London has provided the inspiration for some of the world’s great novels, and has been home to many acclaimed writers. Throughout much of the last two centuries, London served as a major cultural hub, where writers of all genres and nationalities met and exchanged ideas and stories. Literary buffs can get their fix by exploring the many places that favourite writers loved.
When planning a trip to London, why not visit the locations frequented and enjoyed by legendary writers? Experiencing London the way they saw it will give you a great connection to their work, and you can see most of the sites for free – perfect if you are a ‘struggling artist’ like your literary heroes.
Charles Dickens is so synonymous with the English capital that many of our perceptions of Victorian London come straight from his tales. Whether it’s the idea of a gang of street urchins led by Fagin and the Artful Dodger or the thought of rushing to buy a goose for Christmas dinner, Dickens’s rich imagery gives us a sense of what London was like in the nineteenth century. Although Dickens lived in a number of London locations, his one remaining preserved home is now the Dickens museum. Situated near Russell Square, and therefore easily accessible, the Dickens Museum is a must for every fan of the great writer.
Camden is an area that has long been known for its artistic and trendy inhabitants. In the early part of the twentieth century, both George Bernard Shaw and Dylan Thomas resided in Camden. Camden feels different from many parts of London in that it is a small community unto itself, and so you can be forgiven for regularly thinking that you are no longer in London. Take a walk along the canal to Camden Lock, where there are a number of outdoor bars and restaurants. Pick one, sit down and watch the world go by. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll get inspiration for your own magnum opus.
Although Shakespeare is often more closely linked with Stratford-upon-Avon, it was London that made Shakespeare into a global star. Young William left Stratford with dreams of becoming an actor, and eventually ended up becoming the most famous playwright in the world. The Globe Theatre on London’s Southbank has been lovingly restored to its Jacobean glory. Open-air productions occur quite regularly, so you should have no problem getting yourself a ticket to one of the greatest theatres in the world. If the Globe doesn’t satiate your need for Shakespeare, then you can explore Shoreditch, where the young Shakespeare lived when he first arrived in London; or the West End, where the wealthy Shakespeare took his place in London society.
The Bloomsbury group were unique in not only defining a movement within literature, but also the character of an entire area of London. The group contained writers such as Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster, as well as thinkers such as John Maynard Keynes. The group challenged many of the social conventions of the Victorian period, and in so doing, helped to usher in an era of modernist thought and literature.
The entire Bloomsbury area is rich in history and culture. If you want to truly absorb the ethos of the neighbourhood, booking into one of the local hotels will allow you to spend your days enjoying intellectual chats in the squares and pubs of the area.
Which London literary areas are your favourite?
About The Author: Mikael Johansen is a writer and a blogger contributing to travellerlines.com. Mikael lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Photo Credits: Flickr cc – #1 readlearnandbehappy, #2 Myraella, #3 Peter Trimmings, #4 Schlaier