London Entertainments: oh, the choices!

A while ago I posted a blog about a gorgeous old book I came across during research,

photo 1where Charles Dickens (Jr—not riding on his father’s coat-tails or anything) writes about the city, particularly the Ratcliffe Hwy and opium dens. (The post is here.)

The Dickens guide offers such an endless variety of entertainments, one is frankly torn. A ride on Rotton Row? A stroll along the Serpentine? No: what about a piquant contrast of a day: we’ll begin with a sunny outing at the zoo, and in the evening set off for something a bit …darker.

Zoological Gardens.

…a long summer day can be very pleasantly spent in them, more especially as the presence of a good restaurant renders it unnecessary for the visitor to leave the gardens for refreshment. A band plays on Saturdays during the season. The charge for admission is 1s., except on Mondays, when it is reduced one-half. On Sundays the gardens are only open to Fellows of the Zoological Society, by whom the establishment is kept up, and to holders of tickets from them.


Opium Smoking Dens.

The best known of these justly named “dens” is that of one Johnstone, who lives in a garret off Ratcliff-highway, and for a consideration allows visitors to smoke a pipe which has been used by many crowned heads in common with poor Chinese sailors who seek their native pleasure in Johnstone’s garret. This is the place referred to in the “Mystery of Edwin Drood” (see also RATCLIFF-HIGHWAY). A similar establishment of a slightly superior—or it might be more correct to say a shade less nauseating—class is that of Johnny Chang, at the London and St. Katherine Coffee-house, in the Highway itself.


(Dickens’s Dictionary of London 1879, An Unconventional Handbook, by Charles Dickens [Jr.] is here.)


murder of mary russell UK


The Murder of Mary Russell can ordered as:

A signed US hardback from Bookshop Santa Cruz or Poisoned Pen Books

An unsigned hardback or ebook from B&N/Nook or Amazon/Kindle

A UK hardback from Waterstones or hard/ebook from Amazon UK.


  1. Merrily Taylor on April 3, 2016 at 7:54 am

    I think I’d rather go to the zoo…

  2. Diane on April 3, 2016 at 9:24 am

    I’d rather go to the zoo, too. Although, a ride down Rotten Row would be fun just to people watch.

  3. Vicki Saunders on April 6, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    That is a fascinating little book! I wonder what Lunacy Commissioners are…….

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