Of Thomas Hardy and PJ Harvey: on the trail of Dorset’s inspirational powers

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The county’s people, landscapes and villages have provided material for generations of writers, prompting not only great literature but social reform

I’ve spent my working life as bookseller, book marketer, publisher and now author, so it was probably inevitable that I would lean heavily on literature for my book Real Dorset. Luckily for me, writers have frequently turned to Dorset for their inspiration.

Chief of these of course is Thomas Hardy. He stamped his personality over his idea of Wessex, reviving an ancient kingdom, and giving towns and villages new names. Dorset was the focus for Hardy’s imagination and his presence is everywhere – in museums, bookshops, on blue plaques. Every town seems to have been a film set for a Hardy adaptation. In a somewhat overliteral move, his heart is buried at Stinsford, just east of Dorchester. But there are many more writers worth exploring, all with their own visions.

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