London has had the biggest global influence on English language and world literature of any city in the world. Here are some places in Literary London related to its contribution to literature.
One of the best places to develop and refine an appreciation of London's importance to English and world literature is the British Library.
- 1 British Library, 96 Euston Rd, St Pancras in Bloomsbury (Tube King's Cross St Pancras, Euston and Euston Square). M-Th 9:30AM-8PM, F 9:30AM-6PM, Sa 9:30AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Free access to public areas and galleries. Special exhibitions on regularly.
- 2 Reading Room, British Museum, Great Russell St, Bloomsbury. The Reading Room collection was moved to the British Library in 1997, and the Round Reading Room was converted to an exhibition space. It is now closed.
- 3 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, 21 New Globe Walk in Bankside. An impressive reproduction of the 17th-century Globe Theatre that was destroyed by fire in 1613. Regular productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Box Office is open daily 10AM-6PM. Standing tickets £20, seats from £20. Guided tours of the theatre are offered daily 9:30AM-5PM (adult £17.00, child (5 – 15) £10.00, senior (60+) £15.50, student(16+ with ID) £13.50, family £46.00).
- 4 Rose Theatre, 56 Park Street, SE1 9AR, ☏ . An early venue for Shakespeare's work until it was overtaken by The Swan and The Globe, it fell into disuse by 1603. The site was uncovered in 1989, and is open to the public. Part of the site is used for performances (£20). Tours available by arrangement for groups of 29 or more (£7 per person).
- 5 Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, SE1 9DA. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9:30AM-3:45PM and 5-6PM, Su 12:30PM–3PM and 4–6PM. It has inspiring monuments to Shakespeare and Sam Wanamaker, the American whose vision inspired the rebuilding of the nearby Globe Theatre.
His memorial is in Poets' Corner (see below.)
- 1 Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty St, Bloomsbury, ☏ , fax: . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, last admission 4:30PM (and M in Dec). First editions, original manuscripts, original letters by Dickens, and many personal items owned by Dickens and his family. Adult £9.50, student or senior £7.50, children £4.50 (under 6 free).
- 6 Old Curiosity Shop, 13-14 Portsmouth St, WC2A 2ES. This shop and the Clare Market were immortalised by Dickens. It is now a shoe shop.
He is buried in Poets' Corner (see below.)
- The Bloomsbury Group (Bloomsbury Set), London/Bloomsbury. A group of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists in the first half of the 20th century, that included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. They lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury. Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality.
- 7 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes Museum), 221b Baker Street. Daily 9:30AM-6PM (last admission 5:30PM). A privately run museum dedicated to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. The museum exhibits items from several different adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, and recreations of scenes from the 1984 Granada Television series Sherlock Holmes. Adult £15, child £10 (under 16).
- 8 Samuel Johnson (Dr Johnson's House), 17 Gough Square, just off Fleet Street. Oct-Apr: M-Sa 11AM-5PM, May-Sep: M-Sa 11AM-5:30PM. This fine Georgian house is where Dr Johnson compiled his great Dictionary of the English Language. He is buried in Poets' Corner (see below.) Adult £7.00, student £6.00, child £3.50 (age 5-17), family £15.00 (two adults and accompanying children), under 5s free.
- 9 John Keats (Keat's House Museum), 10 Keats Grove, Hampstead, NW3 2RR (London Overground Hampstead Heath station is a 3- to 5-minute walk away). W-Su 11AM-5PM. Explore the life and work of Keats through exhibits of his original manuscripts and artefacts which tell the story of how he found inspiration, friendship, and love in this Regency villa. His memorial is in Poets' Corner (see below.) Adults £7.50, seniors and students £4.50, children 18 and under free, National Trust Members: £3.75.
- A.A. Milne (statue of Winnie the bear and Lt. Colebourn), Regent's Park at the London Zoo (Camden Town station (Northern Line)). It commemorates the bear (born 1914 near White River, Canada, deceased 1934 in London) who inspired Winnie the Pooh.
- J.K. Rowling: see Harry Potter tourism
Writers' burials and monuments
- 10 John Donne, St Paul's Cathedral, St Paul's Churchyard, EC4M 8AD (240 m from St Paul's station on the Underground's Central Line). M-Sa 8:30AM-4PM. The 1631 marble funeral effigy of the famous 17th-century poet and Dean of St Pauls can be seen in the South Quire Aisle, one of the few surviving relics of Old St Paul's Cathedral, destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 — scorch marks can still be seen on the base of the statue. At the site/online: adults £20/17, students & 60+ £17.50/15, children (6-17) £8.50/7.20.
- 11 Oscar Wilde memorial, 3 Adelaide St, Charing Cross, WC2N 4HZ. "A Conversation with Oscar Wilde" is a bench-like green granite sarcophagus, with a bust of Wilde emerging from the upper end, that was installed in 1998 with a hand clasping a cigarette. The cigarette has been stolen so often that the city stopped replacing it, which is why his hand now appears to grasp the air.
- 12 Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, SW1P 3PA. M-F 9:30AM-4:30PM, W to 6PM, Sa 9AM-1PM. Poets' Corner is one of the better known parts of Westminster Abbey and can be found in the South Transept. Adult £21, student or 60+ £18, child 6-16 £9.
This part of the Abbey was not intended as a burial place for writers, playwrights and poets; the first poet to be buried here, Geoffrey Chaucer, was laid to rest here on account of his more mundane position as Clerk of Works to the Palace of Westminster - the fact that he had authored the Canterbury Tales was irrelevant at the time.
During the flowering of English literature in the 16th century over 150 years later, however, a more elaborate tomb was erected to Chaucer by Nicholas Brigham and in 1599 Edmund Spenser was laid to rest nearby. These two tombs formed the nucleus of a tradition that developed over succeeding centuries.
In addition to Chaucer and Spenser, Poets' Corner contains the later burials of poets John Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning and John Masefield. Writers of prose, including William Camden, Dr Samuel Johnson, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy are also buried here.
The grave of Charles Dickens attracts special devotion from many visitors interest: as a writer who drew attention to the hardships born by the socially deprived and who advocated the abolition of the slave trade, he won enduring fame and gratitude and today, more than 110 years later, a wreath is still laid on his tomb on the anniversary of his death each year.
Poets' Corner also commemorates the life of literary greats (and quite a few who have faded into obscurity) with memorials: amongst these are the poets John Milton, William Wordsworth, Thomas Gray, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Burns, William Blake, T.S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Writers such as Samuel Butler, Jane Austen, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Walter Scott, John Ruskin, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, Henry James and Sir John Betjeman have also been given memorials here. Perhaps the greatest English writer, William Shakespeare, also has a memorial here: buried in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1616, Shakespeare had to wait until 1740 before his monument (designed by William Kent) was placed in the transept. Another late addition was Lord Byron, whose lifestyle caused a scandal although his poetry was much admired: although he died in 1824, he was finally given a memorial only in 1969.
Not all who are buried in Poets' Corner were literary in background: the burial place of the famous composer George Frederic Handel can also be seen here, as well as the graves of David Garrick, the 18th century Shakespearean actor, and Laurence Olivier, actor of our age. A number of Abbey churchmen are also interred amongst the poets.
Literary tours and walks
- London Walks - very popular guided walks (£10 adults, £8 concessions, children free (Dec 2018)), such as: Shakespeare's London, In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and The London of Oscar Wilde
- This self-guided tour (free).
- Charing Cross Road used to be lined with bookshops, although most have closed
- Fleet Street was home to the large newspapers