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In October, to coincide with Halloween, we looked at Mary Shelley’s links with Bournemouth and her iconic novel Frankenstein.  But local literary history and heritage also includes a number of other rather well known names.  Here are just a few….

Author of the epic fantasy novels, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien, lived in Branksome Park and famously spent many afternoons at Bournemouth’s Miramar Hotel.  There is a Blue Plaque on the wall marking his numerous visits.  Tolkien served on The Somme in World War One, became an Oxford Don and was a global cult figure for his books.  He retired to Dorset.

In a 1972 letter, he deplored having won that cult status but admitted that “even the nose of a very modest idol … cannot remain entirely untickled by the sweet smell of incense!”.  He died in Bournemouth in September 1973.

Also in that decade, American Bill Bryson, (Notes on a Small Island) briefly worked as a sub-editor on the Daily Echo on Richmond Hill before moving to The Times.  He observed: “What I’ve been telling people for 40 years is you have an incredibly beautiful country here, so use it and value it.”

“I would like to come back and spend some time there. The Echo was the first English newspaper I worked on. It was my first grown-up job.”

Novelist, Enid Blyton spent time seeking inspiration for some of her most notable works in Dorset and Studland was where she found the inspiration for Toytown (where Noddy lived).

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in Westbourne where he lived in a house called Skerryvore.

And thanks to the Royal Bath Hotel’s visitors’ book, covering the period from December 1888 to June 1896 and now on display at the Russell-Cotes, we know that Oscar Wilde stayed at the hotel in November 1892.

And finally observations on Bournemouth from two other literary giants:

“The pines, the chines, steeply-rising cliffs, parks, gardens, heathlands, amusements, esplanades, sands, and sprawl add up to the strange unique character of Bournemouth. A fascinating, pine-scented phenomenon.” – Thomas Hardy.

“The real Bournemouth is all pines and pines and pines and flowering shrubs, lawns, begonias, azaleas, bird-song, dance tunes, the plunge of the racket and creak of the basket chair.” – John Betjeman

Image courtesy of Bournemouth Echo

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