11 Times Kent Inspired Great Authors
Kent's sweeping landscapes, bustling cities and stunning castles and manor houses have been inspiring writers, from Austen to Shakespeare, for centuries. 2017 marks the year of Literary Heroes, so there seems no better time to celebrate and follow the footsteps of some of the literary giants inspired by our glorious county!
One of the most widely read writers in English literature, Jane Austen spent much time in Kent and drew inspiration from the landscape. Her connections with country house life provided inspiration for some of her most famous novels of romantic fiction, and it was her time at Goodnestone Park and Godmersham Park where she began writing classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells was also the filming location for the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice staring Keira Knightley.
Geoffrey Chaucer and Canterbury
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are known throughout the world, detailing the journey of a band of storytellers along the Pilgrims Way to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the tomb of murdered Archbishop, Thomas Becket. Visit Canterbury and you'll find Chaucer’s tales and the sights, sounds and smells of medieval England can all be rediscovered at The Canterbury Tales attraction in the historic city.
Charles Dickens, Rochester, Thanet and Canterbury
Kent was the home and inspiration of the great Charles Dickens. The author lived for many years at Rochester and the city features heavily in his writings, such as Eastgate House, and The Guildhall where Pip was indentured as an apprentice - now a museum dedicated to Dickens. On his visits to Canterbury, he would stay at the Sun Inn, close to the Cathedral. And in Broadstairs, Dickens House Museum celebrates his long-standing love of the seaside town, also home to the famous Bleak House
Playwright Christopher Marlowe was born in St George's Street, Canterbury and gained a scholarship to the noted King's School. The 1,200 seat Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury was named in his honour.
Fleming moved to St Margaret’s Bay, with his wife-to-be Anne Rothermere and their son Casper. The surrounding area was used as inspiration for Bond novels including the white cliffs at St Margaret’s and Kingsdown as the site of the missile Moonraker.
Critically acclaimed author David Mitchell began his career in Canterbury, where he worked in Waterstones book shop. He studied literature at the University of Kent and has enjoyed great success as an author since leaving Kent, with works including Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, which is partly set in Kent.
Joseph Conrad is considered as one of England's great writers and in his later years he moved to the Canterbury district and lived at the Rectory next to Bishopsbourne Church. His funeral mass took place at St Thomas' Roman Catholic church, and he is buried in the Canterbury Cemetery.
H E Bates
H.E. was a keen and knowledgeable gardener and wrote numerous books on flowers, but his most popular creation was the Larkin family in The Darling Buds of May. Pop Larkin and his family were inspired by a colourful character seen in a local shop in Kent when Bates and his family were on holiday. The popular TV series was filmed in Pluckley and Smarden.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Groombridge Place estate in Kent has connections with world-famous novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He visited the estate often, using it as the setting of his last Sherlock Holmes novel - The Valley of Fear - although he renamed it ‘Birlstone Manor’ for the purposes of the book.
The author of the famous children’s book, the Railway Children lived in Halstead as a child and is said to have sat on the banks of the nearby railway line, watching the miners digging the long tunnel under the North Downs. The author later relocated to St Mary’s Bay, where she spent her final years. Her grave can be seen in the churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh.