• LOCATION 10 | Charles Dickens from Furnival's Inn to Doughty Street

    Gray's Inn Road

    We're going to turn right here, so carefully cross the road and keep walking.

    [3 SECOND PAUSE]

    We are still in the heart of legal London. Just south of here is South Square, which was once home to the offices of a law firm named Ellis & Blackmore.

    Some months after the Dickens family were released from the debtors' prison, Charles was able to stop working at the factory and go back to school. He was unable to go back to the school he had loved in Kent, but was sent instead to a school in Hampstead. The headmaster was a deeply unpleasant man named William Jones. Jones was a bully who unwittingly inspired many of Dickens's cruel fictional characters.

    When Charles was 15, his father was arrested for debt again. This time John Dickens was not imprisoned, but both Charles and his older sister Frances had to leave school and find jobs. Unlike her brother, Frances had been able to stay in school when the rest of the family had been in prison and Charles had been working. This is because she was a scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music. She became a professional musician.

    At the age of 15, Charles was found a job as a solicitor's clerk at Ellis & Blackmore. Many years later he wrote, in The Uncommercial Traveller: "I look upon Gray’s Inn … as one of the most depressing institutions in brick and mortar, known to the children of men”. An incident from his 18 months at Ellis & Blackmore emphasises what a street child Dickens had been forced to be while his parents were in prison. On his first day at work, he was sent out on an errand, but returned to the office with a black eye. He had got into a fight with another errand boy.

    Keep walking straight.

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Charles Dickens from Furnival's Inn to Doughty Street