It’s the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, in southwest London, and it’s still a place for leisure and pleasure today. Walking round places in the borough associated with the author, it’s easy to imagine Dickens enjoying himself here.
A few years ago, I had a co-worker who was forever being reprimanded for reading on the job. As his customers clamored for their Vegetable Alfredo’s and Pork Cutlet’s, he hid in the waiter’s lounge squinting at a tiny copy of Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden. Although Eric was continually warned, the manager never took the book away from him adding, “I’ve read it twice.” “Twice,” Eric echoed in awe. Always one for a challenge, I bought a copy of Walden and joined Eric in his rogue reading sessions, helping fulfill Thoreau’s prophecy that readers would “come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour.”
New York’s “forgotten borough” – Staten Island – is almost never considered as having any claim to literary history or distinction at all. And yet American writers like Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry James and Edwin Arlington Robinson all had connections to the island, whether through family or actually having called the island home at one point in their lives. Of all these writers, it was Thoreau who established the deepest connection to the island”s people, land and, most of all, surrounding ocean.