THE LONDON GUIDEFOR LITERATURE LOVERS

Almost everyone at some point has been required to take a course in British Literature, whether it be Shakespeare or Chaucer or Dickens. Most texts in those classes either feature parts in London or have author’s who lived there. Visiting London means getting a real-life experience to feel how it was to be one of your favorite authors or one of your favorite characters. Here are some of the highlights of the best places to visit.

221B BAKER ST.

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When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to make this location the residence of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, there was little significance to it. Today, decades after his death, this location was purchased and converted into a museum for Sherlock Holmes. The interior depicts what Sherlock’s home would have looked like more than a century ago. It includes bullet holes forming the initials V.R., Victoria Regina, which Holmes shot into the living room wall in the story “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.” Along with similar detailing, the house includes wax figures of different characters who appear in the stories and modes of looking into the life of Sherlock Holmes.

THE GLOBE

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Whether or not you are a lover of literature, the Globe is a must-see location. The current The Globe resides on the Thames, but the original was located several blocks away. Shakespeare’s The Globe burned down in 1613, but the current theater replicates the original, though it maintains better fire safety. You can watch as a groundling and stand for a whole performance, as the peasants did, or pay extra and sat where the queen would have to watch the performance. Though performances differ in design and interpretation from their historical origins, they remain an exciting way to experience history.

LONDON BRIDGE

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Commonly confused with Tower Bridge, which is further up the Thames, London Bridge has been notable in countless works. Most people first learn of this through the children’s song named after it. London Bridge is mentioned in countless pieces of literature, including “The Wasteland” by T.S. Elliot. The current London Bridge was built in the 60s and 70s. It constantly underwent remodels because it always fell down, as the song states. A model of an older version of the bridge can be seen in the church of Saint Magnus Martyr (which is also a location explored in “The Wasteland”).

BLOOMSBURY

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This area of London lead to the name of the Bloomsbury Group, a collection of artists and writers including Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, and E. M. Forster. In Bloomsbury, their homes are commemorated by London’s blue plaques; these plaques are placed around the city and designed to honor English heritage. You can find the names of all these authors and more, with information on what they did and when they lived.

THE CAULDRON

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For the older fans of Harry Potter, you can attend a potion making class at The Leaky Cauldron. This is a bar where you wear a cape and brew alcoholic potions in a cauldron. You are also given a wand that can open certain drawers and give you beer on tap. For those unable to make it to London, The Leaky Cauldron recently opened a location in New York as well.

WILLIAM MORRISHOUSE

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While Morrison is more historically known for his design, he was also a successful writer in his time. His home was converted into a museum to explore his life and his work. You can listen to his poetry while looking at his textile works. The museum also allows a greater look into the details of his life and his relationships with other prominent writers of the time.

ST. CLEMENT DANES

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This church, like London Bridge, is most commonly known through the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons.” This nursery rhyme also appears multiple times throughout 1984, as Winston Smith tries to remember the words which ultimately act as foreshadowing in the novel. You can take a look into St. Clement Danes and see why the phrase “Oranges and lemons say the bells of St. Clement” influences writers like George Orwell.

CHARING CROSS STATION

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This is an easy stop on the tube, not too far from Trafalgar square, which pops up in a variety of literature. It is mentioned in Brave New World, although renamed to the Charing T Towers; the T symbolizing the model T Ford and the book’s emphasis on building humans. It is also mentioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” as Sherlock and Watson investigate another mystery.

WEST END

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In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the protagonist travels between the West End and the East End of London, each symbolizing a different half of his personality. For Gray, the West End represents him as the charming rich young man living a rich lifestyle. Going to the West End today means more than experience the same life as Dorian Gray, it is also a hub of professional theater in London. You can go enjoy a countless number of plays and musicals, and absorb those literary experiences at the same time.

Whether you are looking to experience London through the point of view of an author or a character, the city is heaped in literary history. Even a casual walk through the streets will open your eyes to England’s past. London is a must-see place for anyone who loves to read.

Looking for a fun night out in London’s themed bars? Check out our guide for some of the cities funkiest nightlife.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gaby Messino is a freelance writer, born and raised in San Francisco. “The best place I have ever travelled was to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, while I was earning my English degree from Cal Poly”. Beyond traveling and writing, she loves petting dogs and playing her ukulele. Follow her on instagram, @ggjmessino or on tumblr, gmessino.tumblr.com