As a native English speaker, and one who studied English literature at that, reading books that come from England, are set there, or have been written by an English author is not exactly a stretch. Even without meaning to there are plenty that could be read in an English class, a book club, or just as a random selection. And even if you disregard Shakespeare, Lewis, Carroll, Tolkien, the canonical oldies that nearly everyone has had a picking from (plus many more), what of modern popular reads such as Rowling, Gaiman, or Adams (just to name a few)? It’s highly improbable that someone attending school in a predominantly English speaking country has not read something by an English author. And many others have probably read their works in translation if not in English.
But whichever author you may have read, many of their homesteads, influences, and even favourite watering holes are still standing all over the country. Sure, there may be a few upgrades to keep them running, or they may now be converted into museums or historical landmarks. They may even be entire cities that, while more modern, retain aspects of what they were in the time they impacted an author. Even so, these things are still there in some manner or other for you to visit. So here, instead of specific works, are some locations across the nation that would have influenced some of our well known English authors.
- Shakespeare’s Birthplace – Stratford-upon-Avon | This entire little town is a devotional to the famous Bard. You can walk around the city and see the home where he was born as well as other relevant buildings to his life from the outside, or purchase a pass to walk around inside these homes and gardens. And if you stop in one of the many pubs you are sure to see further references to his works.
- “The Bird and Baby” – Oxford | This pub is actually called The Eagle and Child, but the slang term of bird and baby reflects both the name and the image of a bird making off with a baby which acts as sign to this establishment. The significance of this fabulous little bar (with a bunch of unique rooms that seem sort of stuck onto each other) is that it is where authors JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis used to get together for drinks and discussion. It was one of my personal musts!
- Jane Austen Centre – Bath | This museum and tea room chronicles Jane Austen’s time in Bath complete with replica clothing, but it is not the most important connection Austen had here. The city of Bath itself was an influence for Austen’s novels in the small time that she lived in the city. As you move around you can see similar parts of the city that Austen included in some works while at the very least mentioned in others. The building is important, but the city more so.
- The Globe Theatre – London | While not technically the original Globe, this theatre is a replica of the theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were once shown in his own time. Even today you can see one of his works performed and be a “groundling” after getting a tour of the theatre itself. Sadly there was nothing on while I was there, but it was still worth a visit, especially for any fan of the Bard.
- 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes Museum) – London | Located at the actual address of 221B Baker Street is a multi-floored museum dedicated to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, each floor depicting either Holmes’s apartment or a scene from one of the many stories. The bottom floor is a store, but everything above is part of the museum. Very cool to see everything come to fake life.