New book revels in Portsmouth's literary heritage

HMS Victory Saluting Her Majesty, 1851. Climbing the rigging, as seen here, was an important rite of passage for young sailors and had its traditions attached, as Peter Simple discovered when he tried to assemble his uniform in Peter Simple by Captain Frederick Marryat, 1834. 'Mr Purser's Steward,' said I, 'let me have a cocked-hat and a dirk immediately.' 'Very good sir,' replied he, and he wrote an order upon a slip of paper, which he handed to me. 'There is the order for it, sir; but the cocked-hats are kept in the chest up in the main-top, and as for the dirk, you must apply to the butcher who has them under his charge...'
HMS Victory Saluting Her Majesty, 1851. Climbing the rigging, as seen here, was an important rite of passage for young sailors and had its traditions attached, as Peter Simple discovered when he tried to assemble his uniform in Peter Simple by Captain Frederick Marryat, 1834. 'Mr Purser's Steward,' said I, 'let me have a cocked-hat and a dirk immediately.' 'Very good sir,' replied he, and he wrote an order upon a slip of paper, which he handed to me. 'There is the order for it, sir; but the cocked-hats are kept in the chest up in the main-top, and as for the dirk, you must apply to the butcher who has them under his charge...'
0
Have your say

A new book celebrates the rich literary heritage of Portsmouth, using anecdotes, humour and wonderful colour pictures of the city as it used to be. 

Portsmouth, A Literary and Pictorial Tour quotes more than 75 works from writers as diverse as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter and even Mahatma Gandhi. More than 50 authors, both world-renowned and local, give their real-life and fictional impressions of the town. 

Portsdown Hill: 'Before us lay a complicated vista of sea and land. Directly below us, at the head of the bay, was a huge square enclosure of white stone that I realized must be Portchester Castle' - from Heartstone by CJ Sansom, 2010.

Portsdown Hill: 'Before us lay a complicated vista of sea and land. Directly below us, at the head of the bay, was a huge square enclosure of white stone that I realized must be Portchester Castle' - from Heartstone by CJ Sansom, 2010.

Jane Austen describes her heroine Fanny Price's frustrations at trying to conduct a romance in the town with a younger sister around; Dickens takes us on a tour of the dockyard; Mahatma Gandhi relates the moral perils he encounters with a bawdy Southsea landlady while attending a vegetarian conference as a young lawyer in 1890.

The book also includes 111 images of Portsmouth as it used to be. 18th century engravings, vintage comedy postcards, drawings of the streets and photographs from the turn of the century are carefully selected to illustrate the locations described.

The book's author and compiler, local historian Matt Wingett says: ‘For years Portsmouth had a reputation as a tough town, with the navy and drunkenness being the main story but this book reveals there's far more to it than that.’

From what brought Lawrence of Arabia to the Solent, through which Portsmouth woman wrote the United States' first bestseller, to why St Jago the monkey became famous on the Common Hard, the book is full of surprises and humour. 

'You will marry me, will you?' 'Oh, yes,' said Penelope, her heart in her eyes. Oblivious of the watching guests, the dripping-wet lord pulled her back into his arms and kissed her soundly. Several cheered... 'from Penelope Goes To Portsmouth, MC Beaton, 1991.

'You will marry me, will you?' 'Oh, yes,' said Penelope, her heart in her eyes. Oblivious of the watching guests, the dripping-wet lord pulled her back into his arms and kissed her soundly. Several cheered... 'from Penelope Goes To Portsmouth, MC Beaton, 1991.

It also reveals the city's seamy side with colourful descriptions from naval officers who saw it all, mixing the true history of the town with stories from authors both classic and modern.

‘One of Portsmouth's homegrown writers was acclaimed novelist Olivia Manning,’ adds Matt. ‘She said the town was on the outer rim of provincial ignorance. Novelist George Meredith said he was from 'somewhere near Petersfield' rather then admit he was from Portsmouth, but this book shows the town has plenty to be proud of.’

With maps showing the location of each picture, the book is a literary tour. Starting on Portsdown Hill, it takes you via Portchester down the west side of Portsea Island to Old Portsmouth, through the streets of Southsea and up the eastern side. Writers galore have plenty to say about the city, and this book gathers them into one enjoyable, illustrated read.

The book is available from the publisher post-free at lifeisamazing.co.uk, from North End, Cosham, Southsea and Portsmouth Central libraries, Portsmouth Museum, Budd's Apothecary, New To You Books, High Street, Cosham,and from the author at Love Southsea Markets on December 14, 15, 21, 22 and 23, and at The Square Tower on December 16. It can also be ordered from Amazon. Price, £12.50.

The Common Hard, Portsea, where Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby 'stumbled upon two small rooms up three pair of stairs, or rather two pair and a ladder, at a tobacconist's shop on the Common Hard: a dirty street leading down to the dockyard...'

The Common Hard, Portsea, where Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby 'stumbled upon two small rooms up three pair of stairs, or rather two pair and a ladder, at a tobacconist's shop on the Common Hard: a dirty street leading down to the dockyard...'

We have five copies to give away. All you have to do to be entered into the draw is e-mail us at features@thenews.co.uk by midnight on December 19 with the words ‘literary draw’ in the subject field.