London: City of Words
A Literary Companion
London: City of Words traces and brings to life the flow of ideas, and the friendships and rivalries played out in coffee houses, pubs and clubs across the city as succeeding generations have confronted the challenges of life, art and the blank page.
The book explores the history of writing in London and the development of the city over the past 700 years; how the city has influenced successive generations of writers and how those writers have incorporated elements of the city within their work.
London: City of Words
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Now also available as an interactive iPhone App called Literary London. See the iTunes App Store for full details and screenshots.
London: City of Words was inspired by a walk one cold but gloriously sunny spring afternoon along the Thames from the City to Waterloo.
On that walk it seemed that history flowed around our every step, from Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims to Hawksmoor’s churches and Iain Sinclair’s Scarlet Tracings, and every view held within it the dynamic interaction of the city and the creative spirit.
Stories jostle and elbow each other, as tightly packed as the buildings, creating a narrative that interweaves the centuries. Eliot’s crowd that ‘flowed over London Bridge’; ‘Nancy’s steps’ (from Dickens’ Oliver Twist) just on the west side of the same bridge; Southwark Cathedral, wherein lies the tomb of John Gower, the ‘father’ of English poetry; the reconstructed Globe Theatre, and then Southwark Bridge - on the original iron bridge, designed by John Rennie, Amy Dorrit (from Dickens’ Little Dorrit) turns down John Chivery’s proposal of marriage.
By Blackfriars, with its series of columns crossing the Thames, totemic remnants of the earlier bridge, we had the shape of the book we wanted to create: A history of writing in London, seen through the prism of geography.
London: City of Words is arranged by district and designed to enable the reader to find buildings and places intimately associated with the writers, poets and dramatists who have lived and worked in the capital.
This is a vast, enlivening subject, and of necessity we have had to be selective. Nevertheless we have sought to be as inclusive as possible, and feature a wide spectrum of writing over the past 700 years.
We begin at the centre with Westminster, the seat of government, and the City, the centre of finance and commerce.
And from the historical centre, we move outwards to explore the development of the city; how the city has influenced successive generations of writers; and how those writers have incorporated elements of the city within their work.
Our aim has been to trace and bring to life the flow of ideas, and the friendships and rivalries played out in coffee houses, pubs and clubs across the city as succeeding generations confront the challenges of life, art, and the blank page.
There is no better way to discover the city than on foot and each of the maps has been designed to cover an area that can comfortably explored in a day. We hope that this guide will lead you back to favourite authors, and spur you on to new discoveries.