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Literary Whitby, Famous Writers Inspired By Whitby

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There are a few unsung literary figures who deserve a special mention. Here is a selection of famous writers inspired by Whitby.

Beyond Bram Stoker, a few unsung literary figures deserve special mention. Whitby has an atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the world. Surrounded by the engulfing North York Moors and guarded by the North Sea. Whitby has a lot to inspire, intrigue, and spark the imagination of writers worldwide.

Varna To Whitby Dracula.

Local writers

Here is a selection of local writers we came across in a past text titled Whitby Steps and Stones.

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Brenda English

Several local writers have written extensively about Whitby and the surrounding area. Brenda English, whose novels include ‘Hob of High Farndale’, ‘The Sins of the Fathers’, ‘The Proper Standard’, and ‘Crying in the Wilderness’. Incorporate local legends, folklore, and dialect.

Mary Linskill

Mary Linskill, commemorated with a plaque outside the south porch of the Parish church. Wrote numerous romantic novels about her hometown, including ‘The Haven Under the Hill’ and ‘Between the Heather and the Northern Sea’.

Leo Walmsley

Leo Walmsley’s realistic style provides an insight into the lives of fishermen on the North Yorkshire coast. From Ravenscar to Staithes, in books like ‘Three Fevers’, ‘The Phantom Lobster’, ‘The Foreigners’, and ‘Sally Lunn’.

Storm Jameson

Storm Jameson, born in Whitby, wrote a trilogy focused on ship-building in the town. Comprising ‘Danesacre’, ‘The Lovely Ship’, and ‘The Voyage Home’, and also penned ‘A Richer Dust’, another book on Whitby. Her other novels tackle broader themes, reflecting her passion for travel and her concern with cruelty and treachery.

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell Sylvia's Lovers.

Under her pen name, Mrs Gaskell wrote many novels in the 1800s that won critical acclaim. Sylvia’s Lovers is set in the fictional town of Monkshaven, a.k .a. Whitby.

It’s 1790 Whitby, and the whaling industry is in full swing. This is the backdrop for a romantic novel that charts the exploits of the press gang during the French Wars as two men attempt to win the favour of a beautiful young woman.

Mrs Gaskell stayed at No.1 Abbey Terrace for a brief visit in 1859. This was the foundation for her description of Whitby. The home belonged to the ‘Railway King’, George Hudson, who had grand visions for Whitby as a tourist centre.

While not entirely factually correct, Sylvia’s Lovers is well worth a read for the modern-day Whitby lover.

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Lewis Carroll

Alice in Wonderland.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a regular visitor to Whitby, staying at No. 5 East Terrace on at least seven occasions. Dodgson is famously known as Lewis Carroll. The creator of the beautiful stories Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

It is said that Whitby was where the poem ‘Walrus and the Carpenter‘ was first penned. On his visit in 1854, Carroll was likely experimenting with storytelling, particularly stories for children.

No.5 East Terrace today is run as a boutique hotel. La Rosa, with its seafront views, literary pedigree, and quirky interior, is a fine place to take an afternoon tea in a true Yorkshire-style mad hatters tea party.

Let us know your thoughts on literary Whitby in the comments below.

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Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens a Christmas Carol.

Dickens’s connection to Whitby begins with the dedication in the novel Domeby and Sons, which was serialised monthly between 1846 and 1848. Charles counted among his friends the Marquis and Marchioness of Normanby; it was to the Marchioness that the dedication was made.

On a visit to North Yorkshire to stay with the Marquis and Marchioness at Mulgrave Castle, Dickens found inspiration for characters and places in several of his novels.

The counting house of Scrooge, the protagonist of A Christmas Carol, is first encountered in Malton on Chancery Lane. He was in the town to visit another friend, Charles Smithson, a lawyer practising in Malton.

Dickens encountered a lady on whom Mrs Sarah Gamp is based

It was at the home of Mr Smithson, Easthope Hall, that Dickens encountered a lady on whom the alcoholic midwife and nurse, Mrs Sarah Gamp, is based. That novel, of course, was Martin Chuzzlewit.

After the funeral of Mr Smithson in 1844, Dickens was invited by the Lord of Normanby to stay once more at Mulgrave Castle. On this visit, the pair travelled the countryside around Whitby and dined at the White Horse and Griffin.

Dickens subsequently advocated for Whitby, encouraging his friend Wilkie Collins to visit in 1861. Collins and Dickens were very popular and successful authors in the nineteenth century. Collins, less remembered than his counterpart, was, in his day, the height of fashion to read.

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Bram Stoker

Dracula Hardcover.

Despite being published in 1897, the novel ‘Dracula’ has never been out of print. While the descriptions of Whitby in the novel are brief, the opening chapters make it clear that Whitby inspires the story. One of the must-visit places in Whitby is the ruins of Whitby Abbey, which have a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere that is perfect for any gothic horror story.

Whitby Abbey is a significant location in the story of Dracula. Stoker included many references to Whitby in his novel, including the 199 steps leading up to the Abbey. In the form of a dog, Dracula runs up the steps after his ship is wrecked on Tate Hill Sands. Tate Hill Pier is another location referenced in Dracula.

Local legends also play a role in the story of Dracula in Whitby. From the grounding of the Demeter at Tate Hill Sands to the first attack of Dracula on Lucy on the ‘suicide seat,’ the action in the sleepy fishing port of Whitby is intense and gripping.

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We could go on and on!

Sir Walter Scott found great inspiration in the legends of St. Hilda, which led him to write his poem ‘Marmion’ based on that theme. Meanwhile, two plays by Peter Terson, ‘The 1861 Whitby Lifeboat Disaster’ and ‘The Fishing Party’, take place in Whitby. Terson lived in Whitby for a year or two, which allowed him to portray the tragic events of the nineteenth century authentically in his works.

It is clear that Whitby has played a significant role in inspiring some of the world’s most renowned writers. From Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” the town’s hauntingly beautiful landscape and rich history have left quite a mark on literature.

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