Blackburn’s ‘Jane Austen’ to be celebrated at new Museum event

Published Tuesday 27 September 2022 at 18:57

Dorothy Whipple was perhaps Blackburn’s greatest writer.

In fact, J.B. Priestley once described her as ‘the Jane Austen of the twentieth century.’

Yet, despite her immense popularity, she’s also an ‘unsung literary heroine.’

Now, her success is set to be celebrated at a new talk set to be hosted by Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.

It will see Dr Cynthia Johnston, Lecturer in the History of the Books and Communication at the University of London, document Whipple’s incredibly successful writing career, from the publication of her first novel in 1927 to her last in 1953.

Born in Blackburn in 1893, she wrote eight best-selling novels, short stories and two memoirs as well as children’s books.

Two of her works – They Were Sisters and They Knew Mr Knight – were turned into Hollywood films in the 1940s.

Whipple wrote of ordinary people and their families, the challenges of love and marriage but most consistently about the lives of women.

Her novels focused on the choices available to women of her time – she avoided the sentimental and infused her leading women with a quiet feminism that seemed to escape most of her critics.

Many of her novels were set in Blackburn, and the characters so like her real-life models that her family worried about defamation suits.

Contemporary writers admired her style and craft.

Winifred Holtby wrote: ‘I love your patient human truthful observing eye and your wise refusal to come between your characters and your reader.’

E.M. Delafield praised Whipple’s ‘exactly right mixture of realism and romanticism’ and Vera Britain queried why the coyly romantic cover illustration of Whipple’s first novel contradicted the realist, anti-romantic content.

Whipple’s rise to fame and its eclipse in the 1950s, as well as her revival from 1999 via the republication of all of her novels by Persephone books, will be celebrated at the event starting at 4:30pm on Wednesday, October 19th.

It’s linked to the International Book Fair, during which part of the Whipple archives from Blackburn Library will go on display in London.

‘I write as I like’: Dorothy Whipple; Blackburn’s Unsung Literary Heroine is free to attend and open to all.

For more information, please ring: 01254 667130 or email:

The Museum, on the corner of Richmond Terrace and Museum Street, is open:

Wednesday: 12 – 4:45pm
Thursday: 12 – 4:45pm
Friday: 12 – 4:45pm
Saturday: 12 – 4:45pm

To find out more about what’s on, please click here.

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