The restless writer fled the frenzy of a London summer in 1857 for walks in the Lake District – and a tryst with his mistress
It is hard to imagine anyone less suited to living with any kind of restraint than Charles Dickens. Especially, I think, the hyperactive Dickens of 1857, the year he turned 45. By the last days of the summer, he had already written, staged and starred in his own play in London and Manchester; bought, renovated and moved into the house of his childhood dreams in Gad’s Hill, in the village of Higham, Kent; and taken trips to Brighton and Southampton, where he waved his 16-year-old son on to a troopship bound for India.
In the May he had finished his latest novel, Little Dorritt, and in June had given his first-ever public readings (a crowd of 2,000 turned up to hear him declaim and weep his way through A Christmas Carol). Editing his monthly magazine was also keeping him busy, as was his charity for homeless women. Dozens of letters flowed.