Charles Dickens didn’t just have a great mind, he had great calves as well. On any given day, Dickens averaged 12+ miles of walking through the lush Kent countryside or the bustling streets of Victorian London.
One particularly dreary night in October of 1857, Dickens set out to escape his increasingly disharmonious marriage, walking from his home in Central London to his house in Kent—a 30-mile trip that would eventually be repeated (in reverse) by his character Pip in Great Expectations. In fact, many moments from Dickens’ solitary walks later ended up as fodder for his work.
“There are details in Dickens’ descriptions—a window, or a railing, or the keyhole of a door—which he endows with demoniac life. The things seem more actual than things really are,” explains critic G.K Chesterton in Charles Dickens: A Critical Study.
“Indeed, that degree of realism does not exist in reality: it is the unbearable realism of a dream. And this kind of realism can only be gained by walking dreamingly in a place; it cannot be gained by walking observantly.”...
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