Went to a cinema today to see “The Man Who Invented Christmas”, a very entertaining and interesting telling of the story behind Dickens’ writing of “A Christmas Carol”. Dan Stevens was masterful and thoroughly believable as Charles Dickens and Justin Edwards was perfect as his friend John Forster.
Have just finished reading “The Last Man in Europe” by Dennis Glover, which is a partly fictionalised biography of George Orwell. The book includes vivid descriptions of life in London during World War II. At the end of the war, Orwell was living at 27B Canonbury Square in Islington after his previous flat in Kilburn had been destroyed by a bomb. We visited Canonbury Square last year and posted a blog about a nearby interesting tower.
Now a gentrified neighbourhood, Canonbury Square was, when Orwell lived there, a working class area and he uses it as a setting for the home of Winston Smith in his last novel, “Nineteen Eighty Four”.
On an exterior wall at Stationers Hall (previous post), there is a plaque commemorating the first printing press in Fleet Street, although Wynkyn de Worde’s press was actually 350 metres away in Shoe Lane next to St Bride’s churchyard. Wynkyn de Worde who was a native of Holland, and an apprentice of Thomas Caxton, set up his own press in 1501.
Next to St Martin within Ludgate (previous post) is the Stationers Hall. This 19th century building is on the site of an earlier building which became the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in 1606. From 1557, this guild regulated the publishing industry including printers, bookbinders and booksellers. It operated the Stationers’ Register which listed publications and provided an early form of copyright.
As well as Boswell (previous post), there are quite a few literary connections to St Martins within Ludgate, including with Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.
In “Little Dorritt”, Arthur Clenham, sitting in a coffee house on Ludgate Hill on Sunday evening, hears the church bells ring out.
William Shakespeare had his winter theatre just a few streets away.
And “I owe you three farthings say the bells of St Martins”, from the old “Oranges and Lemons” nursery rhyme could be referring to St Martin within Ludgate which did have a ring of five bells, of which one now remains on display in the church.
Tomorrow (18 October) is the birthday of James Boswell, the famous 18th century biographer. His biography of Samuel Johnson is thought by many to be the greatest biography written in the English language.
Boswell was a regular at church services in St Martin within Ludgate, a Wren church that survived WWII mainly undamaged.
Johnson was born in Lichfield and inside his house, which is now a museum, there is a 19th century stained glass window which is a portrait of the great lexicographer with Lichfield Cathedral in the background.
Today is the birthday of Samuel Johnson, the creator of one of the most important dictionaries in the history of the English language. The London house where he lived from 1748 to 1759 and where he wrote the dictionary, is now open as a very interesting museum.
“I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.”
The great 18th century English poet, William Blake, died 190 years ago, today.
Blake was influenced by the ideals of the French and American revolutions and was a non-conformist who was opposed to organised religion. He was buried in the Dissenter’s burial ground in Bunhill Fields.
There is a memorial window to William Blake in Wesley’s Chapel, across the road from Bunhill Fields.