Reading is a wonderful pastime. The stories contained in books can take us to faraway lands, poetry can give us emotion, and non-fiction books can give us knowledge. Of course, the authors of these works didn’t create in a vacuum, and the lives they led impacted their work. In London, several museums are dedicated to these writers who gave us some of the most important pieces of English literature. Whatever your favourite style or whoever your favourite author is, chances are you’ll be able to find a place in London dedicated exclusively to them. Let us know some of your favourite London literary spots in the comments.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
More dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation than the writer himself, the museum is located at the fictional consulting detective’s famous address of 221B Baker Street. Even the address is one of the many historical aspects of the museum, as Baker Street didn’t originally extend that far and once it did, the address belonged to another company for a time. Inside, the museum is made to look like Holmes’ and Watson’s rooms from the stories, littered with objects and artefacts of their many adventures. Of course, there are also items in the museum dedicated to Doyle, The Strand Magazine, and artist Sydney Paget, as well as a nice shop on the ground floor.
Dr. Johnson’s House
Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary is one of the most influential pieces of English literature and responsible for many of the words you learned in school (and likely a few you’re reading in this article). While Johnson’s dictionary wasn’t the first, it soon became the most authoritative edition and was the most used between its publication in 1755 and the Oxford English Dictionary in 1928. The house in which he lived and worked in London was built at the end of the 17th Century and is one of the only homes in the City of London from this era that are still standing. Today, the house is a museum dedicated to Johnson that includes a collection of his works as well as a research library. The house also puts on many events such as afternoon tea, guided walking tours, and exhibits on the home’s history apart from its most famous resident.
Charles Dickens Museum
The man perhaps most responsible for our modern image of Christmas lived at 48 Doughty Street, which has been preserved as a museum in his honour. The Dickens museum is a chance to see how the author lived and from where he rose to fame. In addition to recreating the look of the home when Dickens lived there and artefacts relating to his life, the museum puts on numerous exhibitions per year related to his works and even conducts walking tours that show off the city as he knew it. What’s more, if you get a bit hungry, there’s also a garden café providing a fair amount of food and drink so you can relax while perusing your copy of The Pickwick Papers purchased from the museum gift shop.
Keats House Museum
John Keats was one of the best in the second generation of Romantic poets that also included Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was in this location that Keats wrote a lot of his work and even fell in love with Fanny Brawne who lived next door, though he would die of tuberculosis before marrying her. The house has been a museum since 1925 and is now kept up by the Keats House Trust which is administered by the City of London. Keats House contains many books, paintings, and items that were important to the poet, including the engagement ring he gave to Brawne. Fittingly, the house hosts regular poetry readings as well as exhibits dedicated to Keats’s work. Keats House is a Grade I listed building.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
A replica of the original that was located nearby in Southbank, Shakespeare’s Globe is both a museum dedicated to the Bard and a functional theatre offering performances of his plays throughout the year. The Globe Exhibition & Tour is as much about Shakespeare as it is about the building itself and the iconic theatre on which it was based. Guided tours of the theatre are available, but photography is not permitted for tours that take place during a rehearsal. Since it is still a working playhouse, tickets are available to purchase during the theatre season and will help to give you a full experience of how plays were done during the Elizabethan period. What’s more, the adjacent Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is a theatre done in the Jacobean style, so you can compare and contrast two very different types of stages.