London Literary trails explores the unrivalled literary heritage of the city. Many buildings, places, sights (and sites!) intimately associated with writers throughout the ages still exist and can be visited - from Walter Ralegh, William Shakespeare, Samuel Pepys, and Dr Johnson to Carlyle, Dickens, Marx, Rimbaud, T S Eliot, as well as contemporary writers such as Ian McEwan and Alan Hollinghurst.
This vast, enlivening history stretches back over 700 years to the 13th and 14th centuries and writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Malory and the printer William Caxton, who in 1477 produced the first printed book in England on his printing press close by Westminster Abbey.
Over the coming weeks and months we will be regularly posting more walks, guides and trails, so do check back often.
London: City of Words, This literary companion to the city by David Caddy and Westrow Cooper provides an in-depth guide to the history of writing in the city, how the city has influenced successive generations of writers and how those writers have incorporated elements of the city within their work. Read more here
Surveying the city
Primrose Hill offers a stunning vantage point with views across the capital - in fact the sightline to St Paul's, for example, is a protected view. In 1842 an Act of Parliament secured the land as a public open space and the park has been enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for many years as a place to survey the city and take stock.
The strategic value of Primrose Hill has been realised in fact and fiction. In H.G.Wells' The War of the Worlds (1898) the Martians make their seventh 'final and largest' base at Primrose Hill, to attempt a decisive assault on the city.
During the Blitz (in the Second World War) Primrose Hill provided a location from which to defend the city, as described in Aldous Huxley's wartime novel Time Must have A Stop (1944): A man meditates in his flat during an air raid in which 'the guns on Primrose Hill were banging away in a kind of frenzy.'
The Twilight Bark
In The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith (1956) Pongo and Missis escape from Regent's Park and run to Primrose Hill. Here they stand on the hill's summit and bark out a message across the city asking for help in tracing the lost puppies.
Next to the park, Primrose Hill village is full of character, with an excellent bookshop. Just opposite the entrance to the park (on the village side) you'll see the house at 122 Regent's Park Road to which Friedrich Engels moved in 1870. He lived here until his death in 1895. Following cremation at Woking Crematorium (I don't know why I find the idea of Engels being cremated in Woking kind of bizarre, but I do) his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head, as he had requested.
One of the area's most famous current residents is Alan Bennett.
NEW! Shaken not stirred: A brief guide to IAN FLEMING, CREATOR OF JAMES BOND, in the capital.
IRIS MURDOCH WALKS
London becomes a charged landscape, electrified by currents of ideas and imagery bubbling up through the plots in Iris Murdoch's London novels – that’s what we are in pursuit of in this series of walks. Read more
18th CENTURY LONDON
Follow these links for a tour of the most important literary locations relating to the city in the 18th century.
Leicester Square in 1750