Begin Poets’ Nook, Westminster Abbey
End Jerusalem Tavern, Farringdon
Distance 4½ miles
Time three hours (or significantly longer)
Let’s begin on the finish. On 14 June 1870, the physique of Charles Dickens was lowered into Poets’ Nook in Westminster Abbey, watched by maybe a dozen mourners. His pal, Wilkie Collins, was amongst them, however there was no place for Dickens’ estranged spouse, Catherine. Dickens had needed to be buried close to his dwelling in Kent, with no fuss, however he’d misplaced management of his personal story. He was 58 years outdated – and the brass lettering on his black tombstone nonetheless glows with unquenchable power.
Dickens liked to stroll, at velocity, typically via the night time. Comply with him previous the Homes of Parliament (the place he made his identify writing Sketches by Boz) and right down to the foot of Hungerford Bridge and the gray Thames (“stretching away to the good ocean, Loss of life”). That is the place the 12-year-old Dickens labored in Warren’s Blacking Manufacturing facility. You may kindle some Pickwickian cheer in Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villiers Road. It dates from 1890 however is undeniably “Dickensian”. The trains (which introduced Dickens’ coffin from Kent) clatter overhead out and in of Charing Cross.
Parallel Buckingham Road (the place Dickens – and David Copperfield – as soon as lodged) results in the Strand. Nothing a lot survives aside from its width and bustle, however the Lyceum Theatre (opened 1834) placed on an adaptation of A Story of Two Cities in 1860. And Dickens lived simply behind at 16 Wellington Road (now gone) earlier than transferring to quantity 26, the place he stored a bachelor flat and produced his journal, All 12 months Spherical.
Stroll throughout Covent Backyard and previous the grand, grubby Garrick Membership, which Dickens liked and loathed. In Dickens’ day, Seven Dials, simply to the north, was a raddled slum of “soiled males, filthy ladies, squalid kids … reeking pipes … depressed canine”. Thanking your fortunate stars (or the writer’s campaigning work), head east alongside slim, now-sanitised streets to 58-59 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the home of Dickens’ pal and biographer, John Forster. In Bleak Home, that is the house (and homicide scene) of the ghastly lawyer, Mr Tulkinghorn.
Certainly one of Dickens’ personal properties lies to the north, greatest reached by way of Chancery Lane (“the one nice precept of English regulation is to make enterprise for itself”) and Grey’s Inn Walks Gardens. Dickens lived at 48 Doughty Road from 1837 to 1839, the interval when his fame was at its top. It has been reconstructed as he knew it (form of): his desk, the eating desk set for a feast, and the bed room the place his sister-in-law, Mary, died.
Head throughout Grey’s Inn Street and comply with Elm Road and Mount Nice (the place Smallweed skulked in Bleak Home) to cross Rosebery Avenue into Coldbath Sq.. Then take Crawford Passage into Farringdon Street and the nice and cozy embrace of the Betsey Trotwood pub. Betsey was David Copperfield’s aunt – and the pub, whereas not of Dickens’ period, feels proper. Simply to the left is Pear Tree Courtroom, the place Oliver Twist watched the Suave Dodger choosing pockets.
Subsequent, dodge again alongside Clerkenwell Street to go down Hatton Backyard (quantity 54 was Mr Fang’s magistrates courtroom in Oliver Twist), admiring the jewellers, and into Saffron Hill. The streets are darkish, slim and now gentrified: you wouldn’t suppose that this was as soon as Fagin’s lair, nor that the One Tun pub was, reportedly, Invoice Sikes’ native, The Three Cripples.
Cross Farringdon Street once more, which was in an uproar of recent constructing within the 1860s (it nonetheless is) and end within the tiny Jerusalem Tavern, opened in 1996 however wanting historical. There’s a log hearth, it’s chilly exterior, so elevate a glass and say, “God bless us, each one!”
Peter Fiennes is the writer of Footnotes: A Journey Spherical Britain within the Firm of Nice Writers (Oneworld, £16.99), accessible for £14.95 inc UK p&p on the Guardian Bookshop
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