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Amazing Literary Figures Associated with Preston

From world renowned novelists, to talented poets, playwrights and political historians, there are a whole host of literary figures associated with Preston.

Whether they spent part of their lives working here, living here, or just visiting, there are some truly wonderful authors and writers who were inspired by Preston, check out some of the most famous below.

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott literary figures
source: Wikicommons by Henry Raeburn – The Bridgeman Art Library

Our first literary figure that has links to Preston is none other than Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, poet and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature, including Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Old Mortality, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor. During his lifetime, his works were popular and widely read, with readers in Europe, Australia and North America.

Preston appears in his novel, Rob Roy, set during the Jacobite rising of 1715. Political turmoil was rife in the early 18th century, with tensions and conflicts high between the Jacobites, supporters of Roman Catholic King James VII (of Scotland) and II (of England), and the Protestant ruling government. Featured in the extract on the website is part of Sir Frederick’s story, a character in the novel who is a fugitive ally of the Pretender, King James VII (of Scotland) and II (of England), He tells of the surrender of the Jacobite rebels at the Battle of Preston, where their cause failed.

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell Literary figures Preston
source: Wikicommons by By User Phrood

Elizabeth Gaskell, often referred to as Mrs Gaskell, was an English novelist, biographer, and short story writer from the Victorian era. Her work often offered a detailed portrayal of the lives of many strata of Victorian society, especially the very poor.

She focused on social class in the North of England and some of Gaskell’s best-known novels include Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters. The strike that features in her industrial novel North and South has strong links to the Preston strike of 1853-4 that closed the cotton industry for seven months.

Anthony Burgess

Anthony Burgess Preston literary figures
source: Wikicommons by Open Media Ltd.

Born in Lancashire, Anthony Burgess is best known for his dystopian satirical novel, A Clockwork Orange. In 1971, it was adapted into a major film by director Stanley Kubrick, which is how it gained worldwide recognition.

In his early life, Burgess was a lecturer of Speech and Drama at the Bamber Bridge Emergency Teacher Training College, near Preston. The institution was part of a post-war initiative to train ex-soldiers to be qualified teachers and during his time there, Burgess trained around 360 men to be teachers.

As well as the smash hit A Clockwork Orange, Burgess produced numerous other novels, including the Enderby quartet and Earthly Powers, regarded by many critics as his greatest novel.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens
source: Wikicommons by Francis Alexander, 1842

Next up in our list of the most amazing literary figures that are linked to Preston is the hugely popular Charles Dickens. A wonderful talent of the Victorian period, Dickens visited Preston as a journalist in January 1854 during the Preston strike of 1853-4, which closed the cotton industry for seven months. During his visit, he stayed at the Old Bull Hotel, which is now known as the Bull and Royal on Church Street.

After this first visit, Dickens was taken by the place and his fascinating novel Hard Times was set in a fictional place called Coketown, which he later revealed was based on Preston.

Thomas de Quincey

Thomas de Quincey
source: Wikicommons by Public Domain

Thomas de Quincey was an amazingly talented English essayist, best known for his autobiographical book Confessions of an English Opium Eater. It explores addiction and how he struggled with dependency on alcohol and opium. Many scholars suggest that in publishing this work, De Quincey inaugurated the tradition of addiction literature in the West.

Perhaps a rather loose link, but in his hugely successful essay The English Mail-Coach, described as a “three-part masterpiece” and “one of his most magnificent works” he mentions our very own Preston!

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
source: Wikicommons by USCapitol

Next up is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and yes, he has links with Preston too! An American polymath, leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humourist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat, Franklin was a hugely influential figure.

Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment.

During his life, he spent some time living in Preston and even has a blue plaque on Orchard Street, it’s just above the Café Nero entrance, facing St. George’s shopping centre.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare
source: Wikicommons by By John Taylor

Last but certainly not least on our guide to literary figures associated with Preston is the wonderful William Shakespeare.

Widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist, Shakespeare is reported to have visited Preston and stayed in Hoghton Tower, a beautiful Grade I listed building located near the city. It is said that he was inspired by the romantic ruin and wrote the short story George Silverman’s Explanation which is about a boy in a cellar in Preston who moves to the grounds of Hoghton Tower.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to some of the most famous literary figures and authors associated with Preston, who would have thought that all of these big names visited and were inspired by our city!

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