The writer of an article in a well-known magazine conceived the idea of
preparing a map of England that should indicate, by means of a tint,
those portions especially associated with Charles Dickens and his
writings. This map makes manifest the fact that the country thus most
intimately connected with the novelist is the south-eastern portion of
England, having London as the centre and Rochester as the “literary
capital,” and including the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent,
Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, and Warwickshire, with an offshoot extending
to the northern boundary of Yorkshire.

All literary pilgrims, and particularly the devotees of Charles Dickens,
regard as foremost among literary shrines inviting special homage the
scene of the nativity of “Immortal Boz.” Like the birthplaces of many an
eminent personage who first saw the light in the midst of a humble
environment, the dwelling in which Dickens was born is unpretentious
enough, and remains unaltered. The modest abode rented shortly after
marriage by John Dickens (the future novelist’s father), from June,
1809, to June, 1812, stands in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, the number
of the house having been recently changed from 387 to 393. The district
was then known as Landport, in the Island of Portsea, but is now
incorporated with Portsmouth; a comparatively rural locality at that
time, it has since developed into a densely populated neighbourhood,
covered with houses and bisected by the main line of the municipal
tramways.[1] It is, however, yet within the memory of middle-aged people
when this area of brick and mortar consisted of pasture land in which
trees flourished and afforded nesting-places for innumerable birds—a
condition of things recalled by the names bestowed upon some of the
streets hereabouts, such as Cherry Garden Lane and Elm Road—but now
“only children flourish where once the daisies sprang.”

The birthplace of Charles Dickens, which less than half a century ago
overlooked green fields, is an interesting survival of those days of
arboreal delights; and the broad road, on the west side of which it is
situated, leads to Cosham and the picturesque ruin of Porchester Castle.
In 1809 John Dickens was transferred from Somerset House to the Navy
Pay-Office at Portsmouth Dockyard, and, with his young wife, made his
home here, in which were born their first child (Frances Elizabeth) in
1810, and Charles on February 7, 1812. This domicile is a plain,
red-brick building containing four rooms of moderate size and two
attics, with domestic offices; in front there is a small garden,
separated from the public roadway by an iron palisading; and a few
steps, with a hand-rail, lead from the forecourt to the hooded doorway
of the principal entrance. The front bedroom is believed to be the room
in which Dickens was born. From the apartments in the rear there is
still a pleasant prospect, overlooking a long garden, where flourishes
an eminently fine specimen of the tree-mallow. On the death of Mrs.
Sarah Pearce, the owner and occupier (and last surviving daughter of
John Dickens’s landlord), the house was offered for sale by public
auction on Michaelmas Day, 1903, when, much to the delight of the
townspeople as well as of all lovers of the great novelist, it was
purchased by the Portsmouth Town Council for preservation as a Dickens
memorial, and with the intention of adapting it for the purposes of a
Dickens Museum. The purchase price was £1,125, a sum exceeding by five
hundred pounds the amount realized on the same occasion by the adjoining
freehold residence (No. 395), which is identical in character—an
interesting and significant testimony as to the sentimental value
attaching to the birthplace of “Boz.”

Charles Dickens, like David Copperfield, was ushered into the world “on
a Friday,” and, when less than a month old, underwent the ordeal of
baptism at the parish church of Portsea, locally and popularly known as
St. Mary’s, Kingston, and dating from the reign of Edward III. In 1882 a
plan for its restoration and enlargement was proposed, but a few years
later the authorities resolved to demolish it altogether and build a
larger parochial church from designs by Sir Arthur Blomfield, A.R.A.,
the foundation stone of which was laid by Queen Victoria early in the
spring of 1887, one half of the estimated cost being defrayed by an
anonymous donor. On its completion the people of Portsmouth expressed a
desire to perpetuate the memory of Charles Dickens by inserting in the
new building a stained-glass window, but were debarred by a clause in
the novelist’s will, where he conjured his friends on no account to make
him “the subject of any monument, memorial, or testimonial whatever,” as
he rested his claim to the remembrance of his country upon his published
works. It is not common knowledge that three baptismal names were
bestowed upon Dickens, viz., Charles John Huffam, the first being the
Christian name of his maternal grandfather, the second that of his
father, while the third was the surname of his godfather, Christopher
Huffam (incorrectly spelt “Huffham” in the church register), who is
described in the London Postal Directory of that time as a “rigger in
His Majesty’s Navy”; he lived at Limehouse Hole, near the lower reaches
of the Thames, which afterwards played a conspicuous part in “Our Mutual
Friend” (“Rogue Riderhood dwelt deep and dark in Limehouse Hole, amongst
the riggers, and the mast, oar, and block-makers, and the boat-builders,
and the sail-lofts, as in a kind of ship’s hold stored full of waterside
characters, some no better than himself, some very much better, and none
much worse”). It is interesting to know that the actual font used at the
ceremony of Charles Dickens’s baptism has been preserved, and is now in
St. Stephen’s Church, Portsea.

John Dickens, after a four years’ tenancy of No. 387, Mile End Terrace,
went to reside in Hawke Street, Portsea. Here he remained from Midsummer
Day, 1812, until Midsummer Day, 1814, when he was recalled to London by
the officials at Somerset House.

I have spared no trouble in endeavouring to discover the house in Hawke
Street which John Dickens and his family occupied. Mr. Robert Langton,
in his “Childhood and Youth of Charles Dickens” (second edition), states
that it is the “second house past the boundary of Portsea,” which,
however, is not very helpful, as the following note (kindly furnished by
the Town Clerk of Portsmouth) testifies:

“I cannot understand what the connection can be between Hawke Street and
the borough boundary. The town of Portsea, no doubt, had a recognised
boundary, because at one time the greater part of it was encircled by
ramparts, but Hawke Street did not come near those ramparts. The old
borough boundary was outside the ramparts, both of Portsmouth and
Portsea, and therefore Hawke Street did not touch that boundary. Since
then the borough boundary has been extended on more than one occasion,
and, of course, these boundaries could not touch Hawke Street.” A letter
sent by me to the Portsmouth newspapers having reference to this subject
brought me into communication with a Southsea lady, who informs me that
an old gentleman of her acquaintance (an octogenarian) lived in his
youth at No. 8, Hawke Street, and he clearly remembers that the Dickens
family resided at No. 16. Hawke Street, in those days, he says, was a
most respectable locality, the tenants being people of a good class,
while there were superior lodging-houses for naval officers who desired
to be within easy reach of their ships in the royal dockyard, distant
about five minutes’ walk. No. 16, Hawke Street is a house of three
floors and a basement; three steps lead to the front door, and there are
two bay-windows, one above the other. The tenant whom John Dickens
succeeded was Chatterton, harpist to the late Queen Victoria.

Forster relates, as an illustration of Charles Dickens’s wonderfully
retentive memory, that late in life he could recall many minor incidents
of his childhood, even the house at Portsea (_i.e._, his birthplace in
Commercial Road), and the nurse watching him (then not more than two
years old) from “a low kitchen window almost level with the gravel walk”
as he trotted about the “small front garden” with his sister Fanny.

Dickens’s memory obviously failed him on this point, for he was a mere
infant of barely five months old when his parents left Commercial Road
to reside in Hawke Street, a fact which he had probably forgotten, and
of which Forster had no knowledge, as no mention is made by him of the
latter street. Here the family had lived two years when John Dickens was
recalled to London. I therefore venture to suggest that the novelist
vaguely recalled certain incidents of his childhood associated with
Hawke Street. True, there is no “small front garden” at No. 16 (indeed,
all the houses here are flush with the sidewalk), but at the back is a
garden overlooked by the kitchen window, which has an old-fashioned,
broad window-seat.

On quitting Portsea for the Metropolis, John Dickens and his family
occupied lodgings in Norfolk Street (now Cleveland Street), on the east
side of the Middlesex Hospital. In a short time, however, he was again
“detached,” having received instructions to join the staff at the Navy
Pay-Office at Chatham Dockyard. The date of departure is given by
Forster as 1816, and in all probability the Dickens family again took
lodgings until a suitable home could be found. After careful research,
the late Mr. Robert Langton discovered that from June, 1817 (probably
midsummer), until Lady Day, 1821, their abode was at No. 2 (since
altered to No. 11), Ordnance Terrace. There little Charles passed some
of the happiest years of his childhood, and received the most durable of
his early impressions.

Chatham, on the river Medway, derives its name from the Saxon word
_Ceteham_ or _Cættham_, meaning “village of cottages.” It is anything
but a “village” now, having since that remote age developed into a river
port and a populous fortified town. Remains of Roman villas have been
found in the neighbourhood, thus testifying to its antiquity. Chatham is
one of the principal royal shipbuilding establishments in the kingdom.
The dockyard was founded by Elizabeth before the threatened invasion of
the Spanish Armada, and removed to its present site in 1662; it is now
nearly two miles in length, and controlled by an Admiral-Superintendent,
with a staff of artisans and labourers numbering about five thousand.
Dickens describes and mentions Chatham in several of his writings, and
in one of the earliest he refers to it by the name of “Mudfog.”[2]

In “The Seven Poor Travellers” he says of Chatham: “I call it this town
because if anybody present knows to a nicety where Rochester ends and
Chatham begins, it is more than I do.”[3]

Mr. Pickwick’s impressions of Chatham and the neighbouring towns of
Rochester, Strood, and Brompton were that the principal productions
“appear to be soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers, and
dockyard men,” and that “the commodities chiefly exposed for sale in the
public streets are marine stores, hard-bake, apples, flat-fish, and
oysters.” He observed that the streets presented “a lively and animated
appearance, occasioned chiefly by the conviviality of the military.”
“The consumption of tobacco in these towns,” Mr. Pickwick opined, “must
be very great, and the smell which pervades the streets must be
exceedingly delicious to those who are extremely fond of smoking. A
superficial traveller might object to the dirt, which is their leading
characteristic, but to those who view it as an indication of traffic and
commercial prosperity it is truly gratifying.” Were Mr. Pickwick to
revisit Chatham, he would find many of these characteristics still
prevailing, and could not fail to note, also, that during the interval
of more than sixty years the town had undergone material changes in the
direction of modern improvements. When poor little David Copperfield
fled from his distressing experiences at Murdstone and Grinby’s, hoping
to meet with a welcome from Betsy Trotwood at Dover, he wended his weary
way through Rochester; and as he toiled into Chatham, it seemed to him
in the night’s aspect “a mere dream of chalk, and drawbridges, and
mastless ships in a muddy river, roofed like Noah’s arks.”[4]

(_Page 7._)
Dickens and his parents resided in Norfolk Street in 1816, after
their removal from Hawke Street, Portsea.]

Dickens himself, when a boy, must have seen the place frequently under
similar conditions. The impressions he then received of Chatham and the
neighbourhood were permanently fixed upon the mental retina, to be
recalled again and again when penning his stories and descriptive
pieces. In an article written by him in collaboration with Richard
Hengist Horne, he supplies a picture of Chatham as it subsequently
appeared when the military element on the main thoroughfares seemed
paramount: “Men were only noticeable by scores, by hundreds, by
thousands, rank and file, companies, regiments, detachments, vessels
full for exportation. They walked about the streets in rows or bodies,
carrying their heads in exactly the same way, and doing exactly the same
thing with their limbs. Nothing in the shape of clothing was made for an
individual, everything was contracted for by the millions. The children
of Israel were established in Chatham, as salesmen, outfitters, tailors,
old clothesmen, army and navy accoutrement makers, bill discounters, and
general despoilers of the Christian world, in tribes rather than in

John Dickens’s official connection with the Navy Pay Department offered
facilities for little Charles to roam unchecked about the busy dockyard,
where he experienced delight in watching the ropemakers, anchor-smiths,
and others at their labours, and in gazing with curious awe at the
convict hulks (or prison ships), and where he found constant delight in
observing the innumerable changes and variety of scenes; on one day
witnessing the bright display of military tactics on Chatham “Lines,” on
another enjoying a sail on the Medway with his father, when on duty
bound for Sheerness in the Commissioners’ yacht, a quaint, high-sterned
sailing-vessel, pierced with circular ports, and dating from the
seventeenth century; she was broken up at Chatham in 1868.

The boy unconsciously stored up the pictures of life, and character, and
scenery thus brought to his notice, to be recalled and utilized as
valuable material by-and-bye. Of the great dockyard he afterwards wrote:
“It resounded with the noise of hammers beating upon iron, and the great
sheds or slips under which the mighty men-of-war are built loomed
business-like when contemplated from the opposite side of the river….
Great chimneys smoking with a quiet—almost a lazy—air, like giants
smoking tobacco; and the giant shears moored off it, looking meekly and
inoffensively out of proportion, like the giraffe of the machinery

The famous Chatham Lines (constituting the fortifications of the town),
are immortalized in “Pickwick” as the scene of the review at which Mr.
Pickwick and his friends were present and got into difficulties; and the
field adjacent to Fort Pitt (now the Chatham Military Hospital, standing
on high ground near the railway station), was the locality selected for
the intended duel between the irate Dr. Slammer and the craven (but
innocent) Mr. Winkle, both field and the contiguous land surrounding
Fort Pitt being now a public recreation ground, whence is obtainable a
fine panoramic view of Chatham and Rochester. The “Lines” are today
locally understood as referring to an open space near Fort Pitt, which
is used as an exercising ground for the soldiers at the barracks near
by. All this portion of the country possessed great attractions for
Dickens in later years; it was rendered familiar to him when, as a lad,
he accompanied his father in walks about the locality, thus hallowed by
old associations.

Ordnance Terrace, Chatham, retains much the same aspect it possessed at
the time of John Dickens’s residence there (1817-1821)—a row of
three-storied houses, prominently situated on high ground within a short
distance of the Chatham railway station. The Dickens abode was the
second house in the terrace (now No. 11), whose front is now overgrown
with a Virginia creeper, and so redeems its bareness. In describing the
place, the late Mr. W. R. Hughes says: “It has the dining-room on the
left-hand side of the entrance and the drawing-room on the first floor,
and is altogether a pleasantly-situated, comfortable and respectable
dwelling.” At Ordnance Terrace, we are assured by Forster, it was that
little Charles (“a very queer, small boy,” as he afterwards described
himself at this period) lived with his parents from his fifth to his
ninth year; the child’s “first desire for knowledge, and his greatest
passion for reading, were awakened by his mother, who taught him the
first rudiments, not only of English, but also, a little later, of
Latin.” The same authority states that he and his sister Fanny presently
supplemented these home studies by attending a preparatory day-school in
Rome Lane (now Railway Street), and that when revisiting Chatham in his
manhood he tried to discover the place, found it had been pulled down
“ages” before to make room for a new street; but there arose,
nevertheless, “a not dim impression that it had been over a dyer’s shop,
that he went up steps to it, that he had frequently grazed his knees in
doing so, and that, in trying to scrape the mud off a very unsteady
little shoe, he generally got his leg over the scraper.” Other
recollections of the Ordnance Terrace days flashed upon him when engaged
upon his “Boz” sketches; for example, the old lady in the sketch
entitled “Our Parish” was drawn from a Mrs. Newnham who lived at No. 5
in the Terrace, and the original of the Half-Pay Captain (in the same
sketch) was another near neighbour: at No. 1 there resided a winsome,
golden-haired maiden named Lucy Stroughill, whom he regarded as his
little sweetheart, and who figures as “Golden Lucy” in one of his
Christmas stories,[7] while her brother George, “a frank, open, and
somewhat daring boy,” is believed to have inspired the creation of James
Steerforth in “David Copperfield.”

[Illustration: 2 (NOW 11) ORDNANCE TERRACE, CHATHAM. (_Page 11._)
Occupied by John Dickens and his family, 1817-1821.]

Little Charles must have been acquainted, too, with the prototype of
Joe, the Fat Boy in “Pickwick,” whose real name was James Budden, and
whose father kept the Red Lion Inn at the corner of High Street and
Military Road, Chatham, where the lad’s remarkable obesity attracted
general attention. The Mitre Inn and Clarence Hotel at Chatham,
described in 1838 as “the first posting-house in the town,” is also
associated with Dickens’s early years, and remains very much as it was
when he knew it as a boy. At the period referred to the landlord of this
fine old hostelry was a Mr. Tribe, with whose family Mr. and Mrs. John
Dickens and their children were on visiting terms; indeed, it is
recorded that, at the evening parties held at the Mitre, Charles
distinguished himself by singing solos (usually old sea songs), and
sometimes duets with his sister, both being mounted on a dining table
for a stage. The Mitre is historically interesting by reason of the fact
that Lord Nelson used to reside there when on duty at Chatham, a room he
occupied being known as “Nelson’s Cabin.”[8]

In the eighteenth chapter of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” we find the
place disguised as “The Crozier”—“the orthodox hotel” at Cloisterham
(_i.e._, Rochester)—and in “The Holly-Tree Inn” it is thus directly
immortalized: “There was an inn in the cathedral town where I went to
school, which had pleasanter recollections about it than any of
these…. It was the inn where friends used to put up, and where we used
to go and see parents, and to have salmon and fowls, and be tipped. It
had an ecclesiastical sign—the Mitre—and a bar that seemed to be the
next best thing to a bishopric, it was so snug.”[9]

John Dickens had by nature a very generous disposition, which inclined
him to be too lavish in his expenditure. This idiosyncrasy, coupled with
the ever-increasing demands of a young and growing family, compelled him
to realize the immediate necessity for retrenchment. Hitherto his income
(ranging from £200 to £350 per annum) amply sufficed to provide for the
comfort of wife and children; but the time had arrived when rigid
economy became imperative, and early in 1821 he removed into a less
expensive and somewhat obscure habitation at No. 18, St. Mary’s Place
(otherwise called “The Brook”), Chatham, situated in the valley through
which a brook (now covered over) flows into the Medway. The house on
“The Brook,” with a “plain-looking whitewashed plaster front, and a
small garden before and behind,” still exists; it is a semi-detached,
six-roomed tenement, of a much humbler type than that in Ordnance
Terrace, and stands next to what is now the Drill Hall of the Salvation
Army, but which, in John Dickens’s time, was a Baptist meeting-house
called Providence Chapel. While the Dickens dwelling-place remains
unaltered, the neighbourhood has since greatly deteriorated. The
locality was then more rural and not so crowded as now, many of the
people living there being of a quite respectable class. The minister
then officiating at Providence Chapel was William Giles, whose son
William had been educated at Oxford, and afterwards kept a school in
Clover Lane (now Clover Street, the playground since covered by a
railway station), Chatham, whence he moved to larger premises close by,
still to be seen at the corner of Rhode Street and Best Street. Both
Charles and his elder sister Fanny attended here as day scholars, and
the boy, under Mr. Giles’s able tuition, made rapid progress with his
studies. Apropos of Mr. Giles, it should be mentioned that when his
intelligent pupil had attained manhood and achieved fame as the author
of “Pickwick,” his old schoolmaster sent him, as a token of admiration,
a silver snuff-box, the lid bearing an inscription addressed “To the
Inimitable Boz.” For a considerable time afterwards Dickens jocosely
alluded to himself, in letters to intimate friends, as “the Inimitable.”
By the way, where is that snuff-box now?

St. Mary’s Place is in close proximity to the old parish church of St.
Mary, where the Dickens family worshipped during their residence in
Chatham. It dates from the early part of the twelfth century, but having
lately undergone a process of rebuilding, the edifice no longer
possesses that quaintness which formerly characterized it, both
externally and internally. The present structure, standing on a site
which has been occupied by a church from Saxon times, has been erected
from the designs of the late Sir Arthur Blomfield, already mentioned as
the architect of the new parochial church of St. Mary, Kingston.
Happily, there are preserved in St. Mary’s, Chatham, some interesting
remains of the Norman edifice (A.D. 1120), notably a fine doorway and
staircase, and the columns of the central arch of the nave. Instead of
the diminutive bell-turret originally surmounting the roof of the nave,
a lofty detached tower now constitutes the most striking feature of the
church, which was consecrated on October 28, 1903, in the presence of
Lord Roberts. It has been suggested that the description of Blunderstone
Church in “David Copperfield” recalls in some respects the old parish
church of Chatham, so familiar to Dickens in his boyhood, although the
picture was partly drawn from Blundeston Church, Suffolk: “Here is our
pew in the church. What a high-backed pew! with a window near it, out of
which our house can be seen, and _is_ seen many times during the
morning’s service by Peggotty, who likes to make herself as sure as she
can that it’s not being robbed, or is not in flames.”[10] Dame Peggotty
was no doubt to some extent depicted from Charles Dickens’s nurse of
those days, Mary Weller, who afterwards married Thomas Gibson, a
shipwright in the dockyard, and whose death took place in 1888.

In the registers at Chatham Church are recorded the entries of the
baptism of three children born in the parish to John and Elizabeth
Dickens, the parents of the novelist; and Mary Allen, an aunt of
Charles, was married by license there on December 11, 1821, to Dr.
Lamert, a regimental surgeon, who afterwards figured in “Pickwick” as
Dr. Slammer. In the church registers may be found several names
subsequently used by Dickens in his stories—names of persons who lived
in the district—Sowerby (Sowerberry), Tapley, Wren, Jasper, Weller,
etc., the Tapleys and the Wellers being well-known cognomens, for there
are vaults in the church belonging to the former family, and a
gravestone in the churchyard erected to the latter. At the west end of
the church there are two inscriptions to the family of Stroughill, who
lived in Ordnance Terrace, and to whom reference has already been made.
The Vicar, in his appeal for subscriptions in aid of the restoration
fund, expressed a hope that the people of Chatham would contribute
towards the cost of a memorial in the church to Charles Dickens.
Apropos, I may mention that the Council of that flourishing institution
the Dickens Fellowship have, very rightly, approached the Corporation of
Chatham with the suggestion that they should place commemorative tablets
on the two houses in Chatham in which he spent some of the happiest
years of his boyhood, and the Corporation have consented.

[Illustration: 18 ST. MARY’S PLACE, THE BROOK, CHATHAM. (_Page 14._)
The Dickens family resided in the house next to Providence Chapel,

From an upper window at the side of the house, No. 18, St. Mary’s Place,
an old graveyard was plainly visible, and frequently at night little
Charles and his sister would gaze upon the God’s-acre and at the heavens
above from that point of vantage. Some thirty years later he recalled
the circumstances in a poetical little story entitled “A Child’s Dream
of a Star,”[11] a touching reminiscence of these early days, where he
says: “There was once a child, and he strolled about a good deal, and
thought of a number of things. He had a sister, who was a child too, and
his constant companion. These two used to wonder all day long. They
wondered at the beauty of the flowers; they wondered at the height and
blueness of the sky; they wondered at the depth of the bright water;
they wondered at the goodness and the power of God who made the lovely

“They used to say to one another sometimes, Supposing all the children
upon earth were to die, would the flowers and the water and the sky be
sorry? They believed they would be sorry. For, said they, the buds are
the children of the flowers, and the little playful streams that gambol
down the hillsides are the children of the water, and the smallest
bright specks playing at hide-and-seek in the sky all night must surely
be the children of the stars; and they would all be grieved to see their
playmates, the children of men, no more.

“There was one clear shining star that used to come out in the sky
before the rest, near the church spire, above the graves. It was larger
and more beautiful, they thought, than all the others, and every night
they watched for it, standing hand in hand at a window. Whoever saw it
first cried out, ‘I see the star!’ and often they cried out both
together, knowing so well when it would rise, and where. So they grew to
be such friends with it that, before lying down in their beds, they
always looked out once again to bid it good-night; and when they were
turning round to sleep they used to say, ‘God bless the star!’”

[Illustration: FORT PITT, CHATHAM. (_Page 18._)
The playground of Dickens in his childhood, and the scene of the
duel in “Pickwick.”]

The Chatham days were replete with innocent delights for little Charles,
whose young life overflowed with the happiness resulting therefrom. He
and his schoolfellows often went to see the sham fights and siege
operations on the “Lines,” and he enjoyed many a ramble with his sister
and nurse in the fields about Fort Pitt; and “the sky was so blue, the
sun was so bright, the water was so sparkling, the leaves were so green,
the flowers were so lovely, and they heard such singing birds and saw so
many butterflies, that everything was beautiful.” In “The Child’s
Story,” whence these extracts are culled, we find the following
undoubted allusions to some of the juvenile pleasures in which the
children indulged while at Chatham: “They had the merriest games that
ever were played…. They had holidays, too, and ‘twelfth-cakes,’ and
parties where they danced till midnight, and real theatres, where they
saw palaces of real gold and silver rise out of the real earth, and saw
all the wonders of the world at once. As to friends, they had such dear
friends and so many of them that I want the time to reckon them up.”[12]
At home there were picture-books and toys—“the finest toys in the world
and the most astonishing picture-books”—and, above all, in the little
room adjoining his bedchamber a small library, consisting of the works
of Fielding, Smollett, Defoe, Goldsmith, the “Arabian Nights,” and
“Tales of the Genii,” which the boy perused with avidity over and over
again. “They kept alive my fancy,” he said, as David Copperfield, “and
my hope of something beyond that place and time … and did me no harm,
for whatever harm was in some of them was not there for me; _I_ knew
nothing of it.”[13] In referring afterwards to the “readings” and
“imaginations” which he described as brought away from Chatham, he again
observes with David: “The picture always rises in my mind of a summer
evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I, sitting on my bed,
reading as if for life. Every barn in the neighbourhood, every stone in
the church, and every foot of the churchyard, had some association of
its own in my mind connected with these books, and stood for some
locality made famous in them”[14]—words that were written down as fact
some years before they found their way into the story.

Happily for the boy, he remained in ignorance of the changes impending
at home, and unconscious of the fact that he was about to relinquish for
ever the delectations afforded by those daily visions of his childhood;
the ships on the Medway, the military paradings and manœuvres, the woods
and pastures, the delightful walks with his father to Rochester and
Cobham—all were to vanish, as Forster says, “like a dream”; for in 1822
John Dickens was recalled to Somerset House, and in the winter of that
year he departed by coach for London, accompanied by his wife and
children, excepting Charles, who was left behind for a few weeks longer
in the care of the worthy schoolmaster, William Giles. Presently the day
arrived when the lonesome lad followed his parents to the Metropolis,
leaving behind him, alas! everything that gave his “ailing little life
its picturesqueness or sunshine”; for he was really a very sickly boy,
and for that reason unable to join with zest in the more vigorous sports
of his playfellows, which explains his fondness for reading, so unusual
in lads of his age.

Little Charles was only ten years old when he bade farewell to Chatham,
and took his place as a passenger in the stage-coach “Commodore.” “There
was no other inside passenger,” he afterwards observed, “and I consumed
my sandwiches in solitude and dreariness, and it rained hard all the
way, and I thought life sloppier than I expected to find it.” Like
Philip Pirrip, he might with more justice have thought that henceforth
he “was for London and greatness.” Undoubtedly he experienced the same
sensations as those of that youthful hero who, under similar
circumstances, realized that “all beyond was so unknown and great that
in a moment with a strong heave and sob I broke into tears.”[15]
Reminiscences of that memorable journey are recorded in one of that
charming series of papers contributed by him to _All the Year Round_
under the general title of “The Uncommercial Traveller.” Dickens here
calls his boyhood’s home “Dullborough”—“most of us come from Dullborough
who come from a country town”—informing us that as he left the place “in
the days when there were no railways in the land,” he left it in a
stage-coach, and further takes us into his confidence by saying that he
had never forgotten, nor lost the smell of, the damp straw in which he
was packed, “like game, and forwarded, carriage paid, to the Cross Keys,
Wood Street, Cheapside, London.” These words were written in June, 1860,
and a few months later, when penning the twentieth chapter of “Great
Expectations,” he again recalled the episode: “The journey from our town
to the Metropolis was a journey of about five hours. It was a little
past mid-day when the four-horse stage-coach by which I was a passenger
got into the ravel of traffic frayed out about the Cross Keys, Wood
Street, Cheapside, London…. The coach that had carried me away was
melodiously called ‘Timpson’s Blue-Eyed Maid,’ and belonged to Timpson,
at the coach-office up-street…. Timpson’s was a moderate-sized
coach-office (in fact, a little coach-office), with an oval transparency
in the window, which looked beautiful by night, representing one of
Timpson’s coaches in the act of passing a milestone on the London road
with great velocity, completely full inside and out, and all the
passengers dressed in the first style of fashion, and enjoying
themselves tremendously.” He found, on a later visit to Rochester and
Chatham, that Timpson’s had disappeared, for “Pickford had come and
knocked Timpson’s down,” and “had knocked two or three houses down on
each side of Timpson’s, and then had knocked the whole into one great
establishment….”[16] The late Mr. Robert Langton states that Timpson
was really Simpson (the coach proprietor at Chatham), and that the
“Blue-Eyed Maid” was a veritable coach, to which reference is also made
in the third chapter of “Little Dorrit.”

If, as Forster tells us, the “Commodore,” and not the “Blue-Eyed Maid,”
conveyed little Charles to London, it was the identical vehicle by which
Mr. Pickwick and his companions travelled from the Golden Cross at
Charing Cross to Rochester, as duly set forth in the opening chapter of
“The Pickwick Papers”; this coach was driven by old Cholmeley (or
Chumley), who is said to have been the original of Tony Weller, and
concerning whom some amusing anecdotes are related in “Nimrod’s Northern

It was in the early spring of 1823 that Charles Dickens made
acquaintance with London for the second time, that vast Metropolis which
henceforth continued to exercise a fascination over him, and in the
study of which, as well as of its various types of humanity, he found a
perpetual charm. His early impressions, however, were not of the
brightest, having (as he subsequently observed) exchanged “everything
that had given his ailing little life its picturesqueness or sunshine”
for the comparatively sordid environment of a London suburb, and
suffered the deprivation of the companionship of his playfellows at
Chatham to become a solitary lad under circumstances that could not fail
to make sorrowful the stoutest heart, not the least depressing being his
father’s money involvement with consequent poverty at home. John
Dickens, whose financial affairs demanded retrenchment, had rented what
Forster describes as “a mean, small tenement” at No. 16 (now No. 141),
Bayham Street, Camden Town, to-day one of the poorest parts of London,
but not quite so wretched then as we are led to suppose by the reference
in Forster’s biography. The cottages in Bayham Street, built in 1812,
were comparatively new in 1823, and then stood in the midst of what may
be regarded as rural surroundings, there being a meadow at the back of
the principal row of houses, in which haymaking was carried on in its
season, while a beautiful walk across the fields led to Copenhagen
House. Dickens averred that “a washer-woman lived next door” to his
father, and “a Bow Street officer lived over the way.” We learn, too,
that at the top of the street were some almshouses, and when revisiting
the spot many years later Dickens told his biographer that “to go to
this spot and look from it over the dust-heaps and dock-leaves and
fields at the cupola of St. Paul’s looming through the smoke was a treat
that served him for hours of vague reflection afterwards.” A writer who
vividly remembered Camden Town as it appeared when John Dickens lived
there has placed upon record some interesting particulars concerning it.
He says: “In the days I am referring to gas was unknown. We had little
twinkling oil-lamps. As soon as it became dark, the watchman went his
rounds, starting from his box at the north end of Bayham Street, against
the tea-gardens of the Mother Red Cap, then a humble roadside house,
kept by a widow and her two daughters, of the name of Young. Then the
road between Kentish and Camden Towns was very lonely—hardly safe after
dark. These certainly were drawbacks, for depredations used frequently
to be committed in the back premises of the houses…. The nearest
church was Old St. Pancras, then in the midst of fields.”[17] Exception
has been taken to Forster’s use of the word “squalid” as applied to the
Bayham Street of 1823, and with justification, for persons of some
standing made it their abode, and we learn that in certain of the twenty
or thirty newly-erected houses there lived Engelhart and Francis Holl,
the celebrated engravers, the latter the father of Frank Holl, the Royal
Academician; Charles Rolls and Henry Selous, artists of note; and Angelo
Selous, the dramatic author. Thus it would appear that Bayham Street,
during the early part of its history, was eminently respectable, and we
are compelled to presume that Dickens’s unfavourable presentment of the
locality was the outcome of his own painful environment, such as would
be forcibly impressed upon the mind of a sickly child (as he then was)
and one keenly susceptible to outward influences. Undoubtedly, as
Forster remarks, “he felt crushed and chilled by the change from the
life at Chatham, breezy and full of colour, to the little back garret in
Bayham Street,” and, looking upon the dingy brick tenement to-day, it is
not difficult to realize this fact; for, although the house itself could
not have been less attractive than his previous home on “the Brook” at
Chatham, the surroundings did not offer advantages in the shape of
country walks and riverside scenery such as the immediate neighbourhood
of Chatham afforded.[18]

[Illustration: 16 (NOW 141) BAYHAM STREET, CAMDEN TOWN. (_Page 24._)
Dickens and his parents lived here in 1823. The house was also the
residence of Mr. Micawber, and the district is mentioned in “Dombey
and Son” under the name of Staggs Gardens.]

Bayham Street was named after Bayham Abbey in Sussex, one of the seats
of the Marquis Camden. Eighty years ago this part of suburban London was
but a village, and Bayham Street had grass struggling through the
newly-paved road. Thus we are forced to the conclusion that the misery
and depression of spirits, from which little Charles suffered while
living here, must be attributed to family adversity and his own isolated
condition rather than to the character of his environment. At this time
his father’s pecuniary resources became so circumscribed as to compel
the observance of the strictest domestic economy, and prevented him from
continuing his son’s education. “As I thought,” said Dickens on one
occasion very bitterly, “in the little back-garret in Bayham Street, of
all I had lost in losing Chatham, what would I have given—if I had had
anything to give—to have been sent back to any other school, to have
been taught something anywhere!”

Instead of improving, the elder Dickens’s affairs grew from bad to
worse, and all ordinary efforts to propitiate his creditors having been
exhausted, Mrs. Dickens laudably resolved to attempt a solution of the
difficulty by means of a school for young ladies. Accordingly, a house
was taken at No. 4, Gower Street North, whither the family removed in
1823. This and the adjoining houses had only just been built. The
rate-book shows that No. 4 was taken in the name of Mrs. Dickens, at an
annual rental of £50, and that it was in the occupation of the Dickens
family from Michaelmas, 1823, to Lady Day, 1824, they having apparently
left Bayham Street at Christmas of the former year. No. 4, Gower Street
North stood a little to the north of Gower Street Chapel, erected in
1820, and still existing on the west side of the road; the house, known
in recent times as No. 147, Gower Street, was demolished about 1895, and
an extension of Messrs. Maple’s premises now occupies the site. When, in
1890, I visited the place with my friend the late Mr. W. R. Hughes
(author of “A Week’s Tramp in Dickens Land”), we found it in the
occupation of a manufacturer of artificial human eyes, a sort of Mr.
Venus, with his “human eyes warious,” as depicted in “Our Mutual
Friend”; while there was a dancing academy next door, reminiscent of Mr.
Turveydrop, the professor of deportment in “Bleak House.” The Dickens
residence had six small rooms, with kitchen in basement, each front room
having two windows—altogether a fairly comfortable abode, but minus a
garden. The result of Mrs. Dickens’s enterprise proved as disastrous as
that of Mrs. Micawber’s. “Poor Mrs. Micawber! She said she had tried to
exert herself; and so, I have no doubt, she had. The centre of the
street door was perfectly covered with a great brass plate, on which was
engraved, ‘Mrs. Micawber’s Boarding Establishment for Young Ladies’; but
I never found that any young ladies had ever been to school there; or
that any young lady ever came, or proposed to come; or that the least
preparation was ever made to receive any young lady.” The actual facts
are thus recorded in fiction, and the futility of Mrs. Dickens’s
excellent intention to retrieve the family misfortunes seemed
inevitable, in spite of the energy displayed by the youthful Charles in
distributing “at a great many doors a great many circulars,” calling
attention to the superior advantages of the new seminary. The blow
proved a crushing one, rendering the prospect more hopeless than ever.
Importunate creditors, who could no longer be kept at bay, effected the
arrest of John Dickens, who was conveyed forthwith to a prison for
debtors in the Borough of Southwark; his last words to his heart-broken
son as he was carried off being similar to those despondingly uttered by
Mr. Micawber under like circumstances, to the effect that the sun was
set upon him for ever.

Forster says that the particular prison where John Dickens suffered
incarceration was the Marshalsea, and this statement appears correct,
judging from the fragment of the novelist’s autobiography which refers
to the unfortunate incident: “And he told me, I remember, to take
warning by the Marshalsea, and to observe that if a man had twenty
pounds a year, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and
sixpence, he would be happy; but that a shilling spent the other way
would make him wretched.” Another of Mr. Micawber’s wise sayings, be it
observed. That impecunious gentleman (it will be remembered) suffered
imprisonment at the King’s Bench, and it may be surmised that the
novelist purposely changed the locale that old memories should not be
revived. Of debtors’ prisons considerable knowledge is displayed in his
books, his personal acquaintance with them dating, of course, from those
days when the brightness of his young life was obscured by the “falling
cloud” to which he compares this distressing time. Realistic and
accurate pictures of the most noteworthy of these blots upon our social
system may be found in the forcible description in the fortieth chapter
of “Pickwick” of the Fleet Prison, of which the last vestiges were
removed in 1872, and the site of which is now covered by the Memorial
Hall, Farringdon Street, and by Messrs. Cassell and Co.’s printing
works; the King’s Bench Prison (long since demolished) figures
prominently in “David Copperfield”; while many of the principal scenes
in “Little Dorrit” are laid in the departed Marshalsea, which adjoined
the burial-ground of St. George’s Church in the Borough. The extreme
rear of the Marshalsea Prison, described by Dickens in the preface to
“Little Dorrit,” was transformed into a warehouse in 1887.

The second chapter of Forster’s biography makes dismal reading,
relating, as it does, the bitter experiences of Charles Dickens’s
boyhood—experiences, however, which yielded abundant material for future
use in his stories. With the breadwinner in the clutches of the law, the
wife and children, left stranded in the Gower Street house, had a
terrible struggle for existence; we are told that in order to obtain the
necessaries of life their bits of furniture and various domestic
utensils were pawned or otherwise disposed of, until at length the place
was practically emptied of its contents, and the inmates were perforce
compelled to encamp in the two parlours, living there night and day. At
this juncture a relative, James Lamert (who had lodged with the family
in Bayham Street), heard of their misfortunes, and, through his
connection with Warren’s Blacking Manufactory at 30, Hungerford Stairs,
Strand, provided an occupation there for little Charles by which he
could earn a few shillings a week—a miserable pittance, but extremely
welcome under the circumstances, as, by exercising strict economy, it
enabled him to support himself, thus making one mouth less to provide
for at home. Hungerford Stairs (in after-life he used to declare that he
knew _Hunger_-ford well!) stood near the present Charing Cross railway
bridge (which usurps the old Hungerford Suspension Bridge, transferred
to Clifton), and the site of Hungerford Market is covered by the railway
station. Dickens has recorded that “the blacking warehouse was the last
house on the left-hand side of the way, at old Hungerford Stairs. It was
a crazy, tumble-down old house, abutting, of course, on the river, and
literally overrun with rats. Its wainscotted rooms and its rotten floors
and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and
the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all
times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rise up vividly before me,
as if I were there again.” The blacking factory, which disappeared when
Hungerford Market went, is faithfully portrayed in the eleventh chapter
of “David Copperfield,” thinly disguised as Murdstone and Grinby’s
Warehouse, “down in Blackfriars.” Dickens, like David, was keenly
sensible of the humiliation of what he could not help regarding as a
very menial occupation—the tying-up and labelling innumerable pots of
paste-blacking—which he was now destined to follow, and for the
remainder of his life he never recalled this episode without a pang.

He reminded Forster how fond he was of roaming about the neighbourhood
of the Strand and Covent Garden during the dinner hour, intently
observing the various types of humanity with precocious interest, and
storing up impressions which were destined to prove invaluable to him.
One of his favourite localities was the Adelphi, and he was particularly
attracted by a little waterside tavern called the Fox-under-the-Hill;
doubtless the incident narrated in the just-mentioned chapter of
“Copperfield”—the autobiographical chapter—is true of himself, when he
causes little David to confess to a fondness for wandering about that
“mysterious place with those dark arches,” and to wonder what the
coalheavers thought of him, a solitary lad, as he sat upon a bench
outside the little public-house, watching them as they danced.[19] The
pudding-shops and beef-houses in the neighbourhood of St. Martin’s Lane
and Drury Lane were familiar enough to him in those days; for, with such
a modest sum to invest for his mid-day meal, he naturally compared notes
as to the charges made by each for a slice of pudding or cold spiced
beef before deciding upon the establishment which should have the
privilege of his custom. He sometimes favoured Johnson’s in Clare Court,
which is identical with the place patronized by David Copperfield—viz.,
the “famous alamode beef-house near Drury Lane,” where he gave the
waiter a halfpenny, and wished he hadn’t taken it. In the recently
demolished Clare Court there existed in those days two of the best
alamode beef-shops in London, the Old Thirteen Cantons and the New
Thirteen Cantons, and we read in a curious book called “The Epicure’s
Almanack” (1815), that “the beef and liquors at either house are equally
good, and the attention of all who pass is attracted by the display of
fine sallads in the windows, which display is daily executed with great
ingenuity, and comprehends a variety of neat devices, in which the fine
slices of red beetroot are pleasingly conspicuous.” The New Thirteen
Cantons was kept by the veritable Johnson himself. We are further
informed that he owned a clever dog called Carlo, “who once enacted so
capital a part on the boards of Old Drury,” and whose sagacity “brought
as many customers to Mr. Johnson as did the excellence of his fare.”
Dickens, however, did not become acquainted with Carlo, who, a few years
before the lad knew the shop, paid the penalty of a report that the
famous animal had been bitten by a mad dog. “There were two
pudding-shops,” said Dickens to his biographer, “between which I was
divided, according to my finances.” One was in a court close to St.
Martin’s Church, where the pudding was made with currants, “and was
rather a special pudding,” but dear; the other was in the Strand,
“somewhere in that part which has been rebuilt since,” where the pudding
was much cheaper, being stout and pale, heavy and flabby, with a few big
raisins stuck in at great distances apart. The more expensive shop stood
in Church Court (at the back of the church), demolished when Adelaide
Street was constructed about 1830, and may probably be identified with
the Oxford eating-house, then existing opposite the departed Hungerford
Street; the other establishment, where Dickens often dined for economy’s
sake, flourished near the spot covered until quite recently by that
children’s paradise, the Lowther Arcade. The courts surrounding St.
Martin’s Church were formerly so thronged with eating-houses that the
district became popularly known as “Porridge Island.”

[Illustration: DICKENS AT THE BLACKING WAREHOUSE. (_Page 29._)
_From a drawing by Fred Barnard. Reproduced by kind permission of
Messrs. Chapman and Hall._]

Failing, by means of a certain “deed,” to propitiate his creditors, John
Dickens continued to remain within the gloomy walls of the Marshalsea.
The home in Gower Street was thereupon broken up, and Mrs. Dickens, with
her family, went to live with her husband in the prison. Little Charles,
however, was handed over as a lodger to a Mrs. Roylance, a reduced old
lady who afterwards figured as Mrs. Pipchin in “Dombey and Son.” Mrs.
Roylance, long known to the family, resided in Little College Street,
Camden Town; it became College Street West in 1828, and the portion
north of King Street has been known since 1887 as College Place. The
abode in question was probably No. 37, for, according to the rate-book
of 1824 (the period with which I am dealing), the house so numbered
(rated at £18) was occupied by Elizabeth _Raylase_[20] until the
following year, and demolished about 1890, at which time the street was

The boy still carried on his uncongenial duties at the blacking
warehouse with satisfaction to his employers, in spite of the acute
mental suffering he underwent. Experiencing a sense of loneliness in
being cut off from his parents, brothers, and sisters, he pleaded to his
father to be allowed to lodge nearer the prison, with the result that he
left Mrs. Roylance, to take up his abode in Lant Street, Borough, where,
in the house of an insolvent court agent, a back attic had been found
for him, having from the little window “a pleasant prospect of a
timber-yard.” Of Lant Street, as it probably then appeared, we have a
capital description in the thirty-second chapter of the “Pickwick
Papers,” for here it was that Bob Sawyer found a lodgment with the
amiable (!) Mrs. Raddle and her husband, in the identical house, maybe,
as that tenanted by the insolvent court agent. “There is a repose about
Lant Street, in the Borough, which sheds a gentle melancholy upon the
soul. There are always a good many houses to let in the street; it is a
by-street, too, and its dulness is soothing. A house in Lant Street
would not come within the denomination of a first-rate residence in the
strict acceptation of the term, but it is a most desirable spot,
nevertheless. If a man wished to abstract himself from the world, to
remove himself from within the reach of temptation, to place himself
beyond the possibility of any inducement to look out of the window, he
should by all means go to Lant Street.

“In this happy retreat are colonized a few clear-starchers, a sprinkling
of journeymen bookbinders, one or two prison agents for the insolvent
court, several small housekeepers who are employed in the docks, a
handful of mantua-makers, and a seasoning of jobbing tailors. The
majority of the inhabitants either direct their energies to the letting
of furnished apartments, or devote themselves to the healthful and
invigorating pursuit of mangling. The chief features in the still life
of the street are green shutters, lodging-bills, brass door-plates, and
bell-handles, the principal specimens of animated nature, the pot-boy,
the muffin youth, and the baked-potato man. The population is migratory,
usually disappearing on the verge of quarter-day, and generally by
night. His Majesty’s revenues are seldom collected in this happy valley;
the rents are dubious, and the water communication is very frequently
cut off.”

[Illustration: LANT STREET, BOROUGH. (_Page 34._)
Showing the older residential tenements. The actual house in which
Dickens lived as a boy is now demolished.]

Lant Street, as Bob Sawyer informed Mr. Pickwick, is near Guy’s
Hospital, “little distance after you’ve passed St. George’s Church—turns
out of the High Street on the right-hand side of the way.” It has not
altered materially in its outward aspect since the time when little
Charles Dickens slept there, on the floor of the back attic, an abode
which he then thought was “a paradise.” We may suppose that such
accommodation, poor as it must have been, yielded some consolation to
the lonely child by reason of the fact that he was within easy reach of
his parents, and also because his landlord—a fat, good-natured old
gentleman, who was lame—and his quiet old wife were very kind to him;
and it is interesting to know that they and their grown-up son are
immortalized in “The Old Curiosity Shop” as the Garland family. Little
Charles looked forward to Saturday nights, when his release from toil at
an earlier hour than usual enabled him to indulge his fancy for rambling
and loitering a little in the busy thoroughfares between Hungerford
Stairs and the Marshalsea. His usual way home was over Blackfriars
Bridge, and then to the left along Charlotte Street, which (he is
careful to tell us) “has Rowland Hill’s chapel on one side, and the
likeness of a golden dog licking a golden pot over a shop door on the
other,” a quaint sign still existing here. He was sometimes tempted to
expend a penny to enter a show-van which generally stood at a corner of
the street “to see the fat pig, the wild Indian, and the little lady,”
and for long afterwards could recall the peculiar smell of hat-making
then (and now) carried on there.

The autobiographical record discloses another characteristic incident,
which was afterwards embodied in the eleventh chapter of “Copperfield.”

One evening little Charles had acted as messenger for his father at the
Marshalsea, and was returning to the prison by way of Westminster
Bridge, when he went into a public-house in Parliament Street, at the
corner of Derby Street, and ordered a glass of the _very best_ ale (the
“Genuine Stunning”), “with a good head to it.” “The landlord,” observes
Dickens, “looked at me, in return, over the bar from head to foot, with
a strange smile on his face; and instead of drawing the beer, looked
round the screen and said something to his wife, who came out from
behind it, with her work in her hand, and joined him in surveying me.
Here we stand, all three, before me now, in my study at Devonshire
Terrace—the landlord in his shirt-sleeves, leaning against the bar
window-frame, his wife looking over the little half-door, and I, in some
confusion, looking up at them from outside the partition. They asked me
a good many questions, as what my name was, how old I was, where I
lived, how I was employed, etc., etc. To all of which, that I might
commit nobody, I invented appropriate answers. They served me with the
ale, though I expect it was not the strongest on the premises; and the
landlord’s wife, opening the little half-door and bending down, gave me
a kiss that was half-admiring and half-compassionate, but all womanly
and good.” I am sure “so juvenile a customer was evidently unusual at
the Red Lion”; and he explains that “the occasion was a festive one,”
either his own birthday or somebody else’s, but I doubt whether this
would prove sufficient justification in the eyes of the rigid total
abstainer. In “David Copperfield” we find an illustration of the scene
depicted in a clever etching by “Phiz.” The public-house here referred
to is the Red Lion, which has been lately rebuilt, and differs
considerably from the unpretentious tavern as Dickens knew it;
unfortunately, the sign of the rampant red lion has not been replaced,
but in its stead we see a bust of the novelist, standing within a niche
in the principal front of the new building.

By a happy stroke of good fortune, a rather considerable legacy from a
relative accrued to John Dickens, and had been paid into court during
his incarceration. This, in addition to the official pension due for
long service at Somerset House, enabled him to meet his financial
responsibilities, with the result that the Marshalsea knew him no more.
Just then, too, the blacking business had become larger, and was
transferred to Chandos Street, Covent Garden, where little Charles
continued to manipulate the pots, but in a more public manner; for here
the work was done in a window facing the street, and generally in the
presence of an admiring crowd outside. The warehouse (pulled down in
1889) stood next to the shop at the corner of Bedford Street in Chandos
Street (the southern corner, now the Civil Service Stores); opposite,
there was the public-house where the lad got his ale. “The stones on the
street,” he afterwards observed to Forster, “may be smoothed by my small
feet going across to it at dinner-time, and back again.” The basement of
the warehouse became transformed in later years into a chemist’s shop,
and the sign of the tavern over the way was the Black Prince, closed in
1888, and demolished shortly afterwards to make room for buildings
devoted to the medical school of the Charing Cross Hospital. His release
from prison compelled the elder Dickens to seek another abode for
himself and family, and he obtained temporary quarters with the
before-mentioned Mrs. Roylance of Little College Street. Thence,
according to Forster, they went to Hampstead, where the elder Dickens
had taken a house, and from there, in 1825, he removed to a small
tenement in Johnson Street, Somers Town, a poverty-stricken
neighbourhood even in those days, and changed but little since. Johnson
Street was then the last street in Somers Town, and adjoined the fields
between it and Camden Town. It runs east from the north end of Seymour
Street, and the house occupied by the Dickens family (including Charles,
who had, of course, left his Lant Street “paradise”) was No. 13, at the
east end of the north side, if we may rely upon the evidence afforded by
the rate-book. At that time the house was numbered 29, and rated at £20,
the numbering being changed to 13 at Christmas, 1825. In July of that
year the name of the tenant is entered in the rate-book as Caroline
Dickens, and so remains until January, 1829, after which the house is
marked “Empty.”

“That turning in the Blackfriars Road which has Rowland Hill’s
Chapel on one side, and the likeness of a golden dog licking a
golden pot over a shop door at the other” (Forster).]

Brighter days were in store for the Dickens family, and especially for
little Charles, whose father could now afford to send him to a good
school in the neighbourhood, much to the boy’s delight. Owing to a
quarrel (of which he was the subject) between John Dickens and James
Lamert, the father declared that his boy should leave the blacking
warehouse and go to school instead. Thus terminated, suddenly and
unexpectedly, that period of his life which Charles Dickens ever
regarded with a feeling of repugnance. “Until old Hungerford Market was
pulled down,” he tells us, “until old Hungerford Stairs were destroyed,
and the very nature of the ground changed, I never had the courage to go
back to the place where my servitude began.” He never saw it, and could
not endure to go near it, and, in order that a certain smell of the
cement used for putting on the blacking-corks should not revive
unpleasant associations, he would invariably, when approaching Warren’s
later establishment in Chandos Street, cross over to the opposite side
of the way.

He was about twelve years of age when he and the blacking-pots parted
company for ever, and the new and more promising prospect opened before
him—a future replete with possibilities, and yielding opportunities of
which he knew the value and made the best use. The school to which he
was sent as a day-scholar was called the Wellington House Academy, the
proprietor being a Welshman named William Jones, whose “classical and
commercial” seminary stood at the north-east corner of Granby Street,
Hampstead Road. The residential portion still exists, although doomed to
early demolition; but the detached schoolroom and large playground
disappeared in 1835, on the formation of the London and Birmingham
Railway, as it was then called. In a paper entitled “Our School,”
contributed to _Household Words_ in 1851, Dickens gives a thinly-veiled
account of Jones’s Academy, and those of his pupils who yet survive
readily understand the various allusions, and vouch for the general
accuracy of the presentment. “It was a school,” he says, “of some
celebrity in its neighbourhood—nobody could say why; the master was
supposed among us to know nothing, and one of the ushers was supposed to
know everything.” There can be no doubt that Wellington House Academy
and its proprietor are revived in “David Copperfield” as Salem House and
Mr. Creakle.

The most accessible route for young Dickens to follow between his home
in Johnson Street and the school was by way of Drummond Street, then a
quiet semi-rural thoroughfare, bounded on the north side by the cow
pastures belonging to an ancestor of the late Cecil Rhodes (of South
African fame), many members of whose family were located here. Dr.
Dawson, a schoolfellow of Dickens at Wellington House, well remembered
him acting as ringleader of other lads, and, simulating poverty,
imploring charity from people in Drummond Street, especially old ladies.

[Illustration: 29 (NOW 13) JOHNSON STREET, SOMERS TOWN, (_Page 38._)
The home of Dickens in 1824.]

Among other associations of the future novelist with this locality may
be mentioned his attendance (in company with Dr. Dawson) at the Sunday
morning services in Somers Chapel (now called St. Mary’s Parish Church),
in Seymour Street (then partly fields), Somers Town,[21] concerning
which act of piety Dr. Dawson regrets to observe that his lively and
irreverent young friend “did not attend in the slightest degree to the
service, but incited me to laughter by declaring his dinner was ready,
and the potatoes would be spoiled, and, in fact, behaved in such a
manner that it was lucky for us we were not ejected from the chapel.” He
remained at Wellington House Academy about two years (1824-1826),
without achieving any particular distinction as a pupil. Thus ended his
school training, elementary at the best, and it has been truly observed
that a classical education might have “done for” him—that “Boz,” like
Burns, might have acquired all necessary erudition in a Board school.
“Pray, Mr. Dickens, where was your son educated?” conjured a friend of
John Dickens, who significantly and pertinently replied, “Why, indeed,
sir—ha! ha!—he may be said to have educated himself!” a response which
the novelist used good-humouredly and whimsically to imitate in
Forster’s hearing.

On relinquishing his studies at the age of fourteen, Charles Dickens for
a brief period was installed as clerk in the service of Mr. Molloy, a
solicitor in New Square, Lincoln’s Inn. His father, however, presently
transferred him to the offices of Messrs. Ellis and Blackmore,
attorneys, at No. 1, Raymond Buildings, Gray’s Inn (second floor), the
clerks’ office looking out upon the roadway; here he performed similar
duties from May, 1827, to November, 1828, at a weekly salary of 13s.
6d., rising to 15s. Although he did not relish the law, and failed to
appreciate the particular kind of responsibility devolving upon him as a
humble apprentice to that profession, the few months thus employed by
him were productive of fruitful results, for they afforded him
opportunities of studying the idiosyncrasies of lawyers, their clerks
and clients, which can only be obtained by intimate association. In the
words of David Copperfield, he said: “I looked at nothing that I know
of, but I saw everything,” with the result that he culled from his
mental storehouse those vivid pictures of legal life and character as
portrayed in “The Pickwick Papers,” “Sketches by Boz,” and later works.
The Dickens family at this time had left the unattractive environment of
Johnson Street and made their home at the Polygon, Somers Town, a much
more respectable and refined quarter, where Harold Skimpole (in “Bleak
House”) afterwards settled, and “where there were at that time a number
of poor Spanish refugees walking about in cloaks, smoking little paper
cigars.” The Polygon was so called from the arrangement of the houses in
the form of a circle; it stood within Clarendon Square, and, on
completion, became the aristocratic part of Somers Town; many successful
artists and engravers selecting it as a place of residence.[22] The name
of Dickens, however, does not appear in the contemporary rate-book, but
we find recorded there the significant fact that No. 17 was then “let to
lodgers”—a very unusual entry—and this, added to the fact that the rents
were comparatively high, justifies the assumption that the Dickens
family were lodgers only at the house bearing that number. At this time
John Dickens, with commendable energy and perseverance, had acquired the
difficult art of shorthand writing, with a view to obtaining a
livelihood as a Parliamentary reporter. He apparently changed his
address with some frequency, in 1832-1833 living for a time at Highgate,
whither Charles accompanied him, and lodging during brief intervals in
the western part of London. Certain letters written by the son to an
intimate friend indicate such addresses as North End (? Fulham) and
Fitzroy Street.

The school of Dickens, 1824-1826.]

The father, on securing an appointment as a reporter for the _Morning
Herald_, established himself and his family (including Charles), at No.
18, Bentinck Street, Manchester Square. The rate-book, however, does not
give his name as the tenant of this or any other house in the street, so
we must assume that the family were again merely lodgers. This house and
its neighbours were recently demolished, being replaced by a row of
mansions, and, oddly enough, the name of the occupier of No. 19 in 1895
bore the novelist’s patronymic.

On leaving Ellis and Blackmore’s office in November, 1828, Charles
Dickens abandoned the pursuit of the law for ever.

The profession of journalism offering him superior attractions, he was
tempted to become a newspaper reporter. With that object in view, he
gave himself up to the study of stenography, devoting much of his time
at the British Museum acquiring a knowledge of the subject, and
practising in the Law Courts of Doctors’ Commons with extraordinary
assiduity until he arrived at something like proficiency. The
impediments that beset him are duly set forth in the pages of “David
Copperfield,” the incidents there narrated being based upon the author’s
heart-breaking experience in endeavouring to master the mysteries of
shorthand. Like David, he passed a period of probation, lasting nearly
two years, reporting for the Proctors at Doctors’ Commons, St. Paul’s
Churchyard. The scene of his labours is thus described in “Sketches by
Boz”: “Crossing a quiet and shady courtyard paved with stone, and
frowned upon by old red-brick houses, on the doors of which were painted
the names of sundry learned civilians, we paused before a small,
green-baized, brass-headed nailed door, which, yielding to our gentle
push, at once admitted us into an old quaint-looking apartment, with
sunken windows and black carved wainscotting, at the upper end of which,
seated on a raised platform of semicircular shape, were about a dozen
solemn-looking gentlemen in crimson gowns and wigs.” The courts were
destroyed in 1867, and in their place a Royal Court of Probate was
established at Westminster Hall.

According to the autographs on certain British Museum readers’ slips,
Charles Dickens was residing, in 1831, at No. 10, Norfolk Street,
Fitzroy Square, the same street (now Cleveland Street, east side of
Middlesex Hospital) in which his father was domiciled for a while in

About the year 1833 Charles rented bachelor apartments in Cecil Street
(Strand), as evidenced by a letter of that period to an intimate friend,
where he says: “The people at Cecil Street put too much water in the
hashes, lost the nutmeg-grater, attended on me most miserably … and so
I gave them warning, and have not yet fixed on a local habitation.”

We learn from Charles Dickens the younger that his father, before
occupying chambers in Furnival’s Inn, had apartments in Buckingham
Street, and it is, therefore, not unlikely that he went thither from
Cecil Street; the same authority adds that “if he lived in David
Copperfield’s rooms—as I have no doubt he did—he must have kept house on
the top floor of No. 15 on the east side—the house which displays a
tablet commemorating its one-time tenancy by Peter the Great, Czar of
all the Russias.”[23] David, in describing his chambers, observes that
“they were on the top of the house … and consisted of a little
half-blind entry where you could see hardly anything, a little
stone-blind pantry where you could see nothing at all, a sitting-room,
and a bedroom. The furniture was rather faded, but quite good enough for
me; and, sure enough, the river was outside the windows.” Here, or at
Cecil Street, Dickens doubtless met that martyr to “the spazzums,” the
immortal Mrs. Crupp, and the “young gal” whom she hired for festive
occasions, such as David’s dinner-party.

In 1832, after gaining experience at Doctors’ Commons, an opening was
found for a reporter on the staff of the _True Sun_, a London morning
paper, then just launched; and here it may be observed that newspaper
reporting in those days, before railways and electric telegraphs, was
not unattended by great difficulties and even danger, for Dickens
himself relates how he had frequently to travel by post-chaise to remote
parts of the country to record important speeches, and how, on the
return journey, he transcribed his notes on the palm of his hand by the
light of a dark lantern while galloping at fifteen miles an hour at the
dead of night through a wild district, sometimes finding himself belated
in miry country roads during the small hours in a wheelless carriage,
with exhausted horses and drunken post-boys, and then succeeding in
reaching the office in time for publication. While thus representing the
_True Sun_ he joined the reporting staff of the _Mirror of Parliament_
(then a comparatively new paper, conducted by his uncle, John Henry
Barrow, barrister-at-law), and in 1834 associated himself with the
_Morning Chronicle_,[24] one of the leading London journals, and a
formidable rival of the _Times_.

[Illustration: 1 RAYMOND BUILDINGS, GRAY’S INN. (_Page 41._)
In the corner house were the offices of Ellis and Blackmore,
attorneys, with whom Dickens was a clerk in 1827-1828.]

As a Parliamentary reporter he won great and enviable distinction, it
being an undoubted fact that of the eighty or ninety so employed with
him in the “gallery” of the House of Commons, he retained the premier
position by reason of his marvellous dexterity, accuracy, and capacity
for work. It was, of course, in the _old_ House, not the present
palatial edifice, that Charles Dickens followed this avocation, where
the accommodation provided for the newspaper representatives proved most
unsatisfactory, the “gallery” in the House of Lords being no better than
a “preposterous pen” (as Dickens described it), in which the reporters
were “huddled together like so many sheep,” while the reporters in the
Commons carried on their duties in the Strangers’ Gallery until a
separate gallery was provided for their use in the temporary House
constructed in 1834. The “gentlemen of the press” are now treated with
much greater consideration; instead of the dark lobby, or “pen,” there
are large writing-rooms, separate apartments for smoking, reading,
dining, and dressing, as well as a stationer’s shop, a post-office, and
a refreshment-bar.

Dickens’s final appearance at the House of Commons as a reporter was at
the close of the session of 1836, when, like David Copperfield, he
“noted down the music of the Parliamentary bagpipes for the last time.”
For he had already tasted the delights of authorship, having written
some original papers for the _Evening Chronicle_ and other periodicals,
and henceforth he determined to adopt literature as a profession. His
first paper appeared (entitled “A Dinner at Poplar Walk”)[25]
anonymously in the _Monthly Magazine_ nearly three years prior to his
retirement from the Press Gallery—that is, in December, 1833—and he has
himself described how, “with fear and trembling,” he stealthily dropped
the manuscript into “a dark letter-box, in a dark office, up a dark
court in Fleet Street,” and how suffused with tears of joy and pride
were the eyes of the young author when he beheld his little effusion “in
all the glory of print” that “they could not bear the street and were
not fit to be seen there.” The “dark court” referred to was Johnson’s
Court, Fleet Street, the location of the office of the old (and long
since defunct) _Monthly Magazine_; the court still exists, but the
office was demolished quite recently for the extension of the premises
of Mr. Henry Sells, who, happily, has preserved, as a memorial of the
novelist, the door to which the veritable “dark letter-box” was
attached. The story of Dickens’s early essays has often been related,
and needs no repetition here. Suffice it to say that upon the success or
failure of that maiden effort a very great deal depended, as he intended
to be guided by the dictum of the publisher and of the public, and there
is every probability that, had this initial sketch been unfavourably
received, the young writer would have directed his attention to the
stage, which for him always possessed a magnetic attraction; thus,
instead of becoming a famous author, he would have blossomed into a
popular actor, thereby missing his true vocation.

Dickens’s earlier sketches (which bore no signature until August, 1834,
when he adopted the pseudonym of “Boz”) were penned when living with his
father in Bentinck Street. At first they yielded no honorarium; but as
soon as he received a modest fee for them in addition to his salary as a
reporter, he exhibited a sense of independence in resolving to take the
apartments in Buckingham Street, whence he presently removed to more
commodious chambers in Furnival’s Inn, Holborn. He was then twenty-two
years of age, and still on the staff of the _Morning Chronicle_, and
from Christmas, 1834, he rented a “three-pair back” at No. 13,
Furnival’s Inn. One of his earliest (undated) letters bears the address
of Furnival’s Inn, in which he informs his future brother-in-law, Henry
Austin, that he is about to start on a journey, alone and in a gig, to
Essex and Suffolk—evidently on journalistic business for the _Morning
Chronicle_—and expresses a belief that he would be spilt before paying a
turnpike, or run over a child before reaching Chelmsford; his journey
covered the same ground as that performed by Mr. Pickwick in his drive
by coach to Ipswich. Twelve months later he transferred his impedimenta
from No. 13 to more cheerful rooms at No. 15, renting a “three-pair
floor south.” Several of the later “Sketches by Boz” were doubtless
written at No. 13, which stood squeezed into a corner of the square on
the right as entered from Holborn, the young author’s modest quarters
being almost at the top of a steep and dark staircase.

His rooms at No. 15 were a decided improvement on these, and he probably
had them in his mind when referring to Furnival’s Inn in “Martin
Chuzzlewit” and to John Westlock’s apartments there, “two stories up”:
“There are snug chambers in those Inns where the bachelors live, and,
for the dissolute fellows they pretend to be, it is quite surprising how
well they get on…. His rooms were the perfection of neatness and
convenience…. There is little enough to see in Furnival’s Inn. It is a
shady, quiet place, echoing to the footsteps of the stragglers who have
business there, and rather monotonous and gloomy on Sunday evenings.” It
does not require much stretch of imagination to believe that the
description of Traddles’ chambers in Gray’s Inn (_vide_ “David
Copperfield,” chap. lix.) was drawn from these very apartments, or to
realize the probability that the reference to Traddles and his lovely
girl guests is a reminiscence of Dickens’s own.

Charles Dickens lodged in the house overlooking the river about
1834, and Mrs. Crupps let apartments here to David Copperfield. This
house was also occupied by Peter the Great, Henry Fielding, and
William Black.]

This humble abode ever remained in his memory as a hallowed spot,
cherished by the fact that here he received the commission to write
“Pickwick” and penned the opening chapters, by which immortal
achievement he suddenly leaped into fame; but also by another
interesting and very personal recollection, namely, that it was the
scene of his early domestic life. For, be it remembered, the publication
of the first number of “Pickwick” (April, 1836) synchronized with his
marriage, the lady of his choice being Catherine Thomson Hogarth, eldest
daughter of George Hogarth, one of his colleagues on the staff of the
_Morning Chronicle_, the ceremony being performed at the Church of St.
Luke, Chelsea, of which parish the Rev. Charles Kingsley (father of the
author of “Westward Ho!”) then officiated as rector.

The honeymoon over, Dickens and his bride returned to London, and made
their home at No. 15, Furnival’s Inn, where their eldest child, Charles,
was born. Here his favourite sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, sometimes
stayed with the youthful couple, her amiable and delightful disposition
proving a very joy in the little household; her premature death in 1837,
in Doughty Street, at the age of seventeen, so unnerved her admiring
brother-in-law that the course of “Pickwick” and “Oliver Twist”
(produced almost simultaneously) was temporarily interrupted, and
writing presently to Mrs. Hogarth from his next abode, he said: “I wish
you could know how I weary now for the three rooms in Furnival’s Inn,
and how I miss that pleasant smile and those sweet words which, bestowed
upon our evening’s work, on our merry banterings round the fire, were
more precious to me than the applause of a whole world would be.” Here,
too (as already mentioned), lived John Westlock when visited by Tom
Pinch, and it was the scene, also, of certain incidents in “The Mystery
of Edwin Drood.” Does not Mr. Grewgious (whose chambers were “over the
way” at Staple Inn) tell us that “Furnival’s is fireproof and specially
watched and lighted,” and did he not escort Rosa Bud to her rooms there,
at Wood’s Hotel in the Square, afterwards confiding her to the care of
the “Unlimited head chambermaid”?[26]

It was once an Inn of Chancery attached to Lincoln’s Inn, deriving its
name from Sir William Furnivall, who owned much property hereabouts.
About 1818 it became a series of chambers wholly unconnected with any
Inn of Court, and in that year was entirely rebuilt by Peto. On the
right-hand side of the Square, as immediately entered from Holborn, the
house (No. 15) containing the bright little rooms once tenanted by
Dickens was easily identified in later years by the medallion above the
ground-floor windows which notified the fact; this house and its
neighbour were more ornate than the rest, by reason of the series of
Ionic pilasters between the windows. The whole of Furnival’s Inn was
swept away in 1898, and the site covered by an extension of the premises
of the Prudential Insurance Company; thus, alas! disappears an extremely
interesting Dickens landmark, so intimately associated with the novelist
and his writings.

Dickens must have relinquished his tenancy of the chambers in Furnival’s
Inn before the actual term had expired, the assumption being that he had
taken them on a short lease, as, according to the official record, he
continued to pay rent until February 1839. Two years previously, finding
this accommodation inadequate, and realizing that his literary labours
had already begun to yield a good income, he determined to take a house,
No. 48, Doughty Street, Mecklenburgh Square—a locality not otherwise
unknown to literary fame; for Shirley Brooks (a former editor of
_Punch_) was born in this street, while both Sydney Smith and Edmund
Yates lived there, the latter at No. 43,[27] opposite Tegg, the
publisher of the “Peter Parley” series of juvenile books.

Yates, in his “Recollections and Experiences,” recalls the Doughty
Street of his day (and of Dickens’s) as “a broad, airy, wholesome
street; none of your common thoroughfares, to be rattled through by
vulgar cabs and earth-shaking Pickford vans, but a self-included
property, with a gate at each end, and a lodge with a porter in a
gold-laced hat and the Doughty arms[28] on the buttons of his
mulberry-coloured coat, to prevent anyone, except with a mission to one
of the houses, from intruding on the exclusive territory.” The lodges
and gates have been removed since this was written, and the porter in
official garb disappeared with that exclusiveness and quietude which
doubtless attracted Dickens to the spot more than sixty years ago.

No. 48, Doughty Street (where his daughters Mary and Kate were born) is
situated on the east side of the street, and contains twelve rooms—a
single-fronted, three-storied house, with a railed-in area in front and
a small garden at the rear. A tiny little room on the ground-floor,
facing the garden, is believed to have been the novelist’s study, in
which he wrote the latter portion of “Pickwick,” and practically the
whole of “Oliver Twist” and “Nicholas Nickleby.” The summer months he
customarily spent away from home, taking his work with him, and thus a
few chapters of these books were penned at Broadstairs, at Twickenham
Park, and at Elm Cottage (now called Elm Lodge), Petersham, a pretty
little rural retreat rented by him in the summer of 1839, a locality to
which he then referred as “those remote and distant parts, with the
chain of mountains formed by Richmond Hill presenting an almost
insurmountable barrier between me and the busy world.”

[Illustration: 15 FURNIVAL’S INN, HOLBORN. (_Page 50._)
_From a sketch by the late F. G. Kitton. Reproduced by kind
permission of Messrs. T. C. and E. C. Jack._]

At Elm Cottage he frequently enjoyed the society of his friends—Maclise,
Landseer, Ainsworth, Talfourd, and the rest—many of whom joined in
athletic competitions organized by their energetic host in the extensive
grounds, among other frivolities being a balloon club for children, of
which Forster was elected president on condition that he supplied all
the balloons. Elm Cottage (Lodge) is now a school, screened from the
public road by a high wooden fence and a barrier of elm-trees; it is a
heavy-looking structure, roofed with red tiles, and at the rear is
Sudbrook Lane. The novelist’s first country home, however, was at No. 4,
Ailsa Park Villas, Twickenham, still standing in the Isleworth Road,[29]
near St. Margaret’s railway-station, described in a recent issue of the
_Richmond and Twickenham Times_ as “a building on regular lines, shut in
from the world by a plenitude of trees, silent and quiet, an ideal
cottage for a mind seeking rest and repose;” not a picturesque edifice
by any means, but having a quaint entablature with a circular window in
the centre thereof, the house having since undergone little or no
change, except, perhaps, in the enlargement of the balcony over the main
entrance. There are several references in Dickens’s early letters to
this region of the Thames Valley (to the Star and Garter, at Richmond,
Eel Pie Island, etc.), and much local colouring is employed in certain
of his novels—“Nicholas Nickleby,” “Little Dorrit,” and especially in
“Oliver Twist.”[29] It is interesting to know that the Old Coach and
Horses at Isleworth, where Sikes and Oliver halted during the burglary
expedition to Chertsey, remains almost intact to this day, opposite Syon
Lane, and contiguous to Syon House, the residence of that popular writer
of fiction, Mr. George Manville Fenn.[29]

It was during the Doughty Street days that Dickens, in order to relieve
the mental tension, indulged in many enjoyable jaunts into the country
with Forster, these acting as a stimulant to fresh exertion. He either
rode on horseback or walked to such outlying districts as Hampstead,
Barnet, or Richmond, his favourite haunt in the northern suburb being
Jack Straw’s Castle on the Heath, famous also for its associations with
Thackeray, Du Maurier, and Lord Leighton, and commemorated a generation
before by Washington Irving in his “Tales of a Traveller.” Here the
Dickens traditions are still cherished, a small upper apartment in front
being pointed out as the bedroom which he occasionally occupied. “I
knows a good ’ous there,” he said to Forster when imploring his
companionship on a bout to Hampstead, “where we can have a red-hot chop
for dinner and a glass of wine”; and the notification resulted in many
happy meetings there in the coming years.[30] A writer in the _Daily
Graphic_ (July 18, 1903) avers that Hampstead possesses other Dickensian
associations—that the novelist had lodgings at Wylde’s Farm, and, it is
said, wrote some chapters of “Bleak House” in the picturesque cottage,
which, with the farmhouse and land, it is proposed to acquire for the
use and enjoyment of the public. Wylde’s Farm is situated on the
north-west boundary of Hampstead Heath, close to North End, Hampstead;
it formerly consisted of two farms, one known as Collins’s and the other
as Tooley’s, and it was at Collins’s that John Linnell, the artist,
lived for some years, and there welcomed, as visitors, William Blake,
Mulready, Flaxman, George Morland, and others distinguished in Art and

[Illustration: 48 DOUGHTY STREET. (_Page 54._)
The residence of Charles Dickens, 1837-1839. His only London
residence which remains unchanged. Part of “Pickwick,” “Oliver
Twist,” and the greater part of “Nickleby” were written here.]

The associations of the novelist with No. 48, Doughty Street are
perpetuated not only in the name “Dickens House” recently bestowed upon
it, but by the tablet affixed thereon by the London County Council in
December last—truly, a long-delayed tribute, and especially deserving in
this case owing to the fact that it is the only London home of Charles
Dickens which survives intact structurally. It was here that in
September, 1838, Forster lunched with him, and then to sit, read, or
work, “or do something” (as the author expressed it in his note of
invitation), “while I write the _last_ chapter of ‘Oliver,’ which will
be arter a lamb chop.” “How well I remember that evening!” observes his
friend, “and our talk of what should be the fate of Charley Bates, on
behalf of whom (as, indeed, for the Dodger, too) Talfourd[31] had
pleaded as earnestly in mitigation of judgment as ever at the bar for
any client he had most respected.”

Writing to his friend Macready, the actor, in November, 1839, Dickens
said: “You must come and see my new house when we have it to rights.” He
had just completed the last number of “Nicholas Nickleby,” when he
decided to leave Doughty Street for a more commodious residence in a
more exclusive neighbourhood, namely, No. 1, Devonshire Terrace, York
Gate—“a house of great promise (and great premium), undeniable
situation, and excessive splendour,” to quote his own concise
description; it had a large garden, and was shut out from the New Road
(now the Marylebone Road) by a high brick wall facing the York Gate into
Regent’s Park. In “The Uncommercial Traveller,” Dickens refers to
“having taken the lease of a house in a certain distinguished
Metropolitan parish—a house which then appeared to me to be a
frightfully first-class Family Mansion, involving awful

[Illustration: JACK STRAW’S CASTLE, HAMPSTEAD, CIRCA 1835. (_Page
_From a print in the collection of Councillor Newton, Hampstead._]

A contemporary drawing of the house by Daniel Maclise, R.A., represents
it as detached and standing in its own grounds, with a wrought-iron
entrance-gate surmounted by a lamp-bracket; the building consisted of a
basement, two stories, and an attic. There are only three houses in the
Terrace, and immediately beyond is the burial-ground of St. Marylebone
Church.[33] No. 1, Devonshire Terrace is now semi-detached, having a
line of taller residential structures on the southern side, while a
portion of the high brick wall on the Terrace side has been replaced by
an iron railing. The house itself has been structurally changed since
Dickens’s days, and has undergone enlargement, a new story being
inserted between the ground-floor and the upper story, thus considerably
altering its original proportions without actually removing its
principal features. Mr. Hughes, who in 1888 examined the house prior to
these “improvements,” states that it then contained thirteen rooms. “The
polished mahogany doors in the hall, and the chaste Italian marble
mantelpieces in the principal rooms, are said to have been put up by the
novelist. On the ground-floor the smaller room to the eastward of the
house, with windows facing north and looking into the pleasant garden,
where the plane-trees and turf are beautifully green, is pointed out as
having been his study.”[34] Concerning Dickens’s studies, his eldest
daughter tells us that they “were always cheery, pleasant rooms, and
always, like himself, the personification of neatness and tidiness. On
the shelf of his writing-table were many dainty and useful
ornaments—gifts from his friends or members of his family—and always a
vase of bright and fresh flowers.” Referring to the sanctum at
Devonshire Terrace, Miss Dickens observes that it (the first she could
remember) was “a pretty room, with steps leading directly into the
garden from it, and with an extra baize door to keep out all sounds and
noise.” The garden here constituted a great attraction to Dickens, for
it enabled him, with his children and friends, to indulge in such simple
games as battledore and shuttlecock and bowls, which not only delighted
him, but conveniently afforded means of obtaining necessary exercise and
recreation at intervals during his literary labours.

In a stable on the south side of the garden were kept the two ravens
that inspired the conception of Grip in “Barnaby Rudge,” of which famous
bird they were the “great originals.” Longfellow, after visiting the
novelist here in 1841, said in a letter to a friend: “I write this from
Dickens’s study, the focus from which so many luminous things have
radiated. The raven croaks in the garden, and the ceaseless roar of
London fills my ears.” The first raven died in 1841 from the effects (it
was believed) of a meal of white paint; he was quickly succeeded by an
older and a larger raven (“comparatively of weak intellect”), whose
decease in 1845 was similarly premature, probably owing to “the same
illicit taste for putty and paint which had been fatal to his
predecessor.” “Voracity killed him,” said Dickens, “as it did Scott’s;
he died unexpectedly by the kitchen fire. He kept his eye to the last
upon the meat as it roasted, and suddenly turned over on his back with a
sepulchral cry of ‘Cuckoo.’” The novelist occupied No. 1, Devonshire
Terrace (the scene of many of his literary triumphs) for a period of
about twelve years—the happiest period of his life—and there wrote some
of the best of his stories, including “The Old Curiosity Shop,” “Barnaby
Rudge,” “Martin Chuzzlewit,” “Dombey and Son,” and “David Copperfield,”
the latter the most delightful of all his books, and his own favourite.
Here also he composed those ever-popular Yule-tide annuals, “A Christmas
Carol,” “The Cricket on the Hearth,” and “The Haunted Man.”

The friends which the fame of the young author attracted thither
included some of the most distinguished men of the day, such as
Macready, Talfourd, Proctor (“Barry Cornwall”), Clarkson Stanfield,
R.A., Sir David Wilkie, R.A., Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., Samuel Rogers,
Sydney Smith, and many others of equal note, for which reason, among
others, he always cherished fond recollections of this London home, and
writing to Forster from Genoa in 1844, he could not refrain from
expressing how strangely he felt in the midst of such unfamiliar
environment. “I seem,” he said, “as if I had plucked myself out of my
proper soil when I left Devonshire Terrace, and would take root no more
until I return to it…. Did I tell you how many fountains we have here?
No matter. If they played nectar they wouldn’t please me half so well as
the West Middlesex Waterworks at Devonshire Terrace.” As in the case of
48, Doughty Street, this house bears a commemorative tablet, placed by
the London County Council. It is interesting to add that within a
stone’s-throw stands the old parish church of St. Marylebone, the scene
of the burial of little Paul Dombey and his mother, and of Mr. Dombey’s
second marriage.

At Devonshire Terrace four sons were born to him, viz., Walter Landor,
Francis Jeffrey, Alfred Tennyson, Henry Fielding, and one daughter, Dora
Annie, who survived only a few months.

On particular occasions, owing to a prolonged absence from England, he
let this house firstly to General Sir John Wilson in 1842 (when he first
visited America); secondly, to a widow lady, who agreed to occupy it
during his stay in Italy in 1844; and, thirdly, in 1846, to Sir James
Duke. The widow lady took possession a week or two before he started for
the Continent, thus compelling him to seek temporary quarters elsewhere.
He found the necessary accommodation near at hand, namely, at No. 9,
Osnaburgh Terrace, New Road (now Euston Road), which he rented for the
interval. Here occurred an amusing contretemps. Before entering upon
this brief tenancy, he had invited a number of valued friends to a
farewell dinner prior to his departure for Italy, and suddenly
discovered that, owing to the small dimensions of the rooms, he would be
obliged to abandon or postpone the function, the house having no
convenience “for the production of any other banquet than a cold
collation of plate and linen, the only comforts we have not left behind
us.” Additional help being obtained, however, the dinner went off

Dickens and his family left England for Italy in July, 1844, remaining
abroad for a period of twelve months. In November, however, he made a
quick journey to London, in order to test the effect of a reading aloud
of his just completed Christmas book, “The Chimes,” before a few friends
assembled for that purpose at Forster’s residence, Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
which, as readers of “Bleak House” may remember, is introduced into that
story as Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Chambers. The pleasurable interlude over, the
novelist returned to Genoa, there remaining until June, 1845, when,
homesick and eager to renew the “happy old walks and old talks” with his
friends in the “dear old home,” he gladly settled down again in
Devonshire Terrace. But only eleven months elapsed before he departed
for Switzerland, where he rented a little villa called Rosemont at
Lausanne; here he embarked upon a new story, “Dombey and Son,” and wrote
“The Battle of Life.” His stay on the Continent was unexpectedly
curtailed by the illness from scarlet fever of his eldest son Charles,
then at King’s College school in London, whereupon, at the end of
February, 1847, the novelist and his wife hastily made their way to the
bedside of their sick boy, taking up their abode at the Victoria Hotel,
Euston Square,[35] the Devonshire Terrace home being still occupied by
Sir James Duke. The little invalid was under the care of his
grandmother, Mrs. Hogarth, in Albany Street, Regent’s Park, and Dickens
secured temporary quarters near at hand, in Chester Place, where he
remained until June, and where a fifth son was born, christened Sydney
Smith Haldemand.

[Illustration: 1 DEVONSHIRE TERRACE. (_Page 58._)
The residence of Dickens, 1839-1851. Some of his finest books were
written here.]

Writing to Mrs. Hogarth from Chester Place (the number is not recorded),
he said: “This house is very cheerful on the drawing-room floor and
above, looking into the park on one side and Albany Street on the

Early in 1848 Devonshire Terrace was quitted by Sir James Duke, and
Dickens returned to London from Brighton (where he had been spending two
or three weeks) joyfully to enter into possession once more of his own
home, taking with him for completion an important chapter of “Dombey and
Son.” The lease of this house expired in 1851, the last book written
there being “David Copperfield,” at the publication of which his
reputation attained its highest level. He now realized that, for a
family consisting of six sons and two daughters (of whom the eldest,
Charles Culliford Boz, was but fourteen years of age), this residence
did not offer sufficient accommodation, and therefore he decided with
keen regret not to renew the lease.[36] Indeed, from the beginning of
the year he had been negotiating for a more commodious domicile,
Tavistock House, in Tavistock Square, then, and for some years
previously, the residence of his cherished artist friend, Frank Stone,
A.R.A., father of Mr. Marcus Stone, the Royal Academician. An
opportunity arising for the immediate purchase of the lease of Tavistock
House, Dickens felt convinced it was prudent that he should buy it, for,
as he observed in a letter to Frank Stone, it seemed very unlikely that
he would obtain “the same comforts for the rising generation elsewhere
for the same money,” and gave him carte-blanche to make the necessary
arrangements for acquiring the lease at a price not exceeding £1,500. “I
don’t make any apologies,” he added, “for thrusting this honour upon
you, knowing what a thorough-going old pump you are.” After securing the
property, the summer months were spent by the novelist at Broadstairs,
where a “dim vision” suddenly confronted him in connection with the
impending change of residence. “Supposing,” he wrote considerately to
Stone, “you should find, on looking forward, a probability of your being
houseless at Michaelmas, what do you say to using Devonshire Terrace as
a temporary encampment? It will not be in its usual order, but we would
take care that there should be as much useful furniture of all sorts
there as to render it unnecessary for you to move a stick. If you should
think this a convenience, then I should propose to you to pile your
furniture in the middle of the rooms at Tavistock House, and go out to
Devonshire Terrace two or three weeks _before_ Michaelmas, to enable my
workmen to commence their operations. This might be to our mutual
convenience, and therefore I suggest it. Certainly, the sooner I can
begin on Tavistock House the better, and possibly your going into
Devonshire Terrace might relieve you from a difficulty that would
otherwise be perplexing. I make this suggestion (I need not say to
_you_) solely on the chance of its being useful to both of us. If it
were merely convenient to me, you know I shouldn’t dream of it. Such an
arrangement, while it would cost you nothing, would perhaps enable you
to get your new house into order comfortably, and do exactly the same
thing for me.”[37] The exchange was accordingly made, so enabling
Dickens to effect certain structural improvements in Tavistock House
before returning from Broadstairs to take possession in November. These
alterations and reparations, which were apparently on a somewhat
extensive scale, were carried out under the superintendence of his
brother-in-law, Henry Austin, an architect and sanitary engineer, to
whom Dickens (harassed by delays in the work) wrote despairingly as

[Illustration: 9 OSNABURGH TERRACE. (_Page 62._)
Occupied by Dickens in the summer of 1844.]

“_Sunday, September 7, 1851_.

“My dear Henry,

“I am in that state of mind which you may (once) have seen described
in the newspapers as ‘bordering on distraction,’ the house given up to
me, the fine weather going on (soon to break, I dare say), the
printing season oozing away, my new book (‘Bleak House’) waiting to be
born, and

“_No Workmen on the Premises_,

along of my not hearing from you!! I have torn all my hair off, and
constantly beat my unoffending family. Wild notions have occurred to
me of sending in my own plumber to do the drains. Then I remember that
you have probably written to propose _your_ man, and restrain my
audacious hand. Then Stone presents himself, with a most
exasperatingly mysterious visage, and says that a rat has appeared in
the kitchen, and it’s his opinion (Stone’s, not the rat’s) that the
drains want ‘compo-ing’; for the use of which explicit language I
could fell him without remorse. In my horrible desire to ‘compo’
everything, the very postman becomes my enemy, because he brings no
letter from you; and, in short, I don’t see what’s to become of me
unless I hear from you to-morrow, which I have not the least
expectation of doing.

“Going over the house again, I have materially altered the plans,
abandoned conservatory and front balcony, decided to make Stone’s
painting-room the drawing-room (it is nearly 6 inches higher than the
room below), to carry the entrance passage right through the house to
a back door leading to the garden, and to reduce the once intended
drawing-room—now schoolroom—to a manageable size, making a door of
communication between the new drawing-room and the study. Curtains and
carpets, on a scale of awful splendour and magnitude, are already in
preparation, and still—still—

“_No Workmen on the Premises._

“To pursue this theme is madness. Where are you? When are you coming
home? Where is _the_ man who is to do the work? Does he know that an
army of artificers must be turned in at once, and the whole thing
finished out of hand?

“O rescue me from my present condition. Come up to the scratch, I
entreat and implore you!

“I send this to Lætitia (Mrs. Austin) to forward,

“Being, as you well know why,
Completely floored by N.W.,[38] I

I hope you may be able to read this. My state of mind does not admit
of coherence.

“Ever affectionately,
“Charles Dickens.

“P.S.—_No Workmen_ on the _Premises_!

“Ha! ha! ha! (I am laughing demoniacally.)”[39]

Other letters followed, testifying to the highly nervous condition and
impatience of the writer, who in certain of these characteristic
missives, said:

“I am perpetually wandering (in fancy) up and down the house (Tavistock
House) and tumbling over the workmen; when I feel that they are gone to
dinner, I become low; when I look forward to their total abstinence on
Sundays, I am wretched. The gravy at dinner has a taste of glue in it. I
smell paint in the sea. Phantom lime attends me all the day long. I
dream that I am a carpenter, and can’t partition off the hall. I
frequently dance (with a distinguished company) in the dressing-room,
and fall in the kitchen for want of a pillar…. I dream, also, of the
workmen every night. They make faces at me, and won’t do anything….
Oh! if this were to last long; the distractions of the new book, the
whirling of the story through one’s mind, escorted by workmen, the
imbecility, the wild necessity of beginning to write, the not being able
to do so, the—O! I should go——O!”[40]

The house, after all, was not ready to receive him at the stipulated
time, for it proved to be as difficult to get the workmen off the
premises as to get them on, and at the end of October they were still
busy in their own peculiar manner, the painters mislaying their brushes
every five minutes, and chiefly whistling in the intervals, while the
carpenters “continued to look sideways with one eye down pieces of wood,
as if they were absorbed in the contemplation of the perspective of the
Thames Tunnel, and had entirely relinquished the vanities of this
transitory world.” With white lime in the kitchens, blank paper
constantly spread on drawing-room walls and shred off again, men
clinking at the new stair-rails, Irish labourers howling in the
schoolroom (“but I don’t know why”), the gardener vigorously lopping the
trees, something like pandemonium reigned supreme, and the “Inimitable”
mentally blessed the day when silence and order at length succeeded,
permitting him once more to settle down to his desk, and to concentrate
his thoughts upon the new serial, “Bleak House,” the writing of which
was begun at the end of November, 1851—on a Friday, too, regarded by him
as his lucky day.

Tavistock House,[41] with Russell House and Bedford House adjoining (all
the property of the Duke of Bedford and all demolished), stood at the
northeast corner of the private, secluded Tavistock Square (named after
the Marquis of Tavistock, father of the celebrated William, Lord
Russell), a short distance south of Euston Road, about midway between
Euston Square and the aristocratic Russell Square, and railed off from
Upper Woburn Place.

The exterior of Tavistock House (pulled down in 1901) presented a plain
brick structure of two stories in height above the ground-floor, with
attics in the roof, an open portico or porch being added by a later
tenant; it contained no less than eighteen rooms, including a
drawing-room capable of holding more than three hundred persons. On the
garden side, at the rear, the house had a bowed front somewhat
resembling that at Devonshire Terrace. Hans Christian Andersen, who
visited him here in 1857, has left us a delightful record of his
impressions of the mansion:

“In Tavistock Square stands Tavistock House. This and the strip of
garden in front are shut out from the thoroughfare (Gordon Place, on the
east side) by an iron railing. A large garden, with a grass plot and
high trees, stretches behind the house, and gives it a countrified look
in the midst of this coal and gas-steaming London. In the passage from
street to garden hung pictures and engravings. Here stood a marble bust
of Dickens, so like him, so youthful and handsome; and over a bedroom
door were inserted the bas-reliefs of Night and Day, after
Thorwaldsen.[42] On the first floor was a rich library, with a fireplace
and a writing-table, looking out on the garden…. The kitchen was
underground, and at the top of the house were bedrooms. I had a snug
room looking out on the garden, and over the tree-tops I saw the London
towers and spires appear and disappear as the weather cleared or

Dickens’s eldest daughter, in recalling her father’s study at Tavistock
House, remembered it as being larger and more ornate than his previous
sanctum, and describes it as “a fine large room, opening into the
drawing-room by means of sliding doors. When the rooms were thrown
together,” she adds, “they gave my father a promenade of considerable
length for the constant indoor walking which formed a favourite
recreation for him after a hard day’s writing.” Here were wholly or
partly written some of his best stories—viz., “Bleak House,” “Hard
Times,” “Little Dorrit,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” and “Great
Expectations,” his labours being agreeably diversified by private

With a view to possibilities of this kind, he caused the school-room (on
the ground-floor at the back of the house) to be adapted for such
entertainments by having a stage erected and a platform built outside
the window for scenic purposes. His older children (the last of the
family, Edward Bulwer Lytton, was born in Tavistock House, 1852) had now
attained an age that justified a demand for a special form of home
amusement, and this met with a ready response from an indulgent father,
who, mainly, if not entirely, for their delight, arranged for a series
of juvenile theatricals, which began on the first Twelfth Night there
(the eldest son’s fifteenth birthday) with a performance of Fielding’s
burlesque, “Tom Thumb,” with Mark Lemon and Dickens himself in the cast.
Thackeray, who was present, thoroughly enjoyed the fun, rolling off his
seat in a burst of laughter at the absurdity of the thing. Play-bills
were printed, and every detail carried out in the orthodox style, for
Dickens (who, as “Lessee and Manager,” humorously styled himself “Mr.
Crummies”) entered heart and soul into the business, and as thoroughly
as if his income solely depended on it—this was entirely characteristic
of the man.

For the time being, the house was given up to theatrical preparations;
the schoolroom became a painter’s shop; there was a gasfitters shop all
over the basement; the topmost rooms were devoted to dressmaking, and
the novelist’s dressing-room to tailoring, while he himself at intervals
did his best to write “Little Dorrit” in corners, “like the Sultan’s
groom, who was turned upside-down by the genii.”

The most remarkable performances at “The Smallest Theatre in the World”!
(for so the play-bills described it) were the presentations of “The
Lighthouse” and “The Frozen Deep,” plays specially written by Wilkie
Collins, for which the scenes were painted by Clarkson Stanfield, R.A.,
one of these beautiful works of art (depicting the Eddystone Lighthouse)
realizing a thousand guineas after the novelist’s death! These
theatrical entertainments, continued on Twelfth Nights for many years,
were witnessed and enjoyed by many notabilities of London (Carlyle among
them), and created quite a public sensation.

Dickens’s cherished friend, the late Miss Mary Boyle, had vivid and
pleasing recollections of Tavistock House and the master spirit who
presided over it.

[Illustration: TAVISTOCK HOUSE. (_Page 70._)
The residence of Dickens, 1851-1860.
_From a photograph by Catherine Weed Barnes Ward._]

“The very sound of the name,” she says, “is replete to me with memories
of innumerable evenings passed in the most congenial and delightful
intercourse—dinners where the guests vied with each other in brilliant
conversation, whether intellectual, witty, or sparkling; evenings
devoted to music or theatricals. First and foremost of that magic circle
was the host himself, always ‘one of us,’ who invariably drew out what
was best and most characteristic in others…. I can never forget one
evening, shortly after the arrival at Tavistock House, when we danced in
the New Year. It seemed like a page cut out of the ‘Christmas Carol,’ as
far, at least, as fun and frolic went.”[43]

It was while living at Tavistock House that Dickens devised the series
of imitation book-backs with incongruous titles which were to serve as a
decorative feature in his study, and were afterwards transferred,
together with Clarkson Stanfield’s scenery, to his next home. Here, too,
he gave sittings for his portrait to E. M. Ward, R.A., in 1854, in which
is seen the strongly-contrasting tints of curtains, carpet, and other
accessories, indicating the great writer’s passion for colour. The
background and other details in the portrait by Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A.,
in 1859, were also painted in Dickens’s study at Tavistock House while
he was at work. It has been suggested that the novelist probably found
this residence a little too convenient for friends and other callers,
whose unexpected visits somewhat interrupted him, and that this may have
been a reason for his exodus into the country.

In 1855 the novelist ascertained that a picturesque house at Gad’s Hill,
near Rochester, the possession of which he declared to be a dream of his
childhood, was to be sold, and he at once determined to buy it if
possible. In this he succeeded, but it was not until 1860 that he
finally left his London abode to make his home at his “little Kentish
freehold.” During part of the interval he divided his favours between
Tavistock House and Gad’s Hill Place, usually spending the summer months
at his country retreat, furnished merely as a temporary summer residence
until September, 1860, when he disposed of the remainder of the lease of
the London house to Mr. Davis, a Jewish gentleman. Concerning the
transaction, he wrote (on the 4th of the month) to his henchman, W. H.
Wills: “Tavistock House is cleared to-day, and possession delivered up.
I must say that in all things the purchaser has behaved thoroughly well,
and that I cannot call to mind any occasion when I have had money
dealings with a Christian that have been so satisfactory, considerate,
and trusting.” His occupation of Tavistock House covered a period of
exactly ten years.

[Illustration: 5 HYDE PARK PLACE (NOW 5 MARBLE ARCH). (_Page 77._)
The centre house, without a porch, was the residence of Dickens in
the early part of 1870.]

In 1885 and subsequently Tavistock House was occupied as a Jewish
College, and it is worthy of note that prior to that date it was
tenanted by Gounod, the composer, and by Mrs. Georgina Weldon, the
well-known lady litigant, who in 1880 privately issued an extraordinary
pamphlet entitled “The Ghastly Consequences of Living in Charles
Dickens’s House,” where she dilates upon an attempt made to forcibly
convey her to a lunatic asylum.[44]

Tavistock House, with its neighbours Bedford House and Russell House,
were razed to the ground about four years ago, and the land, to be let
on a building lease, is still a desolate waste.

Although definitely settled at Gad’s Hill, Dickens decided upon taking a
furnished house in town for a few months of the London season for the
sake of his daughters, then young ladies just emerged from their teens,
and the younger of whom was then engaged to be married. Accordingly, in
the spring months of 1861 we find him and his household established at
No. 3, Hanover Terrace, Regent’s Park, a retired spot adjoining the
western side of the Park. In February, 1862, he made an exchange of
houses for three months with his friends Mr. and Mrs. Hogge, they going
to Gad’s Hill, and he and his family to Mr. Hogge’s house at No. 16,
Hyde Park Gate, South Kensington Gore (south side of Kensington High
Street); for, as the novelist explained, his unmarried daughter
naturally liked to be in town at that time of the year. In the middle of
February, 1864, he removed to another London mansion, No. 57, Gloucester
Place, north of Hyde Park, where he stayed until June, busily engaged
during those months with “Our Mutual Friend.” Gloucester Place now forms
part of Gloucester Terrace, near Bayswater Road, and the northern end of
the Serpentine.

For the spring of 1865 a furnished house was taken at No. 16, Somers
Place, north of Hyde Park (between Cambridge Square and Southwick
Crescent), which Dickens, with his sister-in-law and daughter, occupied
from the beginning of March until June, while Gad’s Hill Place was being
“gorgeously painted,” as he informed Macready, with a further intimation
that, owing to great suffering in his foot, he was a terror to the
household, likewise to all the organs and brass bands in this quarter.
In 1866 he rented for the spring a furnished house at No. 6, Southwick
Place, Hyde Park Square (contiguous to his former residence in Somers
Place), and early in January, 1870 (five months before his death), he
took for the season the classic-fronted mansion of his friends Mr. and
Mrs. Milner-Gibson, at No. 5, Hyde Park Place, apropos of which he said
in a letter to his American friend James T. Fields: “We live here
(opposite the Marble Arch) in a charming house until the 1st of June,
and then return to Gad’s…. I have a large room here, with three fine
windows, overlooking the Park, unsurpassable for airiness and

This house was Charles Dickens’s last London residence; he rented it,
Forster tells us, for the period of his London Readings at that time, in
order to avoid the daily railway journey to London from Gad’s Hill,
entertaining an especial dislike to that mode of travelling in the then
serious state of his health.

At Hyde Park Place he wrote a considerable portion of the unfinished
fragment of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” and made the acquaintance,
through his friend Sir John Millais, of the illustrator of that story,
Mr. Luke Fildes, now the well-known Royal Academician, who cherishes the
most pleasant recollections of the collaboration.

We learn that in 1867 and 1869 Dickens did not take a house in London,
as was customary in these later years. In May of 1869 he stayed with his
daughter and sister-in-law for two or three weeks at the St. James’s
Hotel (now the Berkeley), at the corner of Berkeley Street, Piccadilly,
having promised to be in London at the time of the arrival of a number
of American friends; in order, too, that he might be near his London
doctor for a while,[45] and be able to avail himself of invitations from
innumerable familiar acquaintances.

In 1867, having a series of Readings in town and country alternately, he
decided to dispense with unnecessary travelling between Gad’s Hill and
London by sleeping in bachelor quarters at the office of his weekly
journal, _All the Year Round_, which succeeded the earlier publication,
_Household Words_, in 1859.

In 1860 Dickens furnished rooms here, which were “Really a success.
As comfortable, cheerful, and private as anything of the kind can
possibly be” (letter to Miss Mamie Dickens).]

The office of _All the Year Round_ was then No. 11, Wellington Street,
North Strand, and still exists as No. 26, Wellington Street, at the
south corner of Tavistock Street, at its junction with Wellington
Street. In 1872 the lessee of the property was unavailingly approached
by emissaries from Chicago with the view of purchasing and transporting
the building to the _World’s Fair_, as a memento of the novelist. For
his own convenience Dickens furnished rooms here,[46] to be used as
bedroom and sitting-room as occasion required, which must have reminded
him of those early days when he lived in similar bachelor apartments at
Furnival’s Inn. Happily for him, his creature comforts were ensured by
an old and tried servant—a paragon—whom Dickens declared to be “the
cleverest man of his kind in the world,” and able to do anything, “from
excellent carpentry to excellent cooking.”

The office of _Household Words_ was situated in Wellington Street,
Strand, nearly opposite the portico of the Lyceum Theatre, a short
distance from the Strand on the right-hand side of the way, and was
rendered somewhat conspicuous by a large bow window. This building stood
on the site of a very old tenement, with which there was bound up a very
weird London legend, setting forth how the room on the first-floor front
was the identical apartment which had served Hogarth as the scene of the
final tableau in “The Harlot’s Progress.” The novelist used to tell his
contributors that he had often, while sitting in his editorial sanctum,
conjured up mental pictures of Kate Hackabout lying dead in her coffin,
wept over by drunken beldames.

On September 17, 1903, the London County Council’s housebreakers took
possession of the old office of _Household Words_ (whence in 1850
Dickens launched the first number of that periodical), and the building
has since been sacrificed in the general scheme for providing a new
thoroughfare from the Strand to Holborn. Dickens used the front-room on
the first floor—that with a large bow window—as his editorial sanctum,
and on busy nights he slept on the premises instead of returning to
Gad’s Hill. Latterly this room was used as an office by the manager of
the Gaiety Theatre. The projection of the new Kingsway and Aldwych has
resulted in the inevitable evanishment of many Dickensian landmarks, for
a glance at the plans of these thoroughfares now in course of
construction shows that they will cover an important section of
“Dickens’s London,” such as Clare Market, the New Inn, Portugal Street,
Drury Lane, Sardinia Street, Kingsgate Street, etc.

* * * * * * * *

A brief mention of certain public and private institutions in London
having more or less informal associations with Dickens will form a
fitting conclusion to the present chapter.

STRAND. (_Page 80._)
The principal entrance was where the centre window on the ground
floor is shown.
The building is now demolished.]

In 1838 the author of “Pickwick” (then lately completed) was elected a
member of the Athenæum Club, his sponsor being Mr. Serjeant Storks, and
continued his membership of that very exclusive confraternity for the
rest of his life. The late Rev. F. G. Waugh, author of a booklet on the
Athenæum Club, did not think that Dickens considered himself a popular
member, probably because he seldom spoke to anyone unless previously
addressed. When not taking his sandwich standing, his usual seat in the
coffee-room was the table on the east side of the room, just south of
the fireplace. “I believe,” says Mr. Waugh, in a letter to the present
writer, “the last letter he wrote from here was to his son, who did not
receive it till after his father’s death.” The club, which preserves the
novelist’s favourite chair, was the scene, too, of a happy incident—the
reconciliation of Thackeray and Dickens after a period of strained
relationship. This occurred only a few days before the death of the
author of “Vanity Fair,” when the two great writers, meeting by accident
in the lobby of the club, suddenly turned and saw each other, “and the
unrestrained impulse of both was to hold out the hand of forgiveness and

“… In the hall, that trysting-place,
Two severed friends meet face to face:
’Tis Boz and Makepeace, good and true
(‘Behind the coats,’ hats not a few).
A start, and both uncertain stand;
Then each has clasped the other’s hand!”[47]

The Temple, practically unchanged since Dickens’s day, ever remained a
favourite locality with him. When quite a young man, and popularly known
as “Boz,” he entered his name among the students of the Inn of the
Middle Temple, though he did not eat dinners there until many years
later, and was never called to the Bar. The _Daily News_ offices (the
old building, not the existing ornate structure) in Bouverie Street are
remembered chiefly by the fact that this Liberal newspaper was founded
by Dickens, its first editor, in 1846, and a bust-portrait of him may be
seen in a niche in the façade of the new building. John Forster’s
residence, No. 58, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, is specially memorable on
account of the novelist’s associations therewith. Here he was ever a
welcome guest, and here, in 1844, he read “The Chimes” from the
newly-completed manuscript to an assembled group of friends, the germ of
those public readings to which he subsequently devoted so much time and
energy. The two houses, Nos. 57 and 58, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, were once
the town mansion of the Earl of Lindsey. Dickens made Forster’s
residence the home of Tulkinghorn, the old family lawyer in “Bleak
House,” whose room with the painted ceiling depicting “fore-shortened
allegory” faces the large forecourt, and is now in the occupation of a
solicitor; the painting, however, was obliterated some years ago.

Dickens first made acquaintance with many provincial towns during his
early newspaper days, when, as a reporter, he galloped by road in
post-chaises, both by day and night, to remote parts of the country,
meeting with strange adventures, sometimes experiencing awkward
predicaments, from which he invariably succeeded in extricating himself
and in reaching his destination in good time for publication, his
carefully-prepared notes being transcribed, not infrequently, during
“the smallest hours of the night in a swift-flying carriage and pair,”
by the light of a blazing wax-candle. In 1845, when recalling his
reporting days, he informed Forster that he “had to charge for all sorts
of breakages fifty times in a journey without question,” as the ordinary
results of the pace he was compelled to travel. He had charged his
employers for everything but a broken head, “which,” he naïvely added,
“is the only thing they would have grumbled to pay for.” One of the
foremost of these expeditions took place in 1835, when he and a
colleague, Thomas Beard, journeyed by express coach to Bristol to
report, for the _Morning Chronicle_, the political speeches in
connection with Lord John Russell’s Devon contest. He lodged at the Bush
Inn, where that “ill-starred gentleman,” Mr. Winkle, took up his
quarters when fleeing from the wrath of the infuriated Dowler, as set
forth in the thirty-eighth chapter of “Pickwick.” We are told that Mr.
Winkle found Bristol “a shade more dirty than any place he had ever
seen”; that, at the time referred to (nearly eighty years ago), the
pavements of that city were “not the widest or cleanest upon earth,” its
streets were “not altogether the straightest or least intricate,” and
their “manifold windings and twistings” greatly puzzled Mr. Winkle, who,
when exploring them, lost his way, with the result that he unexpectedly
came upon his old acquaintances, Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen, the former
occupying a newly-painted tenement (not identified), which had been
recently converted into “something between a shop and a private house,”
with the word “Surgery” inscribed above the window of what had been the
front parlour. At the Bush tavern the fugitive was discovered by Sam
Weller, who had received peremptory orders from “the governor” to follow
and keep him in sight until Mr. Pickwick arrived on the scene. The Bush
no longer exists; it stood in Corn Street, near the Guildhall, and was
taken down in 1864, the present Wiltshire Bank marking the site. It will
be remembered that it was to Clifton, on the outskirts of Bristol, where
Arabella Allen was sent by her brother (who regarded himself as “her
natural protector and guardian”) to spend a few months at an old aunt’s,
“in a nice dull place,” in order to break her to his will that she
should marry Bob Sawyer (“late Nockemorf”). Hither Sam Weller went in
quest of her, walking (as we are told) “up one street and down
another—we were going to say, up one hill and down another, only it’s
all uphill at Clifton”—and, after struggling across the Downs, “against
a good high wind,” eventually arrived at “several little villas of quiet
and secluded appearance,” at one of which he, too, met a familiar
acquaintance in “the pretty housemaid from Mrs. Nupkins’s,” who proved a
valuable guide to the whereabouts of Miss Allen. In 1866 and 1869
Dickens gave public readings at Clifton, staying on the former occasion
at the Down Hotel. The suspension bridge across the Avon is the old
Hungerford Bridge, removed in 1863, and the sight of it at the time of
his later visits to Clifton must have recalled to Dickens the troubled
period of his boyhood at the blacking factory.

The occasion of the Bristol reporting expedition in 1835 is also
memorable for the fact that it marks the date of Dickens’s first visit
to the contiguous city of Bath, which plays a still more important part
in the Transactions of the Pickwick Club. At Bath he had to prepare a
report of a political dinner given there by Lord John Russell, and to
despatch it “by Cooper Company’s Coach, leaving the Bush (Bristol) at
half-past six next morning.” It was sharp work, as Russell’s speech at
the banquet had to be transcribed by Dickens for the printers while
travelling by the mail-coach viâ Marlborough for London; this
necessitated for himself and Thomas Beard the relinquishment of sleep
and rest during two consecutive days and nights. It is fair to suppose
that on one of his early reporting expeditions to the West of England
Dickens put up for a night at the quaint little roadside inn near
Marlborough Downs, which he so carefully describes in the Bagman’s Story
in “Pickwick.”

“It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it
were, with cross-beams, with gable-topped windows projecting over the
pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps
leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a
dozen shallow ones leading up to it.” Like Tom Smart, the hero of the
story, he doubtless slept in the selfsame apartment, with its “big
closets, and a bed which might have served for a whole boarding-school,
to say nothing of a couple of oaken presses that would have held the
baggage of a small army.” Nay, he may even have experienced Tom Smart’s
strange hallucination in regard to the ancient armchair, apparently
assuming in the uncertain light of the chamber fire the outlines of a
strangely-formed specimen of humanity, although probably he did not go
so far as to enter into conversation with this remarkable bedroom
companion, as did the Bagman, whose vivid imagination, aided by the
narcotic effects of his noggins of whisky, enabled him to impart a
spiciness to his narrative. From the detailed manner in which Dickens
portrays this old-fashioned alehouse, we are justified in conjecturing
that such a place really existed during the thirties, and attempts have
been made to identify it, for we need not take for granted the statement
in “Pickwick” that the place had been pulled down. From inquiries which
I instituted on the subject, a local correspondent informs me that the
Marquis of Ailesbury’s Arms at Clatford somewhat answered to the
description prior to extensive structural alterations effected about
twenty years ago.

Another investigator considers that the inn at Beckhampton, the
Catherine Wheel, fulfils most of the requirements. With this conclusion,
however, the Rev. W. H. Davies, of Avebury, is not disposed to agree,
and the late Rev. A. C. Smith, in his “British and Roman Antiquities,”
tells us that the inn which formerly existed at Shepherd’s Shord (or
Shore) was the one referred to by Dickens, and that at the time of the
publication of “Pickwick” everybody in Wiltshire so identified it.
Another suggestion is that the original of Tom Smart’s house of call was
the Kennett Inn at Beckhampton, which, according to a drawing of the
place, answers the descriptions even better than those already
mentioned, although it stood upon the wrong side of the road. We ought,
I think, to accept the local opinion of Pickwickian days, and fix the
scene of the Bagman’s adventure at Shepherd’s Shore.[48]

Remembering what little leisure he must have had in the midst of
political turmoil and journalistic responsibilities while at Bath, it is
indeed surprising to find how truthful a presentment of that delightful
city is achieved in “Pickwick.” On the occasion in question he put up at
a small hotel, the Saracen’s Head, a quaint-looking, unpretentious
building still existing in Broad Street, its two red-tiled gables and
stuccoed front facing that thoroughfare. The landlady relates that
Dickens, owing to the fact that all the bedrooms of the house were
occupied on his arrival at a late hour, had to be accommodated with a
room over some stables or outbuildings at the farther end of the inn
yard, overlooking Walcot Street.[49] Visitors are shown a curious
two-handled mug which the novelist is believed to have used, and the
bedroom once occupied by him, and containing the old four-post bedstead
upon which he slept; while in another room, low and raftered, is to be
seen the stiff wooden armchair in which he sat!—relics that are
deservedly cherished and handed down as heirlooms.

Bath is frequently referred to in the novelist’s writings, and, judging
by a particular allusion to the historic town, it seems not to have left
a very favourable impression on his mind, for he there mentions it as
“that grass-grown city of the ancients.”[50] At a subsequent date he
remarked: “Landor’s ghost goes along the silent streets here before
me…. The place looks to me like a cemetery which the dead have
succeeded in rising and taking. Having built streets of their old
gravestones, they wander about scantly trying to ‘look alive.’ A dead
failure.”[51] He had a pleasant remembrance of Walter Savage Landor at
No. 35, St. James’s Square, upon which a tablet was fixed in 1903
recording the fact of a visit paid to him by the novelist on the
latter’s birthday, February 7, 1840, on which occasion he was
accompanied by Mrs. Dickens, Maclise, and Forster, the party remaining
there until the end of the month. We are assured by his biographer that
it was during this visit to Bath “that the fancy which was shortly to
take the form of Little Nell first occurred to its author.” The
girl-heroine of “The Old Curiosity Shop” was an immense favourite with
Landor, who in after-years emphatically declared that the one mistake of
his life was that he had not purchased the house in which the conception
of her dawned upon Dickens, and then and there burned it to the ground,
so that no meaner associations should desecrate it.

[Illustration: MILE END COTTAGE, ALPHINGTON. (_Page 94._)
Taken by Dickens in 1839 for his parents’ use. “The house is on the
high road to Plymouth, and the situation is charming” (letter to Mr.
Thomas Mitton).]

Brief as his stay in Bath undoubtedly was in the capacity of reporter
for the _Morning Chronicle_ in 1835, he, nevertheless, made excellent
use of his abnormal powers of observation in spite of professional
activities, his retentive memory enabling him to reproduce in “The
Pickwick Papers” a few months afterwards those typical scenes in the
social life of Bath of that period, which has since undergone many
changes, Mr. Pickwick being almost the last to witness the peculiarities
of Bath society as described by the novel-writers of a century or so
ago. Dickens noticed, among other topographical features, the steepness
of Park Street, which (he said) “was very much like the perpendicular
streets a man sees in a dream, which he cannot get up for the life of
him.” He remembered, too, that the White Hart Hotel (the proprietor of
which establishment was the Moses Pickwick who owned the very coach on
which Sam Weller saw inscribed “the magic name of Pickwick”) stood
“opposite the great Pump Room, where the waiters, from their costume,
might be mistaken for Westminster boys, only they destroy the illusion
by behaving themselves so much better.”[52] The White Hart flourished in
Stall Street, and until 1864 (when the house was given up) the waiters
wore knee-breeches and silk stockings, and the women servants donned
neat muslin caps. The old coaching inn, alas! no longer exists, and its
site is indicated by the Grand Pump Room Hotel, the original carved sign
of a white hart being preserved and still used over the door of an inn
of the same name in Widcombe, a suburb of Bath.

The pen-pictures of scenes at the Assembly Rooms and Pump Rooms are
admirably rendered in the pages of “Pickwick,” and we feel convinced
that the author must have witnessed them.

“Bath being full, the company and the sixpences for tea poured in in
shoals. In the ball-room, the long card-room, the octagonal card-room,
the staircases, and the passages, the hum of many voices and the sound
of many feet were perfectly bewildering. Dresses rustled, feathers
waved, lights shone, and jewels sparkled. There was the music—not of the
quadrille band, for it had not yet commenced, but the music of soft,
tiny footsteps, with now and then a clear, merry laugh, low and gentle,
but very pleasant to hear in a female voice, whether in Bath or
elsewhere. Brilliant eyes, lighted up with pleasurable expectations,
gleamed from every side; and look where you would, some exquisite form
glided gracefully through the throng, and was no sooner lost than it was
replaced by another as dainty and bewitching.

“In the tea-room, and hovering round the card-tables, were a vast number
of queer old ladies and decrepit old gentlemen, discussing all the
small-talk and scandal of the day, with a relish and gusto which
sufficiently bespoke the intensity of the pleasure they derived from the
occupation. Mingled with these groups were three or four matchmaking
mammas, appearing to be wholly absorbed by the conversation in which
they were taking part, but failing not from time to time to cast an
anxious sidelong glance upon their daughters, who, remembering the
maternal injunction to make the best of their youth, had already
commenced incipient flirtations in the mislaying of scarves, putting on
gloves, setting down cups, and so forth—slight matters apparently, but
which may be turned to surprisingly good account by expert

“Lounging near the doors, and in remote corners, were various knots of
silly young men, displaying various varieties of puppyism and stupidity,
amusing all sensible people near them with their folly and conceit, and
happily thinking themselves the objects of general admiration—a wise and
merciful dispensation which no good man will quarrel with.

“And, lastly, seated on some of the back benches, where they had already
taken up their positions for the evening, were divers unmarried ladies
past their grand climacteric, who, not dancing because there were no
partners for them, and not playing cards lest they should be set down as
irretrievably single, were in the favourable situation of being able to
abuse everybody without reflecting on themselves. In short, they could
abuse everybody, because everybody was there. It was a scene of gaiety,
glitter, and show, of richly-dressed people, handsome mirrors, chalked
floors, girandoles, and wax-candles; and in all parts of the scene,
gliding from spot to spot in silent softness, bowing obsequiously to
this party, nodding familiarly to that, and smiling complacently on all,
was the sprucely-attired person of Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esquire, Master
of the Ceremonies” (chap. xxxv.).

“The great pump-room is a spacious saloon, ornamented with Corinthian
pillars, and a music gallery, and a Tompion clock, and a statue of Nash,
and a golden inscription, to which all the water-drinkers should attend,
for it appeals to them in the cause of a deserving charity. There is a
large bar with a marble vase, out of which the pumper gets the water;
and there are a number of yellow-looking tumblers, out of which the
company gets it; and it is a most edifying and satisfactory sight to
behold the perseverance and gravity with which they swallow it. There
are baths near at hand, in which a part of the company wash themselves;
and a band plays afterwards to congratulate the remainder on their
having done so. There is another pump-room, into which infirm ladies and
gentlemen are wheeled, in such an astonishing variety of chairs and
chaises that any adventurous individual who goes in with the regular
number of toes is in imminent danger of coming out without them; and
there is a third, into which the quiet people go, for it is less noisy
than either. There is an immensity of promenading, on crutches and off,
with sticks and without, and a great deal of conversation, and
liveliness, and pleasantry…. At the afternoon’s promenade … all the
great people, and all the morning water-drinkers, meet in grand
assemblage. After this, they walked out or drove out, or were pushed out
in bath-chairs, and met one another again. After this, the gentlemen
went to the reading-rooms and met divisions of the mass. After this,
they went home. If it were theatre night, perhaps they met at the
theatre; if it were assembly night, they met at the rooms; and if it
were neither, they met the next day. A very pleasant routine, with
perhaps a slight tinge of sameness” (chap. xxxvi.).

The citizens of Bath are naturally proud of its Pickwickian
associations; Mr. Pickwick’s lodging in the Royal Crescent is pointed
out, as well as the actual spot in the Assembly Rooms where he played
whist, while the veritable rout seats of that time are preserved and
cherished. The Royal Hotel, whence Mr. Winkle hurriedly departed by
coach for Bristol, has shared the fate of the White Hart; indeed, Mr.
Snowden Ward avers that there was no Royal Hotel in Bath in Dickens’s
time, and that he probably refers to the York House Hotel, frequently
patronized by royalty, and once at least by the novelist himself. We may
still look, however, upon the “small greengrocer’s shop” where Bath
footmen used to hold their social evenings, and memorable as the scene
of the “leg-o’-mutton swarry.” It is now the Beaufort Arms, in a narrow
street out of Queen’s Square, Bath, and within a short distance of No.
12 in the Square, the residence of Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esq., Master of
the Ceremonies, who welcomed Mr. Pickwick to Ba-ath.

In the course of an interesting speech delivered in 1865 at the second
annual dinner of the Newspaper Press Fund, Dickens made an interesting
allusion to the Devonshire political contest of thirty years previously,
and to the part he took in it as a _Chronicle_ reporter. “The very last
time I was at Exeter,” he said, “I strolled into the Castle yard, there
to identify, for the amusement of a friend, the spot on which I once
‘took,’ as we used to call it, an election speech of Lord John Russell
… in the midst of a lively fight maintained by all the vagabonds in
that division of the county, and under such a pelting rain that I
remember two good-natured colleagues, who chanced to be at leisure, held
a pocket-handkerchief over my note-book, after the manner of a state
canopy in an ecclesiastical procession.” In 1839 a mission of a very
different character caused him to journey to “the capital of the West”
(as that city has been denominated), his object being to arrange a new
home for his parents in that locality. Making his headquarters at the
New London Inn (where he had Charles Kean’s sitting-room), he soon
discovered a suitable residence about a mile south from the city
boundary on the highroad to Plymouth, Mile End Cottage, which is really
divided into two portions, one-half being then occupied by the landlady,
and the other being available for the new tenants. Dickens, when writing
to Forster, described the place as “two white cottages,” and respecting
the accommodation here provided for his parents, he said: “I almost
forget the number of rooms, but there is an excellent parlour, which I
am furnishing as a drawing-room, and there is a splendid garden.” In a
letter to his friend Thomas Mitton he dilates more fully upon the
attractions of the cottage and its environment. “I do assure you,” he
observed, “that I am charmed with the place and the beauty of the
country round about, though I have not seen it under very favourable
circumstances…. It is really delightful, and when the house is to
rights and the furniture all in, I shall be quite sorry to leave it….
The situation is charming; meadows in front, an orchard running parallel
to the garden hedge, richly-wooded hills closing in the prospect behind,
and, away to the left, before a splendid view of the hill on which
Exeter is situated, the cathedral towers rising up into the sky in the
most picturesque manner possible. I don’t think I ever saw so cheerful
and pleasant a spot….”[53] It will be remembered that “Nicholas
Nickleby” opens with a reference to “a sequestered part of the county of
Devonshire” (_sic_), where lived one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby, the
grandfather of the hero of the story; and there is no doubt that the
home of Mrs. Nickleby’s friends, the Dibabses, as pictured by that lady
in the fifty-fifth chapter, was identical with the tenement in which Mr.
and Mrs. John Dickens found a temporary lodgment—“the beautiful little
thatched white house one story high, covered all over with ivy and
creeping plants, with an exquisite little porch with twining
honeysuckle, and all sorts of things.”

Charles Dickens’s return to England at the end of his triumphant
progress through the United States in 1842 was the occasion for a
special celebration, which assumed the form of a holiday trip in
Cornwall with his cherished friends Stanfield, Maclise, and Forster.
They chose Cornwall for the excursion because it transpired that this
“desolate region,” as Dickens termed it, was unfamiliar to them, and
would therefore enhance their enjoyment. The decision to make Cornwall
their destination suggested to Dickens the idea of opening his new book,
“Martin Chuzzlewit,” on that rugged coast, “in some terrible dreary,
iron-bound spot,” and to select the lantern of a lighthouse (probably
the Longship’s, off Land’s End) as the opening scene; but he changed his
mind. This expedition in the late summer lasted nearly three weeks, it
proving a source of such unexpected and unabated attraction that the
merry party felt loath to return to town. Railways were not of much use
to them, as they did not penetrate to the remote districts which the
travellers desired to visit. Post-horses were therefore requisitioned,
and when the roads proved inaccessible to these, pedestrianism was
perforce resorted to. They visited Tintagel, and explored every part of
mountain and sea “consecrated by the legends of Arthur.” They ascended
to the cradle of the highest pinnacle of Mount St. Michael,[54] and
descended in several mines; but above all the marvels of land and sea,
that which yielded the most lasting impression was a sunset at Land’s
End, concerning which Forster says: “There was something in the sinking
of the sun behind the Atlantic that autumn afternoon, as we viewed it
together from the top of the rock projecting farthest into the sea,
which each in his turn declared to have no parallel in memory.” The
famous Logan Stone, too, was not forgotten. Writing subsequently to
Forster, the novelist said: “Don’t I still see the Logan Stone, and you
perched on the giddy top, while we, rocking it on its pivot, shrank from
all that lay concealed below!” For Forster possessed the necessary
courage and agility (lacking in the rest) to mount the huge swaying
stone, the feat being immortalized by Stanfield in a sketch bequeathed
to the Victoria and Albert Museum.[55] Lastly, the waterfall at St.
Wighton was visited, memorable for the fact that a painting of it (from
a sketch made on this occasion) appears as the background to Maclise’s
picture of “A Girl at a Waterfall,” the figure being depicted from a
sister-in-law of Dickens. The novelist, while the glow of enjoyment was
yet upon him, could not resist dilating upon the exhilarating effect
induced by this glorious holiday in the midst of natural scenery, then
witnessed by the joyous quartette for the first time; and the following
letter, addressed to his American friend, Professor Felton, fittingly
concludes these references to the event which he ever recalled with
delight: “Blessed star of the morning, such a trip as we had into
Cornwall, just after Longfellow went away!… We went down into
Devonshire by the railroad, and there we hired an open carriage from an
innkeeper, patriotic in all Pickwick matters, and went on with
post-horses. Sometimes we travelled all night, sometimes all day,
sometimes both. I kept the joint-stock purse, ordered all the dinners,
paid all the turnpikes, conducted facetious conversations with the
post-boys, and regulated the pace at which we travelled. Stanfield (an
old sailor) consulted an enormous map on all disputed points of
wayfaring, and referred, moreover, to a pocket-compass and other
scientific instruments. The luggage was in Forster’s department, and
Maclise, having nothing particular to do, sang songs. Heavens! if you
could have seen the necks of bottles—distracting in their immense
varieties of shape—peering out of the carriage pockets! If you could
have witnessed the deep devotion of the post-boys, the wild attachment
of the hostlers, the maniac glee of the waiters! If you could have
followed us into the earthy old churches we visited, and into the
strange caverns on the gloomy seashore, and down into the depths of
mines, and up to the tops of giddy heights, where the unspeakably green
water was roaring I don’t know how many hundred feet below! If you could
have seen but one gleam of the bright fires by which we sat in the big
rooms of ancient inns at night until long after the small hours had come
and gone, or smelt but one steam of the hot punch,… which came in
every evening in a huge, broad, china bowl! I never laughed in my life
as I did on this journey. It would have done you good to hear me. I was
choking and gasping and bursting the buckle off the back of my stock all
the way, and Stanfield … got into such apoplectic entanglements that
we were often obliged to beat him on the back with portmanteaus before
we could recover him. Seriously, I do believe that there never was such
a trip. And they made such sketches, those two men, in the most romantic
of our halting-places, that you could have sworn we had the Spirit of
Beauty with us, as well as the Spirit of Fun….”[56]

[Illustration: THE GEORGE INN, AMESBURY. (_Page 100._)
“The Blue Dragon” of “Martin Chuzzlewit.”]

Dickens, as already intimated, originally conceived the idea of opening
the tale of “Martin Chuzzlewit” on the coast of Cornwall. Instead of
this, however, we find, in the initial chapter of that story, that the
scene is laid in a village near Salisbury. That he had previously made
himself acquainted with Wiltshire is indicated in his correspondence
with Forster in 1842, where he declared (for instance) that in beholding
an American prairie for the first time he felt no such emotions as he
experienced when crossing Salisbury Plain. “I would say to every man who
can’t see a prairie,” he remarked, “go to Salisbury Plain, Marlborough
Downs, or any of the broad, high, open lands near the sea. Many of them
are fully as impressive, and Salisbury Plain is _decidedly_ more so.”

Six years later he and Forster, with John Leech and Mark Lemon, procured
horses at Salisbury, and “passed the whole of a March day in riding over
every part of the plain, visiting Stonehenge, and exploring Hazlitt’s
hut at Winterslow, the birthplace of some of his finest essays.”[57]

There are persons still living in the neighbourhood of Salisbury who
remember Dickens’s quest for local colour with which to give a semblance
of reality to his topographical descriptions in “Chuzzlewit.” “The fair
old town of Salisbury” figures prominently in that story, and we must
believe that his allusion (in the fifth chapter) to the grand cathedral
derived inspiration from personal observation: “The yellow light that
streamed in through the ancient windows in the choir was mingled with a
murky red. As the grand tones (of the organ) resounded through the
church, they seemed to Tom to find an echo in the depth of every ancient
tomb, no less than in the deep mystery of his own heart.” He makes a
curious mistake in the twelfth chapter when speaking of the “towers” of
the old cathedral; but, of course, he knew perfectly well that the
venerable fane is surmounted by a beautifully tapering spire,
immortalized in one of Constable’s most remarkable pictures. The scene
in Salisbury Market, so vividly portrayed in chapter v., could not have
been penned except by an acute observer like Dickens; nothing escaped
him, and he noted all the details of that busy scene, and stored them in
his retentive memory in readiness for the pen-picture which he
afterwards delineated so faithfully and so picturesquely.

The “little Wiltshire village,” described as being within an easy
journey of Salisbury, has not been absolutely identified. Certain
commentators opine that Amesbury is intended, while others consider it
more probable that the novelist had in his mind the village of
Alderbury, and that its principal inn, the Green Dragon, was the
original of Mrs. Lupin’s establishment, concerning which that
unprincipled adventurer, Montague Tigg, spoke with undisguised
disparagement and contempt.