Literary Bristol

As you wander through the streets of Bristol it is easy to see how writers have been inspired by this beautiful and diverse city. Everywhere you turn there is a reflection of a place in a book or an atmosphere echoed in a poem.

Robert Southey

Bristol is well known for being the birthplace of Robert Southey. Southey, a close friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge, whom he met in Bristol, later became a Poet Laureate. Although he only spent his early years living in Bristol, his time here had a lifelong influence on his work.

William Wordsworth

Wordsworth was also influenced by Bristol, and it is said that he wrote the famous poem 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey' in Bristol at the house of Joseph Cottle who owned a book shop on the High Street.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge launched his magazine, 'The Watchman' in Bristol in 1795 at The Rummer, in the Old City.

Thomas Chatterton

Not all the poetry in Bristol has a happy history. The young Bristolian Thomas Chatterton, now a respected and revered contributor to Britain's literary past, was born and brought up near Redcliff, where his family had held the office of sexton at St Mary Redcliff for nearly 200 years. Educated at Colston's School, Chatterton later moved to London to find fame and wealth. After finding that he was not fitting in with his peers and failing to get his poems published, he took his own life at the young age of 17. Find out more about Thomas Chatterton and his life

Angela Carter

Angela Carter was an English novelist, short story writer, poet, and journalist, known for her feminist, magical realism, and picaresque works. She is best known for her book The Bloody Chamber, which was published in 1979. Angela moved to Bristol in 1961. She studied English Literature at Bristol University and wrote her first three novels – nicknamed The Bristol Trilogy – whilst living in Clifton. 

You can find out more about Angela Carter's connections to Bristol on the Get Angela Carter website including films, information about documentaries and events. You can also take an Angela Carter inspired walking tour of significant places in her life and work in Clifton and Hotwells. Download the Angela Carter walking trail here.

Helen Dunmore

In recent years Bristol has given birth to a new type of poet. Award-winning author Helen Dunmore, who lives in Bristol, has impressed the world with her wonderful talents as both a writer and a poet.

Daniel Defoe and Robert Louis Stevenson

Bristol's rich maritime history has inspired stories of exploration and daring voyages. Robinson Crusoe is allegedly based on Alexander Selkirk, a shipwrecked sailor, whom Daniel Defoe met in The Llandoger Trow in King Street. The Hole in the Wall in Queen Square is said to be the basis for The Spyglass in Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen spent time in Bristol with her mother and is thought to have stayed in Clifton. The folly at Blaise Castle Estate is mentioned in Northanger Abbey. The nearby city of Bath also features frequently in her books.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre

There are many buildings in Bristol that hold particular literary significance. Bristol Old Vic on King Street was opened in 1766 and played host to many famous actors and actresses, such as Sarah Siddons and Elizabeth Inchbold.

Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Oscar Wilde

The Victoria Rooms, built in 1841, were host to many a literary icon. Charles Dickens and his friend Wilkie Collins performed two plays here in 1851, and Oscar Wilde also spoke at the Victoria rooms at great length on aesthetics.

JK Rowling

Author J.K. Rowling was born and brought up in Chipping Sodbury, just a few miles from Bristol. It is claimed that she drew inspiration for her famous character Harry Potter after meeting a young boy in Bristol.


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