Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to a cottage near Heathrow and, it was rumoured, based his book ‘Little Dorrit’ on the daughter of the house, Mary Ann Mitton.
Another link between Dickens and the village was unknowingly through a villager with the surname of Allen, whose Great Great Great Grandfather was found as a baby in a basket in a ditch in January 1694, near the settlement of Pickwick near Bath. This foundling was subsequently named Moses Pickwick. His Grandson Eleazer Pickwick (b 1748 d 1837) started a stage coach business from Bath to London and eventually became Mayor of Bath.
Whilst still searching for a title for his latest work, Charles Dickens observed a stagecoach plying between Bath and London on the Bath Road near the village, with the name of the owner – Pickwick – on the side, and thus the ‘Pickwick Papers’ (published March 1836) were so named.
This connection was well known as was shown when, on March 3rd 1888, a court case was reported in The Times, in which opening the case for the defence, a barrister, Mr Dickens (a son of Charles Dickens) observed that, by a curious coincidence, he should have to call as a witness a Mr Pickwick (a grandnephew of a later Moses Pickwick who carried the business on from Eleazer Pickwick the Second).
Although Dickens has been recognised as second only to Shakespeare and even Tolstoy had described him as the greatest novelist of the 19th century; in 1948, FR Leavis, at that time the most influential British critic of the 20th Century, omitted Charles Dickens from his survey of the English novel on the basis that he was little more than a gifted popular entertainer.
So much for criticism in the face of the enduring nature of timeless art.