The Portsmouth Literary Map Project

Welcome to the city where Charles Dickens was born and where Arthur Conan Doyle first unleashed the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, on a grateful world.

Welcome also to a city whose literary stories go far beyond these more familiar examples – a city whose literary character and complex identity isn’t just about the past, but about a community of talented writers beavering away as we speak on so many inventive ideas.

Led by Dr Mark Frost and Dr Maggie Bowers of the English Literature team at the University of Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Literary Map project was launched in August 2019 out of a realisation that there was an amazing opportunity to publicise the stories associated with Portsmouth’s remarkable literary past and to tap into its existing literary community networks of poets, novelists, and short story writers.

But while the work of mapping Portsmouth’s fascinating literary stories goes on, the project has wider ambitions to forge strong and creative relationships with the wider communities of Portsmouth and Hampshire by reaching out to schools and libraries, authors and readers, to anyone interested in joining us to help fan the flames of the city’s literary energy. The launch of the Writing Literary Portsmouth blog is one part of attempts to do just that – and Maggie Sawkins from Tongues and Grooves will be a part of this work. 

Inside the Writing Literary Portsmouth blog

The blog will include regular feature articles by authors, famous and local, on their own literary relationships with the city. Look forward in the very near future to pieces by one of our most renowned detective novelists and one of our most celebrated local poets. It will have a ‘Poem of the Month’ feature, introducing you to the astonishing range and vibrant quality of Portsmouth verse, with an emphasis on verse about the city. 

The On This Day features will take you back to significant, obscure, weird, or fascinating moments in the city’s literary pasts. In the coming months, the Portsmouth Literary Map Project will introduce you to Charles Dickens’s reading tours in the city, and to another best-selling Victorian novelist, Walter Besant, also born in the city, whose Celia’s Arbour: A Tale of Portsmouth Town (1878) offers revealing glimpses of bygone Pompey.

And as if that weren’t enough, the blog will also bring you regular ‘Map Stories’, digging into the details of the authors who were born or lived here, the novels and poems set in the city, and the various things – complementary or otherwise – that people have said about the city. There will be so much for you to choose from, and so much for you to find out. 

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