The Pub in Literature: England's Altered State,

by Steven Earnshaw




Barnaby Rudge Bleak House Christmas Stories Dombey and Son
David Copperfield Great Expectations Hard Times Lazy Tour
Little Dorrit Martin Chuzzlewit Nicholas Nickleby The Old Curiosity Shop
Oliver Twist Our Mutual Friend Pickwick Papers Sketches by Boz
A Tale of Two Cities The Uncommercial Traveller    



For representations of inns, alehouses and public-houses in the nineteenth century (between 1836 and 1865) Dickens provides the widest range. His descriptions cover everything from the inn sign to the inside furniture to the lives of those working there. In Barnaby Rudge, a historical novel covering the time up to and including the Gordon Riots (1780), an inn - The Maypole - is the central focus, a symbol of olde England that incorporates the best of tradition and the dangers of stagnant conservativism. It is contrasted with a tavern where the rioters meet, The Boot.

There are numerous set pieces related to the drinking places, and so rather than attempt to be comprehensive, I have tried to incorporate some of the most entertaining. One of my favourites is when as a lad of about twelve years of age, David Copperfield orders a pint of 'very best ale', much to the amusement of the landlord and his wife. The scene was a reprise from Dickens's own childhood when working at the blacking factory. In listing under each work the drinking-places included, however, I have aimed to be all-inclusive, greatly aided by B. W. Matz's Dickensian Inns and Taverns (London, Cecil Palmer, 1922). This covers all the works, except Pickwick Papers, which he had offered in an earlier book.

(This site is still under construction. 'Unnamed' refers to those hostelries which are not given a name in the novel but are based upon actual places. 'Extant' refers to those inns which were real and were still existing at the time of Matz's book, that is, 1920s. I suspect that many of these continue to survive, but in other instances, as in Cattermole's drawing of The Maypole, the information may be 'woefully wrong'. I have indicated those which I know to still flourish as hostelries in case net-browsers would like to browse ('bowse'?) for real. I would be grateful for information regarding the current state of affairs of the others).