted by the island that, as he wrote many years later to a correspondent, he would happily choose it over heaven.

After Twain, Eugene O'Neill came to Bermuda in 1924, and returned several more times, at least through 1927. While here, he worked on The Great God Brown, Lazarus Laughed, and Strange Interlude. O'Neill was convinced that cold weather adversely affected his ability to write. He thought that Bermuda would "cure" him of alcoholism. At first, O'Neill and his family rented cottages on what is now Coral Beach Club property. Later, O'Neill bought the house "Spithead," in Warwick. In 1927, however, his marriage ended, and O'Neill left his family -- and Bermuda.

During the 1930s, several eminent writers made their way to Bermuda, in hopes of finding idyllic surroundings and perhaps a little inspiration: Sinclair Lewis, who spent all his time cycling around "this gorgeous island"; Hervey Allen, who wrote Anthony Adverse, his best-selling novel, at Felicity Hall in Somerset; and James Ramsey Ullman, who wrote The White Tower on the island. James Thurber also made several visits to Bermuda during this time.


In 1956, Noël Coward came with his longtime companion, Graham Payn, to escape "the monstrously unjust tax situation in England." He was not, he said, "really mad about the place," yet he purchased "Spithead" in Warwick (O'Neill's former home) and stayed some 2 years, working on London Mornings, his only ballet, and the musical Sail Away. "Spithead" is now privately owned.

Other well-known authors who visited Bermuda over the years include Rudyard Kipling, C. S. Forester, Hugh Walpole, Edna Ferber, Anita Loos, John O'Hara, E. B. White, and Philip Wylie.

Bermuda's own writers include William S. Zuill -- a former director of the Bermuda National Trust who wrote The Story of Bermuda and Her People, an excellent historical account -- and Nellie Musson, Frank Manning, Eva Hodgson, and Dale Butler, who have written about the lives of African Bermudians.


Royalty Comes to "Shangri-La" -- The Irish poet Thomas Moore and the American humorist Mark Twain publicized the glories of Bermuda, but -- for the British, at least -- the woman who put Bermuda on the tourist map was Princess Louise. The daughter of Queen Victoria, she spent several months in Bermuda in 1883. Her husband was the governor-general of Canada, so she traveled to Bermuda to escape the fierce northern cold. Although Bermuda hosted many royal visitors in the 20th century, including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Louise was the first royal personage to set foot in the colony. When she returned to Canada, she told reporters that she'd found the Shangri-La of tourist destinations.

Recommended Reading

Most of the books listed below have been printed in Bermuda. Thus, while they're readily available on the island, they may be hard to find in the United States and elsewhere.

The Mysterious Bermuda Triangle -- Many writers have attempted to explain the Bermuda Triangle. None has sufficiently done so yet, but all of these books make good reads for those of us intrigued by this tantalizing mystery.


The best of the lot is The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved (Prometheus Books) by Larry Kusche. It's a good read even though it doesn't actually "solve" the mystery. A mass-market paperback, Atlantis: Bermuda Triangle (Berkley Publishing Group), by Greg Donegan, also digs into the puzzle; as does another paperback, The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle (Heineman Library), by Chris Oxlade.

Art & Architecture -- For Bermuda style, both inside the house and outside, two books lead the pack: Bermuda Antique Furniture and Silver, published by Bermuda National Trust; and Architecture Bermuda Style, by David R. Raine, issued by Pompano Publications.

Divers, Hikers & Shipwrecks -- Daniel Berg has written the finest book on the shipwrecks of Bermuda -- a great choice for a diver to read before actually going under the water. It's called Bermuda Shipwrecks: A Vacationing Diver's Guide to Bermuda's Shipwrecks (Aqua Explorers).


Divers might also like to pick up a copy of Marine Fauna and Flora of Bermuda (Wiley Publishing, Inc.), edited by Wolfgang Sterrer. Another good book for divers is Diving Bermuda (Aqua Quest Publications), part of the Aqua Quest Diving Series, this one authored by Jesse Concelmo and Michael Strohofer. Its second edition is the most up-to-date of all the sports guides to Bermuda.

History -- In Bermuda's bookstores, you can find several books devoted to the colorful history of the island. Making for the best reads are the following titles: The Rich Papers -- Letters from Bermuda by Vernon A. Ives (Bermuda National Trust and the University of Toronto Press); Biography of a Colonial Town by Jean de Chantal Kennedy (Bermuda Bookstores Publisher); A Life on Old St. David's by Ernest A. McCallan (Bermuda Historical Society); Chained on the Rock: Slavery in Bermuda by Cyril O. Packwood (Baxters); and Bermuda's Story by Terry Tucker (Bermuda Bookstores Publisher).

Flora & Fauna -- If you're a devotee of Mother Nature, seek out Bermuda Houses and Gardens by Ann B. Brown and Jean Outerbridge (Garden Club of Bermuda); Bermuda: Her Plants and Gardens 1609-1850 by Jill Collett (Macmillan Caribbean); and A Guide to the Reef, Shore, and Game Fish of Bermuda (self-published) by Louis S. Mowbray.


Fiction -- One of the most sensitive portraits, capturing Bermuda of long ago, is The Back Yard by Ann Z. Williams (Macmillan), an account of growing up in Bermuda in the 1930s and '40s.


Film buffs may be surprised to discover that Bermuda has an indirect link to the movie The Wizard of Oz -- Denslow's Island.

The privately owned island is named after W. W. Denslow, who created the original illustrations for the book on which the movie is based, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum, and thus with his pen gave form to many of the characters depicted on the screen. Denslow lived in Bermuda at the turn of the 20th century. The island, however, despite its famous association, is off limits to visitors.


Several films were shot in and around Bermuda. The most famous is The Deep (1977), starring Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Robert Shaw, and Louis Gossett, Jr., a visually arresting movie about a lost treasure and drugs and, of course, scuba diving off the island's coast. For one of the scenes, a lighthouse near the Grotto Bay Beach Hotel and Tennis Club was blown up.

A movie that was filmed partly in Bermuda is Chapter Two (1979), with James Caan and Marsha Mason. Based on the successful Broadway play by Neil Simon, it is the story of a playwright's bumpy romance soon after the death of his wife. The Bermuda scenes were shot at Marley Beach Cottages.


Modern Bermudian music, which you hear today mainly in hotel lounges, is a blend of traditional Bermudian music with sounds from Jamaica, Trinidad, and Puerto Rico, as well as the United States and Britain. However, these aren't the sounds you'll predominantly hear: As elsewhere, American and British rock, modified by local rhythms, has proved the strongest and most lasting influence.


Visitors are often pleased to discover that the island's best-known singers and musicians can be heard at many of the hotels and nightclubs. Inquire about which local artist is performing during the cocktail hour at your hotel; chances are it may be one of the most popular.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.