Famous Pubs in Literature

There have been numerous pubs that have been written about in literature – some of which are real, and some have been made up.

The journey started from the Tabard Inn

The pub, acting as a gathering place, has been at the heart of many a plot and from these circumstances many stories have emerged.One of the earliest books to be written was the “Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, which was published in the 14th century. The book revolves around a group of travellers who gathered in the Tabard public house in Southwark before embarking on their pilgrimage to Canterbury. On their journey, the group of 29 are encouraged to tell stories by the pub landlord. Shakespeare also refers to pubs in his writing. In “Henry IV” parts one and two a number of the scenes were played out in the Boars Head as it was a frequent haunt of Price Hal and his “side kick” Sir John Falstaff. Within the boundaries of the tavern, the pair almost build up a relationship of son and surrogate father. Although Prince Hal vowed not to become like Falstaff, he secretly admired him and was often guided by his advice. This type of fostered friendship is not unusual in stories featuring public houses. The effects of alcohol often put distance between reality and fantasy, and the loudest drunks are left to preach their wise philosophies to a willing audience. Beer, in Prince Hal’s case, resulted in him being guided by a man of ill repute.

The real Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor
The real Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor

Thomas Hardy also wrote about drinking habits in the 19th century in his first novel “Far from the Madding Crowd” about the imaginary county of Wessex in. Wessex was based on the rural county of Dorset, and in the local villages, there were two ways for the locals to purchase beer. The first was the traditional method of visiting the Inns, such as the Bucks Head Inn which captured the attention of the local undertaker. The other way that people enjoyed an ale was to visit certain cottages in villages, where ladies would often brew and sell her own ale. The twentieth century has seen playwrights writing humorously about the antics that have occurred in the local pub. This was certainly the case with P.G. Wodehouse and his tales about the “Anglers Rest”, which was controlled by the landlady Miss Postlethwaite. As well as keeping order in the pub, she would also be at the centre of the conversations that would be conducted each evening. One of the most daunting pubs to have been written about was Jamaica Inn, which was used as the title of the novel written by Daphne De Maurier in 1936. Set in the heart of Bodmin Moor, the Inn was closely linked to the activities of local smugglers. Its criminal atmosphere was also created as a result of the landlord, Joss Merlyn, bragging that his father had been hanged in Exeter prison. The pub gains a reputation of being loud and bawdy. The patrons of the bars and inns are the real targets for story tellers. Bars attracts characters and fantasists, and many a story has been created from the people who meet in these establishments.