by Peter Clark
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. Virginia Woolf maintained that ‘we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens’, and that he produces ‘characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks’. But the ‘character’ Dickens was drawn back to throughout his novels was London itself, from the coaching inns of his early years to the taverns and watermen of the Thames; these were the constant cityscapes of his life and work. Basing his text on five walks through central London, and exploring ‘The First Suburbs’ as they feature in Dickens’s writing, Peter Clark illuminates the settings of Dickens’s life and his greatest works of journalism and fiction.
PETER CLARK is a writer, translator, and consultant who was Director of the British Council in Syria (1992–1997). He has written books on Marmaduke Pickthall and Wilfred Thesiger, and has translated fiction and non-fiction from Arabic.