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24 September 2014

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You are in: Shropshire > Entertainment > Books > Write Stuff > Shropshire's literary connections

The Wrekin at dawn

Shropshire's literary connections

Living in a county as scenic as Shropshire, you will not be surprised to find that our beautiful patch of England has been the inspiration to many great writers and has a remarkably rich literary heritage.

Some of nation's greatest writers, such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, have used Shropshire to symbolise rural isolation and tranquillity.

Novelists, poets and dramatists, religious writers, travel writers and folklorists have all been inspired by Shropshire. From A.E.Housman to D.H Lawrence, you will find places in Shropshire cropping up in many famous author's work.

A.E. Housman (1859 - 1936)


Perhaps the writer most closely associated with Shropshire is A.E. Housman. You may be surprised to know that when he wrote 'A Shropshire Lad,' he had never even set foot in the county. That cycle of poems was in part, inspired by the views of Shropshire's "blue-remembered hills" from his home in Bromsgrove.

Housman's evocation of the county is romantic and idealised and he makes great play on the sounds of place-names,

"Clunbury, Clunton, Clungunford and Clun,
the quietest places under the sun"

He name-drops with little regard for topographical accuracy. Literary pilgrims will never find "the vane on Hughley steeple" it has a tower, and Housman was describing a different church anyway!

But somehow this does not seem to matter. Housman's idyllic world lives on in our hearts. He is buried in the graveyard of St Lawrence's Church in Ludlow.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)


Author of "Robinson Crusoe," was an intrepid traveller and discriminating observer of the Britain of his day, Defoe's "Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain" includes observations on Whitchurch and Shrewsbury.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)


Creator of the first dictionary travelled through Shropshire en route to North Wales. He stopped off at Hawkestone Park, where he waxed lyrical on the grounds, the grottoes and the follies.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)


Preached his probationary sermon in the Unitarian Church in Shrewsbury, with William Hazlitt in the congregation.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)


stayed in Shropshire many times and wrote of the Lion Hotel, on Shrewsbury's Wyle Cop, and of the Roman City at Wroxeter. Miss Havisham in 'Great Expectations' was based on Elizabeth Parker of Chetwynd Hall and Little Nell from "The Old Curiosity Shop" is buried in an apocryphal grave in Tong churchyard.

Dramatists


"The Plain Dealer" and "The Country Wife" - both satirical dramas - form part of the work of William Wycherley (1640-1716), who was born at Clive Hall, near Wem, of a long established Shropshire family. Though he spent the bulk of his working life in London, he retreated frequently to Shropshire, to avoid his creditors.

George Farquhar (1678-1707)

George Farquhar was  an army officer, Farquhar made many trips to the county to enlist new men for the regiments and immortalised his experiences in "The Recruiting Officer", which he dedicated to "all friends round the Wrekin".

Randolph Caldecott Malcolm Saville (1901-1982)

Author of the much-loved "Lone Pine" series is amongst many contemporary children's writers from this area including Ivan Jones, Dorothy McNeith, Anne Turnbull, Pauline Fik and Sheena Porter, whose "Nordy Band" won the Carnegie medal in 1964.

As for novelists, Stanley Weyman, Mary Cholmondeley, Stella Benson and Barbara Pym are, perhaps, all overshadowed by Mary Webb (1881-1927), who was born at Leighton. During her lifetime she achieved some reputation, but only became a best-seller after her death. Her novels, all founded in the reality of a life-long acquaintance with Shropshire, will strike a chord with anyone who knows and loves the county.

Born in Dawley, Edith Pargeter, writing as Ellis Peters, has become world-renowned for her creation "Brother Cadfael", the medieval sleuth. The books have initiated tours, tourist attractions and a television series.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918),

Wilfred Owen who was born at Plas Wilmot, Oswestry, Shropshire can boast the finest war poet of his generation. He spent his teenage years in Shrewsbury, joining the Artist's Rifles in 1915. The horrors of trench warfare, which he experience in the Somme offensive of 1916 produced poems of the highest quality, "Dulce et Decorum Est", "Strange Meeting" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth". Owen was killed in action, just one week before the Armistice.

last updated: 15/05/2008 at 12:35
created: 29/03/2005

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