Chalk House, "Where Dickens spent his honeymoon" by E. W. Haslehust (1866-1949). Watercolour on paper. Source: Haslehust and Nicklin, Dickens-land, frontispiece. Text and formatting by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Commentary

Although Charles Dickens was born at Portsmouth in 1812, Haslehust begins his sequence of "Dickens-land" watercolours with a cottage in the Kentish village of Chalk, not far from Rochester; here, Charles and Catherine Dickens (formerly, Hogarth) spent their week-long honeymoon immediately after their wedding on 2 April 1836 at St. Luke's, Chelsea. From the age of five, Dickens lived at Chatham, where his father, John, worked as a clerk in the Naval Pay Office at the city's dockyard. In 1822, he went up to to London to join his family after his father's transfer, but his happiest days of childhood were spent in Chatham, Rochester, and the Medway. Even as he married Catherine in London he was writing the picaresque novel The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, which shifts to the Kentish countryside after beginning in London.

Once he had acquired Gadshill Place near Rochester in March 1856, Dickens would often walk to Chalk to admire the eleventh-century Saxon church. The village on the marshes in Great Expectations is an amalgam of Cooling and Chalk, the forge on the old Dover Road outside Chalk seems to have been Dickens's model for Joe Gargery's.

References

Lynch, Tony. Dickens England: An A to Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. A Traveller 's Companion. London: Batsford, 2012.

Nicklin, J. A. Dickens-land. Il. E. W. Haslehust. Beautiful England series. Glasgow & London: Blackie & Son, 1911.


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Last modified 24 February 2014