Beard's Roman Women

Scope and Content

This series consists of fragments of drafts of the novel; a copy of an illustrated title-page by Burgess; and 20 photographic prints of reflective images by David Robinson which inspired the novel.

Administrative / Biographical History

First published in the UK in 1976, the novel Beard's Roman Women is set in Rome and tells the story of Ronald Beard, a middle-aged screenwriter with a passion for the poet Giuseppe Giacchino Belli's verse, who is haunted by his deceased wife's spirit. He falls in love with Paola Lucrezia Belli, a photographer, who is a direct descendant of the poet.

The novel is inspired by a series of images taken by the photographer David Robinson. Robinson visited Burgess in 1975, while seeking an author who would write a preface or introduction to a collection of photographs that he had taken while travelling in Italy. After their meeting, Burgess explained that he was inspired to write a novel that would incorporate some of Robinson's photographs, eventually attributed to the character of Paola Lucrezia Belli, a loose characterisation of his wife, Liana.

The typescripts of the novel are titled (in order of composition) 'Art to Come' and 'Rome in the Rain'. Beard's Roman Women was a title imposed by the novel's US publisher, and also used for the UK editions. It was not Burgess's preferred title, and all translations of the novel revert to the title, Rome in the Rain. (Several French translations, such as that published by Seghers in 1978, suggest that Burgess also considered using the title 'All Widowers are Murderers')

The Italian producer Vincenzo Labella planned to turn Beard's Roman Women into a film, which prompted Burgess to compose a score. Although the film was never produced, the proposed project spawned two compositions; Rome in the Rain and Song for Saint Cecilia's Day.