• With Kevin Childs
  • Middle Temple Refectory
  • Middle Temple Refectory
  • Justice Courts
  • Quiet corner in Temple district
  • Charles Dickens: Storyteller of Victorian London

Walk Description

This three-hour tour of London focuses on the life and work of Charles Dickens, a critical figure in English literature during the middle of the nineteenth century. By connecting a number of his works to the places related to his life and characters, we will paint a portrait of Dickens, his times, and the social context in which he lived.

Charles Dickens called London his 'Magic Lantern', and it not only became his inspiration but also served as almost a character in one of his novels. He tramped the streets alone from an early age and was himself a wonderful mimic of the living characters he found there.

We start our walk near Temple, discussing Dickens' early years as a young worker in the Blacking Warehouse and the influence that those years had in creating characters like Oliver Twist and Little Dorrit. We will discuss the geographic division of the city and the presence of the famous rookeries - nineteenth-century slums - in the heart of London.

After a short walk, we will find ourselves in the area of Covent Garden. Here, we will discuss Dickens' connection to the place both as a child and as a famous writer. From here, we may head towards Bloomsbury, the center of literary London and home to the Dickens family from 1837 to 1839. Or we may delve into Marylebone where the writer lived for over ten years. Then again, we might explore the areas around Saint Bartholomew, Newgate, and Holborn, where scenes of many exciting episodes in his novels took place.

The characters described by Dickens are intrinsically linked to his life in London as a writer and publisher and as a direct witness of the terrible social conditions of the nineteenth century. As a result, our walk will look closely at the social and economic events of the 1800s and paint a portrait of the times in this context. Our walk will also offer us ample opportunity to discuss the influence of the city and its history on the style and on the personal life of Dickens and his contemporaries working in other disciplines. By the end of our time together we will emerge with a very vivid picture of the era in this context.

Duration: 3 hours
Category: History
Venues: The Courtauld Institute of Art, Covent Garden, Charles Dickens Coffee House, Lincoln's Inn
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    Sue King

    Sue King was born a Londoner and has lived in several other cities including Seoul, Berlin and Washington DC. Since returning to London, she has spent the last three years studying its art, architecture, literature and history.
    Sue holds a research MPhil in History of Art from the Barber Institute, Birmingham University and has specialist knowledge of Victorian Britain through her study of its painting and literature. Her thesis, on symbolism in Victorian Art, focused on the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and she has also made studies in 20th Century American art.
    Sue is fascinated by London's history and is most interested in the artists and writers who have helped to define it. She loves to recount stories of their lives and works, and their connections with each other and the city.

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    Jim Harris

    Jim came to art history relatively late. After training at RADA and working as an actor and musician in theatre and television for over a decade, he arrived at the Courtauld Institute of Art where he took a BA, MA and PhD, writing his doctoral thesis on Donatello. He held two Postdoctoral and Research Fellowships at the Courtauld, undertaking research on sculpture during the English reformation and revolution, before taking up his current post as Teaching Curator at the Ashmolean Museum in the University of Oxford. Jim is a Londoner, a dad and a cyclist, and would usually rather be at Lord's, watching the cricket.

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    Philippa Owen

    Philippa is an Oxford educated historian with specialist training in Art History. A qualified teacher with over 15 years experience as a resident guide and teacher at Dulwich Picture Gallery. For the last two years she has been on an intensive course learning about this great city. A Londoner all her adult life, she enjoys all aspects of the city, from the architecture to the food markets, from the parks and riverside walks to the galleries and city churches. Her particular interests are the quirkier, less well-known places which only a long standing Londoner gets to know.

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    Kevin Childs

    Kevin Childs has worked as a publisher, an actor and a research consultant. Having gained a first class degree in English Literature at Oxford and an MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, he has completed a PhD at the Courtauld examining the ways in which Michelangelo influenced the art of his contemporaries. Although his heart is in the Renaissance, his interests range from Greek and Roman classical literature to the art of twentieth-century Mexico. Kevin has lived in London for over 20 years and has a great passion for the city, its history and all that it currently offers. He has also spent extended periods of time in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Egypt and Morocco. He writes regularly on art and travel.

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    Ruth Shlovsky

    Born in London, Ruth has also lived in Israel for many years.
    She trained at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem, where she studied Voice and Piano and received a degree in performance in both instruments.
    She is also a qualified Music teacher and for many years taught Music to children and adults of all ages.
    Returning to London in 2000, Ruth undertook a number of intensive courses learning about the History of this great City which she loves. She recently earned an MA in Art History and just enrolled in a PhD program.

    Ruth has a particular interest in Jewish London and loves taking people round the atmospheric markets, little alleyways and old synagogues bringing the sometimes turbulent history of the old Jewish quarter to life.
    She also has a keen interest in the Artistic and Musical history of London and has created walks which illustrate the musical and artistic diversity of this city through Handel and Jimmy Hendrix, to 2000 year old Roman archeology and 21st C modern art.

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    Simon Dormandy

    Simon Dormandy is a freelance theatre director and teacher of English and Drama. Between 1997 and 2012 he was Head of Theatre Studies at Eton College, where his pupils included actors such as Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Harry Lloyd. Before turning to teaching he was an actor, spending five years with The Royal Shakespeare Company, two with Cheek By Jowl, and playing leading roles in major British theatres – including The Old Vic, The Chichester Festival Theatre, The Manchester Royal Exchange, and the Donmar Warehouse – as well as well as on television and film. He is a graduate of Oxford University with an MA in English Language and Literature.