In October 1838, Charles Dickens travelled with his friend, the illustrator Hablot Knight Browne (a.k.a ‘Phiz’) to the Midlands and Wales. He stopped off at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire en route, where he was able to visit the local castles at Kenilworth and Warwick.
Charles Dickens stayed for one night in Leamington Spa, at the Copps’s Royal Hotel on the High Street on 29 October 1838.
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“.
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.”
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. 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.
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.
|Leamington Spa.||Charles Dickens came here on 29 October 1838, staying at Copps' Royal Hotel on the High Street in Leamington Spa.|
|Kenilworth Castle.||Dickens visited Kenilworth Castle on 30 October 1838.|
|Stratford-upon-Avon.||After his visit to the Leamington Spa area, Charles Dickens travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, staying there overnight.|
|Warwick Castle.||Dickens visited Warwick Castle on 30 October 1838.|
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