From Geoffrey Chaucer all the way to J.K. Rowling, these London literary gems are must-see’s.
As a fan of literature, you know that England houses some of our most famous and revered poets, playwrights and writers. From Geoffrey Chaucer all the way to J.K. Rowling, they all played a part in Great Britain’s immense cultural history. If you’re taking a trip to the capital city of London, make sure to check out these 6 literary spots that will throw you back in time and into a great book.
Your first stop, and probably the most important one, should be the British Library. It has the largest collection of cataloged items, making it the second biggest library in the world based on content, not scale (The Library of Congress holds the first title). In the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, you’ll find the library’s fantastic archival collection, which houses Shakespeare’s First Folio, a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, and original copies of Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and Jane Eyre. Talk about a fangirl moment.
For fans of the detective who lived at 221b Baker St, check out the Sherlock Holmes Museum. For £15, you can be thrown back in time into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece as you walk through a re-creation of Sherlock Holmes’ house. In between the Victorian-era furnishings, you’ll see case notes and other memorabilia, and there’s even a mock-up of the famous detective’s study. If you don’t want to pay for the ticket, it’s still worth a visit to the shop, if not for the standard souvenir fare, than for the employees dressed in period costumes.
It’s impossible to visit London as a fan of literature and not see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Even though it’s a modern reconstruction of what Shakespeare and Lord Chamberlain’s Men would have performed in, they have taken painstaking consideration into making it as authentic and close to the original as possible. In order to catch a glimpse inside, you have to buy a ticket for their Exhibition and Tour, which costs £16. It gives you a more thorough background on Shakespeare’s London, and the man himself. If you want a more authentic experience, you can watch one of the theatre performances from the pit in front of the stage. This is best experienced in the summer, when most of their larger, well-known performances happen.
You can kill two birds with one stone in this visit; a visit to Westminster Abbey, and the graves of a bunch of famous poets, playwrights, and writers. Tucked into the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, you’ll find Poet’s Corner, aptly named because some of Britain’s greatest literary contributors are buried or memorialized here. You can find Geoffrey Chaucer (the one that started Poet’s Corner), Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, just to name a few. There is also a monument commemorating Shakespeare, who is buried in Stratford-upon-Avon. (If you have a day to go visit his hometown, it’s highly recommended as well).
Even though Dickens only lived here for two years (from 1837-1839), it’s still worth a visit since this is where he penned Oliver Twist. As a reconstruction of what his home would’ve looked like when he lived there, there is ample period furniture, paintings, manuscripts, and other memorabilia that belonged to Dickens. Don’t miss his custom-made writing desk which would make any stationery or writing obsessed person cry with happiness. Entrance to the house costs £9.00 and you can either walk through it at your own pace, or participate in the highly recommended Costume Tour which happens on the third Saturday of every month. A period clad Dickens’ housemaid will guide you around the museum which you won’t want to miss.
6. “A Conversation with Oscar Wilde”
Adelaide St, London
On Adelaide Street near Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross, you’ll find what looks to be a stone bench with Oscar Wilde’s head sticking out of it. It’s meant as a place where you can quietly “converse” with the Irish poet and playwright in the midst of the craziness of the large city. It was originally suggested by a committee that included the actors Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, and the poet Seamus Heaney, who were all fans of Wilde’s works. Inscribed on the bench are the words “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars” from his play Lady Windermere’s Fan. It is probably his most famous quotation, and a beautiful one at that.