Few novelists have written so intimately about a city as Charles Dickens wrote about London. A near-photographic memory made his contact with the city indelible from a very young age and it remained his constant focus. In the first half of this book Peter Clark illuminates the settings of Dickens’s London scenes as they feature in his writing. Outside London, Kent meant more to Dickens than any other part of Britain. He had an idyllic childhood in Chatham and Kent features in his first works of fiction – Sketches by Boz and The Pickwick Papers and in his favourite novel, David Copperfield. In his last ten years he wrote two novels with strong Kentish themes – Great Expectations and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He had his honeymoon outside Gravesend, and often spent the summer months in Broadstairs. Returning from one of his regular visits to Europe, he was in a railway accident at Staplehurst; an event that left a psychological mark on him for the rest of his life. In 1856 he bought Gad’s Hill Place, near Rochester, and eventually died there. The second half of this book takes the reader to the places Dickens knew and imaginatively wove into the tapestry of his stories: Chatham and Rochester, Canterbury and Dover.
Peter Clark is a renowned translator from Arabic and is the author of several books, including Dickens’s London and The Lefties’ Guide to Britain. He is also a contributing editor of Banipal magazine. He and his wife live in Somerset.