‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ 13-14 Portsmouth Street, Westminster, London, England, in the 1950s.
The building itself is sixteenth century, but the name was added after the release of Charles Dickens’ novel The Old Curiosity Shop in 1841; as the shop apparently served inspiration for the antique store in which young Nell Trent and her piteous, nameless grandfather lived in one of the most doleful tales ever written. This book is so depressing Irish leader Daniel O’Connell famously burst into tears at the finale and pitched it right out the window of the train in which he was travelling.
Oh please, how sad could it be? you ask suspiciously. I shall tell you. Brave little Nell’s adoring grandfather wishes to save her from the poverty that killed her parents, so he formulates a wise plan to ensure her financial security- gambling with money borrowed from “a malicious, grotesquely deformed, hunchbacked dwarf” named Daniel Quilp. This dastardly distorted villain ends up in possession of their treasured little shop; and out into the streets with the grieving grandfather and his precious darling. But wait! It gets worse.
Plucky, indomitable Nell succumbs to illness and her inconsolable grandfather is soon deranged with grief. Every day he huddles miserably at her grave site, day after wretched day, looking desperately about in all directions for a glimpse- oh dear Lord, just a glimpse!- of his beloved granddaughter. And then he dies himself.
**long pause** Well! That was….erm…..quite horrible, really. Even I can’t find a bright side to this story; except that it is over. (image doveson2008 flickr)