Back to Childhood
The best type of authors, are often very perceptive observers of society and people. They may possess the ability to capture the essence of ideas, or the foibles of humanity. Some seem to expose the bones of human life, thought, feelings and actions. We see the truth of their vision, although we may never have quite realised it until, that moment of reading.
Imagination is necessary, in order to be a true and authentic author and yet where do these traits and abilities come from? Let's take a look back to the childhood of some famous writers.
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) was a Danish author and poet; his 100s of fairy tales are famous and loved throughout the world. He was born in a one bedroom house in a very poor area of Odense, Denmark, where his family lived until 1807. The family then moved to another house, which was also very small, but this time, shared by 3 families; 12 people altogether! These overcrowded living conditions, may have helped develop Anderson's propensity to escape into his own fantasy world however.
Andersen's father had received a basic education and introduced his son to a love of stories, by reading him the Arabian Nights. His mother, was uneducated and worked as a washer woman. The young Hans Christian Andersen, attended a school for the poor, however his father died when he was only 11 and he only attended intermittently after that.
Hans Christian Andersen's mother did not approve of her sons love of stories and so he was sent out as an apprentice to a weaver. At age 14 however, he decided to seek his fortune and set off to Copenhagen to become an actor. After many struggles and grinding poverty, Anderson became a paid soprano in a choir, but soon his voice began to change and that was the end of that.
At age 17 Anderson had a chance encounter with the director of the Royal Danish Theatre, who felt that the young Anderson had some poetic talent. This led to the theatre director contacting King Frederik VI, who paid for Anderson to be educated.
At school, the young and sensitive man encountered abuse and great difficulty, and was continually mocked due to his writerly ambitions. It is also believed, that Anderson suffered from dyslexia, which made his lessons difficult. Eventually he was withdrawn from the school and his education continued privately. He was then able to enter the prestigious University of Copenhagen. And later became one of the most cherished writers of all time.
Original manuscript of the Little Mermaid
The Bronte Sisters
That trio of famous Victorian writers called the Brontë sisters, Charlotte (born 1816), Emily (1818) and Anne (1820), are famous for their passionate, classic novels. Their books were written while they were young women, living an isolated and narrow life in an English parsonage, where their father was the perpetual curate. Their father was actually born with the less romantic name of Patrick Brunty in Ireland, but changed the name to Brontë perhaps to sound more impressive.
The mother of the six Brontë children, died a terrible, painful death, from cancer, which must have been traumatic for the young family. However their maternal, unmarried aunt soon came to live with them.
Bronte Parsonage from Churchyard.
The Brontë children loved to be at home, where they spent their time inventing stories about imaginary kingdoms called Angria and Gondal. However Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were able to publish a collection of poems, under the names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell in 1846. But they were extremely publicity shy.
Charlotte, Emily and Anne went on to become famous authors, but their brother Branwell died in 1848 after losing his tutoring position, due to an affair with his employer's wife. It is believed that he was a laudanum addict (opium) and he may have had tuberculosis.
C. S. Lewis
Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, but his father Albert, a solicitor, was from Wales. His mother Florence, was the daughter of a Church of Ireland (Anglican) minister, which may explain Lewis's later religiosity.
Sadly his mother died of cancer in 1908 and young Lewis was sent away to school, after having been educated at home privately. This schooling experience did not last long however, as the headmaster was committed to a psychiatric hospital and the school closed.
Later Lewis returned to Christianity, but his views were unconventional, as he believed in Purgatory, evolution and a “soft universalism.” He thought that people of other religions were being led by gods secret influence and he never embraced the literal-infallible view of the Bible.
In 1916, Lewis won a scholarship to University College, Oxford, but he hated England and the accent for many years; describing the accent as "like the voices of demons".
Lewis went on to fight in World War I, become a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, to publish many books and become friends with another famous writer, J. R. R. Tolkien.