Harry Potter Auction Could Shed Light on Lockhart’s Inspiration

June 12, 2023.
Harry Potter Auction Could Shed Light on Lockhart's Inspiration
Harry Potter Auction Could Shed Light on Lockhart’s Inspiration

J.K. Rowling has always been very secretive about the various inspirations she drew upon for her magnum opus, Harry Potter. At different points in her career, she has asserted that no character was inspired by a real person, except for Professor Gilderoy Lockhart.

Rowling has mentioned the character, who is introduced in the second book of the series, on multiple occasions, particularly addressing his inspiration. “The closest I’ve come to putting a real person in my books is with Gilderoy Lockhart, who is an exaggeration of someone I once knew,” she said in the 2000 chat, and a few months later, in the AOL chat: “Gilderoy Lockhart had his roots in a real person too but I’ll say no more there.” She mentioned it again on her official website in 2004: “I have only once set out to depict somebody I have met and, unlikely though it might seem, the result was Gilderoy Lockhart.”

However, the identity of this person was never revealed. The press and some fans speculated about Rowling’s first husband, but the author quickly debunked it. Now, a new auction could shed light on this matter.

Bonhams auction house will be auctioning a signed and dedicated copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on June 21, along with handwritten letters from the author. The recipients of these precious items were Brenda and Ken, the parents of a former boyfriend of the author with whom she maintained a good relationship after their breakup.

Rowling met Michael (Mike), Brenda and Ken’s son, at the University of Exeter, and they were in a relationship for a few years until 1991 when they separated and Rowling traveled to Portugal. In one of the letters Rowling sent to Brenda, which is part of the auction lot, the author thanks Brenda for always being so kind and tries to convince her to have his son Mike read the first book, adding, “I’m thinking of pretending there’s a character based on him in the next one, just to fool him into ploughing through it.”

Of course, while this might fuel a possible theory that Mike inspired the character of Lockhart, it is far from confirming anything. But Lockhart is the only character Rowling has publicly stated is based on a real person, and it aligns with what was mentioned in the letter to Brenda. However, at the 2004 Edinburgh Book Festival, Rowling discussed the topic and concluded by saying, “Other people have contributed the odd characteristic, such as a nose, to a character, but the only character who I sat down and thought that I would base on someone is Gilderoy Lockhart. It made up for having to endure him for two solid years.” However, back in 2000, she stated that the relationship preceding her marriage to Arantes had lasted “seven years” (which is more than two years), potentially ruling out Mike as the inspiration behind Lockhart.

It is also true that Rowling’s sentence in the letter seems to suggest that the character is not actually based on him, but it’s something Rowling would pretend to make him read. Although that sounds like something you would do to Lockhart to get him to read a book, doesn’t it? The truth is that nothing is known for certain, and the only one with the power to debunk this is J.K. Rowling herself. It should be mentioned that the author is likely not happy about her private letters ending up in public auctions.