Derbyshire's Literary Connections - Famous Writers with a Derbyshire ConnectionDerbyshire's Literary Connections
Famous Writers with a Derbyshire Connection


Derbyshire's Literary Connections

Famous Writers with a Derbyshire Connection

Richmal Crompton 1890 - 1969

Richmal Crompton Lamburn, author, was born on 15 November 1890 on the outskirts of Bury, Lancashire, the second child of a clergyman, the Revd Edward John Sewell Lamburn, and his wife Clara (née Crompton).

Richmal was educated at St Elphin’s, a boarding school for daughters of the clergy in Warrington, Lancashire. A former convent, the school had a resident ghost. After the building was condemned, the school moved to Darley Dale in Derbyshire in 1904. ‘It was larger and healthier and we loved the moors, but we missed our ghost,’ wrote Richmal. After taking her degree at the Royal Holloway College in Surrey, Richmal returned to St Elphin’s as the classics mistress in 1914, later moving to Bromley High School.

In 1923 Richmal was struck with polio. She lost the use of her right leg and remained lame for the rest of her life. Teaching proved a strain because of her condition and so she gave it up to concentrate on her writing.The William stories had been born in 1919. They were originally written for adults and published in Home Magazine and the Happy Mag. Twelve of the stories, collected in book form and published by George Newnes in 1922 as 'Just William', were aimed at the juvenile market, and the rest is history.

Roald Dahl 1916-1990

Roald Dahl, best selling author of 25 books for both children and adults, came to stay as a boarder at Repton School in South Derbyshire in January 1930 and remained there until July 1934. He lived at the Priory on High Street in the village.

He was remembered by his schoolmates as a tall, soft faced boy, not especially popular but very close to the few boys who became his friends.

He and his actress wife Patricia Neal had 5 children and he attributed his success as a writer of childrens books to them.

His works included The Gremlins, 1943; James and the Giant Peach, 1961; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1964; The Magic Finger, 1966 and Fantastic Mr.Fox, 1970. He wrote some of his best works during the last seven years of his life, The BFG, The Witches and Matilda.

He died in Oxford, in 1990.

George Eliot 1819 - 1880

George Eliot was the pseudonym of Mary Ann or Marian Evans, English novelist, born in Arbury, Warwickshire. One of the great English novelists, writing about life in small rural towns, George Eliot was primarily concerned with the responsibility that people assume for their lives and with the moral choices they must inevitably make. Although highly serious, her novels are marked by compassion and a subtle humor.

Three of her novels dealing with provincial life are Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861), but it was Middlemarch (1871-72), a portrait of life in a provincial town, that is considered to be her masterpiece.

Samuel Evans and his wife Elizabeth came to live in Wirksworth in Derbyshire in about 1814 in order for Samuel to take up employment as a manager at Haarlam Mill. George Eliot was the niece of Samuel and Elizabeth and came to stay with her aunt and uncle in 1826. It is generally thought that Wirksworth is the backdrop of her novel Adam Bede, refering to Derbyshire as Stoneyshire, Wirksworth as Snowfield and Ashbourne as Oakbourne and that Samuel and his wife were portrayed as Adam Bede and Dinah Morris.

An explanatory leaflet which provides much detail on the Wirksworth - Adam Bede connection is obtainable from the Wirkworth Heritage Centre.

Llewellynn Jewitt 1816 - 86

Llewellynn Jewitt was born at Kimberworth, Rotherham, on November 24th 1816, the seventeenth child of school master Arthur Jewitt and his wife Martha. Two years later the family moved to Duffield in Derbyshire where he received his education, largely from his father.

Jewitt worked with the engraver F.W. Fairholt, illustrating the publications of Charles Knight, and contributing to the Pictorial Times and the Illustrated London News. For a time he had management of the illustrations in Punch.

In 1849 he became the chief librarian of Plymouth Public Library before returning to Derbyshire in 1853 where he edited the Derby Telegraph, and in 1860 founded the antiquarian magazine 'The Reliquary' which he edited until his death.

He was a member of the British Archaeological Association and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and he became a prolific writer on English antiquities and topography. He was the editor to the '1872 Black's Guide to Derbyshire', a tourist guide to 'It's Town's, Watering-Places, Dales & Mansions'. His most memorable achievement was, however, The Ceramic Art of Great Britain, published in 1878 but which had teken 20 years to compile.

Llewellynn died at The Hollies, Duffield on June 5 1886.

Samuel Johnson 1709 - 1784

1709-84, English author, b. Lichfield. The leading literary scholar and critic of his time, Johnson helped to shape and define the Augustan Age. He was equally celebrated for his brilliant and witty conversation. His rather gross appearance and manners were viewed tolerantly, if not with a certain admiration.

Samuel Johnson, poet, essayist and lexicographer, was born in Litchfield, son of a book seller, who himself was born in Great Cubley in Derbyshire.

Johnson lived and worked in Litchfield for a time as a teacher and a bookseller and married Mrs Elisabeth Porter, who was 20 years his senior, in St Werburghs Church, Derby, in 1735.

He moved to London 2 years later and earned some reknown as a prose moralist, notably with his periodical essays 'The Rambler' and The idler', and later with his philosophical romance 'The Prince of Abysinia, later known as Rasselas.

Johnson's most famous work was the 'Dictionary of the English Language', published in 1755, which remained without rivel until the creation of the Oxford Englidh Dictionary, over a hundred years later. Johnson wrote the definition of over 40,000 words illustrating them with 114,000 quotations from every field of learning.

With James Boswell, who was later to become his biographer, he travelled in Scotland and published his observation's in 'A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland'. It has been suggested that he was in person slovenly, in manner abrupt and even rude, driven by fears of insanity and damnation, suffering from hypochondria, but he emerges from Boswell's Life as a man of essential kindness, generosity, and sociability.

His biographical essays of English poets were published in 1781 as 'The Live's of the Poets'.

He visited Derbyshire on many ocassions, sometimes staying with his friend Dr John Taylor who lived at 'the Mansion' in Church Street, Ashbourne. He also stayed at numerous inn's in the county.

He died in 1784 and was burried at Westminster Abbey having been one of the outstanding figures of 18th century life and letters.

D.H.Lawrence 1885 - 1930

D. H. Lawrence lived and worked at Mountain Cottage in Middleton-by-Wirksworth for several years. His story "The Virgin and the Gypsy" was made into a film using the village of Youlgreave and Beeley Moor for its main setting. Other films using the Derbyshire Dales as their location include Women in Love, The Princess Bride, Lady Jane Grey and The Chronicles of Narnia.

David Herbert Lawrence, better known as D.H.Lawrence the novelist, poet and painter, was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire in 1885, son of a miner.

His mother, Lydia Lawrence, whose family the Beardsalls had originally came from Wirksworth in Derbyshire, encouraged him to obtain an education. After attending a local Board School he won a scholarship to Nottingham High School. He left at 16 and found work as a clerk. In 1902 he left his office job and became a pupil teacher at a school in Eastwood. He then attended Nottingham University College where in 1908 he qualified as a teacher and went to work in Croyden.

The following year, Lawrence had some poems published in The English Review, whose editor also helped Lawrence to have his first novel 'The White Peacock' published. Sons and Lovers was published in 1913 and it established his reputation as a writer. In 1912 he eloped with Frieda Weekley, the German wife of a professor at Nottingham University and a cousin of Baron von Richthofen. They went to live in Cornwall but when unfounded accusations were made that they were spying for Germany, they were given notice to leave.

After brief spells in London and Berkshire they moved to Derbyshire in 1918 where they lived for 12 months at Mountain Cottage, on the outskirts of Middleton by Wirksworth. Here he wrote 'Wintery Peacock', a short romantic story about Ible, a small hamlet near to whee they were staying.

After Derbyshire they travelled extensively and 'The Kangaroo' was published after a stay in Australia, and 'The Plumed Serpent', in 1926, after living for several years in New Mexico.

Lawrence explored martital relationships in 'The Rainbow' and 'Women in Love', and in more explicit detail in 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' in 1928. It was printed privately in Florence and not allowed to be published in the Uk, until 1961.

Lawrence died of tuberculosis in France in 1930.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 - 1778

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on June 28, 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland. His mother died shortly after his birth. When Rousseau was 10 his father fled from Geneva to avoid imprisonment for a minor offense, leaving young Jean-Jacques to be raised by an aunt and uncle. Rousseau left Geneva at 16, wandering from place to place, finally moving to Paris in 1742. He earned his living during this period, working as everything from footman to assistant to an ambassador.

Rousseau's profound insight can be found in almost every trace of modern philosophy today. Somewhat complicated and ambiguous, Rousseau's general philosophy tried to grasp an emotional and passionate side of man which he felt was left out of most previous philosophical thinking.

Rousseau's "The Social Contract" describes the relationship of man with society. Contrary to his earlier work, Rousseau claimed that the state of nature is brutish condition without law or morality, and that there are good men only a result of society's presence. In the state of nature, man is prone to be in frequent competition with his fellow men. Because he can be more successful facing threats by joining with other men, he has the impetus to do so. He joins together with his fellow men to form the collective human presence known as "society." "The Social Contract" is the "compact" agreed to among men that sets the conditions for membership in society.

Rousseaus's progressive ideas had already seeen him hounded out of several European Countries when in January 1766 the philospher David Hume invited him to take refuge in England.He was offered the use of Richard Davenports country mansion,Wootton Hall, and moved in on march 22nd. He developed a passion for studing the flora of the area and would often walk the 7 miles to Dovedale with his dog. Dovedale became one of his favourite haunts.

He became friends with a 22 year old baronet's son Brooke Boothby of Ashbourne Hall and enjoyed the company of Lady Dorothy Cavendish, daughter of the 4th Duke of Devonshire. However paranoid that someone was out to kill him he departed hastily in May of the same year. Brooke Boothby visited him in Paris ten years later and Rousseau entrusted the recently written 'Dialogues', to him on the condition it was not published until after his death. Boothby dutifully saw this work published in 1780.

John Ruskin 1819 - 1900

John Ruskin, the son of a prosperous wine merchant, was born in London in 1819. After being educated at home he studied at Oxford University where he won the Newdigate prize for poetry.

John Ruskin often visited Matlock and Matlock Bath ( staying at the New Matlock Bath Hotel in 1826) as a child and called the county 'a lovely child's first alphabet; an alluring first lesson in all thats is admirable'. His words made the Peak District a fashionable place to visit again.

In his time he considered to be Britain's leading writer on culture having many works published on architecture, art and painters, as well as political works.

The building of the Midland Line through Monsal Dale in 1863 was the cause of one of Ruskin's most famous outbursts. 'There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the Vale of Tempe...You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley - you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton'.

Edith Sitwell 1887 - 1964

In the twentieth century the Sitwell family from Renishaw became famous through the writings of Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell, the three gifted children of the eccentric Sir George and Lady Ida Sitwell.

Edith Sitwell was famous for her wit and her eccentric appearance. Her poetry, strongly influenced by the French symbolists, ranges from the artificial and clever verse of her early years to the deeper and more religious poems of her maturity. Collections of her work include Clowns' Houses (1918), Rustic Elegies (1927), Gold Coast Customs (1929), The Song of the Cold (1948), Façade, and Other Poems, 1920-1935 (1950), Gardeners and Astronomers (1953), and The Outcasts (1962). Her Collected Poems appeared in 1954. Façade, characterized by ragtime rhythms and abstract word patterns, was set to music by William Walton and first read by her in 1922. Important among her critical works are Poetry and Criticism (1925), Aspects of Modern Poetry (1934), and A Poet's Notebook (1943), a collection of aphorisms on the art of poetry. Other prose works include Alexander Pope (1930); The English Eccentrics (1933); I Live under a Black Sun (1937), a novel about Jonathan Swift; and Fanfare for Elizabeth (1946) and The Queens and the Hive (1962), biographies of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1954 she was made dame of the British Empire

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