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Dickensian London: A character in itself

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In "Little Britain," Pip turned left from Wood Street, along London Wall to the offices of his lawyer, Mr. Jaggers. Here, buildings still jostle for space and lean across the narrow street like the trees in the adjacent Postman's Park. Dickens, however, crossed the river into Southwark, the less reputable area that was to haunt him throughout his life and color his novels.

His family languished in the Marshalsea Debtors Prison, later described with passionate loathing in "Little Dorrit." A portion of the prison wall still stands in St. George's churchyard off Borough High Street, but the rest of the building has crumbled. A picture of Amy Dorrit is visible in the stained glass window of St. George's, the church in which she was married and christened. Surrounding streets read like a cast list from a Dickens novel with names like Quilp, Copperfield, and Pickwick.

The Borough was once a busy coaching stop, and in "Pickwick Papers," Dickens describes the inns as "rambling queer old places ... with galleries and passages." The George Inn just off Borough High Street has survived. It appears quaint next to its modern neighbors, but it was once a noisy, smelly, busy stopover on arduous journeys.

Dickens lived alone on nearby Lant Street during his family's imprisonment, the landlord later immortalized as kindly Mr. Garland in "The Old Curiosity Shop." From here, he daily crossed the Thames on Blackfriars Bridge and walked two miles to work at Warren's Blacking Factory just off the Strand near Hungerford Bridge. Charing Cross Station now stands on the factory site, but Dickens drew heavily on the landscape of this walk in his novels, much of it still recognizable today.

His route took him through the heart of the legal district around Inner and Middle Temple and the Law Courts in the Strand. Just behind the courts, at the top of Chancery Lane, is Lincoln's Inn Fields, described in "Bleak House" as "the perplexed and troublous valley of the shadow of the law."

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