Since I now live in Cornwall, I tend not to have much to say about Shropshire these days. However, I have been reminded twice in the last couple of days of The Raven, the rather pretty Shrewsbury hotel and former coaching inn which was pulled down nearly 60 years ago and replaced with a rather brutalist Woolworths (now another store, though I can’t remember which). This morning, I came across this excerpt from The Recruiting Sergeant by George Farquhar (d. 1707), himself a recruiting officer who often stayed there.
‘…if any servants have too little wages, or any husband too much wife, let them repair to the noble Sergeant Kite, at the sign of the Raven in this good town of Shrewsbury…I don’t beat my drum here to ensnare or inveigle any man, for you must know, gentlemen, that I am a man of honour!’
While a couple of days ago, while watching a dramatization of Howards End (a book I still remember quite well from Eng. Lit. in the 1960s!) with my wife, I mentioned The Raven to her in the context of a visit to Oniton (a fictionalized version of Clun).
‘At Shrewsbury came fresh air. Margaret was all for sight-seeing, and while the others were finishing their tea at the Raven, she annexed a motor and hurried over the astonishing city.’
I shall be interested to see if that little scene makes it to the TV series.
While doing a little fact-checking for this article, I came across this page on Shropshire Literary Connections, which included a couple of connections I hadn’t been aware of. I was particularly entertained by the thought of Wycherley escaping from Wem to London and then escaping back to Shropshire from time to time in order to evade his creditors. One connection it doesn’t mention is Oscar Wilde: in The Importance of Being Earnest Algernon claims that ‘I have Bunburyed all over Shropshire on two separate occasions.’ And Wilde himself apparently lectured at the former Theatre Royal (now flats and retail properties, I think) in 1883.
* Slightly misquoting Poe’s The Raven:
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”