Literary Connections - Deal
Over the years, travellers passing through Deal have left us with their observations on the seaside town.
In 1697, Celia Fiennes noted 'the buildings new and neate brickwork with gardens', asserting that'they are most masters of shipps houses and seamen or else those that belong to the Cordage and saile makeing.' To her, Deal seemed 'a good thriveing place.' (THROUGH ENGLAND ON A SIDE-SADDLE)
By the 1820s, William Cobbett found Deal to be 'a most villanous place'. But he was clearly prejudiced, confessing, 'I was glad to hurry along through it, and to leave its inns and public-houses to be occupied by the tarred, and trowsered, and blue-and-buff crew whose very vicinage I always detest.' (RURAL RIDES)
Even in 1982, Paul Theroux could still see evidence of those who earned their living from the sea in this 'small mild town'. 'The seafront was just rope and hauled-up fishing dinghies, and the wind was blowing along the stony shingly shore.' (THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA)
The Downs was once a place of safe anchorage for ships awaiting orders - or a favourable wind. Jane Austen's brother, Charles, was a sailor and his sister mentions in one of her letters that he was joining his ship at Deal, where it was anchored in the Downs.
21st January 1799
Charles leaves us tonight. The 'Tamar' is in the Downs, and Mr Daysh advises him to join her there directly.... He will proceed in one of the night coaches to Deal.
In the early 19th century, balls were held at the Assembly Rooms, which stood on the corner of Duke Street. While staying at Goodnestone Farm in 1805, Jane Austen refers to'the ball at Deal on Friday' when writing to her sister, Cassandra. (Letters, 27th August 1805)
While staying at his weekend home in St Margaret's Bay, Noel Coward came into Deal to shop and to visit one of the town's cinemas. (The cinemas were located in Queen Street, King Street and Seafront.) He records a miserable evening spent watching the film version of his play, Bitter Sweet, on 1st July 1946, declaring it to be 'a nauseating hotchpotch of vulgarity, false values, seedy dialogue, stale sentiment, vile performance and abominable direction.' (DIARIES)
Novels and Memoirs
A Hanging Matter by David Donachie (1994)
A naval adventure story set in 1794 involving the world of smuggling and contraband. Set in Deal, Kent.
Undercurrents by Frances Fyfield (2001)
One of our country's finest crime writers based her compelling mystery at Deal (known in the novel as Warbling).
The Boy With No Shoes by William Horwood (2004)
The author's very moving memoir based on his childhood in Deal after the Second World War.
The Pier by Rayner Heppenstall (1986)
John Rayner Heppenstall, British novelist, poet and diarist and BBC radio presenter writes his story of murder around Deal and its pier.