Literature and the Midlands Part 1

Everyone has heard names such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen or George Orwell; English literary tradition is well established and there is no arguing that writers from this country rightfully deserve a place in the literature’s hall of fame. More specifically, there are quite a few widely known writers and poets who are from or have roots in the Midlands and whose lives and works are bound to be interesting.

1. J. R. R. Tolkien

Despite having been born in Bloemfontein (a Free State Province in South Africa), this famous author has deep roots in the Midlands. His immediate paternal ancestors were known to reside and practice their craftsmanship of clocks, watches and pianos in the city of Birmingham. Tolkien’s parents left England when his father, Arthur, received a promotion based in South Africa. At the age of three Tolkien visited England with his mother. During the trip, his father, who was back in South Africa, died of rheumatic fever, and left the family with no immediate income. In the face of this tragedy, Tolkien’s mother Mabel decided to stay and live with her parents in Birmingham. Him and his younger brother were both home-schooled. Tolkien could read at the age of four and write soon after; today, he is known for his affection for constructing languages and extensive literary legacy that now has its monumental place in the film industry, theatre and other types of art as well. His most famous works include “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”. He is accredited with the revival of interest into fantasy literature and thus is known as the “father” of modern fantasy literature, also known as high fantasy.

2. W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden was a famous English-American poet. His work exhibited a great variety of tones and forms of expression, covered topics ranging from politics to love and is widely known for its stylistic and technical qualities. He was born to Constance and George Audens, a professional middle-class family. He grew up in and near Birmingham, where his family moved when Auden was a one-year old. He went to Oxford with a scholarship in biology, but by his second year he transferred to English and studied Old English poetry under the previously mentioned J. R. R. Tolkien. In 1939, Auden moved to the USA and became a citizen there. This was incentivized mostly by his wish to escape the label of a left-wing political writer that he gained upon publishing three plays together with Christopher Isherwood. Today his importance is being revaluated and he is placed not behind the two famous 20th century British poets – Yeats and Elion – but in front of them in terms of the influence on modern poetry and general legacy. He is mostly famous for his poetry and his poems that received the widest recognition include “Stop all the clocks”, “Autumn Song” and “Lullaby”.