I’m writing this at my desk in BMA House, Tavistock Square, which stands on the site where Dickens lived from 1851 to1860, in Tavistock House. Dickens never feels far away in London, and this part of London is particularly rich in associations.
Within walking distance is the Dickens Museum, in Doughty Street, where he moved with his new wife Catherine and their little household in 1837, before the tragic and sudden death of his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, which seemed to throw off track an initially happy marriage. Walking distance, of course, is a relative issue with Dickens. Years later, he left Tavistock House at two in the morning, racked with unhappiness about his marriage, and walked to his country home, Gad’s Hill near Rochester – a distance of about 40 miles.
Dickens was a regular visitor to the British Museum, from a young age, perhaps taking comfort there during his family’s early trials, when they flitted from address to address, outrunning creditors, often in the hinterland of Somers Town, north of the Euston Road. Later he wrote about the great dust heaps at Kings Cross, in his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend.
His writing on Bloomsbury was often comic, a place where the fringes of the middle class clung desperately to respectability in boarding houses, as I noted in an earlier post. But I think he had an affection for the place, and like to think of him popping out from Doughty Street to the nearby Lamb pub on Lamb’s Conduit Street, a nice little Victorian pub. In fact, I may take a stroll over there myself, and raise a glass to The Inimitable himself, on his 200th birthday.
A few useful Dickens links:
- David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page
- A map of all the places in Dickens’ novels
- And a map of all the places Dickens lived in London
- Those last courtesy of Lee Jackson, ringmaster of the peerless Victorian London