/ History File
/ Faversham and Pickwick Papers
David Parker 29 Oct 2009
I'm writing a Companion to the Pickwick Papers.
Chapter 29, an interpolated tale, "The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton", is set "in an old abbey town, down in this part of the country."
"This part of the country" is the fictional Manor Farm, Dingley Dell, not far from Rochester. Dickens may just have been using his imagination, but if we suppose he had a particular town in mind, none fits the specification better than Faversham. At one point, for instance, the protagonist, Gabriel Grubb, is described as wending his way after dark "up the ancient street," looking at the firelight blazing "through the old casements"
Faversham or what? We can't tell whether Dickens had ever been to Faversham when he wrote this chapter in December 1836, although he had spent a significant part of his childhood in Chatham.
Nor can I find any publication that might have made him think of Faversham at the time, or during the few years preceding it. The town was getting into the news, but thanks to elections and Swing riots, not through its antiquity.
Does anyone have any suggestion about anything which might have made Dickens think of Faversham in 1836?
Chris Marshall 04 Nov 2009
It is my recollection that there is a description of a visit to Faversham in Household Words
. There must be a considerable likelihood that this was written by Dickens.
Laurence Young 02 Nov 2009
Dickens and Faversham connections: several older, longstanding Faversham residents have informed me they understood Miss Havisham (pronounced Haversham) of Great Expectations is based on a Faversham woman who had been through similar circs (jilted at the altar).
Apparently, the woman lived in East Street in the building which is now the Kent Council for Addiction offices on the corner of St John's Road and her bridal carriage stood for decades forlornly outside the front of the house.
At least, that's the story . . .