Matthew Pearl‘s historical novels The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow bring to life classic scribes and make use of literary landmarks like poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The concept fits perfectly with the theme of Novel Destinations, which was why he was our first choice to write the Foreword for our book.
Matthew’s latest page-turner, The Last Dickens, weaves together history and mystery in a story centered on a deadly race to locate the ending of Charles Dickens’ last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The action takes place on both sides of the Atlantic and includes intriguing details about Dickens’ life, such as his hardscrabble childhood after his father was sent to debtors’ prison.
Featured in the novel is the Omni Parker House, a Boston hotel where Dickens stayed during his last stateside reading tour in 1867. (The lodging place is one of the sites on Boston by Foot’s Literary Landmarks Tour.) Several scenes take place at Poets’ Corner in London’s Westminster Abbey–where Dickens (against his wishes) is interred along with other famous writers–and at Gad’s Hill Place, his last residence in the English countryside, and a Swiss-style chalet on the property where he would retreat to write.
Gad’s Hill Place is steeped in literary history, located on the site where Shakespeare set the scene of Falstaff’s highway robbery in Henry IV. Dickens himself immortalized the house in A Christmas Carol as “a mansion of dull red brick with a little weather-cock surmounted Cupola on the roof and a bell hanging on it.” Gad’s Hill Place currently houses a private school, but the chalet has been moved into the town of Rochester and can be seen from the outside at Eastgate House on High Street. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt