Some of the greatest artists in the world have been drawn to live and work in London. Here's a short biography of just a few you'll get closer to on the tour...
Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870)
Charles Dickens is much loved for his great contribution to
classic English literature. He was the quintessential Victorian author.
His epic stories, vivid characters and exhaustive depiction of
contemporary life are unforgettable. And he has very kindly come back to life to present our tour!
His own story is one of rags to riches. He was born in Portsmouth
on 7 February 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens. The good fortune of
being sent to school at the age of nine was short-lived because his
father, inspiration for the character of Mr Micawber in 'David
Copperfield', was imprisoned for bad debt. The entire family, apart from
Charles, were sent to Marshalsea along with their patriarch. Charles
was sent to work in Warren's blacking factory and endured appalling
conditions as well as loneliness and despair. After three years he was
returned to school, but the experience was never forgotten and became
fictionalised in two of his better-known novels 'David Copperfield' and
Like many others, he began his literary career as a journalist. His own father became a reporter and Charles began with the journals 'The Mirror of Parliament' and 'The True Sun'. Then in 1833 he became parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronicle. With new contacts in the press he was able to publish a series of sketches under the pseudonym 'Boz'. In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of George Hogarth who edited 'Sketches by Boz'. Within the same month came the publication of the highly successful 'Pickwick Papers', and from that point on there was no looking back for Dickens.
As well as a huge list of novels he published autobiography, edited weekly periodicals including 'Household Words' and 'All Year Round', wrote travel books and administered charitable organisations. He was also a theatre enthusiast, wrote plays and performed before Queen Victoria in 1851. His energy was inexhaustible and he spent much time abroad - for example lecturing against slavery in the United States and touring Italy with companions Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins, a contemporary writer who inspired Dickens' final unfinished novel 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'.
He was estranged from his wife in 1858 after the birth of their ten children, but maintained relations with his mistress, the actress Ellen Ternan. He died of a stroke in 1870. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.
Adeline Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941)
Virgina Woolf was an English writer, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. She has, along with Charles Dickens, agreed to present our tour!
During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own (1929), with its famous dictum, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on January 25, 1882, in London. Woolf was educated at home by her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, the author of the Dictionary of English Biography, and she read extensively. Her mother, Julia Duckworth Stephen, was a nurse, who published a book on nursing. Her mother died in 1895, which was the catalyst for Virginia's first mental breakdown. Virginia's sister, Stella, died in 1897; and her father died in 1904.
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616)
Shakespeare's reputation as dramatist and poet actor is unique and he is considered by many to be the greatest playwright of all time, although many of the facts of his life remain mysterious.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised on 26 April 1564. His father was a glovemaker and wool merchant and his mother, Mary Arden, the daughter of a well-to-do local landowner. Shakespeare was probably educated in Stratford's grammar school. The next documented event in Shakespeare's life is his marriage in 1582 to Anne Hathaway, daughter of a farmer. The couple had a daughter the following year and twins in 1585. There is now another gap, referred to by some scholars as 'the lost years', with Shakespeare only reappearing in London in 1592, when he was already working in the theatre.
Shakespeare's acting career was spent with the Lord Chamberlain's Company, which was renamed the King's Company in 1603 when James succeeded to the throne. Among the actors in the group was the famous Richard Burbage. The partnership acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London, near the banks of the Thames - the Globe and the Blackfriars.
Shakespeare's poetry was published before his plays, with two poems appearing in 1593 and 1594, dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Most of Shakespeare's sonnets were probably written at this time as well. Records of Shakespeare's plays begin to appear in 1594, and he produced roughly two a year until around 1611. His earliest plays include 'Henry VI' and 'Titus Andronicus'. 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 'The Merchant of Venice' and 'Richard II' all date from the mid to late 1590s. Some of his most famous tragedies were written in the early 1600s including 'Hamlet', 'Othello', 'King Lear' and 'Macbeth'. His late plays, often known as the Romances, date from 1608 onwards and include 'The Tempest'.
Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in Stratford, by now a wealthy man. He died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623 and is known as 'the First Folio'.
Brendan Francis Behan (9 February 1923 – 20 March 1964)
Born in 1923 in Dublin, Brendan Behan was reared in a family active in revolutionary causes against the British.
At the age of eight, he began what became a lifelong battle with alcoholism. After several jail terms, Behan wrote two plays that put him on the map: The Quare Fellow and The Hostage. When the latter opened on Broadway, Behan became celebrated in the theatre world. But his real international fame started at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London, under the inspired directorship of Joan Littlewood.
More Writers to come...