Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dickens' Short Story

As I've written in a previous post, I'm writing a 'creative biography' of 'Mad James Lucas' the hermit, who Charles Dickens used as the subect of his short story 'Tom Tiddler's Ground'. This he published in the Christmas edition of 'All The Year Round' in 1861, and it can be read online at

James Lucas lived in Hertfordshre, England, close to the town of Stevenage and not far from the Knebworth home of Dickens' friend, Edward Bulwer Lytton. The house in which James boarded himselfself up, and never left for 25 years, was a wreck when he died, and it was demolished about 100 years ago and the site turned into a field. The only traces of the house that remain are brick fragments in the soil. I keep a couple close to my desk, but maybe I should actually put them on my desk to encourage me to spend more time completing my story! On the opposite side of the road is a large pond with an island. Could this be the one that Dickens described '...its accumulation of stagnant weed, and its black decomposition, and in all its foulness and filth, was almost comforting, regarded as the only water that could have reflected the shameful place (James's house) without seemingly polluted by that low office'? I'm not 100% convinced, but Dickens would certainly have stopped on the banks and looked at James's house from this spot.

The site of Elmwood - James Lucas's house - now a farm field

Peter Taylor

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