Made in Cornwall? Cornish Inspired Fiction

Posted: March 19, 2012 by Lee in feature

I recently re-read The Wind in the Willows.  Aside from my appreciation of it as a wonderful novel  (both in my childhood and now) my thoughts turned to something that I had discovered since last reading it more than twenty years ago – namely that Lerryn is one of the places that lays claim to having inspired Kenneth Grahame‘s masterpiece.  It struck a chord with me when I heard that; simply due to the amount of time that I had spent in Lerryn in the 1980s and early 1990s.

BBC Inside Out – The animals of Wind in the Willows.

This got me thinking to other instances where Cornwall may have inspired classic works of fiction.  Famously, for instance, Virginia Woolf moved the Lighthouse and The Rainbow is a thinly veiled autobiography of D.H. Lawrence‘s time in Cornwall during World War 1.  Can any Cornish Literature readers think of any other examples?

  1. Peter Jenkin says:

    Weeell, since no one else is chipping in on this yet ….

    Not much versed on this sort of thing but very recently comes news of a bit of sleuthing, that ‘Lord Jim’, of the Conrad novel so named, might have been based on the real life of a Porthleven sailor – albeit uncredited by Conrad.

    Links seem not to be allowed in blog comments (might want to adjust that in your WordPress settings Lee ?) but you can get to the story by Googling Porthleven and Lord Jim. EDIT: Link available here.

    Conversely, another Conrad story I’ve not read was “Amy Foster” (cf Wiki), about a Polack shipwrecked on Kentish shores who is ungenerously treated. When filmed in 1997(hold your nose and Google “Swept From the Sea” – ugh – for yourself) the action and the negative vibes were transplanted to … you’ve guessed it. So yes, another bit of anti-Cornish propaganda to be paid back to the silver screen luvvies as soon as the boot gets on the other foot…

    Funnily enough one of the best of the few bits of Conrad I’ve read (having endured the preachily obscure tedium of “Heart of Darkness”) was his autobiography, where however I recall he bitched, instead of being grateful, about Falmouth prospering while repairing damage done to ships by the ocean. I guess he thought we plebs should have been down in the docks, sawing, riveting and caulking, just for the sheer pleasure of serving illustrious cosmopolitan lordships such as himself, and what’s more, been doing it all for free ! (Like all his novels were given away for free, surely (cough)).

    And still on the topic of Cornwall inspiring (bits of) classics, I suppose we could drag Tolkien in … but let’s not.

    And no doubt there’re lots more. People should be contributing on this one ! Gusson ! 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Hi Peter, links should be allowed (and you should also be able to post freely without having comments approved after the first time – as you did the other day, so I’m not quite sure what’s gone wrong there).

      Thanks for the Conrad tips. I confess that the only Conrad I’ve read was Heart of Darkness: I’m relieved to hear that I’m not the only one that did not particularly enjoy it! Perhaps I should try another sometime?

      Tolkien? Yes, it seems that the more popular the story the more locations lay claim to it. South Africa, for example, loves to lay claim to The Lord of the Rings. Those linking it to Cornwall seem to do so in especially patronising ways though – either through a Cornishman inspiring old man Gamgee ( or else suggesting that everyone in Cornwall’s away with the fairies (thankyou very much the University of Exeter –

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