Homes of British Authors
When I read a book, I often give little thought to the author. The writer’s ability to weave a story is all that matters to me. Yet, there is something to be said for the tales that are told about their own lives. Where did they get their inspiration? Did they draw on their own experiences and surroundings? The following places are great places for bibliophiles to visit and soak up the genius of the residents.
48 Doughty Street
Although Charles Dickens is renowned for his love of Kent, some of his most famous works were written during his time in London.
This is perhaps evident in the evocative way in which he describes the city, clear in many of his works, but particularly so in Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.
The below scene describes Smithfield Market in all its vile glory as Oliver and Bill Sikes pass through.
It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above… the hideous and discordant dim that resounded from every corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng; rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses.Oliver Twist ~ Charles Dickens
Dickens and his wife moved to Doughty Street in 1837, raising three of their ten children here. The museum offers a peek into Dickens’ world, including his study, plus a treasure trove of exciting artefacts including handwritten drafts and his wife’s engagement ring. The Dickens Museum is well worth a visit and if you want a souvenir, The Curiosity Shop offers a plethora of objects to purchase (we loved the mugs and rubber duck); you can also buy a Friends of Dickens membership, which makes a great Christmas present!
Everyone has a favourite Brontë sister. Friends continue to fight over their favourite heroines: Jane versus Cathy versus Helen, but there’s no denying that the sisters made a huge contribution to literature.
Their stories of independent women still resonate today, with countless film adaptations of their works. Yet the beautiful way the sisters describe the landscape shows their love of Yorkshire and how much it inspired their creativity.
A north-midland shire, dusk with moorland, ridged with mountain: this I see. There are great moors behind and on each hand of me; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valley at my feet.Jane Eyre ~ Charlotte Brontë
I bounded, leaped, and flew down the steep road [from Wuthering Heights]; then, quitting its windings, shot direct across the moor, rolling over banks, and wading through marshes.Wuthering Heights ~ Emily Brontë
The soil was thin and poor: bits of grey rock here and there peeped out from the grassy hillocks; bilberry-plants and heather—relics of more savage wildness—grew under the walls; and in many of the enclosures, ragweeds and rushes usurped supremacy over the scanty herbage…The Tenant of Wildfell Hall ~ Anne Brontë
The Brontë Parsonage is beautifully preserved. Visitors can explore the rooms of the house and there are a variety of exhibitions to celebrate each family member (2020 marks Anne Brontë’s bicentenary). The shop offers a variety of merchandise and souvenirs to celebrate the family and their legacy.
Jane Austen’s House
The location in which Jane wrote all of her six novels is a must for any Austen lover.
After her brother Edward inherited a nearby house, he made arrangements so that his mother, two sisters and a friend could move here in 1809.
Jane lived in Chawton until a few months before her death, when she moved to Winchester in order to receive medical treatment.
The rolling hills of Hampshire provide endless walks and it’s easy to imagine Lizzy or Marion strolling determinedly through the trees.
They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley… standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; – and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance.Pride and Prejudice ~ Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s House contains a huge variety of objects, including personal possessions, letters and first editions of Jane’s books. The garden too is a delight, featuring wildflowers and plants, with plenty of picnicking spots for visitors. The gift shop offers a good selection of Austen souvenirs and in December the Museum will be holding a Virtual Birthday Tea Party.
Which of these locations have you visited? Have you travelled in the footsteps of any other authors? Or have you been inspired to write about your surroundings?