Books, glorious books...Yes, that does go to the tune of 'Food, glorious food', and is the standard song to hum (or break into song in) when in a bookshop. Not a library, as that would be inconsiderate and rude and would make me throw you out while growling (quietly). We've just added our Six of the Best: London Bookshops feature soon, and it made us have a think about other good literary spots in the city. So here's Six of the Best of those as well.
Shakespeare's Globe: It does feel a little predictable to start off a literary London list (hey, alliteration) with the Bard, but it's pretty much unavoidable. Which is just as well, because, well, it's the Globe. And Shakespeare. There's an exhibition and tour on the theatre itself as well as the life and times of Shakespeare, and natch a full programme every year of his plays. In 2012 the Globe presented '37 Plays in 37 Languages', a presentation of all Shakespeare's plays in, yes, 37 languages, including Turkish, Urdu, Brazilian Portuguese, British Sign Language and hip hop. Whoever thought that one up deserves a medal.
Keats House: This Grade I listed house is where the poet lived from 1818 – 1820 and where he wrote some of his best poetry – Ode to a Nightingale, anyone? It's now a museum with loads of Keats-related material including letters, paintings, books, and the engagement ring Keats gave to Fanny Brawne. Sniff. You can also have a picnic in the garden, which is all recreated to reflect his poetry.
Dr Johnson's House: Eighteenth century house where Samuel Johnson compiled his first dictionary, which we can't think of without seeing Robbie Coltrane as Dr Johnson having a fit after Baldrick burnt the only copy in Blackadder. You can see the first edition of the dictionary, as well as the garret workroom where it was compiled, and the house's original Virginia pine panelling and staircase. There's also a Dr Johnson Walk exploring the Fleet Valley, Ludgate Hill and St Paul's Churchyard.
Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey: This is a must see for anyone interested in literary London. And the Abbey's not too bad either. Poets' Corner is the resting place of many of Britain's great writers, including Chaucer, Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning, Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. There are also plenty of memorials commemorating other literary legends, such as Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Robert Burns, William Blake, T.S. Eliot, Austen, Sir Walter Scott, the Brontës and Henry James. A must see.
Sir John Ritblat Gallery, the British Library: This is another must see, as is the British Library itself with its 14 million books. The permanent displays in this gallery include some of the most iconic of these, including the Magna Carta and Shakespeare’s First Folio as well as the Gutenberg Bible, manuscripts by Virginia Wolfe, Jane Austen and the Brontës, and illuminated manuscripts, maps and music. Sadly, this is not a lending library.
Charles Dickens Museum: There are many places in London associated with Dickens and his characters, and this museum is a good place to start. It's based in the house Dickens lived in from 1837 – 1839, and where he wrote Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers. You can wander around the restored Victorian rooms and see original manuscripts, letters and first editions, which is best fun if you do it while pretending to be a Dickens character (Uriah Heep is a good one). The museum also runs a reading group and shows film versions of Dickens's books, so you've the perfect excuse to keep coming back.
If you'd like to see other historical sites in London or elsewhere, just use our search filter to find all the details you need on where to go around the country. And don't forget to check out our Six of the Best: London Bookshops feature, because after all, what is literary London (or life) without books?