Dickens’ London Part 2

Charles Dickens, a literary hero of mine. Who could not find his Characters like scrooge, David Copperfield, Mr Micawber, Nicholas Nickleby, Bumble, Oliver Twist, Fagin, Dodger and many, many more so rich and deep.

I think one of Dickens strengths is that we are able to identify even now with those characters in one way of another.

Back in 1903 M.F.Manfield published a book called ‘Dickens London’. It’s an interesting document as Dickens himself has only been gone for three decades, so here is the second installment simply called:


Somerset House 1853

The father of Charles Dickens was for a time previous to the birth of the novelist a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, then in Somerset House, which stands hard by the present Waterloo Bridge, in the very heart of London, where Charles Dickens grew to manhood in later years.

From this snug berth Dickens, senior, was transferred to Portsmouth, where, at No. 387 Commercial Road, in Portsea, on the 7th February, 1812, Charles Dickens was born.

Four years later the family removed to Chatham, near Rochester, and here the boy Charles received his first schooling.

From Chatham the family again removed, this time to London, where the son, now having arrived at the age of eleven, became a part and parcel of that life which he afterward depicted so naturally and successfully in the novels.

Here he met with the early struggles with grim poverty and privation,—brought about by the vicissitudes which befell the family,—which proved so good a school for his future career as a historian of the people. His was the one voice which spoke with authoritativeness, and aroused that interest in the nether world which up to that time had slumbered.

Warrens Blacking Factory

The miseries of his early struggles with bread-winning in Warren’s Blacking Factory,—in association with one Fagin, who afterward took on immortalization at the novelist’s hands,—for a weekly wage of but six shillings per week, is an old and realistic fact which all biographers and most makers of guide-books have worn nearly threadbare.

That the family were sore put in order to keep their home together, first in Camden Town and later in Gower Street, North, is only too apparent. The culmination came when the elder Dickens was thrown into Marshalsea Prison for debt, and the family removed thither, to Lant Street, near by, in order to be near the head of the family.

The remains of the Marshalsea

This is a sufficiently harrowing sequence of events to allow it to be left to the biographers to deal with them to the full. Here the author glosses it over as a mere detail; one of those indissoluble links which connects the name of Dickens with the life of London among the lower and middle classes during the Victorian era.

An incident in “David Copperfield,” which Dickens has told us was real, so far as he himself was concerned, must have occurred about this period. The reference is to the visit to “Ye Olde Red Lion” at the corner of Derby Street, Parliament Street, near Westminster Bridge, which house has only recently disappeared. He has stated that it was an actual experience of his own childhood, and how, being such a little fellow, the landlord, instead of drawing the ale, called his wife, who gave the boy a motherly kiss.

The incident as recounted in “David Copperfield” called also for a glass of ale, and reads not unlike:

“I remember one hot evening I went into the bar of a public-house, and said to the landlord: ‘What is your best—your very best ale a glass?’ For it was a special occasion. I don’t know what. It may have been my birthday. ‘Twopence-halfpenny,’ says the landlord, ‘is the price of the Genuine Stunning Ale.’ ‘Then,’ says I, producing the money, ‘just draw me a glass of the Genuine Stunning, if you please, with a good head to it.'”

After a time his father left the Navy Pay Office and entered journalism. The son was clerking, meanwhile, in a solicitor’s office,—that of Edward Blackmore,—first in Lincoln’s Inn, and subsequently in Gray’s Inn. A diary of the author was recently sold by auction, containing as its first entry, “13s 6d for one week’s salary.” Here Dickens acquired that proficiency in making mental memoranda of his environment, and of the manners and customs of lawyers and their clerks, which afterward found so vivid expression in “Pickwick.”

By this time the father’s financial worries had ceased, or at least made for the better. He had entered the realms of journalism and became a Parliamentary reporter, which it is to be presumed developed a craving on the part of Charles for a similar occupation; when following in his father’s footsteps, he succeeded, after having learned Gurney’s system of shorthand, in obtaining an appointment as a reporter in the press gallery of the House of Commons (the plans for the new Parliament buildings were just then taking shape), where he was afterward acknowledged as being one of the most skilful and accomplished shorthand reporters in the galleries of that unconventional, if deliberate, body, which even in those days, though often counting as members a group of leading statesmen, perhaps ranking above those of the present day, was ever a democratic though “faithful” parliamentary body.

In 1834 the old Houses of Parliament were burned, and with the remains of Continue reading


Dickens’ London Part 1

Charles John Huffam Dickens was a wonderful author and novelist, I mean who has not heard of him!

I grew up watching Oliver which whilst a great musical production (and I don’t like musicals in general) it tends to stray from the story of Oliver Twist, now David Leans is far darker and nearer to the mark for me anyway.

That is the London that fascinated me, Charles Dickens London, full of poverty, hopelessness, wealth and luxury. Scowling scoundrels who refer to people as ‘coves’ or bloated rich braggarts who refer to children as ‘ruffians’  with others in between.

Back in 1903 M.F.Manfield published a book called ‘Dickens London’. It’s an interesting document as Dickens himself has only been gone for three decades, so here is the first installment in a few parts of the introduction and first chapter which make for interesting reading:

All sublunary things of death partake!
What alteration does a cent’ry make!
Kings and Comedians all are mortal found,
Cæsar and Pinkethman are underground.
What’s not destroyed by time’s devouring hand?
Where’s Troy, and where’s the Maypole in the Strand?
Pease, cabbages, and turnips once grew where
Now stands New Bond Street and a newer square;
Such piles of buildings now rise up and down,
London itself seems going out of town.
James Bramston, The Art of Politicks.

In Praise of London

“The inhabitants of St. James’, notwithstanding they live under the same laws and speak the same language, are as a people distinct from those who live in the ‘City.'” Addison.

“If you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of the City you must not be satisfied with its streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts.” Johnson.

“I have often amused myself with thinking how different a place London is to different people.” Boswell.

“I had rather be Countess of Puddle-Dock (in London) than Queen of Sussex.” Shadwell.

“London … a place where next-door neighbours do not know one another.”Fielding.

“London … where all people under thirty find so much amusement.”Gray.

“Dull as London is in summer, there is always more company in it than in any other one place.” Walpole.

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