Walking Like Dickens

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As they approached the City, the noise and traffic gradually increased; when they threaded the streets between Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelled into a roar of sound and bustle. It was as light as it was likely to be, till night came on again, and the busy morning of half the London population had begun.

The Walking Tour

The great thing about this tour was getting to see (and hear) not only about Dickens’ history, but London’s history as well. I think our tour guide did a nice job at providing context on both; Dr. McLeod also helped bring some understanding to some of the Dickensian aspects that we didn’t explicitly cover in class. It was nice to have the opportunity to tie together what we read in class with what we were doing in real life. One thing I really liked about this connection was being able to see St. Paul’s Cathedral at a distance. Yesterday was my first time seeing the Cathedral, and I really only paid attention to it when I was at the entrance of the building (or in the building). Today I was able to see it from a distance (and many different vantage points), which gave it a more Dickens-centric perspective and the perspective of how it was mentioned in Oliver Twist. Back in Dickens’ time it was the tallest building around, and today that was a more believable thought. Even looking at the horizon in the picture below, St. Paul’s stands tall relative to the business skyscrapers that stand near it.

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~Notice you can see the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the left~

It is unfortunate to look back and think about all of the buildings and landmarks in London that were destroyed due to the World War II bombings; however, I think it is remarkable that many buildings survived the war and other disasters like the Great Fire of London.

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I don’t think this tour would have been as enjoyable if it was not a guided walking tour. Although to some it may seem tiresome, walking around was necessary to understand the purpose of the tour. Dickens would have done a lot of walking to get around London, and his characters did the same. It’s comparable to walking in some one else’s shoes, as we were sort of walking some one else’s path (or really walking the path that many people would have walked centuries ago). I think this tour added a historical connection that allowed me to understand the two novels Oliver Twist and Great Expectations on a deeper level. It was meaningful to me because I was able to experience the streets of London (not in that way!) and connect them with people, places, and passages within Dickens’ texts.

The Dickens Museum & His Relationships with Things

I actually enjoyed this museum even though it wasn’t a large or encompassing as other museums we can find in London. It was interesting to me because I am currently taking an Exposition course that focuses on material culture, specifically our relationship(s) with objects. A lot of people here shallowness when they think of material objects, but that isn’t always the case. Objects certainly do showcase one’s wealth and place in society. I would say that many of the objects in the Dickens museum illustrated different levels of social hierarchy.Objects can also define our relationships that we have with our friends and family,  and I feel that many of the artifacts displayed at the Dickens museum served that purpose.

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Prison Grille From Marshalsea Prison

This object illustrates what would be the prison “society” of the time. Marshalsea was known to be a debtor prison, and would imprison people (whether or not they were wealthy or poor). Another way this object is significant in regards to Dickens’ life is that it serves as a placeholder in time for when his father was in debtor prison. As we have learned, this time period significantly impacted Dickens’ life and works, including Oliver Twist.

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“The Wash House Copper”

As mentioned a little bit in the previous picture, objects can also define our relationships that we have with our friends and family. The image to the right here is an example of this (specifically in relation to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). It’s true that the wash house copper was mostly used for washing clothes, but it held a more sentimental value over the holiday season. During the tour today, I learned that one of the Christmas-time traditions for Victorians in this era was to clean the copper out to make pudding for the holiday celebration. In the Cratchit house, although of a lower class, they still celebrate this tradition of cooking pudding the copper.

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One thought on “Walking Like Dickens

  1. Pingback: Royal Life & Theatre Life – GSU Victorian London's Underworld

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