This week marks the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death. The celebrated author shares his London secrets with me and tells me how Queen Victoria is a big fan of his acting.
Dick – do you mind if I call you Dick?
I do. But you may call me Boz.
What is your go-to pub?
I do enjoy whitebait (with a side of brown bread and butter) at the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.
What’s your tipple?
Ale, gin, rum, brandy – I am not fussy. As you may already know, I like to round off my evening with toasted cheese (no, not a cheese toastie, simply melted cheese). I often satisfy my cheese and champagne fetish at Champagne plus Fromage where they serve tartiflette, raclette and a whole baked Mont d’or.
If you could have dinner with a special guest who would it be?
I would be pleased to share my supper with Simon Callow. We are mutual fans.
What do you think of the colour photograh released for your 150th anniversary?
I think I look rather dashing, if you don’t mind me saying Londoness. There is still some debate about whether my eyes are green or blue. Can you guess?
Talk me through a walk
Start at St Clement Danes Church and walk down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square. Turn down Whitehall past No 10 Downing Street and the Cenotaph and onto Parliament Square. Head down to the river on Victoria Embankment and wind your way to Temple and then to Blackfriars. You could stop at The Blackfriar for a quick snifter and a pie.
Fortnum and Mason, of course! Their picnic hampers are non pareil.
“Look where I will… I see Fortnum & Mason. All the hampers fly wide open and the green downs burst into a blossom of lobster salad!”
Cat or dog lover?
I once had a spaniel called Timber Doodle and a cat called Bob. I also had a pet raven named Grip who is now stuffed and perched at the Philadelphia Free library. If you come to my home at 48 Doughty Street, chances are you will meet Bill Spikes, the house hedgehog.
Where are you buried?
Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, but I do wish that Rochester Cathedral had been my final resting place.
I have been enjoying the Monologue Library series where actors and artists perform their favourite pieces of theatre. I recently listened to excellent readings by Sir Simon Russell Beale, Paapa Essiedu, Sir Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Kirby.
What was the last film you saw?
The Personal History of David Copperfield. You can watch it on Amazon Prime from June 13.
Do you have a favourite museum?
The home of my great friend, Thomas Carlyle, on Cheyne Row. It is now owned by the National Trust and well worth a visit.
Where do you buy your flowers?
The Columbia Road Market, founded by my friend Angela Burdett Coutts. Scarlet geraniums are my favourite blooms.
Share a secret with me…
I love mirrors. I use them not just for looking at my good self but also to work on the facial expressions of my characters.
If you could choose another career….
I always fancied myself as a bit of an actor. Her Majesty Queen Victoria considered one of my theatrical performances to be the best that she had ever seen. I have not had the pleasure of performing for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, but if I could, I would very much like to do so on the Drury Lane stage when it reopens.
Where do you let your hair down?
Truefitt and Hill is the finest groomer in London. it My good friend Thackeray is also a patron.
Fashion accessory you won’t be seen without…
The Old Curiosity Shop in Holborn. Built in 1567, it is one of the oldest shops in London and now sells shoes. You may think it inspired my Old Curiosity Shop, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens will launch when the Charles Dickens Museum re-opens. More information here. Please consider a donation to the museum during this difficult time.
Tales of my City is a series where I interview a ghost of London past. A flight of fancy, these are entirely fictional but are also peppered with some fun facts.