The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: Literary Walks

Literary Walks

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LITERARY WALKS IN LONDON By James F. Muirhead, M.A., L.H.D. THE four perambulations of London here given are merely specimens of the many possible walks of the kindied They do not pretend to exhaust the London associations of their subjects, but may serve as a guide for an eclectic and practicable pilgrimage. Similar walks may easily be arranged by the traveller himself, with the help of our Plan and the references in our Index to such distinguished names as Blake, Browning, Byron, Benjamin Franklin, Goldsmith. Hogarth, Newton, and Turner. The peculiar difficulty of framing a satisfactory Shakespeare or Milton Walk arises from the fact that their intimate association with London is pervasive rather than attached to any now existing structures. DICKENS IN LONDON Charles Dickens (1812-70) was not born in London, but came to it at such an early age and was afterwards so identified with it both in his own person and in the creations of his brain that few have greater claims than he to the title of 'Londoner.' His first London home was in Bayham St. , also the home of Mr. Micawber, in Camden Town, and 'Salem House' was drawn from his school at 247 Hampstead Road; but the pilgrim may more conveniently start his walk at Charing Cross , near which, in Hungerford Market, Dickens (like David Copperfield at Blackfriars) began his career in humble employment. Close by are the Golden Cross Hotel, where Mr. Pickwick first met Alfred Jingle; the archway in Duncannon St. (behind) is not the archway of Mr. Jingle's story; Craven St., the home of Mr. Brownlow in 'Oliver Twist' (No. 39); and Buckingham St., where, in the last house on the left, the grown-up Copperfield lived with his housekeeper, Mrs. Crupp. Following the Strand towards the east we soon reach Wellington St., in which, at the corner of York St., was the office of 'All the Year Round' (second story of circular-fronted building). Here we are close to Covent Garden, associated with Ruth Pinch and her brother Tom, and not far from the Temple, where John Westlock once forestalled Tom in the daily tryst. [In Bouverie St., a little to the east, is the office of the 'Daily News,' with a bust of Dickens, its first editor, over the door.] From Covent Garden we easily reach Drury Lane, a playground in which is identified with the haunt of 'Poor Jo'; and thence it is a short step to Lincoln's Inn Fields, where in Forster's house (No. 58) Dickens read 'The Chimes' to a brilliant group of friends, one of whom was Thomas Carlyle (December 2nd, 1844). This house is famous also as that of Mr. Tulkinghorn. [A short way to the north lay Kingsgate St. (now absorbed in Southampton Row), containing the home of Sairey Gamp.] From Lincoln's Inn Fields we may pass into Chancery Lane , off which, in Mr. Snagsby's room in Tooks Court, Cursitor St., Poor Jo underwent his famous cross examination. Chancery Lane ends on the north near the site of Furnival's Inn, where Dickens had his first married home and wrote part of 'Pickwick' (tablet). Here, too, he first met Thackeray. A little to the east is Staple Inn, the home of Grewgious in 'Edwin Drood.' To the east of this point, in Farringdon St., is the Congregational Memorial Hall, occupying the site of the Fleet Prison, in which Mr. Pickwick was incarcerated. Somewhat to the north is Goswell Road, the south part of which, formerly called Goswell St., is for ever knit with the names of Mr. Pickwick and Mrs. Bardell (house not identified). In the district to the north of Oxford Street are several of Dickens's London homes. From 1837 to the end of 1839 he lived at No. 48 Doughty St., near the Foundling Hospital, and there he wrote 'Oliver Twist' and 'Nicholas Nickleby.' Thence he moved to No, 1 Devonshire Terrace, Marylebone, 'a house of undeniable situation and excessive splendour,' where he remained till 1851, writing many of his books. 'Grip,' the raven immortalized in 'Barnaby Rudge,' was one of the inmates of this house. In 1851 Dickens moved to Tavistock House (no longer extant), in Tavistock Square, which saw the production of another series of masterpieces. The parish church and other points in Marylebone are familiar to readers of 'Dombey and Son.' In 1860 Dickens left London for Gad's Hill Place. His last London house was the present No. 5 Marble Arch (opposite the Marble Arch), which he occupied for a few months in 1870, writing part of 'Edwin Drood.' In this quarter of London we may mention also Mme. Mantalini's establishment at 11 Wigmore St. and Mr. Turveydrop's Dancing Academy at 26 Newman St. Somewhat farther to the north is No. 13 Johnson St., Somers Town, marked with a tablet as the only house remaining in which Dickens lived as a boy. Ralph Nickleby's house was in Golden Square, a little south of Oxford St. Not far off is Dean St., where in 1845, at Fanny Kelly's Theatre, Dickens played 'Bobadil' in Jonson's 'Every Man in his Humour,' the first of a number of similar occasions on which he used his dramatic gifts for charitable ends. A totally different centre of London also intimately associated with Dickens both as man and author is found in Southwark. This is due to the fact that his father, the prototype of Little Dorrit's father, was confined for debt in the Marshalsea Prison. St. George's Church, where Little Dorrit and Maggy spent a night, contains the tombs of several Marshalsea debtors. The youthful Dickens lodged in the adjacent Lant St., and here he afterwards allotted rooms to Bob Sawyer, in a house on the site partly occupied by the 'Dickens' School. Little Dorrit lived at 63 Borough High Street. The White Hart Inn in Borough High St., where Mr. Pickwick first met Sam Weller, has been pulled down; but the George Inn, close by, is an excellent example of the same type of galleried hostelry and indeed claims to be the real Simon Pure in spite of difference of name. The names of London Bridge and the adjacent riverside streets are interwoven with the history of Bill Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver Twist. Oliver is generally believed to have 'asked for more' in St. George's Workhouse (now closed), in Mint Street, although the novel locates it out of London. Dickens is buried in Westminster Abbey; but before paying their respects to his tomb, Dickens enthusiasts may like to visit Dean Stanley St., where stood the house of the Dolls' Dressmaker. Nor should it be forgotten that Dickens was for a time one of the best reporters of debates in the House of Commons (1831-36). Those willing to go a little farther afield in their Dickens pilgrimage may visit the Spaniards' Inn at Hampstead, the Maypole at Chigwell, the Bull at Rochester (where Mr. Winkle's club-uniform was borrowed, and Dr. Slammer challenged Jingle), and Gad's Hill Place, where Dickens died in 1870. THACKERAY IN LONDON Thackeray's first touch of London was at a preparatory school in Chiswick Mall, but the Thackeray enthusiast may well begin his peregrination at Charterhouse, to which William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63) was sent in 1822, 'a pretty, gentle, and rather timid boy' of eleven, who, however, soon proved himself manly enough to have his nose broken in a stand-up fight with an older schoolfellow. Thackeray does not seem to have been particularly happy at the 'Slaughter House, Dr. Swishtail's famous school' (as he calls it in 'Vanity Fair'), but the pleasanter side of his associations with it is reflected in 'The Newcomes,' where he describes it under the name of 'Greyfriars' and tells the touching story of Colonel Newcome's later days. A tablet in Wilderness Row, Clerkenwell Road, close to the Charterhouse, marks his residence there as one of the 50 boarders in 'Mr. Penny's house.' He afterwards lived in Charterhouse Square as a day-boy, and left the school in 1828. Perhaps the only point to the east of this that we need note before continuing our course to the west is Cornhill, with the first office of the 'Cornhill Magazine,' of which Thackeray was editor from 1860 to 1862. From either Cornhill or Charterhouse it is easy to pass to Bouverie St. (Fleet St.), with the office of 'Punch', a paper to which Thackeray contributed from the second year of its existence (1842). Passing to the west along Fleet St. we reach the Middle Temple , of which Thackeray became a member in 1831. His residence here furnished him with material for several excellent scenes in 'Pendennis.' It was in Lamb Court that Pendennis, incited thereto by his room-mate George Warrington, wrote the famous stanzas on 'A Church Porch' and otherwise fitted himself for the staff of the 'Pall Mall Gazette.' Clement's Inn, just a little farther to the west, has been identified with the 'Shepherd's Inn' of the same novel. The 'Cave of Harmony,' from which Captain Costigan's ribaldry drove Colonel Newcome and his son, was either the old 'Coal Hole' in the Strand, on the site of Terry's Theatre (No. 106), or 'Evans's' in Covent Garden, just a little to the north. The fashionable quarter to the west of Charing Cross is full of Thackeray associations, personal and literary. Club-life was so much to his taste that we must at least glance at the exterior of the Athenᄉum Club and the Reform Club, in Pall Mall. He spent the afternoons of the last week of his life at the latter club, and there is a portrait of him by Samuel Laurence in the strangers' room. [The Garrick Club, of which also he was a member, was then in King St., Covent Garden. This was the scene of his misunderstanding with Charles Dickens.] Pall Mall ends at St. James's St., where Thackeray lived in 1844-46, and out of St. James's St. opens King St., where he delivered his first lectures on the English Humourists at Willis's Rooms. Bury St., where Major Pendennis had rooms, leads north to Jermyn St., where Thackeray lodged in 1842, a few doors from the Geological Museum. It was in 'Germain St.' that Henry Esmond was introduced to Mr. Addison, who took him home to his rooms in the adjacent Haymarket. Hence, via Piccadilly and Berkeley St., we reach Berkeley Square, sometimes identified with the 'Gaunt Square' of 'Vanity Fair' (more probably, however, Cavendish Square, north of Oxford St.). Becky Sharp and her husband lived close by at '201' (i.e. 3 ?) Curzon St., where Rawdon Crawley put so dramatic an end to his wife's intrigue with Lord Steyne. At St. George's Church, a little to the north-east of Berkeley Square, Barnes Newcome married Lady Clara Pulleyn. We may now make our way farther to the west, to visit the homes in which Thackeray did his best work. Knightsbridge and Kensington Road lead us past the site of Gore House, where Thackeray was a frequent guest, to Young St., opening off Kensington High St., where (at No. 13, now No. 16) Thackeray lived from 1846 to 1853, writing 'Esmond,' 'Pendennis,' and 'Vanity Fair.' 'Down on your knees, you rogue,' exclaimed the author to James T. Fields of Boston ' for here 'Vanity Fair' was penned. 'Charlotte Bronte visited him in this house. Just to the north, at No. 2 Palace Green, the great novelist lived from 1861 till his death on December 24th, 1863, the last words he wrote in 'Denis Duval' being 'and my heart throbbed with an exquisite bliss.' Kensington Square, with the home of Lady Castlewood, Beatrix, and Henry Esmond, is close by. [Somewhat south-east of this lies Onslow Square, where Thackeray occupied No. 36 from 1853 to 1861, while producing 'The Newcomes,' 'The Virginians,' and many of the 'Roundabout Papers.'] From Kensington Palace Gardens we may find our way across Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park to Albion St., near the Marble Arch. Here, at No. 18, Thackeray stayed for a short time after his marriage (1834). Oxford St. will take us hence to Bloomsbury, another district besprinkled with reminiscences of Thackeray. In Fitzroy Square Colonel Newcome and his friend James Binnie rented a 'vast but melancholy house' on their return from India. The Osbornes and the Sedleys both lived in Russell Square. Thackeray's first child was born during his occupatipn of No. 13 Coram St. (1837-40). The tablet to the memory of Captain George Osborne was placed in the chapel of the Foundling Hospital. By a quite undesigned coincidence the Thackeray Hotel in Great Russell St., opposite the British Museum, occupies the site of the house where the schoolboy Thackeray spent some of his holidays with his mother and stepfather (Major Carmichael Smyth). In Furnival's Inn, to the south-east of this quarter, occurred the first meeting of Thackeray and Dickens (1836), the latter declining the proffered services of the former as illustrator of 'Pickwick.' Thackeray is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, and there is a bust of him in Westminster Abbey. DR. JOHNSON IN LONDON Samuel Johnson (1709-84) was brought to London in 1712, at the age of 2+ years, to be touched for the king's evil by Queen Anne. His mother lodged at 'Nicholson's, the famous bookseller of Little Britain' (near the General Post Office). Johnson always professed to have 'a confused but somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds and a long black hood'; and the scene of this recollection (or imagination) was doubtless St. James's Palace. Johnson's 'beat' in London was so circumscribed, that the Johnson pilgrim has a comparatively short and easy task before him. About one-third of a mile to the north of Little Britain is St. John's Gate, in Clerkenwell, where he began his literary labours in London in the employment of Edward Cave, editor of the 'Gentleman's Magazine' (1737), 'eating his food behind a screen, being too shabby for publicity.' Clerkenwell Road runs hence to the west to Gray's Inn, where Johnson lived for a short time in 1759. In Holborn, opposite the south end of Gray's Inn Road, is Staple Inn, where he wrote 'Rasselas' in a single week (1759) to pay for his mother's funeral. Just quarter of a mile to the south of this runs Fleet St., the central artery of Johnson Land for 35 years, where we find memorials of him at every step. From 1748 to 1758 he lived in Gough Square, just to the north of Fleet St., where the house in which he produced his 'Dictionary' is carefully preserved as a memorial of the great writer. The next few years of his life were largely spent in the Temple, where Boswell (who had previously been introduced to him at the house of the actor Thomas Davies, 8 Russell St., Covent Garden) made his first call on his future demigod (May 24th, 1763). From 1765 to 1776 he lived in Johnson's Court, adjoining Gough Square, where he wrote the 'Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland' and edited Shakespeare. Close by is Bolt Court also, where he lived from 1776 till his death on December 13th, 1784. Here he produced his 'Lives of the Poets' (perhaps his greatest work), surrounded by his curious household of dependents, Miss Williams, Mrs. Desmoulins and her daughter, Levett ('who hates Desmoulins and does not love Williams'), and Miss Carmichael (who 'loves none of them'). Perhaps his favourite tavern in Fleet St. was the 'Mitre', though 'Dr. Johnson's chair' is still shown at the 'Cheshire Cheese'. Just beyond the west end of Fleet Street stands St. Clement Danes, the church he worshipped in for many years. The Strand, of course, was as familiar to Dr. Johnson as Fleet St., and in passing along it we should not omit a digression to Adelphi Terrace, memorable for his dinners at Mrs. Garrick's, at which he met Hannah More, Fanny Burney, and other notabilities. The famous club where Burke and Reynolds, Goldsmith and Garrick cheerfully submitted to the sway of Johnson, met in Gerrard Street, Soho, a little to the north-west of the point we have now reached. In the West End proper we may note Grosvenor Square, with the house of Lord Chesterfield, where Johnson was left waiting in the ante-room to nurse the wrath that exploded in his famous letter; St. James's Palace, where he was 'touched' by Queen Anne; and Buckingham Palace, where Johnson (then in receipt of a pension of �300) had an interview with George III. in 1767, during which 'he talked to his Majesty with profound respect, but still in his firm manly manner, with a sonorous voice, and never in that subdued tone which is commonly used at the levee.' His 'London' was written in Castle St., Cavendish Square, and his 'Vanity of Human Wishes' partly at Hampstead. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, and is commemorated by a statue in St. Paul's. After he made the acquaintance of the Thrales in 1765 Johnson passed nearly half of his time at Streatham Park, until Mr. Thrale's death in 1781. A room was reserved for him also at Barclay & Perkins's Brewery, where he coined his wellknown phrase about wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. Visitors who wish to follow up this subject will find all they want in Boswell's 'Life of Johnson.' CHARLES LAMB IN LONDON Of the little group of literary Londoners selected for this section Charles Lamb (1775-1834) alone was a native of the great city. He was born and spent the first seven years of his life in the Temple, in which he again lived from 1801 to 1817. 'Its church, its balls, its gardens, its fountain, its river, I had almost said-for in those young years what was this king of rivers to me but a stream that watered our pleasant places?-these are my oldest recollections.' And his affection for the Temple never waned and is often reflected in his writings. Here, along with his sister Mary, he produced the 'Tales from Shakespear' and 'Mrs. Leicester's School' (1807). From the Temple we may proceed to the west, via the Strand, to the Cogent Garden district, where Lamb visited De Quincey at No. 4 York St. and himself lived for a time at No. 20 Russell St., transplanted (as he wrote to Miss Wordsworth) from his native soil (i.e. the Temple). To the north-west is Soho, where, at No. 6 Frith St., Lamb was present at the death of his friend Hazlitt (September 18th, 1830). This practically marks Lamb's farthest west, though he once visited Blake at South Motion St., beyond New Bond St.; and we may now turn east along the busy Oxford St. and Holborn. Just to the south of the latter, on a site now occupied by Trinity Church, stood the house in Little Queen St. (now absorbed in Kingsway), which was the scene of the great tragedy of Lamb's life. Close by is Hand Court (57 High Holborn), where Lamb used to frequent the 'Three Feathers' (gone). At 34 Southampton Buildings, a little farther east, at the corner of Holborn and Chancery Lane, the Lambs lived for a few weeks in 1809, in the interim of moving from Mitre Court to Inner Temple Lane. At Holborn Circus is the church of St. Andrew, where Lamb and bis sister acted as best man and bridesmaid at the wedding of William Hazlitt. In Newgate St., continuing Holborn Viaduct, Lamb was wont to forgather with Coleridge and Southey at the (vanished) 'Salutation and Cat.' Here, too, is the site of Christ's Hospital, where Lamb was at school from his eighth to his fifteenth year, 'an amiable, gentle boy, very sensible and keenly observing, indulged by his schoolfellows and by his masters on account of his infirmity of speech' (Talfourd). Much farther to the east, in the very heart of the city, are Threadneedle St., where Lamb spent a short time in the service of South Sea House, and Leadenhall St., with India House, the scene of what he described as his 'thirty-three years of slavery.' Among the spots in London associated with Lamb and not included in the above round are No. 45 Chapel St., at the corner of Liverpool Road, in Pentonville, to which the Lambs removed after the tragedy of Little Queen St., and No. 19 Colebrook Row (now 64 Duncan Terrace), where for the first time in his life Lamb exulted in the possession of an entire house of his own (1823). 'I feel like a great lord, never having had a house before.' Here he published the 'Essays of Elia' (1823). In 1829 { the Lambs moved to Enfield, and in 1832 to Edmonton, where Charles died on December 27th, 1834, and now rests in the peaceful little churchyard. Mary Lamb was buried in the same grave in 1847.