Struggling to pen down your magnum opus? Read this list of places where a few great English novelists lived, breathed and wrote their manuscripts. Who knows—it might give you some ink-spiration.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of a novel by Jane Austen must be in want of more. Even 200 years after her death, the English novelist is not only widely read till date, but also re-read frequently. Her most known work, Pride and Prejudice has been adapted time and again to film and TV. Readers can not only visit but step inside Austen’s country home in Chawton, where she wrote her classics, Pride and Prejudice, Emma , Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey, among others. The home museum now houses first editions of Jane Austen’s books, letters written by her, her personal jewellery collection, bookcases, and gasp, her great writing table. You can also visit her grave in Winchester Cathedral, and later visit the British Library in London to see parts of original manuscripts.
There are only a few places in the world where words like whizzpoppers, scrumplicious and everlasting gobstoppers are not considered gibberish. These include libraries, bookstores and most prominently, Roald Dahl’s home in Great Missenden, a small but wonderful English village. Step inside The Roald Dahl Museum, which celebrates the renowned children’s author’s made-up world. Three interactive galleries take you through his life, giving access to a recreation to his famous Writing Hut, a replica of his cushy writing chair, archives of his works, and workshops. You can smell giant chocolate doors, go through Dahl’s family photos, and create your own stories at workshops here. If you had a faint suspicion that this museum might be for children, you’re right. Although the museum claims to be aimed at 6-12 year olds, we know where we are going when we visit England.
You can also go on a countryside walk around Great Missenden and spot inspirations for many of his characters, including the library that set off Matilda’s love of reading.
In Agatha Christie’s well-plotted books, murders that take place in cold blood in sleepy old English towns, red herrings throw the reader off and nearly always, there is an elaborate reveal of the murderer. You can almost predict the feeling you’ll get by tucking into each of her novels: anticipation, slow thrill and despite the morbid theme, a sense of comfort and familiarity. It is, therefore, no surprise that best known crime writer’s place of birth is of interest and mystery to people around the world. Christie grew up and lived in the town of Torquay for most of her life, where she lived, married, wrote, socialised and spent much of her time. A guided walk takes you through the various spots formed a part of Christie’s private life in this part of the English Riviera. She even based several of her books such as Five Little Pigs in Torquay.
To take a break from her life in Torquay, Christie she often made was to her magnificent summer home in Greenway, which is now open for visitors.
Even through the fictional wizarding world of Harry Potter, JK Rowling has sprinkled England’s countryside with a bit of magic, and we are all the better for it. While there are plenty of places through the country for Potterheads to relive their fandom, one of the most loved spots is The Elephant House, a sprightly coloured cafe in Edinburgh. Rowling is said to have written down the first few manuscripts of Harry Potter here, and today it is decorated with quotes, memorabilia and more Harry Potter love. Rowling also finished the last of her series, The Death Hallows in a room inside Balmoral Hotel, now officially called the JK Rowling suite. Inside the suite is the writing desk upon which she wrote, a cover of the original book and a bust with her signature on it, which she signed in elation of finishing the project; a feeling we can only imagine!
Read more about Harry Potter-spots around the world here.
Most of us have grown up on the fictional feasts of jam and bread, lemonade and midnight picnics by the moonlight, thanks to Enid Blyton. One of the bestselling children’s writers in the world, Blyton has given us books such as The Magic Faraway Tree, Noddy, The Secret Seven and The Famous Five series as well. Despite the popularity (and controversies) that surround her, there is little fuss about Blyton’s hometown. She lived in a small town called Beaconsfield in her home, Green Hedges. It is here that she wrote the Secret Seven and Famous Five series, and if you take a walk around the village, you’ll find a commemorative plaque that was installed in Enid Blyton’s honour in 2014.
You can also visit the beautiful town of Dorset, where Blyton was reportedly inspired to write The Famous Five on a Treasure Island.
A few more:
All of England's a stage for Shakespeare, but you can begin with his birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. You can also explore Charles Dicken's life at the museum at his London home, where he wrote The Pickwick Paper, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby.