Words can transport us to new places, they create enchanting worlds that can make us fall in love with characters and lands that exist only in our imaginations. The London of Charles Dickens’s novels is no fairytale or fantasy though. His depictions of Victorian London were the first to cast light on the murky characters of London’s forgotten classes, of the trials and truths of London life.
Dickens’s novels were important because they were the first true reflections of life as it was lived by the majority of Londoners. Instead of idyllic, idealized settings and scenes, Dickens wove a rich tapestry of characters in the dark, utilitarian world that pervaded life at the time.
The genius of Dickens was in his ability to draw on the richness of stories that existed in the London around him and to transfer them onto the page with a verve for language and a knack for a gripping story. These were the lives of everyday people, but when he scribed them onto paper, they became enchanting and provocative stories that threw the ills of society into the spotlight and championed the underdog against the juggernaut machination of Victorian society. For us, Dickens’s greatest achievement is that they still speak to our world today. Seeing this London for yourself, a world not of queens and princes, but of Jack the lads and cheeky chappies, will break down the myth of London and show you the true color of this great capital.
Turn off the tourist routes and take a walk along ancient cobbled streets, gaze upon grand Victorian architecture and picture a society in revolution, its skyline puffing with factory smoke and the sounds of street sellers, hawkers and tricksters singing through the air. That is the London that inspired Dickens, and provided him with everything he needed to write dozens of books set in this city alive with nothing but the richness of life itself. Can you fathom the hardship and utilitarian lives that populated these streets? Can you reconcile the differences between our lives and theirs? The contrast is so stark, you cannot help but wonder how despite it all, such joy and brilliance flourished still.