"I conjure to my friends on no account to make me the subject of any monument, memorial or testimonial whatsoever."
So declaimed Charles Dickens in his Final Will and Testament. It didn't quite work: there are at least 17 plaques and memorials in London commemorating the author's life and his various abodes. Yet, in one respect, Dickens' wish has been upheld. There is not a single public statue to the man in the UK, and never has been.
Next year, this changes. Dickens' home town of Portsmouth will erect his bronze likeness to mark the 200th year since his birth. The 7 ft memorial, showing a seated, aged Dickens, is designed by Martin Jennings, sculptor of the much-loved John Betjeman statue in St Pancras station. The work has the blessing of Dickens' descendants and was instigated by the Dickens Fellowship's Portsmouth branch. They reckon that it's high time their hero was publicly celebrated, and that the reticence to memorials in his will, when read in context, refers to his site of burial and not the wider public realm.
But what of London, the city Dickens is more intimately associated with? Doesn't he deserve a full-on bronze statue in the heart of the capital? If nothing else, he'd keep the tourists happy.
There is already one little-known metallic likeness of the great author in London. It's publicly visible, although on private land. If you head under the arches of the magnificent Prudential Building on High Holborn, you'll find this unassuming commemoration nestling in an alcove. Meanwhile, the cities of Sydney and Philadelphia contain full-size statues. Yet London remains bereft. Please, Sir, we want some more.
Now a will-challenging precedent has been set with the Portsmouth statue, would you like to see a giant metal Dickens in London? If so, where? And how would you pose him?