P. Dickens, Charles. Portrait. Young.LIFE Photo Collection
Charles Dickens was an English writer and campaigner for social reform. He was the most famous man of his era, and many of his books have never gone out of print. His characters, sayings, and tropes have all played a part in creating modern literature.
Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, 1812 and moved to College Place in London aged just 12 to live closer to his father, who in 1824 had been put into Marshalsea debtors' prison. The family friend he stayed with provided the inspiration for Mrs Pipchin in Dombey and Son.
Warren's Blacking Warehouse
To pay his rent and to help his family, Dickens was forced to leave school and work ten-hour days at Warren's Blacking Warehouse on Hungerford Stairs, close to this alleyway. There he earned six shillings a week pasting labels on to tins of shoe polish.
Grays Inn Gardens
From May 1827 to November 1828, Dickens worked in Grays Inn as a solicitor's clerk. He taught himself shorthand writing, and took up work as a freelance reporter, visiting the courts and writing on the cases. It also taught him of the cruel injustices faced by many.
58-59 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Lincoln's Inn has been London's legal district since at least the 15th century. Dickens' friend and biographer John Forster lived here. Dickens, perhaps as a macabre joke, gave this address as the home, and grisly murder scene, of the lawyer Mr Tulkinghorn in Bleak House.
Further north is Staple Inn, one of the oldest buildings still standing in London. This wattle and daub Tudor building dates back to 1585 and miraculously survived the Great Fire and the Blitz. Working in the area, Dickens would have known it well.
South of Lincoln's Inn is Middle Temple, another legal district of the city found between Fleet Street and the River Thames. Dickens was a member of Middle Temple, and it's also where Pip takes lodgings in Great Expectations.
48 Doughty Street
As the blue plaque attests, this was where Dickens lived between 1837-39. It was the first home he shared with his wife Catherine, and where, at the height of his fame, he wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby.
Inside, the museum evokes the house he would have known. It also holds numerous first editions, original manuscripts, letters, and personal items. It feels a little… eerie, as if his spirit might suddenly appear…
The Lyceum Theatre
Today, there's only one play to see at the Lyceum Theatre, just off the Strand. In Dickens' day it was brand new, and in 1860 it put on an adaption of his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Funnily enough, Dickens used to live on this street too.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
After taking in a play, head down Fleet Street to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. There's been a pub on this site since 1538, and it's long been associated with literary figures. It's known to have been one of Dickens' favourites. The rooms go deep underground, so watch your step!
Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey
Charles Dickens died at just 58 years old. He had wanted a quiet funeral, but as a national literary hero and champion of social justice, nobody allowed that. He was laid to rest here, in Westminster Abbey, amongst the great and the good of Britain, on 14 June, 1870.
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