Nicholas nickleby

The many rival identities of Charles Dickens

Until the age of ten I lived in a street of mock-Georgian houses called Dickens Drive. Copperfield Way and Pickwick Close were just around the corner. Even now I regularly pass the Pickwick Guest House on the main road out of Oxford. None of this is especially surprising. Go online and you can buy a ribbed tank top for your dog emblazoned ‘I love Charles Dickens’ or a flexible Dickens action figure ‘with quill pen and detachable hat’. Visit Rochester or Chatham, the Kent towns where he spent the happiest years of his childhood, and it’s hard to turn a corner without bumping into a Dickensian ghost — Little Dorrit