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WRITERS WHO LIVED
IN SUFFOLK
Among the earliest writers living in Suffolk was JOCELIN OF BRAKELOND (1155-
1202) who is so important to our understanding of medieval life. He was born in BURY ST
EDMUNDS in part of the town now known as Brackland. He entered the Abbey as a monk
in 1173 and his chronicle of the years 1174-1202 is a fresh and lively account of the
medieval monk’s life with its tensions, quarrels and political intrigue, a true-life Brother
Cadfael. The great Norman tower is certainly the one which Jocelin’s Abbot Samson passed
through for his installation.
The vigorous portrait of this great reforming abbot which Jocelin painted in his Chronicle,
inspired Thomas Carlyle to write about him in Past and Present (1843). What is left of the
Abbey can be seen in the Abbey Gardens and a Visitor’s Centre gives information on its history.
At certain times of the year tours are led by a costumed guide in the form of Brother Jocelin
himself! There is a good translation of Brakelond’s Chronicle in the World’s Classics (1989).
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A modern resident of BURY ST EDMUNDS was the bestselling historical novelist NORAH
LOFTS (1904-1983). She was born and brought up in Suffolk, wrote more than fifty
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books, and lived most of her life and died in the elegant Northgate House (Georgian at the
front and Queen Anne at the back) in Northgate Street. The garden is sometimes open in the
summer as part of the Hidden Gardens scheme. Her novels, always meticulously researched,
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were also very popular in the United States.
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In the same town was born the Victorian bestseller OUIDA (Maria Louisa Ramee, 1839-
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1908) at 14 Hospital Road. Her pseudonym represents her childish attempt to pronounce
‘Louisa’. She wrote more than 40 novels and a book of stories for children. Outside the
Spread Eagle pub is a drinking trough for horses erected in her memory.
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A more distinguished resident of the town (there is a plaque on his house in Westgate Street)
was HENRY CRABB ROBINSON (1775-1867), who was the first war correspondent,
reporting the Peninsula War for The Times. He was also their correspondent in Germany.
He was friendly with most of the famous writers of the time, and went on an Italian tour
with Wordsworth. He helped to found the Athenaeum Club and University College, London,
and his Diary Reminiscences and Correspondence was published in 1869.
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Not far from Bury St Edmunds lived the major modern novelist and critic SIR ANGUS
WILSON (1913-1991). For many years he made his home in the Little Tin Hut at
FELSHAM WOODSIDE, near Bradfield Combust. He first came to notice with volumes of
short stories, but achieved critical fame with his fifties novels Hemlock and After and
Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. His work, seldom without compassion, is nevertheless brilliantly
satirical and often macabre.
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