Thank You, Dear Ancestor

Thank you, dear Ancestor, from the bottom of my heart.

You won’t be surprised, but you launched my career as a writer! You gave me the genetics for it, and then I sought education on the finer points of writing, including deliberate rule-breaking. Yet until recently I didn’t realize what a rich writing heritage flourished in the counties of my youth.

Thank you, dear Ancestor, for writing skills you brought to my mother’s family tree! I don’t know which of you started writing first but you include a newspaper editor and more than one epistle writer to the misfits who emigrated in each generation. It was probably before the time of Charles Dickens (born in Hampshire) and Thomas Hardy (born in Dorset). I wish something of yours had been preserved, or that someone would send me copies of it.

Charles Dickens was born 7 February 1812 in Portsmouth, England. He died 9 June 1870 and is buried at Westminster Abbey in London. I do not think there is any kind of extended family relationship between our Hampshire families, though I haven’t checked. However, the environment contributed much. Dickens’ experience of hardship and poverty was not that different from what our lives would have been in a city instead of a rural town, and his compassion has definitely informed my life. As any other writer who has read Dickens, my sense of revulsion at social injustice stems from similar experience in my own background.

Thomas Hardy was born 2 June 1840 in the parish of Stinsford, England. He died 11 January 1928. Due to a dispute between his family/friends and his Executor, Hardy’s heart is buried at Stinsford Parish Church at his first wife’s grave, but his ashes lie in the Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey. At least one of my maternal grandma’s lines came directly from Dorset, and again, I haven’t tried to see if there is any connection. Hardy was a successful architect despite his family’s limited means but always felt like a social outcast in London. He returned to Weymouth, Dorset to write novels and poetry, often focusing on declining rural communities.

Growing up, I didn’t know the literary atmosphere was so heady and creative in Hampshire and Dorset. Other counties referred to us as Hampshire Hogs, after all. We were confined to Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and writers of that ilk in high school. Never were we encouraged to read our native writers, and I’m sure the subject matter was considered inappropriate. Let’s not give them ideas different from their social station. We could have learned early on how to escape from oppressors and become someone, instead of instinctively having to fight for freedom when we grew older.

So whether the Marsh line launched my career as a writer or the Watts line did, I have the genetics for it. Thank you, dear Ancestor, from the bottom of my heart.

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