Charles Dickens in Richmond

I came across this from Richmond Council.

Untitled 1The purpose of these notes is to describe Charles Dickens’s associations with our borough and to illustrate how he made use of his knowledge of this particular part of the Thames Valley in his novels.

Estella in Great Expectations (1861) states:- “Our lesson is that there are two Richmonds, one in Surrey and one in Yorkshire, and that mine is the Surrey Richmond.” As early as August 1836 – during the period when The Pickwick Papers was being published in monthly installments – we find him on holiday in Petersham. His letters are headed simply “Mrs. Denman’s, Petersham, near Richmond”. He may well have been staying at the Dysart Arms where the proprietor at that time was a John Denman. A letter written in October 1837 to his friend and biographer John Forster, inviting him to participate in a pleasure trip, suggests that Dickens was already familiar with other parts of the borough:- “I think Richmond and Twickenham through the Park, out at Knightsbridge, and over Barnes Common, would make a beautiful ride.”

Readers of The Pickwick Papers will remember that, in the final chapter, Tracey Tupman retires to Richmond:- “…where he ever since resided. He walks constantly on The Terrace during the summer months, with a youthful and jaunty air which has rendered him the admiration of the numerous elderly ladies of single condition, who reside in the vicinity.” During the first half of the 19th century, the Star and Garter Hotel on Richmond Hill gained an enviable reputation under the management of Joseph Ellis. Dickens and his wife stayed there towards the end of March 1838. The purpose of this particular visit – apart from that of aiding his wife’s convalescence- was to be out of London on the day that the first number of Nicholas Nickleby was published, for – as Forster writes in his biography – “Having been away from town when Pickwick’s first number came out, he made it a superstition to be absent at many future similar times.” On this occasion, Forster spent a Sunday with Dickens at Richmond to celebrate their respective birthdays and also Dickens’ wedding anniversary.

This celebration apparently became a tradition over a period of twenty years (except when Dickens and his wife were out of England) and it always took place at the Star and Garter.

The Hotel was, indeed, a favourite resort of the author, whether as a place to meet friends and to celebrate a particular event o, or as simply a haven where he could recuperate after many strenuous weeks of work. Early in 1844, a dinner party took place there to celebrate the birth of the novelist’s third son. But perhaps the most important Dickens gathering at the Star and Garter was that of June 1850 when Thackeray and Tennyson were among the guests celebrating the publication of David Copperfield. Returning once more to the year 1838, we find Dickens and his family spending the summer in Twickenham – at 4, Ailsa Park Villas (near the present St. Margarets station), which he rented during June and July. In a letter to Forster of May 1838, he wrote:- “Kate is going in a fly to Twickenham to look at the cottage and we are to join her there.” Dickens was now working on Oliver Twist, but he found time to entertain many visitors at Twickenham and also to form a balloon club for the amusement of his children.

The club was called “The Gammon Aeronautical Balloon Association for the encouragement of Science and the Consumption of Spirits of Wine”. Forster was elected president with the duty of supplying the balloons. In the spring of the following year Dickens became re-acquainted with Petersham. His diary entry for Tuesday 30th April 1839 reads:- “Took possession of Elm Cottage, Petersham [in the Petersham Road] for 4 months – Rent for term: £100.” The outdoor recreations here, as described by Forster, were rather more strenuous than those at Twickenham:- “Extensive garden-grounds admitted much athletic competition, from the more difficult forms of which I in general modestly retired, but where Dickens for the most part held his own against even such accomplished athletes as MacLise [Daniel MacLise, the artist] and Mr Beard [Thomas Beard, a journalist friend]. Bar-leaping, bowling and quoits were among the games carried on with the greatest ardour; and in sustained energy, what is called keeping it up, Dickens certainly distancing every competitor. Even the lighter recreations of battledore and bagatelle were pursued with relentless activity; and at such and which he visited daily while the amusements as the Petersham races, in those days rather celebrated, and which he visited daily while they lasted, he worked much harder himself than the running horses did.” From Petersham it was not far to Hampton and Dickens also visited the race meeting held there in June. It cannot be mere coincidence that in the July number of Nickleby, Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Frederick also visited the Hampton races:- “The little racecourse at Hampton was in the full tide and height of its gaiety; the sun high in the cloudless sky. Every gaudy colour that fluttered in the air from carriage seat and garish tent-top shone out in its gaudiest hues.”

The subsequent quarrel between the two men on the way back from the races led to the duel which took place in Petersham:- “Shall we join the company in the avenue of trees which leads from Petersham to Ham House and settle the exact spot when we are there?……they at length turned to the right, and, taking a track across a little meadow, passed Ham House and came into some fields beyond. In one of these they stopped.” In a more sinister connection, Hampton had also featured briefly in Oliver Twist. It is there that Bill Sikes and Oliver halt for a while at ” an old public-house with a defaced sign-board” on their way to the burglary at Chertsey. Dickens also took advantage of the river for exercise, as is shown in his letter to MacLise, dated 28th June 1839:- “Beard is hearty, new and thicker ropes have been put up at the tree, the little birds have flown, their very nests have disappeared, the roads about are jewelled after dusk by glowworms, the leaves are all out and the flowers too, swimming feats from Petersham to Richmond Bridge have been achieved before breakfast, I myself have risen at 6 and plunged head foremost into the water to the astonishment and admiration of all beholders…” Among the other celebrities at that time resident in the area were the Berry sisters, Agnes and Mary, who entertained Dickens to dinner on July 1st 1839.

In June Dickens had received a letter from the Rev. Sydney Smith:- “The Miss Berrys, now at Richmond, live only to become acquainted with you and have commissioned me to request you to dine with them Friday, the 29th or Monday July 1st to meet a Canon of St. Paul’s, the Rector of Combe Florey and the Vicar of Halberton [i.e. Smith himself, who was all three] – all equally well known to you; to say nothing of other and better people.

The Miss Berrys and Lady Charlotte Lindsay have not the smallest objection to be put into a Number, but, on the contrary, would be proud of the distinction; and Lady Charlotte, in particular, you may marry to Newman Noggs. Pray come, it is as much as my place is worth to send them a refusal.” According to Chancellor in his History and Antiquities of Richmond, Kew, Petersham, Ham etc. (1894), Dickens also lived for a time at Woodbine Cottage which was situated near Elm Cottage in the Petersham Road. There seems to be no mention of this, however, in the novelist’s published letters. Dickens’s sojourn at Petersham lasted until the end of August 1839 and we next hear of him in the vicinity in May 1840. Early in that month he wrote to Forster:- “We are to be heard of at the Eel Pie House, Twickenham where we shall dine at half past five or thereabouts and where we will take care of you if you come.” The novelist must have visited this popular establishment on at least one previous occasion, for in Nicholas Nickleby (the last instalment of which appeared in October 1839), Morleena Kenwigs travels to Eel Pie Island by steamer from Westminster Bridge Local History Notes From Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection Page 4 of 4 “to make merry upon a cold collation, bottled-beer, shrub and shrimps and to dance to the music of a locomotive band.” In Little Dorrit (1857), the Meagles cottage was by the river between Richmond Bridge and Teddington Lock;_ “It stood in a garden and was defended by a goodly show of handsome trees and spreading evergreens. It was made of an old brick house, which a part had been altogether pulled down, and another part had been changed into the present cottage…within view was the peaceful river, and the ferry boat.”

Finally, there is the vivid description in Great Expectations of the house by Richmond Green, to which Estella is sent by Miss Haversham:- “…a staid old house, where hoops and powder and patches, embroidered coats, rolled stockings, ruffles and swords, had their court days many a time. Some ancient trees before the house were still cut into fashions as formal and unnatural as the hoops and wigs and stiff skirts; but their own allotted places in the great procession of the dead were not far off, and they would soon drop into them and go the silent way of the rest.”

Notes From Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection.

The Pre-Raphaelites

John_Everett_Millais_-_Ophelia_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood or the Pre-Raphaelites as they became known and was a group of English painters, poets, and critics.

The movement was founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti who were joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form the seven-member, so called “brotherhood”.

The groups manifesto was:

  1. to have genuine ideas to express
  2. to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them
  3. to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote
  4. most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues

and as usual I have only come this 150 years late!!

I love this artwork. So over the next few weeks we will take a look at the key works in this fabulous movement. This week we start with:

Ophelia by British artist Sir John Everett Millais. Possibly one of his finest paintings, it was completed between 1851 and 1852

It depicts Ophelia, a character from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, singing before she drowns in a river in Denmark. I think it is beautiful, the colour and composition are wonderful and is held in the Tate Britain in London.

Two Tahitian girls sold for £197m

86C4574B-B544-4AC4-98B9-712C127204EC_w640_r1_s_cx0_cy18_cw0I bet when Victorian Post-Impressionist Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin finished his paining of two Tahitian girls he never in his wildest dreams could have been sold for a whopping £197m making it the most expensive work of art ever sold!

Nafea Faa Ipoipo or When Will You Marry? was painted in 1892 and had been owned by a Swiss collector and it now seems it was sold to a museum in Qatar.

The small oil-rich state paid the previous highest price for a painting, a work by Paul Cezanne which sold for a reported £158m.

Fitzroy House is up for sale!

2104636781If you happen to have a million spare this would make a rather nice spend.

Fitzroy House in Friars Walk is the former Lewes Library.

It dates from 1862 and was designed by renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott who also created the awesome Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial, and not forgetting  the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

It has been lovingly restored after the roof fell in by the Franks Family, whose parents Jim and Maureen bought the library to restore it,

Originally, it was to be transformed into offices but that fell though so they set about an ambitious project of transforming it into a home.

What followed was a five year labour of love while the family worked on the project, with help from their friends. Eleanor says ‘My father kept a journal and updated me every week about the progress that was being made.’

It was built as the Fitzroy Memorial Library by a member of the Rothschild family.

The building remained a library until 1958 when the library was moved to Albion Street and Fitzroy House became offices. When it was deemed not viable, it stayed empty for about five years and was partly demolished before an emergency preservation order and Grade II listing instigated by the Friends of Lewes was approved to prevent demolition.

The unusual home, built in the Gothic Revival style for which Scott became known, has two floors with 2,800 square foot of space.

So what was it like living in a house like this?

“It’s surprisingly quiet because if has very thick walls so you don’t get as much noise as you would expect. It’s an interesting place to live. It is one of the most striking buildings in Lewes, if you like Victorian Gothic which I do.”

Scott was an English Gothic revival architect, associated with the design, building and renovation of churches and cathedrals, although he started his career as a leading designer of workhouses.

Fitzroy House, built in Gothic Victorian style, is probably one of Lewes’ most recognisable and unique buildings. It includes a large entrance hall with Gothic Victorian pillars and a tiled floor, a reception room with an octagonal building at first floor and an octagonal roof light highlighting the ornate clock tower.

There is a bedroom with an ensuite shower, a second bedroom, a study/third bedroom and a snug/fourth bedroom, a bathroom, WC/shower, a reception room measuring 36ft by 36ft, a kitchen with dining area, a first floor living room and a rear yard with off street parking.

Sherlock…new…old…new….we love it!

Arch detective Sherlock Holmes has come in many guises and whilst my favourite who is the nearest to Conan-Doyle vision is Jeremy Brett, I can’t help but love Benedict Cumberbatch and the ever awesome Martin  Freeman.

25481E8F00000578-0-image-a-67_1422918449027And now we have our two heroes in Victorian clothing without a clue to the idea of a plot…they were caught on set in Bristol, surrounded by extra and the filming is for the Christmas 2015 edition.

That’s a long wait indeed!!

Rebecca Mead’s 6 favorite books that illuminate the Victorian era from The Week

From The Week

0206_BooklisterEminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey (Dover, $10). Published in 1918, at the tail end of the Great War, this book offers an acidulous retrospective of an era only recently departed by way of four short profiles of 19th-century worthies: an influential educator, a military hero, a cardinal, and Florence Nightingale. It was later republished under the title Five Victorians, incorporating Strachey’s delicious 1921 biography of Queen Victoria herself.

Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose (Vintage, $17). Rose examines the institution of marriage in the Victorian era by looking at the unusual marital arrangements of five literary couples, including the notoriously unwed George Eliot and George Henry Lewes. It is an exemplary work of sympathetic criticism, and when I meet someone else who loves it, I know I have found a friend.

Possession by A.S. Byatt (Vintage, $16). Byatt won the 1990 Booker Prize for this novel, in which two modern-day scholars discover a previously unknown romance between their 19th-century objects of study. Byatt’s deep immersion in Victorian literature and her familiarity with late-20th-century academia allow her to create two utterly persuasive, intersecting worlds.

Angels and Ages by Adam Gopnik (Vintage, $15). Gopnik’s double biography concerns two men born on the same day in 1809: Abraham Lincoln — who was not a Victorian — and Charles Darwin, who most decidedly was. Gopnik’s deft touch as he weaves their worlds together belies the scrupulousness of his research.

Gross Indecency by Moisés Kaufman (Vintage, $14). Kaufman’s play provides a dramatic reimagining of the criminal trials in 1895 that consigned Oscar Wilde to prison. The performance I saw in New York in 1997 brought the hypocrisies of Victorian morality alarmingly to life.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (Vintage, $17). Of all the contemporary novels that have self-consciously attempted to achieve the sweep and texture of a Victorian triple-decker in a modern context, A Fine Balance is one of the best. Set in 1970s India, Mistry’s novel is as satisfyingly convoluted and as emotionally wrenching as Dickens.

Street gangs and Scuttlers

downloadI guess I became aware of gangs around the age of 13 or 14 in a couple of ways.

Firstly it was the era of real music and fashion sub-cultures.

I was into heavy metal music and was therefore a ‘headbanger’, there were ‘Skinheads’ who listened to Two Tone music, ‘Mods’ who listened to Northern Soul and ‘Poseurs’ who like soul music. We were affiliated to a particular type of music…fights happened, people got hurt…seems rather silly looking back.

There was also a successful TV series called ‘Hill Street Blues’ which dealt with street gangs that were america who were affiliated by race such as Irish, Italian or Black.

But gangs are nothing knew and were rife across the country during the late Victorian Era. The Scuttlers, for instance, tended to be members of a neighbourhood gang formed in slums and working class areas of Manchester and Salford.

Alexander Devine believed they were a blight on society and they probably were. Devine, a British educator blamed the gang culture to a ‘lack of parental control‘ (sound familiar) a ‘lack of discipline in schools‘ (blame the teachers) ‘and the monotony of life in Manchester’s slums‘ or any slums in my opinion.

He defined a ‘scuttler is a lad, usually between the ages of 14 and 18, or even 19, and scuttling consists of the fighting of two opposed bands of youths, who are armed with various weapons’

Gang members fought over territory in the slums. They all carried knives and wore heavy buckled belts, often decorated with pictures such as serpents, hearts pierced with arrows or women’s names, big and bulky – good use in a fight.

The thick leather belts were their most prized possessions and were wrapped tightly around the wrist at the onset of a “scuttle”, so that the buckle could be used to strike at opponents.

The use of knives and belts was designed to maim and disfigure rather than to kill.

According to the Gorton Reporter in May 1879 a ‘scuttle’ involving more than 500 people took place and by 1890 more gang members were held in Strangeways Prison for scuttling than for any other offence.

However the street gang of that era, like mine declined. We grew up but the Scuttlers slum were cleared and the youths were encouraged by churches to join football teams which of course led to the Football Association we have today.

Funny old world ain’t it!