As the celebrated prologue of L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between has it: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”1 In Great Expectations as in David Copperfield, Dickens drew significantly upon his own past, placing Pip’s childhood and the origin of his “great expectations” in a village he knew well on the Kentish marshes which lie between the Thames estuary and the river Medway. It was in Medway (now dubbed “The Dickens Country” by the local tourist board), and especially in Chatham and Rochester and the surrounding countryside that, by his own account, Dickens spent the happiest years, indeed the only happy years, of his own childhood. Despite, or perhaps because of, the abrupt ending to that early and comparatively short but clearly very intense period,2 the adult Dickens was to forge a deep and lasting relationship with Kent, and particularly of course with Medway, a relationship crowned by the purchase of Gad’s Hill Place in 1856. In acquiring a “place of his own”—indeed the only place he was ever to own-Dickens was rather extraordinarily fulfilling his boyhood dream of living in the very house he had first fallen in love with when out walking with his father as a small boy. He himself remembers the occasion in the delightfully elliptical account he gives of his meeting with his former self-the “very queer small boy” who bears, in turn, a striking resemblance to the “young sage” he converses with in Chatham Dockyard in The Uncommercial Traveller.3