Charles Dickens and Leamington Spa.

Charles Dickens and Leamington Spa. 2018-05-06T08:06:59+00:00

 

The Victorian author Charles Dickens has a number of connections with Leamington Spa and the surrounding area. In October 1838, Dickens travelled with his friend, the illustrator Hablot Knight Browne (a.k.a ‘Phiz’) to the Midlands and Wales. He stopped off at Leamington en route, where he was able to visit the local castles at Kenilworth and Warwick. He returned to the Warwickshire town as part of two national reading tours, in 1858 and again in 1862. Dickens would also feature the town in one of his novels.

 

1838 Visit.

350_leamington_coppes_hotel

Contemporary sketch of the Copps’s Royal Hotel on the High Street of Leamington Spa.

Charles Dickens stayed for one night in Leamington Spa, at the Copps’s Royal Hotel on the High Street on 29 October 1838, as part of a longer journey the pair were undertaking to the Midlands and Wales.

The following day, Dickens and Browne visited the castles at Kenilworth and Warwick. He was impressed by the ruins at Kenilworth but said of Warwick Castle that it was “possessing no very great attraction beyond a fine view and some beautiful pictures“.

The travellers then continued their journey to Stratford-upon-Avon staying there also for one night before travelling on to Shrewsbury.

 

Inspiration for Dombey and Son.

Charles Dickens is noted for using places he visited and people he met into his works and Leamington Spa was no exception, although it was a number of years later before he would use his experiences in his novel Dombey and Son, serialised between October 1846 and April 1848.

In the novel, following the death of his son, Paul Dombey goes to recuperate at Leamington Spa with his friend Joe Bagstock. While in the area, Dombey and Bagstock meet Edith Granger and her mother and together the group visits Warwick castle and “the haunted ruins of Kenilworth.”

 

1858 Visit.

On Tuesday, 2 November 1858, Charles Dickens returned to Leamington Spa as part of a national reading tour. He gave two readings on the same day at the town’s Music Hall, Bath Street. In the afternoon, Dickens read from A Christmas Carol and in the evening he performed readings from The Poor Traveller, The Boots at the Hollytree Inn, and the Mrs Gamp episode from Martin Chuzzlewit.

An account of the visit was published a few days later in the local newspaper Leamington Spa Courier which records the atmosphere in the hall:

To say that the place was crowded is only to express a literal truth. Upon both occasions —afternoon and evening—a sea of delighted countenances were turned towards the reader—betokening, by their changing and varied expression, how well their owners sympathised with the happy thoughts, the tender sentiments, the wit, humour and profound pathos to which it was their privilege to listen.

 

1862 Visit.

On Wednesday, 1 January, Charles Dickens again came to Leamington Spa as part of a national reading tour. Leamington was the inaugural stop and he gave two readings that day, again held at the town’s Music Hall. In the afternoon, Dickens read from David Copperfield. In evening he read from Nicholas Nickleby and also the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

The following day, Dickens travelled from Leamington to Cheltenham via Birmingham. Whilst waiting at Birmingham Station, he wrote to his friend, W. H. Wills commenting on the previous day’s performances:

At Leamington yesterday, immense. Copperfield in the morning* absolutely stunned the people. Nickleby and the Trial at night, they roared and roared until i think they must have shaken all the air in Warwickshire.

* Where Dickens performed two readings a day, the early performances were advertised as ‘morning’ although they actually started mid-afternoon. Here, Dickens refers to the first performance as ‘morning’.

 

Locations.

The Copps’s Royal Hotel in Leamington Spa, which opened in 1827, was demolished in 1847 to make way for the building of a railway bridge.

Title Description
Kenilworth Castle.Dickens visited Kenilworth Castle on 30 October 1838.
Leamington Spa: Copps' Royal Hotel.

In 1838, Charles Dickens stayed at Copps' Royal Hotel on the High Street in Leamington Spa.

Leamington Spa: Music Hall.

Dickens performed readings at the Music Hall in Bath Street in 1858 and 1862.

Stratford-upon-Avon.

After his visit to Leamington Spa in 1838, Charles Dickens travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, staying there overnight.

Warwick Castle.Dickens visited Warwick Castle on 30 October 1838.

 

 

Further Reading on The Circumlocution Office.

 

Further Reading (external sites).

Click on the links below to visit open these websites for more information about locations mentioned on this page:

 

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