WriteNow City Literary Guide: Nottingham


To celebrate WriteNow Live coming to Nottingham, London and Liverpool we've been looking into the iconic literary past of these 3 cities. You can find more about WriteNow here.

Home to folklore, scandalous stories and romantic poetry, this UNESCO City of Literature's literary history is much more than its famous outlaw Robin Hood. 

It may be coincidence, but Nottingham seems to have a strong record for giving us the most forward-thinking, and sometimes rebellious writers. 

Mary Howitt

An author and poet from the 1800s, Mary Howitt's The Spider and the Fly was published in 1829 - a time when published female authors were almost non-existent. Respected by her peers, she counted Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens as friends. Together with her husband she wrote an impressive total of around 180 books. A plaque of Mary and William sits at Nottingham Castle. 

Portrait of Mary Howitt

Plaque of William and Mary Howitt


DH Lawrence

Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence's raunchy novel about a neglected wife taking her gamekeeper as a lover was privately published in 1928. It resurfaced in 1960 in the obscenity trial of the century. The trial's noteriety isn't solely about the contents of the book, it's about how it became a symbol for freedom of speech in literature. 

Until 1959, the publisher of a book that consisted of any 'purple passage' which may have 'a tendency to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences' were liable to imprisonment.

But this all changed. A section of the Act said that even if the jury found that the book to be ‘corrupt’ it could be acquitted if the publication was perceived to be 'justified in the interests of science, literature, art and learning or any other object of general concern'. 

 

1960 edition

2011 edition

Vintage 2011 edition

More about Lady Chatterley's Lover

After winning the case, the book quickly sold a staggering 3 million copies. Penguin’s solicitor, Michael Rubenstein was so successful in the case that the transcript of the trial was published in 1965.

Despite Lawrence’s frequent travelling throughout his life, he called Nottinghamshire ‘the country of my heart’.
 

The Trial of Lady Chatterley

Lord Byron

The biggest rebel to ever grace Nottingham was the infamous romantic poet Lord Byron.

Once referred to as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’, he is widely known to be one of the first thought of as a ‘celebrity’. His rakish appearance and style became fashionable and young women pined over him through his poetry.

Whilst living in Nottingham he wrote some of his best work, but his reputation took a turn as a disastrous marriage, mounting debts and scandalous rumours about an affair with his half sister meant he had to flee the country. He’s still referred to as one of Britain’s greatest poets and is buried in Hucknell, Nottinghamshire.

Lord Byron by Richard Westall, 1813

5 great reads from Nottingham writers

21st Century Yokel by Tom Cox

Don Juan by Lord Byron

Holiday by Stanley Middleton

The Book of Blood by Vicki Feaver

Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease

    

    

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