Then and Now: Photos of Real Places Mentioned in Fiction


Looking through Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins, it’s difficult not to compare the way things were during England’s Georgian and Regency eras with the England of today. The book gives a glimpse at everything from wedding superstitions to the “Bloody Code” (the country’s system of laws and punishments from 1688 to 1815, including the 50 offenses that were punishable by death), which highlight how much has changed since the time of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. But what about the times and places that influenced other classic authors? More specifically, what do the real places mentioned in famous works of fiction look like now?

Penn Station, New York City

“It was a sombre snowy afternoon, and the gas-lamps were lit in the big reverberating station. As he paced the platform, waiting for the Washington express, he remembered that there were people who thought there would one day be a tunnel under the Hudson through which the trains of the Pennsylvania railway would run straight into New York. They were of the brotherhood of visionaries who likewise predicted the building of ships that would cross the Atlantic in five days, the invention of a flying machine, lighting by electricity, telephonic communication without wires, and other Arabian Nights marvels.” — Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)

Piccadilly Circus, London

“She stood for a moment, looking at the omnibuses in Piccadilly… She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone.” — Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Davy Byrne’s pub, Dublin

“He entered Davy Byrne’s. Moral pub. He doesn’t chat. Stands adrink now and then. But in leapyear once in four. Cashed a cheque for me once.” — James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)

Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn

“Dear reader, you must see Myrtle Avenue before you die, if only to realize how far into the future Dante saw.” — Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn (1938)

‘Mary E. Crosby’ by Mina Keyes Goddard

Nantucket, MA

“Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of theworld it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it- a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all beach, without a background. There is more sand there than you would use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper.” — Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

Temple Bar, London

“The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed oldcorporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.” — Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


Union Station, Chicago

“One of my most vivid memories is of coming back West from prep school and later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o’clock of a December evening, with a few Chicago friends, already caught up into their own holiday gayeties, to bid them a hasty good-by.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

Washington Square, New York City

“The ideal of quiet and of genteel retirement, in 1835, was found in Washington Square, where the Doctor built himself a handsome, modern, wide-fronted house, with a big balcony before the drawing-room windows, and a flight of marble steps ascending to a portal which was also faced with white marble.” — Henry James, Washington Square (1880)

Palace Pier, Brighton, England

“He leant against the rail near the Palace Pier and showed his face to the crowd as it uncoiled past him, like a twisted piece of wire, two by two, each with an air of sober and determined gaiety.” — Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (1938)