7th February 1812 - birth of Charles Dickens

Dickens dream

A quick post to celebrate the anniversary of the writer’s birth.

Despite having had 200 years notice of the anniversary, I only just thought it might be worth cobbling together a piece on Dickens’ Salisbury connections.

Salisbury in Martin Chuzzlewit

The most significant thing to point out about Dickens and Salisbury is the long piece on the city in Martin Chuzzlewit. I'm lucky enough to have read quite a lot of Dickens' work. I don't remember any other town, outside of Dickens 'homeground' of London and Kent, being favoured with such a vivid description as the passage on Salisbury in 'Martin Chuzzlewit'
Mr Pinch had a shrewd notion that Salisbury was a very desperate sort of place; an exceeding wild and dissipated city; and when he had put up the horse, and given the hostler to understand that he would look in again in the course of an hour or two to see him take his corn, he set forth on a stroll about the streets with a vague and not unpleasant idea that they teemed with all kinds of mystery and bedevilment.

To one of his quiet habits this little delusion was greatly assisted by the circumstance of its being market-day, and the thoroughfares about the market-place being filled with carts, horses, donkeys, baskets, waggons, garden-stuff, meat, tripe, pies, poultry and huckster's wares of every opposite description and possible variety of character.

Then there were young farmers and old farmers with smock-frocks, brown great-coats, drab great-coats, red worsted comforters, leather-leggings, wonderful shaped hats, hunting-whips, and rough sticks, standing about in groups, or talking noisily together on the tavern steps, or paying and receiving huge amounts of greasy wealth, with the assistance of such bulky pocket-books that when they were in their pockets it was apoplexy to get them out, and when they were out it was spasms to get them in again.

Also there were farmers' wives in beaver bonnets and red cloaks, riding shaggy horses purged of all earthly passions, who went soberly into all manner of places without desiring to know why, and who, if required, would have stood stock still in a china shop, with a complete dinner-service at each hoof.

Also a great many dogs, who were strongly interested in the state of the market and the bargains of their masters; and a great confusion of tongues, both brute and human.
There are another 4 or 5 paragraphs on the city - it's well worth a read if you're interested. The text is available on line at Project Gutenberg. The passage about Salisbury is Chapter Five.

Dickens Inns

The following have claimed some connection with the writer:

Dickens’ Public Reading in Salisbury

I don’t know whether or not Dickens ever gave a public reading in Salisbury.

It would be surprizing if he didn’t read in Salisbury, but I’ve found no record of it. Dickens performed in many towns and cities through the country. His first tour included readings at both Clifton and Southampton.

whether they were given in great manufacturing towns, like Manchester or Birmingham; in fashionable watering-places, like Leamington or Scarborough; in busy outports, like Liverpool or Southampton; in ancient cathedral towns, like York or Durham, or in seaports as removed from each other, as Plymouth and Portsmouth. Localities as widely separated as Exeter from Harrogate, as Oxford from Halifax, or as Worcester from Sunderland, were visited, turn by turn, at the particular time appointed. In a comprehensive round, embracing within it Wakefield and Shrewsbury, Nottingham and Leicester, Derby and Ruddersfield, the principal great towns were taken one after another. At Hull and Leeds, no less than at Chester and Bradford, as large and enthusiastic audiences were gathered together as, in their appointed times also were attracted to the Readings, in places as entirely dissimilar as Newcastle and Darlington, or as Sheffield and Wolverhampton. [3]

The Spire Chronicle

Finally, I just started reading a book called ‘Spire Chronicle’ which is somewhat in the style of Charles Dickens. It’s set in Salisbury during the Victorian era, and, so far I’m enjoying it very much.


[1] It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… - Mercure White Hart Salisbury, Salisbury Traveller Reviews - TripAdvisor

[2] Salisbury | Boston Tea Party

[3] reading_tour_1858_large.jpg (JPEG Image, 370×450 pixels)


By Robert William Buss - http://www.dickensmuseum.com/vtour/firstfloor Dream.” Painted 1875. Donated by the artist’s grandson - 1931.“, Public Domain, Link