Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green
meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers
of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.
Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping
into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and
hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales
of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient
Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog
in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper,
down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers
of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the
bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog
all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the
No author has ever known, or described, London as well as Charles Dickens. He could bring to life the fog-bound Thames, the gas-lit parlours, the noisy taprooms and the solemnly quiet offices of merchants and lawyers. His eye for detail and his gift for characterization peopled these with a varied cast of often implausible Londoners, but ever since they have moved and entertained readers throughout the world who might never have been to the city. Many of the clichés that crowd our imaginations when we think of London, or of the Victorians, can be traced back to his writings.
For many readers, Dickens is London – his novels were famously popular in the Soviet Union, where his audience was persuaded that the conditions he described in the 19th century still existed. The city was not the only subject about which he wrote – he dealt, after all, with America,