The latest port of call on my occasional literary tour of Britain was to Doughty Street in London – the former home of Charles Dickens. Just entering the street itself, with it’s well-preserved Georgian houses, was like walking into past, and it was a great time to go because the museum was dressed up for Christmas, thus looking even more Dickensian than I’m sure it normally does. The Doughty Street house was where Dickens was living when his career took off, and is, apparently, the only one left standing of the several London addresses he lived in.
He was only there for three years, but in that time the Pickwick Papers took off, followed by Oliver Twist, as well as his popular journalistic writing, and he was internationally famous by the time he moved on. The museum retains the ‘early Victorian family home’ style and feel, and I really enjoyed it and would certainly go again in the future.
The first ever author home I visited was ‘Bleak House’ in Broadstairs, Kent. It was then a museum but has since had a chequered history from what I can gather. It became a hotel but that has apparently closed in recent times.
Since then I have been to Thomas Hardy’s birthplace in Dorchester as well as the nearby house he had built in later life, and Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District. They are both well worth a visit, but my two favourite such places are elsewhere.
At number 2 in the charts is Chawton, Jane Austen’s family home in Hampshire. A lovely place to visit and an excellent museum.
But my favourite literary home, one I’ve visited several times and will certainly return to, is the Howarth Parsonage in Yorkshire. It’s somehow the most atmospheric writers’ home of all the ones I visited, and of course it was a place of not only great literary triumph, but so much human tragedy.