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Answer 69. Charles Dickens’ new novel was called A Tale of Two Cities. He wrote most of it at his country home, then revised each chapter here at his London flat before publishing it in the magazine.

Dickens borrowed great chunks of the novel from A History of the French Revolution by his friend Thomas Carlyle. The historian send round ‘a cartload’ of books to help him with his research.

Dickens also borrowed the novel’s characters from life. Lucie Manette, the girl for whom Sydney Carton went to the guillotine, bore a strong physical resemblance to Nelly Ternan, his new actress friend. He sent Nelly the weekly proofs for her comments before publication.


Admiralty Capt Cook

This is the rear view of the old brown Admiralty building, seen from Horse Guards Parade. There was intense excitement in the boardroom (upstairs windows) on the afternoon of 1 August 1775.

A Royal Navy officer had just returned to London after three years away exploring the Antarctic and South Pacific. He had come straight to the Admiralty to deliver his report to their Lordships:

‘Two o’clock Monday – This Moment Capt **** is arrived. I have not yet had an opportunity of conversing with him, as he is still in the boardroom – giving an account of himself and Co… He has some Birds for you that he would have wrote to you himself about, if he had not been kept too long at the Admiralty and at the same time wishing to see his wife.’

The officer had been searching for a new continent, a great land mass said to exist somewhere in the south seas. At one point, his ship had sailed for 104 days in a row without seeing any land at all. Finding no continent, he had returned instead with an exotic array of flora and fauna, scientific specimens that had never been seen in Europe before.

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 70. It was an epic voyage of discovery. Who was the naval captain?

Trafalgar Book Cover









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