It seems to me only fitting that I should read books by British authors while we’re living here. To that end, I’ve so far enjoyed Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.
I’m admitting here, of course, that my classic reading credentials up to now are thin. When we studied Great Expectations in high school, I’m pretty sure I used the Cliffs Notes version rather than reading the whole book. Pretty shameful, eh?
But I’m living in Dickens’ city now, and I’m inspired. He is everywhere. Just a few blocks from SU’s London Centre stands Dickens’ former home, at 48 Doughty Street. While he lived there with his wife Catherine, their first two children were born. And his two literary children, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist were born there as well.
I actually stood next to the desk where he wrote his last words. He never finished “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” but worked on it by a window that overlooked his back patio/garden. The Dickens House Museum is chock full of chairs where he sat, glasses he drank from, his handwritten letters and voluminous library of books.
What I didn’t realize until I visited the Doughty Street Museum is that Dickens’ books, as we know them today, were originally released as serials, chapters in magazines. So our great-great-great grandparents, if they could get their hands on them, read Dickens in monthly installments.
Dana and I tracked down another Dickens gem in London’s Holborn area. The shop that inspired The Old Curiosity Shop still stands, on a tiny diagonal street. They sell shoes there now, but the exterior still looks like that place where Little Nell and her grandfather lived.
There are plenty of other Dickens haunts to be found in London. Certain pubs claim to have been his favorites and there’s a Charles Dickens Coffee Shop in Covent Garden, above which he edited a magazine back in the day.
I’ll end this entry with a clip from my all-time favorite movie, Oliver, which came out when I was a kid. Trivia bonus: Mark Lester, who played the winsome little orphan in the film (and whose pictures I once clipped from teen magazines and taped to my bedroom walls), is now an osteopathic doctor and acupuncurist in Gloucester, England!