It’s safe to say that England has over centuries served as a great inspiration to many writers and poets. Its murky marshes, stunning white cliffs and vibrant city life have been depicted in novels and poems in such an intriguing way that at times it’s almost impossible not to be drawn to those places. Here’s a selection of some of the most travel-inspiring depictions of England.
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The protagonist of Woolf’s novel lives in the area of Westminster, offering the readers a glimpse into the life of this vibrant neighbourhood. Woolf writes of Westminster that ‘one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense … before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed.’ The sounds of the busy city life mingling with the striking Big Ben creates a distinctively alluring atmosphere, one that definitely inspires to visit London.
The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Wordsworth’s alluring rendition of the Lake District landscape is perhaps most appreciated in his poetic depiction of the neighbourhood of Windermere: ‘Like a vast river, stretching in the sun.
With exultation, at my feet I saw/ Lake, islands, promontories, gleaming bays,/ A universe of Nature’s fairest forms/ Proudly revealed with instantaneous burst,/ Magnificent, and beautiful, and gay.’ Now, if that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Among the places found in this Victorian classic are the rural neighbourhoods of Hertfordshire and Derbyshire. The Bennet residence in Longbourn or the Bingley residence in Netherfield Park are all imaginary locations, but what inspired them was the serene atmosphere and beautiful scenery of the English countryside. Among the real places, we find the seaside city of Brighton, a classic summer retreat for Victorians and contemporaries alike.
Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens
This is a lively account of a fictional narrator roaming the streets of London and taking in all its peculiarities to produce an image of a vibrant early 19th-century city life. Boz is curious, enthralled and, at times, annoyed by what he sees, but his humorous account is nonetheless a pleasant and engaging read – take this fragment, for instance, describing a ride in a packed omnibus: ‘the newcomer rolls about, till he falls down somewhere, and there he stops.’ A must for all London enthusiasts.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Throughout his entire career as a writer and poet, Thomas Hardy would often revisit the beautiful landscape of his native county, Dorset, and immortalize it in many of his works. After reading his Tess of the D’Urbervilles, it’s impossible not to become enchanted by the parish of Marnhull, a principal location in the novel. It’s here that we find Tess’s Cottage, St. Gregory Church and the Crown Hotel that inspired the fictional Pure Drop Inn. Another location closely connected to the novel is the stunning neighbourhood of Shaftesbury, which Hardy called ‘the city of dream’ and ‘one of the queerest and quaintest spots in England … breezy and whimsical.’
Night Haunts by Sukhdev Sandhu
In his journey through London’s night skies, Sukhdev Sandhu gives a marvellous description of Oxford Street just before dawn: ‘The streets of London are made from gold. But only at night time and only from the sky. They lie there glimmering like a Hatton Garden window display. Jewelled necklaces winking at us. At Piccadilly Circus and along Oxford Street the refracted neon gives them a ruby-red and emerald-green lustre.’ Better start packing our luggage – London by night is an eye-candy worth the trip.
About author: Sophia Beirne is an experienced traveller and an expert on British history and customs. Currently, she writes articles for sevenspots.co.uk, a website gathering all the interesting places in England.