Charles Dickens & Hampshire
Landport, a district located near the centre of Portsea Island, part of the city of
Portsmouth in Hampshire, is the
birthplace of English novelist Charles Dickens.
He was born at 387 Mile End Terrace,
Landport, Portsmouth in 1812,
the second of eight children to John and wife Elizabeth Dickens.
His former home in Old Commercial Road Portsmouth
is now the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum.
When Charles was six months old his family moved to 18 Hawke
Street and when he was five, they moved to Chatham, Kent and then in 1822,
when he was ten, to Camden Town in London.
His novels often depict the seedier side of Victorian life alongside the
quintessential romantic themes and hecontributed greatly to classical English literature. He writes of squalor by allowing us a familiarity
with the desperation of characters and has no need for the lengthy descriptive text
reminiscent of Thomas Hardy's countryside preambling. Dickens used his characters
as the eyes to the reality of being hungry and without hope - through them we
understand the essence of Victorian England.
His own story is one of rags to riches. He was sent to school at the age of nine
but his father, inspiration for the character of Mr Micawber in David Copperfield, was
imprisoned for owing owing £40 and 10 shillings. The entire family, apart from Charles, were sent to
Marshalsea, a notorious prison on the south bank of the River Thames in the London borough of Southwark.
Charles was sent to work in Warren's blacking factory and endured appalling
conditions as well as loneliness and despair. After three years he was returned to
school but the experience was
never forgotten and became fictionalised in two of his better-known novels, David
Little Dorrit was published in 19 monthly instalments, each comprising 32 pages and two illustrations by Phiz. Each cost a shilling,
with the exception of the last, double issue, which cost two.
Dickens died in 1870 and is buried at Westminster Abbey.
Colin Firth & Hampshire
Colin Andrew Firth was born on 10th September 1960 in Grayshott, Hampshire.
He went to the Montgomery of Alamein Secondary School in Winchester and then on to
Barton Peveril College in Eastleigh, Hampshire.
If the author of this website hadn't passed the 11 plus (those that passed went to Grammar school - mine was Winchester County High School -
those that failed went to Montgomery of Alamein Secondary School), she would have been at school with him!
It was in the 1995 BBC television adaptation of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice that Firth became renowned and loved.
Firth became known as a heartthrob because of his role as Fitzwilliam Darcy.
This performance also made him the object of affection for fictional journalist Bridget Jones, an interest which carried on into the two
novels featuring the Jones character. In the second novel, Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason, the character even meets Firth in Rome. As
something of an in-joke, when the novels were adapted for the cinema, Firth was cast as Jones's love interest, Mark Darcy.
He also played a major role in the film St. Trinian's, in which there was a dog called Mr Darcy which Colin's character accidentally kills.
Men fail to understand the strength of female interest in Colin Firth but of course the interest is only there because he played the
impeccably mannered Darcy so beautifully.
"From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest
belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of
disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were
the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
'"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently
I admire and love you.” Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent.'
A man who is haughty and seemingly indifferent is melted by the love of Elizabeth Bennet. A love made so much more attractive by the fact that
their class differences should have made the match impossible. A marriage that happened in the face of objection from his family.
Any story with a dashing hero who ignores, eventually, everything that is traditionally expected of him, who is overcome by love for someone
who can offer nothing but a return of that love, will be popular..
Add to that the pen of Jane Austen, the beauty and detail with which she wrote, that story becomes a legend and any actor fortunate
enough to land the role of Darcy is being handed a chance for immortality himself.
Colin Firth played the role brilliantly and deserves the acclaim it brought. If, however, he had played the role badly, crushing the hopes and
dreams of every reader of the novel, then perhaps his career would be in tatters.
He will now be forever linked with the character of Darcy - the misunderstood shyness, the man who hesitates to upset his family
but is unable to do anything but be with the woman he loves.
Jane Austen & Hampshire
Jane Austen's novels include Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Northanger Abbey (1817) and
Persuasion (1817). Her unfinished works are Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon. Jane was born on 16th December 1775 at Steventon rectory in Hampshire.
Her parents were George Austen (1731–1805) who was rector of Steventon from 1765 until 1801, and Cassandra Austen (1739–1827).
George came from a family of woollen manufacturers and was considered to be a lower rank of the landed gentry.
Steventon is a small village in north Hampshire south-west of Basingstoke, close to Overton, Oakley and North Waltham.
Jane's social life at Steventon, where she spent the first 25 years of her life, provided her with most of the material for
her novels and most of her life-long friendships were made during this time.
Jane attended social gatherings at the Assembly Rooms in Basingstoke.
Now Barclays Bank, with a plaque on the wall of the bank commemorating Jane, in the Market Place in Basingstoke stands where the
Assembly Rooms used to be.
It is known that she went shopping in Andover, Alton, Alresford, Basingstoke,
Whitchurch and Overton.
The rectory where Jane wrote Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility was destroyed in 1823.
If you visit Steventon you can see an iron pump (which replaced the wooden pump which served the Austens' house) in the field, next to a
lime tree that is believed to have been planted by James Austen, Jane's eldest brother.
The 12th century Steventon Church, where Jane Austen worshipped, stands almost unchanged from those days.
In the church are memorial tablets to James Austen, who took over the parish from their father, his two wives and some of his relations.
Their graves are in the churchyard.
It is said that unless you experience love you cannot write with any truth on the subject.
When Austen was twenty-one Tom Lefroy, a nephew of neighbours, visited Steventon from December 1795 to
January 1796. He had just finished a university degree and was moving to London to train as a barrister. Lefroy and
Austen would have been introduced at a ball or other neighbourhood social gathering, and it is clear from Austen's
letters to Cassandra that they spent considerable time together: "I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and
I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together."
The Lefroy family intervened and sent him away at the end of January. Marriage was impractical, as both Lefroy and Austen
must have known. Neither had any money, and he was dependent on a great-uncle in Ireland to finance his education and establish
his legal career. If Tom Lefroy later visited Hampshire, he was carefully kept away from the Austens, and Jane Austen never saw him again.
A film was made called 'Becoming Jane' in 2007 starring Anne Hathaway as Jane and the gorgeous James McAvoy as
Tom Lefroy. It is based on reality but the detail of this romance that was not allowed to happen really is not known
and can only ever be fictionalised.
Chawton House Hampshire
In 1809, Jane's brother Edward offered his mother and sisters the use of a large cottage in Chawton village that was part of
Edward's nearby estate, Chawton House. Jane, Cassandra, and their mother moved into Chawton cottage on 7 July 1809.
Life was quieter than it had been since the family's move to Bath in 1800. The Austens did not socialise with the neighbouring gentry
and entertained only when family visited.
Austen's niece Anna described the Austen family's life in Chawton where Jane's writing was so prolific: "It was a very quiet life, according to our ideas, but they were
great readers, and besides the housekeeping our aunts occupied themselves in working with the poor and in teaching some girl or boy to read or write."
Jane Austen loved Hampshire and rejoiced at being 'a Hampshire born Austen'; her return to Hampshire in 1806, to live in Southampton, was something she yearned for
and she lived the rest of her life in Hampshire, after settling in Chawton in 1809.
She died on 18th July 1817 in Winchester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
Her gravestone reads:
"In Memory of JANE AUSTEN, youngest daughter of the late Revd GEORGE AUSTEN,
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County She departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817, aged 41,
after a long illness supported with the patience and hopes of a Christian. The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who
knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections. Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though
humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER.'
John Everett Millais and Hampshire
John Everett Millais born in Southampton, Hampshire in 1829.
Millais, with William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in
September 1848 in his family home on Gower Street, off Bedford Square
His paintings include the most wonderful depictions of Shakespearian heroines such as Ophelia and Mariana and his art is considered to be
amongst the finest of British paintings although personally I feel that they are completely outshone by John William Waterhouse.
Millais was also a successful book illustrator and his illustrations are contained in the works
of Anthony Trollope and Tennyson amongst others.
His most famous painting is probably that of Ophelia which he began in 1851 using the river Ewell, Kingston-Upon-Thames as the
inspiration for the background. He later wrote of this: "I sit tailor-fashion under an umbrella
throwing a shadow scarcely larger than a half-penny for eleven hours, with a child's mug within reach to satisfy my thirst
from the running stream beside me, I am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water, and becoming intimate with the
feelings of Ophelia when that lady sank to muddy death".
He based his painting on Queen Gertrude's description of Ophelia's death and Elizabeth Siddall, his model, lay in a bath of
water which was heated by oil lamps. He was later sued by Elizabeth's father because the experience had made her ill.
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
Millais also painted 'Bubbles', originally entitled A Child's World, in 1886 which became
famous after being used in the
Pears Soap Advertisements. During Millais's lifetime it led to widespread debate about the relationship between art and advertising.
He died in 1896 and a statue of him was commissioned by the Prince of Wales
(later King Edward VII) which was placed at the front of the National Gallery of British Art
(now Tate Britain) in the garden on the east side in 1905.
In 2000 the statue was removed to the rear of the building.
Ken Russell & Hampshire
Ken Russell was born in Southampton,
Hampshire in 1927. Before he embarked on his career in film, Ken Russell spent several years working as a
photographer and not many had heard of this film director before he produced Women In Love in 1969.
Not shocking by today's standards, I remember going to Winchester cinema with a group of friends who all
adored DH Lawrence novels and sitting in stunned silence watching the gorgeous Alan Bates and Oliver Reed
wrestle in the nude on a huge screen. We weren't shocked by the act but by the fact that this had passed
It was a brilliant film with an earthiness that was attributed to his directing although in reality he was
working with a brilliant cast.
Everyone expected Ali MacGraw to receive the best actress Oscar in 1970 for her role in Love Story with Ryan O'Neal but it was Glenda
Jackson who walked away with it for Women in Love - deservedly so as her performance along with Oliver Reed's and Alan Bates's was incredible.
The Rainbow in 1989 was, again, touching the boundaries even though it was 20 years later.
Having also produced Lady Chatterley for television in 1993 Ken Russell undoubtedly owes a great deal to the
unique way that Lawrence was able to express tenderness and love throughout his novels.
In 2006 the thatched house in Lymington on the Hampshire coast which had been Ken Russell's home
for 30 years burned down. All of the director's original film scripts,
including Women in Love, The Devils and Tommy, were destroyed.