Answer Man: Did Charles Dickens and Rochester know each other?
Dear Answer Man,
On a drive back from seeing “A Christmas Carol” in the Cities just before Christmas, a know-it-all in the back seat tried to convince us Charles Dickens had a connection to Rochester. Never heard of that in all my years here. Since you know everything about local history, what’s the scoop?
— David C.
Well, David, I have an idea what your know-it-all passenger (you didn’t happen to have Cousin Answer man in the back seat, did you?) is scooping, but it’s not the truth.
Yes, Dickens had a connection to Rochester. In fact, he considered it his hometown. We’re speaking, of course, of Rochester, England.
Dickens was born in Chatham, which is next door to Rochester, and roamed the streets and fields of both towns as a boy. He later lived in Rochester as an adult. These days, Chatham and Rochester, which are adjacent to each other on the River Medway, are part of the same urban government.
We’re told that if you’re a careful reader of Dickens, you’ll find descriptions of Rochester landmarks in “Great Expectations,” “The Pickwick Papers” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” The Rochester Guildhall, which appears in “Great Expectations,” is today a museum holding Dickens memorabilia.
But I digress, as usual. In short, Dickens had no known connection to Rochester, Minn. He did, however, in 1868, on his final lecture tour of America, speak in Rochester, N.Y.
By the way, just to show off my encyclopedic knowledge of Dickens’ little corner of the world, if you’re a fan of the PBS series “Call the Midwife,” which we most definitely are at Chez Answer Man, outdoor scenes of that show are filmed in Chatham.