Literature and the Midlands Part 2

3. Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson is a person to continue the list of people who left an imprint on the world of literature and who has roots in the Midlands. He was born to a 40-year old mother Sarah and Michael Johnsons in 1709 in Lichfield, Staffordshire. Despite his poor health as a baby, he exhibited signs of superior intelligence very early in his childhood. He started attending upper school as early as the age of nine. He attended Pembroke College, Oxford, and although his inheritance did not fully cover the costs of studying there, one of his friends and fellow students paid for his education in that way allowing him to proceed with this studies. However, after 13 months he was forced to withdraw and return to his hometown because he was still behind in his tuition. He did end up receiving his degree later on though. In 1738, his first significant work, a poem called “London”, was published, though anonymously. On top of his creative work, he is accredited with one other major achievement – “A Dictionary of the English Language” – which up until today is considered to be one of the most comprehensive and influential dictionaries of the English language.

4. John Rogers

Knowing how important religion was (and to a large extent still is) for the formation of England’s cultural life and art, John Rogers must end up on the list of Midlanders that have had an impact on the literary landscape. He was born in 1505 in an area close to Birmingham. Just like a number of writers and poets mentioned previously, he received his education at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge University. He is accredited with assisting the development of Matthew Bible under Henry VIII; it is considered to be the first complete authorized edition of The Bible in English. He was sentenced to die for what at the time was seen as a heretical denial of the Christian Character of the Church of Rome.

5. Henry Green

Henry Vincent Yorke, better known by his pen name Henry Green, was a 20th century English author. He was born in 1905 in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. His parents were educated and were successful businesspeople and landowners. He also ends up on the list of famous Midland’s literature figures to have gone to Oxford, however, this time it’s the Magdalen College. He left Oxford without a degree though and returned to Birmingham to participate in his family’s business. Throughout his literary career he published a total of 9 novels, all of which are considered to be an important part of modernist English literature due to their uncompromising nature. The most famous ones include “Living” (1929), “Party Going” (1939) and “Loving” (1945), now oftentimes published together.

Contemporary Writers

Today the Midlands also have a selection of impressive literary figures who have origins in the region. David Lodge, known for his satires aiming at the academia and academic life, was a professor at the University of Birmingham up until 1987 and must be mentioned here. James Crace, whose works received a lot of attention from various literary prize committees, as well as Benjamin Zephaniah, who is on the list of Britain’s top 50 post-war writers and a representative of Rastafarian culture, have to end up on this list as well.