Charles Dickens and the City of London: His muse and “magic lantern”
Charles Dickens was a creature of the City and London was his muse.
Whilst billeted in Lausanne to write Dombey & Son, he wrote of the frustration wrought by his separation from its streets: “I want them beyond description. I don’t seem to be able to get rid of my spectres unless I can lose them in crowds”
Afflicted by bouts of “sleeplessness”, he would take to epic night walks intended to create a self-afflicted state of “houselessness” in an attempt to share the experiences of some of his greatest characters and to turn his gimlet-eyed observation on the slumbering City in his search for inspiration.
We’ll trace his steps along these walks and explore the extent to which the ups and downs of life in Victorian London inspired and appalled Dickens in equal measure.
But as one of my guests observed: “you don’t have to be a hardcore Dickens fan to enjoy the walk”; it is as much the story of the “growing pains” of 19th century London and of its fundamental influence on the legendary characters and stories Dickens created to paint his inimitable pictures of the Victorian age.