Charles Dickens Biography. London walks.
Your journey through Dickens London continues from Staple Inn via Barnard's Inn where Dickens has Pip living in Great Expectations. It features a little more Charles Dickens Biography and brings you to the brink of one of London's most timeless quarters on this highly original one of our London Walks.
Follow the railing as it skirts the pretty little garden, go up the steps and bear right along the pedestrian walkway called Staple Inn Buildings. Turn right onto Holborn, continue over Furnival Street, and a little way further along, turn right through the iron gates into Barnard’s Inn. Follow the passageways that lead you to a wonderfully evocative inner sanctum.
It was here that Pip and Herbert Pocket had chambers in Great Expectations. The fact that so many enclaves in this area are referred to as ‘inns’ when they are, in fact, places of business can be somewhat confusing. Evidently Dickens also found this a little perplexing for he has Pip ruminate upon the fact when he first visits Barnard’s Inn.
‘I had supposed that establishment to be an hotel kept by Mr Barnard…whereas I now found Barnard to be a disembodied spirit, or a fiction, and his inn the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together, in a rank corner, as a club for Tom-cats.’
Either Dickens was being a little harsh in his criticisms , or the area has changed considerably since his day, for today this really is a truly lovely spot and its well worth lingering a little to enjoy its secluded ambience.
Once you have absorbed to your hearts content backtrack out of Barnard’s Inn and back to Furnival Street. Turn right into Took’s Court, which Dickens re-named Cook’s Court in Bleak House (1852-53). Situated on the left just after the road veers sharp left, pause outside number 15, a very pleasing early 18th century building.
This has been re-named ’Dickens House’ and it was here that the meditative law stationer Mr Snagsby lived and worked in Bleak House. Mr Snags by ‘dealt in all sorts of blank forms of legal process, in skins and rolls of parchment, in paper - foolscap, brief, draft, brown, white, whitey-brown, and blotting; in stamps, office quills, pens, ink, India rubber, pounce, pins, pencils, sealing wax and wafers; in red tape and green ferret; in pocket books, almanacks, diaries and Law lists; in string, boxes, rulers, inkstands (glass and leaden), penknives, scissors, bodkins, and other office cutlery.’ He was ‘the high standard of comparison among neighbouring wives, a long way down Chancery Lane on both sides’
Continue ahead, turn right along Cursitor Street, right onto Chancery Lane and cross to the Gatehouse (which had to be rebuilt in the 1950’s as it was in danger of imminent collapse) of Lincoln’s Inn.
A LITTLE CHARLES DICKENS BIOGRAPHY.
On his first day of working for Ellis and Blackmore, the then teenage Dickens, in a blue jacket and ’military-looking cap which had a strap under the chin’ met a ’big blackguard fellow’ in front of these gates. The ’blackguard’ knocked off his cap and said ’Halloa, sojar.’ ‘Which,’ Dickens later recounted, when he returned to the office sporting a black eye, ‘I could not stand, so I at once struck him and he hit me in the eye.’