A Tale of One City, Charles Dickens Links with London are Celebrated on his 200th Birthday

Feb 7th, 2012 | By | Category: Hotel-Assist News, London News

London has been the setting for many great works of literature from Chaucer to Will Self; but few have written about the city so prolifically and with such a mix of adoration and venom than Charles Dickens, who featured the city as the backdrop for ten of his greatest tales, including Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield. Today the city pays homage to its lauded chronicler by celebrating his 200th birthday. Descendants of the author, the Prince of Wales and celebrities such as Ralph Fiennes will gather at Westminster Abbey where the writer is buried in the esteemed Poets’ Corner to lay a wreath at his grave, listen to readings from Great Expectations and read excerpts from his works.

 

Dickens moved to Camden, north London in 1822, which was to have an enormous affect on his writing. His work was heavily influenced by the grimy industrialism of the Victorian age, so often hailed as an age of progress, Dickens work delved into the underworld of the great city to expose the social injustices and abuses of the time. When writing A Christmas Carol he would ‘walk about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed’. His tales replete with ragamuffins, thieves, orphans and corrupt authoritarians, Dickens sought to put a face to the working class and educate fellow literati about their plight, in the horrific conditions of the factories and slums of London. However, as much as his prose elucidates his vitriol for the disgraceful state of London, he strove to improve conditions in the city. He was known for his philanthropic efforts as much as his writing, helping to establish a home for fallen women, which sought to educate them rather than the cruel punishments meted out to them in similar establishments. When he was involved in the Staplehurst Rail crash, he helped tend to the injured whilst help was on the way and he helped to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital by giving readings, writing articles and using his position in society.

 

London was as much a character in Dickens’ tales as Oliver Twist or Ebenezer Scrooge, as he documented the streets, rivers and coaching inns in his inimitable style. Although the London of today is unrecognizable from the city he knew, for example, St Paul’s Cathedral dome is no longer blackened, he would still have found the shifts in social change, the multiculturalism of society and the advances in technology fascinating and one can only imagine what he would write about the city today, perhaps critiquing the NHS or documenting the Occupy protests. If you happen to be visiting London on this day you could visit the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury to learn more about this fascinating character, or pay a trip to historic pub Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which Dickens frequented, to toast him with a pint of Sam Smiths.

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