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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Writing in The Echo on January 1 1901, Victorian journalist and theatre Impresario John Holingshead wrote that the Manor House Tavern and Green Lanes were "the undoubted germs of Pickwick". Any literary types fancy taking a stab at where in the book these germs might be evidenced"

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I’m no literary expert but I did find out the following.

From chapter 1 of The Pickwick Papers:

'That while this Association is deeply sensible of the advantages which must accrue to the cause of science, from the production to which they have just adverted—no less than from the unwearied researches of Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., in Hornsey, Highgate, Brixton, and Camberwell—they cannot but entertain a lively sense of the inestimable benefits which must inevitably result from carrying the speculations of that learned man into a wider field, from extending his travels, and, consequently, enlarging his sphere of observation, to the advancement of knowledge, and the diffusion of learning.'

Also, chapter 4 begins with:

'Many authors entertain, not only a foolish, but a really dishonest objection to acknowledge the sources whence they derive much valuable information. We have no such feeling. We are merely endeavouring to discharge, in an upright manner, the responsible duties of our editorial functions; and whatever ambition we might have felt under other circumstances to lay claim to the authorship of these adventures, a regard for truth forbids us to do more than claim the merit of their judicious arrangement and impartial narration. The Pickwick papers are our New River Head; and we may be compared to the New River Company. The labours of others have raised for us an immense reservoir of important facts. We merely lay them on, and communicate them, in a clear and gentle stream, through the medium of these pages, to a world thirsting for Pickwickian knowledge.'

I tried searching the book for other local place names (e.g. Green Lanes, Stoke Newington) but didn't find any mention of them.

There’s a web page – http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/cruikshank/boz11.html – that has an extract from Dickens’s Sketches by Boz, describing the scene at a rural tea garden on the fringes of London. The page also contains an extract from an 1844 book called Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to its Sights, which mentions, among other places of recreation, ‘Eel-pie House, or Sluice House, on the New River, near Hornsey’ and ‘Hornsey Wood House, the grounds of which include a fine wood and an extensive piece of water’, as well as Jack Straw’s Castle in Hampstead, the latter said by the author of the web page to be a favourite of Dickens. 

My guess is that Dickens was familiar with this area, the New River, and the various taverns and tea gardens, but perhaps the writer of the 1901 article was exaggerating a bit in suggesting they were the sole inspiration for certain elements of The Pickwick Papers.

Good bit of sleuthing. Thanks for doing that.

Some more Dickens connections:

Hornsey churchyard features in David Copperfield. Betsey Trotwood's husband is buried there.

Dickens was a friend of the wealthy poet Samuel Rogers, buried in the churchyard - it's thought he may have based the character Smallweed from Bleak House on him.

The Pickwick Papers started out as an idea by the publishers to cash in on the sporting tour fiction craze, which often featured Hornsey Wood, now Finsbury Park, as a venue. The young Dickens's imagination turned it into something much bigger.

So yes, Dickensian associations and connections with this area are genuine and documented, especially Hornsey and Highgate.

Good info. Thanks. 

By the way, in the course of some Googling, I found a PDF of The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London: Their History and Associations (1898) by J. J. Sexby, which I've now downloaded. It looks very interesting. Perhaps you've already come across it.

Thanks. I'm not sure if I'd seen that exact one or not. It's not a bad book of its type. It seems more focussed on fact and less on overly romanticising the past than is the wont of many books of its type and age.



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