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Is there no one who is commonplace here? Is everybody either a poet, or a genius, or a painter, or peculiar in some way?
– Anne Thackeray, daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, on a visit to the Isle of Wight in 1853 aged 16.
The Isle of Wight, with its natural beauty and many different aspects, has long held a fascination for, and inspired, authors and poets alike. The 19th Century in particular saw a vast influx of poets to the Island, focused on two small villages that were centres of the literary world.
The first, the small, sleepy village of Bonchurch near Ventnor, became popular after Sir James Clark Bt MD published a guide stating that the Undercliff's unique microclimate was perfect for restoring the health of those suffering with consumption and other chest complaints. The restful and beautiful village of Bonchurch soon became a popular spot for those convalescing from various chest illnesses. The Undercliff is a post-glacial area near the Island's southern tip high above the sea but sheltered by downs from cold winds from the north, creating a healthy and warm microclimate. This led to the construction of the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, now the site of the famed Ventnor Botanic Gardens.
The second village was Freshwater, which from 1853 was the home of one the greatest ever poets, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Although he always desired privacy and seclusion, his home soon attracted a literary circle without parallel.
The following people, presented in chronological order, all had (or in one case may have had) a literary connection with the Island:
Nicholas Udall (1504-56)
Nicholas Udall was Vicar of Calbourne in 1551. He is most famous for writing the first English comedy, Ralph Roister Doister circa 1553.
William Shakespeare? (1564-1616)
There is no evidence proving that William Shakespeare ever set foot on the Isle of Wight. Shakespeare's patron, and some critics say lover, was Sir Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Shakespeare's sonnets and love poems including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece are dedicated to Sir Henry, who had loaned him £1,000, a vast sum at the time. Although Sir Henry was sent to the Tower after supporting the Earl of Essex's rebellion, on Elizabeth I's death in 1603, King James I appointed Sir Henry Captain of the Isle of Wight, Captain of Carisbrooke Castle and Steward, Surveyor, Receiver and Bailiff of the Royal Manors on the Island. Sir Henry spent the next 20 years living at Great East Standen Manor on St George's Down, and his close friendship with Shakespeare continued, as Shakespeare certainly visited the Earl in Titchfield.
Did Shakespeare ever visit his patron and friend and write words such as This precious stone, set in a silver sea on the Island? We shall never know.
Sir William D'Avenant (1606-68)
Poet Laureate in exile Sir William D'Avenant1, godson of William Shakespeare and, according to rumour, Shakespeare's illegitimate son, had good reason to dislike the Isle of Wight. In 1650 he was held in Cowes Castle having been captured by Cromwell's Navy in the Channel while on a mission for the exiled Queen Henrietta Maria. D'Avenant was imprisoned for high treason and would have been executed had John Milton not interceded with Cromwell to save his life. While in Cowes Castle, he spent his time profitably by writing Gondibert, before being taken to be imprisoned in the Tower, from where he was released in 1652. Later, on the restoration of the monarchy, Milton himself was accused of treason and would have been executed had D'Avenant not interceded with King Charles II to save his life, thus repaying the favour.
His opera Siege Of Rhodes was the first English opera to be performed.
Dorothy Osborne (1627-95)
A young Royalist, she stayed at an inn near Carisbrooke in 1648, when the King was imprisoned. She was at the time courting Sir William Temple, who she later married on Christmas Day, 1654. At Carisbrooke she was arrested for writing Royalist slogans around the town but released. A collection of 77 of her Letters was first published in 1888.
Robert Hooke (1635-1703)
Born in Freshwater in 1635, Robert Hooke was the first Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society. He published his book Micrographia2 in 1665, containing drawings done with the aid of a microscope. These included a flea, an eye of a fly and plant cells, and was the first to use the word 'cell' in a biological context.
Henry Fielding (1707-54)
Famous for the novel Tom Jones3, Fielding visited Ryde in July 1754 and wrote about his experiences in The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon. Fielding died in Lisbon on 8 October, 1754.
John Wilkes (1725-97)
John Wilkes was a radical journalist and politician who was seen as a champion of liberty. He created the political newspaper The North Briton, which criticised the King and his policies, and was a successful politician, being Lord Mayor of London in 1774-5. He also parodied Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man with his own An Essay on Woman, which was declared to be obscene. Having made many political enemies, he retired and from 1788-97 lived in his house Villakin in Sandown. The house no longer exists, but its location on the corner of Wilkes Road and Sandown High Street is marked by a blue plaque. In America, a city, a university and two counties are named after him, as was John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
'She thinks of nothing but the Isle of Wight, and she calls it the Island, as if there were not another island in the world'
– Mansfield Park, Chapter 2
Jane Austen, who is buried in Winchester Cathedral, stayed on the Island in June 1813.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Poet Laureate Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud over to the Island in 1793, where he visited Carisbrooke Castle and saw the British fleet prepare to sail against Napoleonic France, the sight of which inspired him to write The Prelude.
I beheld the vessels lie
A brood of gallant creatures, on the deep;
I saw them in their rest, a sojourner
Through a whole month of calm and glassy days
In that delightful Island that protects
Their place of convocation.
Charles Lamb (1775-1834) & Mary Lamb (1764-1847)
Siblings Charles and Mary Lamb, famous for the children's Tales from Shakespeare written in 1807, spent a holiday in Cowes in 1803 with playwright Frances 'Fanny' Burney's nephew Martin. They wrote of their experience:
We do everything that is idle, such as reading books from the circulating library, sauntering, hunting little crabs among the rocks, reading churchyard poetry, which is as bad at Cowes as any churchyard in the Kingdom can produce.
Reverend Legh Richmond (1772-1827)
Reverend Legh Richmond was Curate at St Mary's Church in Brading and St John the Baptist Church in Yaverland. He not only invented the Hymn Board4, but was the author of Annals of the Poor, a series of three books published in 1814. It featured real-life local Isle of Wight characters, including Elizabeth Wallbridge, the Arreton dairyman's daughter who had died in 1801, in the 52-page book The Dairyman's Daughter, after which a pub in Arreton is named. This book has been translated into 19 languages and was especially popular in America5. Others include Jane Squibb, A Brading Cottager, another young girl who lived an extremely virtuous life and died young, and William The Negro Servant, about a young man who was apparently convinced that slavery saved his soul and helped him find God. Richmond once wrote in his diary:
As I pursued the meditations which this magnificent and varied scenery excited in my mind, I approached the edge of a tremendous perpendicular cliff, with which the down terminates. ...The breaking of the waves against the foot of the cliff at so great a distance beneath me produced an incessant and pleasing murmur.
Richmond's surplice was later displayed in Brading, but the cloth kept getting shorter and shorter as bits were always being cut off to be used as bandages, in the hope that the Reverend's goodness would help heal wounds.
John Gwilliam (1790-1845)
Everything John Gwilliam wrote was in verse, including two books about the Island: Rambles in the Isle of Wight 1841-2 and Norris Castle: Or Recent Tramps in the Isle of Wight 1845.
John Keats (1795-1821)
Battling against consumption, John Keats lived on the Island for two periods between 1817 and 1819. In 1817 he stayed in Castle Road in Carisbrooke and, in 1819, stayed at Eglantine Cottage (now renamed Keats Cottage) in Shanklin. During his stay in Shanklin, Keats wrote the sonnets On the Sea and Hyperion. While living in Castle Road on nearby Bowcombe Down he began writing the poem Endymion.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness.
Shanklin has a park named Keats Green in his honour. He wrote several letters to his close friend John Reynolds. In one he wrote that the Isle of Wight 'should be called Primrose Island'. In another he described his view with the words:
But the sea, Jack, the sea – the little waterfall, then the white cliffs [of Culver], then St Catherine's Hill.
John Hamilton Reynolds (1794-1852)
Poet, satirist and a close friend of Keats, famous for Safie: An Eastern Tale published in 1814 as well as Peter Bell, he received many, many letters from Keats describing the beauty of the Isle of Wight when Keats stayed on the Island. After Keats' death he chose to find out what the Island was like for himself, living at 36 Node Hill in Newport; he was appointed clerk to the County Court in 1846. He died there in 1852 and is buried in Church Litten, a former Elizabethan plague pit now used as a park.
Dr Thomas Arnold (1795-1842)
Born in Cowes where his father was the collector of Customs, Thomas Arnold is most famous for being the Headmaster at Rugby School who eliminated poor teaching and drunken disorder and installed a sense of pride in his pupils. He wrote History of Rome and Lectures on Modern History as well as numerous books of sermons, including Queen Victoria's favourite. He frequently returned to the Island, his last visit was in 1836. His time at Rugby School was fictionalised in 1857's Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes. He was the great-grandfather of Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World.
Edmund Peel (1797-1877)
Edmund and his brother, cousins of Prime Minister Robert Peel, lived at Under Rock in Bonchurch. He wrote the 483-page The Fairest Isle about the Island as well as many other poems. He died in Newport.
Lord Macaulay (1800-59)
In 1850 Thomas Babington Macaulay, most famous for Lays of Ancient Rome, began his History of England at Madiera Hall near Bonchurch. He wrote:
I look out on one side to the crags and myrtles of the Undercliff. On the other side, I have a view of the sea, which is at this moment as blue as the sky and as calm as the Serpentine. My little garden is charming.
John Sterling (1806-44)
A poet and novelist who, despite not having achieved public recognition, was acclaimed by contemporary poets including Tennyson, Wordsworth and Coleridge. By 1840 he was regularly spitting blood and so in 1843 moved to the Isle of Wight, where he died of consumption in his house in Ventnor, Hillside, in 1844. A plaque remains on this house today. His funeral at Bonchurch was attended by Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, who later wrote his biography, and theologian FD Maurice. He wrote about Bonchurch with the words:
Ay, there in truth they are, the quiet homes
And hallowed birth-spots of the English race,
Scattered at will beneath the crags rude face,
While springs gush round, and near the ocean foams.
Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-67)
American author and poet who worked with Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was at one point America's highest-paid magazine writer, founding Town & Country magazine. He visited Ryde in 1830, writing:
Ryde is the most American-looking town I have seen abroad; a cluster of white houses and summery villas on the side of the hill, leaning up from the sea. It is place of baths, boarding-houses and people of damaged constitutions, with very select society and quiet and rather primitive habits. The climate is deliciously soft and the sun always seems to shine there.
Edward Edwards (1812-86)
Londoner Edward Edwards became a temporary library assistant in the British Museum in 1838, then the only free library in London. He successfully campaigned for the provision of free libraries nationwide, and was rewarded for his tireless efforts by the 1850 Public Libraries Act. He became the Chief Librarian at Manchester Free Library, one of the first new libraries his law created. In 1859 he chose to lead a peripatetic life before moving to the Isle of Wight to revise his Handbook of Literature and Collective Biography. He lived in Niton, died there in 1886 and was buried there.
Robert Browning (1812-89)
Poet Robert Browning stayed on the Isle of Wight in May 1856, hoping to restore his health.
Edward Lear (1812-88)
There was a Young Lady of Ryde,
Whose shoe-strings were seldom untied.
She purchased some clogs,
And some small spotted dogs,
And frequently walked about Ryde.
Edward Lear also had the distinction of teaching Queen Victoria how to paint when he visited Osborne House.
William Adams (1814-48)
Reverend William Adams came to Bonchurch in 1843, when ill. He is most famous for writing The Shadow of the Cross and The Sacred Allegories. As the population of Bonchurch boomed from 302 to 523 in the 1840s, he oversaw the construction of a new church at Bonchurch. He died in 1848 at the age of 33.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82)
American poet Longfellow, most famous for the fictional poem Paul Revere's Ride6, visited Shanklin and stayed in the Old Village in 1868. Moved by the beauty of Shanklin Chine, he wrote a passage about the fountain at the top of the Chine. Entitled 'Inscription on the Shanklin Fountain', it can be found in his book of verse In The Harbor.
O Traveller, stay thy weary feet;
Drink of this fountain, pure and sweet;
It flows for rich and poor the same:
Then go thy way, remembering still
The wayside well beneath the hill
The cup of water in His name.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92)
The Poet Laureate, and one of the greatest ever poets, lived on the Isle of Wight at Farringford House from 1853-92. There he wrote many of his most famous poems, including The Charge of the Light Brigade, Maud, Enoch Arden, The Idylls of the King and Crossing the Bar.
...Take it and come to the Isle of Wight:
Where, far from the noise of smoke and town,
I watch the twilight falling brown
All around a careless-ordered garden,
Close to the ridge of a noble down.
A large granite cross was erected in his honour.
Charles Tennyson Turner (1808-79)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson's older brother, with whom he published Poems by Two Brothers in 1827. In his poem Farewell to the Isle of Wight he wrote:
My memory wander'd back
To those fair shores – the Needles and the Downs –
The happy woodlands and the little towns –
For every day a new and pleasant track;
How grieved was I those social walks to lose,
Those friendly hands!
Charles Darwin (1809-82)
Charles Darwin started the Origin of Species at the King's Head Hotel in Sandown in July 1858. He moved on to Shanklin's Norfolk House Hotel at the end of July and stayed for about two weeks.
Darwin returned to the Isle of Wight, staying in Freshwater in July 1868 to recover from a gastric complaint that had affected his work on Descent of Man. He visited Isle of Wight photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, and said of her work I like this photograph better than any other which has been taken of me. He later described this trip to the Island with the words, my nine weeks interruption of all work.
Charles Dickens (1812-70)
Born across the Solent in Portsmouth, Charles Dickens first visited the Isle of Wight in September 1838, when he stayed in Alum Bay. He later stayed at the Winterbourne Hotel in Bonchurch between July and October 1849, having previously suffered writer's block. On the Island he wrote chapters 12 to 18 of his favourite novel, David Copperfield. There he often entertained writers such as Carlyle, Tennyson, Thackeray as well as Admiral Swinburne and his young golden-haired boy who became noted poet Algernon Swinburne.
Dickens was great friends with the church's stonemasons, and in Bonchurch's graveyard was a gravestone to a Mr Dick. In chapter 12 of David Copperfield a character called Mr Dick first appears. Dickens' time in Bonchurch influenced his writing, as this quote from David Copperfield also perfectly describes the first floor room he stayed in at the Winterbourne, overlooking the Channel:
The room was a pleasant one, at the top of the house, overlooking the sea, on which the moon was shining brilliantly.
He described his visit with the words:
I have taken a most delightful and beautiful house... cool, airy, private bathing, everything delicious. I think it is the prettiest place I ever saw in my life, at home or abroad.
Dickens also visited the Island between November and December 1860, while writing Great Expectations. An account of his time on the Island can be read in Richard J Hutchings' Dickens on an Island, first published in 1970 and at time of writing, still in print in a special commemorative edition to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth.
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63)
Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Barry Lyndon and Vanity Fair, was a frequent visitor to the Isle of Wight and the home of Tennyson. It is believed that a local woman, born on the Island, Sophie Dawes, was an inspiration behind Vanity Fair.
Isaac Pitman (1813–97)
He wrote his shorthand dictionary while staying on the Island in Sandown.
Elizabeth Missing Sewell (1815-1906)
Elizabeth Missing Sewell was born in Newport. When her minister father died penniless, she wrote a series of morally-uplifting humorous books for girls. These included Principles of Education: Drawn From Nature and Revelation and Applied to Female Education in the Upper Classes. Her outlook was very traditional, she firmly believed that boys' are sent into the world... to govern and direct... girls are to dwell in quiet homes and that a woman who is not feminine is a monster in creation. She died and is buried in Bonchurch. She donated St Boniface Diocesan School to Ventnor which is marked by a plaque inscribed:
This building was erected as St Boniface Diocesan School by Elizabeth Missing Sewell 1815-1906 of Bonchurch. Authoress and Education Pioneer
Charles Kingsley (1819-75)
In 1822 workhouse chimney sweep Valentine Gray was found beaten to death in Newport. His death inspired Charles Kingsley, a frequent visitor to the Island, to write The Water Babies (1863).
Karl Marx (1818-83)
Karl Marx stayed at 11 Nelson Street, Ryde in 1874, as well as staying at 1 St Boniface Gardens, Ventnor in 1881 and 1882. He wrote to Friedrich Engels in July 1874 describing his visit with the words, This Island is a little paradise.
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (1818-83)
This Russian novelist spent August 1860 in Ventnor, where he began writing Fathers and Sons. A plaque on Ventnor Esplanade marks the site where he stayed. This states:
Lived here on this site
at Belinda Cottage
and here in 1860 began
his best known work,
"Fathers & Sons"
Sydney Dobell (1824-74)
English poet Sydney Dobell stayed at Niton for health reasons over the winters of 1857 and 1860. There he wrote about the sea with the words:
How I hate it! A brave man can hate nothing that there is a chance of conquering, but this blind, senseless, woman-drowning, child-freezing, man-choking god – I stand and look at it here until every drop of blood in my body is black.
Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)
The poetic but frail son of an Admiral, he was taught to swim by being thrown head first into the sea. When his father called him a coward, Swinburne was foolish enough to climb the vertical Culver Cliff, almost dying in the attempt, desperate to prove his courage. The only one of his siblings not born on the Island, but the only one to stay after the others left, he lived and grew up on the Island, where he began Atalanta in Calydon, although his family sold their home in East Dene, Bonchurch in 1865. He later returned to Shorwell. Despite dying in Putney in 1909, he was buried in Bonchurch according to his will.
Not in the cold, grey Abbey, nor where the wind sweeps cold,
O'er the silver coat of the beech and the gorse's blazen gold,
But there, in the isle where the gates of sea-washed England stand.
John Betjeman described Swinburne with the words, No one made the sea hiss and clang in English poetry better than he.
Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919)
William Makepeace Thackeray's daughter. In 1877 she wrote an autobiographical short story From An Island about Tennyson at Farringford House. Recently Lynne Truss, famous for Eats, Shoots and Leaves satirised these events in the novel Tennyson's Gift.
Mary Gleed Tuttiett (1846-1923)
Writing under the name Maxwell Gray, Mary Tuttiett was born in Newport. She is most famous for her 1886 thriller novel The Silence of Dean Maitland, set in the fictional village 'Malbourne', not to be confused with the real village Calbourne, but located on the Isle of Wight.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
Thomas Hardy, most famous for Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, lived across the Solent in Dorset. He visited Swinburne's grave in 1910. There he wrote A Singer Asleep:
In this fair niche above the unslumbering sea,
That sentrys up and down all night, all day,
From cove to promontory, from ness to bay,
The Fates have fitly bidden that he should be Pillowed eternally.
Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Gerard Manly Hopkins (1844-89)
He spent a summer at Shanklin Manor writing poems, including one on the wreck of HMS Eurydice.
Paul Bourget (1852-1935)
A French novelist, who wrote Le Disciple. On a visit to the Island he wrote:
I shall always have before my eyes adorable views of the countryside to comfort me. Scenes of beautiful green lawns, cold blue seas and delicately grey skies.
Anna Mae Bosler Ellis (1858-1911)
American Anna Ellis, writing as Max Eliot, was a writer for the Boston Herald in the 1890s and later the American correspondent for that paper in London. She died in Freshwater in 1911, where she is buried.
Henry de Vere Stacpoole (1863-1951)
An Irish author who is best known for writing the novel The Blue Lagoon in 1909, but who also wrote exposing atrocities and injustice in the Congo under the pseudonym Tyler de Saix. He founded the Penguin Club, dedicated to helping birds injured by oil pollution. He moved to Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight where he wrote an anthology of poems In Bonchurch's Garden in 1937. He lived at Cliff Dene, which is commemorated by a plaque which reads:
Henry de Vere Stacpoole 1863-1951 Physician novelist poet lived here for thirty years until his death in 1951.
He died at Shanklin Hospital and is buried in Bonchurch, having donated Bonchurch Pond and a bird sanctuary to the village in memory of his wife.
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
John Lockwood Kipling, the director of the Lahore School of Arts, and father of Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling, designed and created Osborne House's Durbar Wing with craftsman Bhai Ram Singh between 1890 and January 1891. Rudyard Kipling often visited the Island and took some leather wall coverings from the original Osborne House, that was demolished to make way for Queen Victoria's Italianate palace, to his home at Batemans. Kipling's poem A Centurion's Song was about a hero who had 'Served in Britain forty years from Vectis to the Wall', Vectis being the Roman name for the Isle of Wight.
Pearl Craigie (1867-1906)
Writing as John Oliver Hobbes, she was a successful novelist and the daughter of John Morgan Richards, owner of Steephill Castle in Ventnor. She wrote to support herself after separating from her husband. Her works includes the novel Some Emotions and a Moral (1891), a play The Ambassador (1898), a novel The School for Saints (1898) and its sequel Robert Orange (1902), which includes the real-life character Benjamin Disraeli.
Although she lived at Steephill Castle, she rented nearby St Lawrence Lodge for use as an office. She created the word 'Blimming', which was defined as 'the act in which a woman talks endlessly about pleasant things while revealing nothing of herself and successfully hiding the fact that she is cleverer than her husband.' She died tragically young in her 30s, and is commemorated by a plaque on St Lawrence Lodge, Wolverton Road, St Lawrence as well as the family memorial in Ventnor.
John Edward Bernard Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone (1868-1947)
Lord Mottistone, Deputy Lieutenant and MP for the Isle of Wight, wrote a biography about his horse, entitled My Horse Warrior. Warrior was a horse foaled at Yafford on the Island in 1908 and was at the battles of Marne, Ypres, the Somme and Cambrai, earning the nickname 'the horse the Germans could not kill'.
In 2011, Stephen Spielberg made a film, entitled War Horse, based on a fictional story by author Michael Morpurgo that drew inspiration from the tale of Isle of Wight horse Warrior.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
In 1880, at the age of six, Winston Churchill and his brother Jack were sent to Ventnor. He and his sister stayed in Ventnor in 1888, while he returned a year later to recover from an illness and later campaigned on the Island in 1910 to help the Liberal candidate in an election.
Churchill's parents, Jennie Jerome and Randolph Churchill, had met and became engaged in Cowes in 1873, the year before the future Prime Minister and Nobel Prize for Literature winner was born.
Edward Thomas (1878-1917)
The war poet who wrote The Isle of Wight in 1911, died in 1917 at the Battle of Arras.
Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)
Famous for poem The Highwayman, Alfred Noyes moved to the Isle of Wight with his wife Mary in 1929, where he wrote Orchard's Bay about his home near the Undercliff. He also wrote The Last Man in 1940, a novel about a man trapped at the bottom of the sea in an abandoned enemy submarine, who manages to escape and finds himself off the coast of the Isle of Wight, only to discover that everyone on the Island, and indeed the world, is dead, France having detonated their secret doomsday weapon.
It was there he wrote his books of poetry including Letter to Lucian and autobiography Two Worlds for Memory. Alfred Noyes died in Ryde Hospital in 1957 and is buried in St Saviour's churchyard in Totland.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
Virginia Woolf often visited her great aunt, pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, at Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater. In 1923 she wrote a comic play entitled Freshwater.
DH Lawrence (1885-1930)
Lawrence visited the Isle of Wight in 1909 and his second novel The Trespasser was based on his friend Helen Corke’s diaries of her time in Freshwater. A film version made in 1981 was shot on the Island.
AA Milne (1882-1956)
The author of Winnie-the-Pooh was a patient at Osborne Convalescent Home during the Great War. His autobiography was entitled It's Too Late Now.
Aubrey de Sélincourt (1894-1962)
Aubrey de Sélincourt, translator of many Greek and Roman classics into English as well as writing the Vision of England series – including a volume on the Isle of Wight – and his wife, poet Irene Rutherford McCloud, retired to the Island in 1947. There they devoted their remaining years to writing. Aubrey's sister Dorothy married AA Milne and his daughter Lesley married Christopher Robin Milne, the young boy portrayed in Winnie-the-Pooh.
JB Priestley (1894-1984)
Author of 26 novels including The Good Companions, JB Priestly moved to the Island in 1933, where he wrote Rain Over Godshill and, in 1947, An Inspector Calls.
Any man from America or Australia might take one glance at the Island as something on a map, and then decide to give it a couple of hours. But you can spend days and days exploring the Isle of Wight, which, if you are really interested, begins magically enlarging itself for you.
Robert Graves (1895-1985)
Poet and novelist Robert Graves wrote the definitive English translation of Seutonius' Twelve Cæsars, written in 121 AD in Latin. His knowledge of this allowed him to write the phenomenal works of English literature, I, Claudius and Claudius the God, which became a renowned BBC television series in 1976. He is one of the 16 Great War poets commemorated in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. During the Great War he suffered from shell shock and was a patient at Osborne Convalescent Home. He wrote about his experiences there in his autobiography Goodbye to All That.
Edward Upward (1903-2009)
A novelist of Isle of Wight descent who was a close friend of Auden and Isherwood. He retired to his grandfather's Sandown home in the 1960s. He wrote The Island.
WH Auden (1907-73)
A British poet who later became an American citizen, is regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century. In the summer of 1917, the 10-year-old Wystan Hugh Auden first visited the Island with his mother and two older brothers. He later returned in 1926. WH Auden's most famous poem is perhaps Funeral Blues, better known for its first line 'Stop all the clocks'. He also wrote Night Mail, the opening lines of which are This is the Night Mail crossing the border / Bringing the cheque and the postal order.. One of his poem anthologies was entitled On This Island, with poems inspired by his experiences on the Isle of Wight.
Look, stranger, on this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.
Christopher Isherwood (1904-86)
Most famous for Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, a novel that was later adapted into the musical Cabaret. He spent a lot of time on the Island in the 1920s and 30s with WH Auden.
John Betjeman (1906-84)
Poet Laureate and writer John Betjeman was a frequent visitor to the Island and was especially fond of Ventnor, visiting the Royal National Hospital there in 1969, where he wrote an account of his visit.
Louis MacNeice (1907-63)
Irish poet, novelist, playwright and translator, Louis MacNiece owned a holiday home at Chessell on the Island, which he bought from his friend JB Priestley. He published a poetry anthology Poetry from Iceland with his friend WH Auden.
David Emery Gascoyne (1916-2001)
Surrealist poet David Gascoyne, famous for A Short Study of Surrealism, spent his final years on the Island. While he was incarcerated in Whitecroft mental hospital, a woman named Judy Lewis volunteered to visit the patients and read them poetry. She later said:
One of my favourite poems was called September Sun. I read it one afternoon and one of the patients came up to me afterwards and said 'I wrote that'. I put my hand on his shoulder and said 'Of course you did, dear'. Then of course when I got to know him I realised he had.
They married five years later.
John Heath-Stubbs OBE (1918-2006)
Poet John Heath-Stubbs, most famous for his Arthur-inspired long poem Artorius, attended school at Bembridge as a teenager. He later described his experiences there in his autobiography Hindsights.
Ray Allen (1940+)
Born in Ryde, Ray Allen is famous for creating Frank Spencer and writing the first episode of sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em while working as a cleaner at Shanklin's Regal theatre.
Philip Norman (1943+)
Born in Ryde, he was a music correspondent for The Times and has written numerous biographies of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and other singers. His autobiographical novel The Skater's Waltz is about a childhood in Ryde as his father ran Ryde Pier's Seagull Ballroom, and has also written about the Isle of Wight Music Festivals.
Alan Titchmarsh (1949+)
Television gardener and presenter who has moved to the Isle of Wight and taken up writing novels, some of which, such as Rosie, are set on the Island. He achieved the distinction of being voted the author of the worst sex scene written in the English language in his novel Mr MacGregor.
She planted moist, hot kisses all over his body. Beads of sweat began to appear on Guy's forehead as he became more entangled in the lissom limbs of this human boa constrictor. For fully 15 minutes their mutual passion heightened, with groans, sighs and liquid noises.
He could have learnt a thing or two from
A local woman who has written numerous Mills & Boon romances.
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
In the Virgin interview published in The Salmon of Doubt, Douglas Adams revealed that his best childhood memory was of a holiday on the Isle of Wight. In The Meaning Of Liff, Douglas Adams defines 'Solent' as The state of serene self-knowledge reached through drink and 'Shanklin' as The hoop of skin around a single slice of salami.
Sir Anthony Minghella (1954-2008)
The talented Mr Minghella was an Oscar-winning screenwriter and director. Born in Ryde, he went to school in Sandown and featured the Isle of Wight in many of his films. He is most famous for films such as Truly, Madly, Deeply, The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley, Cold Mountain and for writing for television including Jim Henson's The Storyteller. His brother Dominic also writes plays.
Novels set on the Island
|The Surgeon's Daughter||Sir Walter Scott||1827||A surgeon's daughter is tricked into travelling to India to be given to an Indian prince7.|
|Moonfleet||J Meade Faulkner||1898||About smugglers and a treasure buried in Carisbrooke Castle.|
|The Winslow Boy||Terence Rattigan||1946||A play about a real event at the Royal Naval College, Osborne.|
|The Day of the Triffids||John Wyndham||1951||Plants conquer the world, except for the Isle of Wight.|
|Mary of Carisbrooke: The Girl Who Would Not Betray Her King||Margaret Campbell Barnes||1964||About King Charles I at Carisbrooke.|
|Prey||Graham Masterton||1992||A father and son arrive on the Island to restore a mysterious orphanage with a secret...|
|Tennyson's Gift||Lynne Truss||1996||About Tennyson, the Thackerays, Julia Margaret Cameron and Lewis Carroll.|
|England, England||Julian Barnes||1998||The Isle of Wight is turned into a theme park.|