The Charles Dickens Museum has unveiled its new display, which will encourage visitors to follow in the author’s footsteps around nearby sites that inspired his novel, Oliver Twist, from the museum at 48 Doughty Street.

From Saffron Hill, once the site of a notorious slum, said to inspire Fagin’s den through to Clerkenwell Green, where Oliver is pursued by a mob, the tour aims to show how the novel was shaped by the world around Dickens. One stop includes the office of a Mr Laing, a magistrate known for his harsh punishments. It is said that Dickens based the magistrate that presided over Oliver’s trial when he was accused of pickpocketing on Mr Laing, who’s offices were in Hatton Garden, was a stone’s through from Dickens’ home on Doughty Street.

The museum’s exhibition features a letter from the author to the magistrate’s assistance, asking for help in observing Laing at work to help him with the scene. There are also pages from the handwritten manuscript, other personal letters and an unseen locket, which contains the hair of his sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth. She lived with Dickens and his wife, her sister, and died suddenly at the age of 17, inspiring the character of Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist.

Dickens began Oliver Twist in the weeks following the arrival of his first child. It began as a serial in 1837 around the same time as he was publishing the Pickwick Papers. Impressively, he was just 25 at the time.

The new self-guided tour with an accompanying audio guide launched on 30th June and includes locations including Brownlow Mews, which inspired the name of the man who took Oliver in, Grey’s Inn Road, where Dickens was known to frequent coffee shops, the One Turn Pub in Saffron Hill, which inspired the Three Cripples and the sites of former slums that he visited as part of his research and campaigning to highlight poverty in the city.




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