Charles Dickens is known for his memorable characters. He was a brilliant observer and took note of names and characters he found compelling, sometimes getting into trouble for basing the characters in his novels a little to closely on the original. The archetypes of the miserly Scrooge and affected Pecksniff have become so common to modern vernacular that one does not have to be familiar with Dickens’ work to understand the implications of their use.
Ruth Richardson, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society has sleuthed out the possible real-life counterparts of many of Dickens’ characters in Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor.
“Detective work by Ruth Richardson has revealed that a trader named William Sykes sold tallow and oil for lamps from a shop in the same bustling east Marylebone street in which Dickens lived between the ages of 17 and 20.
Nearby, Richardson discovered the home of a sculptor derided by locals as a miser, the premises of two tradesmen named Goodge and Marney, and a local cheesemonger called Marley – “so suggestive of Scrooge and Marley”, she said.
They all lived yards from Dickens’s modest lodgings at 10 Norfolk Street above a small cornershop. Crucially, he lived nine doors from the barbaric workhouse now thought to have inspired Oliver Twist a few years later.”
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