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The Uncommercial Traveller by Charles Dickens

Part 3 out of 8

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corners of the four streets commanded by my window; and bad London
dogs came up, and told him lies that he didn't believe; and worse
London dogs came up, and made proposals to him to go and steal in
the market, which his principles rejected; and the ways of the town
confused him, and he crept aside and lay down in a doorway. He had
scarcely got a wink of sleep, when up comes Punch with Toby. He
was darting to Toby for consolation and advice, when he saw the
frill, and stopped, in the middle of the street, appalled. The
show was pitched, Toby retired behind the drapery, the audience
formed, the drum and pipes struck up. My country dog remained
immovable, intently staring at these strange appearances, until
Toby opened the drama by appearing on his ledge, and to him entered
Punch, who put a tobacco-pipe into Toby's mouth. At this
spectacle, the country dog threw up his head, gave one terrible
howl, and fled due west.

We talk of men keeping dogs, but we might often talk more
expressively of dogs keeping men. I know a bull-dog in a shy
corner of Hammersmith who keeps a man. He keeps him up a yard, and
makes him go to public-houses and lay wagers on him, and obliges
him to lean against posts and look at him, and forces him to
neglect work for him, and keeps him under rigid coercion. I once
knew a fancy terrier who kept a gentleman--a gentleman who had been
brought up at Oxford, too. The dog kept the gentleman entirely for
his glorification, and the gentleman never talked about anything
but the terrier. This, however, was not in a shy neighbourhood,
and is a digression consequently.

There are a great many dogs in shy neighbourhoods, who keep boys.
I have my eye on a mongrel in Somerstown who keeps three boys. He
feigns that he can bring down sparrows, and unburrow rats (he can
do neither), and he takes the boys out on sporting pretences into
all sorts of suburban fields. He has likewise made them believe
that he possesses some mysterious knowledge of the art of fishing,
and they consider themselves incompletely equipped for the
Hampstead ponds, with a pickle-jar and wide-mouthed bottle, unless
he is with them and barking tremendously. There is a dog residing
in the Borough of Southwark who keeps a blind man. He may be seen,
most days, in Oxford-street, haling the blind man away on
expeditions wholly uncontemplated by, and unintelligible to, the
man: wholly of the dog's conception and execution. Contrariwise,
when the man has projects, the dog will sit down in a crowded
thoroughfare and meditate. I saw him yesterday, wearing the money-
tray like an easy collar, instead of offering it to the public,
taking the man against his will, on the invitation of a
disreputable cur, apparently to visit a dog at Harrow--he was so
intent on that direction. The north wall of Burlington House
Gardens, between the Arcade and the Albany, offers a shy spot for
appointments among blind men at about two or three o'clock in the
afternoon. They sit (very uncomfortably) on a sloping stone there,
and compare notes. Their dogs may always be observed at the same
time, openly disparaging the men they keep, to one another, and
settling where they shall respectively take their men when they
begin to move again. At a small butcher's, in a shy neighbourhood
(there is no reason for suppressing the name; it is by Notting-
hill, and gives upon the district called the Potteries), I know a
shaggy black and white dog who keeps a drover. He is a dog of an
easy disposition, and too frequently allows this drover to get
drunk. On these occasions, it is the dog's custom to sit outside
the public-house, keeping his eye on a few sheep, and thinking. I
have seen him with six sheep, plainly casting up in his mind how
many he began with when he left the market, and at what places he
has left the rest. I have seen him perplexed by not being able to
account to himself for certain particular sheep. A light has
gradually broken on him, he has remembered at what butcher's he
left them, and in a burst of grave satisfaction has caught a fly
off his nose, and shown himself much relieved. If I could at any
time have doubted the fact that it was he who kept the drover, and
not the drover who kept him, it would have been abundantly proved
by his way of taking undivided charge of the six sheep, when the
drover came out besmeared with red ochre and beer, and gave him
wrong directions, which he calmly disregarded. He has taken the
sheep entirely into his own hands, has merely remarked with
respectful firmness, 'That instruction would place them under an
omnibus; you had better confine your attention to yourself--you
will want it all;' and has driven his charge away, with an
intelligence of ears and tail, and a knowledge of business, that
has left his lout of a man very, very far behind.

As the dogs of shy neighbourhoods usually betray a slinking
consciousness of being in poor circumstances--for the most part
manifested in an aspect of anxiety, an awkwardness in their play,
and a misgiving that somebody is going to harness them to
something, to pick up a living--so the cats of shy neighbourhoods
exhibit a strong tendency to relapse into barbarism. Not only are
they made selfishly ferocious by ruminating on the surplus
population around them, and on the densely crowded state of all the
avenues to cat's meat; not only is there a moral and politico-
economical haggardness in them, traceable to these reflections; but
they evince a physical deterioration. Their linen is not clean,
and is wretchedly got up; their black turns rusty, like old
mourning; they wear very indifferent fur; and take to the shabbiest
cotton velvet, instead of silk velvet. I am on terms of
recognition with several small streets of cats, about the Obelisk
in Saint George's Fields, and also in the vicinity of Clerkenwell-
green, and also in the back settlements of Drury-lane. In
appearance, they are very like the women among whom they live.
They seem to turn out of their unwholesome beds into the street,
without any preparation. They leave their young families to
stagger about the gutters, unassisted, while they frouzily quarrel
and swear and scratch and spit, at street corners. In particular,
I remark that when they are about to increase their families (an
event of frequent recurrence) the resemblance is strongly expressed
in a certain dusty dowdiness, down-at-heel self-neglect, and
general giving up of things. I cannot honestly report that I have
ever seen a feline matron of this class washing her face when in an
interesting condition.

Not to prolong these notes of uncommercial travel among the lower
animals of shy neighbourhoods, by dwelling at length upon the
exasperated moodiness of the tom-cats, and their resemblance in
many respects to a man and a brother, I will come to a close with a
word on the fowls of the same localities.

That anything born of an egg and invested with wings, should have
got to the pass that it hops contentedly down a ladder into a
cellar, and calls THAT going home, is a circumstance so amazing as
to leave one nothing more in this connexion to wonder at.
Otherwise I might wonder at the completeness with which these fowls
have become separated from all the birds of the air--have taken to
grovelling in bricks and mortar and mud--have forgotten all about
live trees, and make roosting-places of shop-boards, barrows,
oyster-tubs, bulk-heads, and door-scrapers. I wonder at nothing
concerning them, and take them as they are. I accept as products
of Nature and things of course, a reduced Bantam family of my
acquaintance in the Hackney-road, who are incessantly at the
pawnbroker's. I cannot say that they enjoy themselves, for they
are of a melancholy temperament; but what enjoyment they are
capable of, they derive from crowding together in the pawnbroker's
side-entry. Here, they are always to be found in a feeble flutter,
as if they were newly come down in the world, and were afraid of
being identified. I know a low fellow, originally of a good family
from Dorking, who takes his whole establishment of wives, in single
file, in at the door of the jug Department of a disorderly tavern
near the Haymarket, manoeuvres them among the company's legs,
emerges with them at the Bottle Entrance, and so passes his life:
seldom, in the season, going to bed before two in the morning.
Over Waterloo-bridge, there is a shabby old speckled couple (they
belong to the wooden French-bedstead, washing-stand, and towel-
horse-making trade), who are always trying to get in at the door of
a chapel. Whether the old lady, under a delusion reminding one of
Mrs. Southcott, has an idea of entrusting an egg to that particular
denomination, or merely understands that she has no business in the
building and is consequently frantic to enter it, I cannot
determine; but she is constantly endeavouring to undermine the
principal door: while her partner, who is infirm upon his legs,
walks up and down, encouraging her and defying the Universe. But,
the family I have been best acquainted with, since the removal from
this trying sphere of a Chinese circle at Brentford, reside in the
densest part of Bethnal-green. Their abstraction from the objects
among which they live, or rather their conviction that those
objects have all come into existence in express subservience to
fowls, has so enchanted me, that I have made them the subject of
many journeys at divers hours. After careful observation of the
two lords and the ten ladies of whom this family consists, I have
come to the conclusion that their opinions are represented by the
leading lord and leading lady: the latter, as I judge, an aged
personage, afflicted with a paucity of feather and visibility of
quill, that gives her the appearance of a bundle of office pens.
When a railway goods van that would crush an elephant comes round
the corner, tearing over these fowls, they emerge unharmed from
under the horses, perfectly satisfied that the whole rush was a
passing property in the air, which may have left something to eat
behind it. They look upon old shoes, wrecks of kettles and
saucepans, and fragments of bonnets, as a kind of meteoric
discharge, for fowls to peck at. Peg-tops and hoops they account,
I think, as a sort of hail; shuttlecocks, as rain, or dew.
Gaslight comes quite as natural to them as any other light; and I
have more than a suspicion that, in the minds of the two lords, the
early public-house at the corner has superseded the sun. I have
established it as a certain fact, that they always begin to crow
when the public-house shutters begin to be taken down, and that
they salute the potboy, the instant he appears to perform that
duty, as if he were Phoebus in person.


The chance use of the word 'Tramp' in my last paper, brought that
numerous fraternity so vividly before my mind's eye, that I had no
sooner laid down my pen than a compulsion was upon me to take it up
again, and make notes of the Tramps whom I perceived on all the
summer roads in all directions.

Whenever a tramp sits down to rest by the wayside, he sits with his
legs in a dry ditch; and whenever he goes to sleep (which is very
often indeed), he goes to sleep on his back. Yonder, by the high
road, glaring white in the bright sunshine, lies, on the dusty bit
of turf under the bramble-bush that fences the coppice from the
highway, the tramp of the order savage, fast asleep. He lies on
the broad of his back, with his face turned up to the sky, and one
of his ragged arms loosely thrown across his face. His bundle
(what can be the contents of that mysterious bundle, to make it
worth his while to carry it about?) is thrown down beside him, and
the waking woman with him sits with her legs in the ditch, and her
back to the road. She wears her bonnet rakishly perched on the
front of her head, to shade her face from the sun in walking, and
she ties her skirts round her in conventionally tight tramp-fashion
with a sort of apron. You can seldom catch sight of her, resting
thus, without seeing her in a despondently defiant manner doing
something to her hair or her bonnet, and glancing at you between
her fingers. She does not often go to sleep herself in the
daytime, but will sit for any length of time beside the man. And
his slumberous propensities would not seem to be referable to the
fatigue of carrying the bundle, for she carries it much oftener and
further than he. When they are afoot, you will mostly find him
slouching on ahead, in a gruff temper, while she lags heavily
behind with the burden. He is given to personally correcting her,
too--which phase of his character develops itself oftenest, on
benches outside alehouse doors--and she appears to become strongly
attached to him for these reasons; it may usually be noticed that
when the poor creature has a bruised face, she is the most
affectionate. He has no occupation whatever, this order of tramp,
and has no object whatever in going anywhere. He will sometimes
call himself a brickmaker, or a sawyer, but only when he takes an
imaginary flight. He generally represents himself, in a vague way,
as looking out for a job of work; but he never did work, he never
does, and he never will. It is a favourite fiction with him,
however (as if he were the most industrious character on earth),
that YOU never work; and as he goes past your garden and sees you
looking at your flowers, you will overhear him growl with a strong
sense of contrast, 'YOU are a lucky hidle devil, YOU are!'

The slinking tramp is of the same hopeless order, and has the same
injured conviction on him that you were born to whatever you
possess, and never did anything to get it: but he is of a less
audacious disposition. He will stop before your gate, and say to
his female companion with an air of constitutional humility and
propitiation--to edify any one who may be within hearing behind a
blind or a bush--'This is a sweet spot, ain't it? A lovelly spot!
And I wonder if they'd give two poor footsore travellers like me
and you, a drop of fresh water out of such a pretty gen-teel crib?
We'd take it wery koind on 'em, wouldn't us? Wery koind, upon my
word, us would?' He has a quick sense of a dog in the vicinity,
and will extend his modestly-injured propitiation to the dog
chained up in your yard; remarking, as he slinks at the yard gate,
'Ah! You are a foine breed o' dog, too, and YOU ain't kep for
nothink! I'd take it wery koind o' your master if he'd elp a
traveller and his woife as envies no gentlefolk their good fortun,
wi' a bit o' your broken wittles. He'd never know the want of it,
nor more would you. Don't bark like that, at poor persons as never
done you no arm; the poor is down-trodden and broke enough without
that; O DON'T!' He generally heaves a prodigious sigh in moving
away, and always looks up the lane and down the lane, and up the
road and down the road, before going on.

Both of these orders of tramp are of a very robust habit; let the
hard-working labourer at whose cottage-door they prowl and beg,
have the ague never so badly, these tramps are sure to be in good

There is another kind of tramp, whom you encounter this bright
summer day--say, on a road with the sea-breeze making its dust
lively, and sails of ships in the blue distance beyond the slope of
Down. As you walk enjoyingly on, you descry in the perspective at
the bottom of a steep hill up which your way lies, a figure that
appears to be sitting airily on a gate, whistling in a cheerful and
disengaged manner. As you approach nearer to it, you observe the
figure to slide down from the gate, to desist from whistling, to
uncock its hat, to become tender of foot, to depress its head and
elevate its shoulders, and to present all the characteristics of
profound despondency. Arriving at the bottom of the hill and
coming close to the figure, you observe it to be the figure of a
shabby young man. He is moving painfully forward, in the direction
in which you are going, and his mind is so preoccupied with his
misfortunes that he is not aware of your approach until you are
close upon him at the hill-foot. When he is aware of you, you
discover him to be a remarkably well-behaved young man, and a
remarkably well-spoken young man. You know him to be well-behaved,
by his respectful manner of touching his hat: you know him to be
well-spoken, by his smooth manner of expressing himself. He says
in a flowing confidential voice, and without punctuation, 'I ask
your pardon sir but if you would excuse the liberty of being so
addressed upon the public Iway by one who is almost reduced to rags
though it as not always been so and by no fault of his own but
through ill elth in his family and many unmerited sufferings it
would be a great obligation sir to know the time.' You give the
well-spoken young man the time. The well-spoken young man, keeping
well up with you, resumes: 'I am aware sir that it is a liberty to
intrude a further question on a gentleman walking for his
entertainment but might I make so bold as ask the favour of the way
to Dover sir and about the distance?' You inform the well-spoken
young man that the way to Dover is straight on, and the distance
some eighteen miles. The well-spoken young man becomes greatly
agitated. 'In the condition to which I am reduced,' says he, 'I
could not ope to reach Dover before dark even if my shoes were in a
state to take me there or my feet were in a state to old out over
the flinty road and were not on the bare ground of which any
gentleman has the means to satisfy himself by looking Sir may I
take the liberty of speaking to you?' As the well-spoken young man
keeps so well up with you that you can't prevent his taking the
liberty of speaking to you, he goes on, with fluency: 'Sir it is
not begging that is my intention for I was brought up by the best
of mothers and begging is not my trade I should not know sir how to
follow it as a trade if such were my shameful wishes for the best
of mothers long taught otherwise and in the best of omes though now
reduced to take the present liberty on the Iway Sir my business was
the law-stationering and I was favourably known to the Solicitor-
General the Attorney-General the majority of the judges and the ole
of the legal profession but through ill elth in my family and the
treachery of a friend for whom I became security and he no other
than my own wife's brother the brother of my own wife I was cast
forth with my tender partner and three young children not to beg
for I will sooner die of deprivation but to make my way to the sea-
port town of Dover where I have a relative i in respect not only
that will assist me but that would trust me with untold gold Sir in
appier times and hare this calamity fell upon me I made for my
amusement when I little thought that I should ever need it
excepting for my air this'--here the well-spoken young man put his
hand into his breast--'this comb! Sir I implore you in the name of
charity to purchase a tortoiseshell comb which is a genuine article
at any price that your humanity may put upon it and may the
blessings of a ouseless family awaiting with beating arts the
return of a husband and a father from Dover upon the cold stone
seats of London-bridge ever attend you Sir may I take the liberty
of speaking to you I implore you to buy this comb!' By this time,
being a reasonably good walker, you will have been too much for the
well-spoken young man, who will stop short and express his disgust
and his want of breath, in a long expectoration, as you leave him

Towards the end of the same walk, on the same bright summer day, at
the corner of the next little town or village, you may find another
kind of tramp, embodied in the persons of a most exemplary couple
whose only improvidence appears to have been, that they spent the
last of their little All on soap. They are a man and woman,
spotless to behold--John Anderson, with the frost on his short
smock-frock instead of his 'pow,' attended by Mrs. Anderson. John
is over-ostentatious of the frost upon his raiment, and wears a
curious and, you would say, an almost unnecessary demonstration of
girdle of white linen wound about his waist--a girdle, snowy as
Mrs. Anderson's apron. This cleanliness was the expiring effort of
the respectable couple, and nothing then remained to Mr. Anderson
but to get chalked upon his spade in snow-white copy-book
characters, HUNGRY! and to sit down here. Yes; one thing more
remained to Mr. Anderson--his character; Monarchs could not deprive
him of his hard-earned character. Accordingly, as you come up with
this spectacle of virtue in distress, Mrs. Anderson rises, and with
a decent curtsey presents for your consideration a certificate from
a Doctor of Divinity, the reverend the Vicar of Upper Dodgington,
who informs his Christian friends and all whom it may concern that
the bearers, John Anderson and lawful wife, are persons to whom you
cannot be too liberal. This benevolent pastor omitted no work of
his hands to fit the good couple out, for with half an eye you can
recognise his autograph on the spade.

Another class of tramp is a man, the most valuable part of whose
stock-in-trade is a highly perplexed demeanour. He is got up like
a countryman, and you will often come upon the poor fellow, while
he is endeavouring to decipher the inscription on a milestone--
quite a fruitless endeavour, for he cannot read. He asks your
pardon, he truly does (he is very slow of speech, this tramp, and
he looks in a bewildered way all round the prospect while he talks
to you), but all of us shold do as we wold be done by, and he'll
take it kind, if you'll put a power man in the right road fur to
jine his eldest son as has broke his leg bad in the masoning, and
is in this heere Orspit'l as is wrote down by Squire Pouncerby's
own hand as wold not tell a lie fur no man. He then produces from
under his dark frock (being always very slow and perplexed) a neat
but worn old leathern purse, from which he takes a scrap of paper.
On this scrap of paper is written, by Squire Pouncerby, of The
Grove, 'Please to direct the Bearer, a poor but very worthy man, to
the Sussex County Hospital, near Brighton'--a matter of some
difficulty at the moment, seeing that the request comes suddenly
upon you in the depths of Hertfordshire. The more you endeavour to
indicate where Brighton is--when you have with the greatest
difficulty remembered--the less the devoted father can be made to
comprehend, and the more obtusely he stares at the prospect;
whereby, being reduced to extremity, you recommend the faithful
parent to begin by going to St. Albans, and present him with half-
a-crown. It does him good, no doubt, but scarcely helps him
forward, since you find him lying drunk that same evening in the
wheelwright's sawpit under the shed where the felled trees are,
opposite the sign of the Three Jolly Hedgers.

But, the most vicious, by far, of all the idle tramps, is the tramp
who pretends to have been a gentleman. 'Educated,' he writes, from
the village beer-shop in pale ink of a ferruginous complexion;
'educated at Trin. Coll. Cam.--nursed in the lap of affluence--once
in my small way the pattron of the Muses,' &c. &c. &c.--surely a
sympathetic mind will not withhold a trifle, to help him on to the
market-town where he thinks of giving a Lecture to the fruges
consumere nati, on things in general? This shameful creature
lolling about hedge tap-rooms in his ragged clothes, now so far
from being black that they look as if they never can have been
black, is more selfish and insolent than even the savage tramp. He
would sponge on the poorest boy for a farthing, and spurn him when
he had got it; he would interpose (if he could get anything by it)
between the baby and the mother's breast. So much lower than the
company he keeps, for his maudlin assumption of being higher, this
pitiless rascal blights the summer road as he maunders on between
the luxuriant hedges; where (to my thinking) even the wild
convolvulus and rose and sweet-briar, are the worse for his going
by, and need time to recover from the taint of him in the air.

The young fellows who trudge along barefoot, five or six together,
their boots slung over their shoulders, their shabby bundles under
their arms, their sticks newly cut from some roadside wood, are not
eminently prepossessing, but are much less objectionable. There is
a tramp-fellowship among them. They pick one another up at resting
stations, and go on in companies. They always go at a fast swing--
though they generally limp too--and there is invariably one of the
company who has much ado to keep up with the rest. They generally
talk about horses, and any other means of locomotion than walking:
or, one of the company relates some recent experiences of the road-
-which are always disputes and difficulties. As for example. 'So
as I'm a standing at the pump in the market, blest if there don't
come up a Beadle, and he ses, "Mustn't stand here," he ses. "Why
not?" I ses. "No beggars allowed in this town," he ses. "Who's a
beggar?" I ses. "You are," he ses. "Who ever see ME beg? Did
YOU?" I ses. "Then you're a tramp," he ses. "I'd rather be that
than a Beadle," I ses.' (The company express great approval.)
'"Would you?" he ses to me. "Yes, I would," I ses to him. "Well,"
he ses, "anyhow, get out of this town." "Why, blow your little
town!" I ses, "who wants to be in it? Wot does your dirty little
town mean by comin' and stickin' itself in the road to anywhere?
Why don't you get a shovel and a barrer, and clear your town out o'
people's way?"' (The company expressing the highest approval and
laughing aloud, they all go down the hill.)

Then, there are the tramp handicraft men. Are they not all over
England, in this Midsummer time? Where does the lark sing, the
corn grow, the mill turn, the river run, and they are not among the
lights and shadows, tinkering, chair-mending, umbrella-mending,
clock-mending, knife-grinding? Surely, a pleasant thing, if we
were in that condition of life, to grind our way through Kent,
Sussex, and Surrey. For the worst six weeks or so, we should see
the sparks we ground off, fiery bright against a background of
green wheat and green leaves. A little later, and the ripe harvest
would pale our sparks from red to yellow, until we got the dark
newly-turned land for a background again, and they were red once
more. By that time, we should have ground our way to the sea
cliffs, and the whirr of our wheel would be lost in the breaking of
the waves. Our next variety in sparks would be derived from
contrast with the gorgeous medley of colours in the autumn woods,
and, by the time we had ground our way round to the heathy lands
between Reigate and Croydon, doing a prosperous stroke of business
all along, we should show like a little firework in the light
frosty air, and be the next best thing to the blacksmith's forge.
Very agreeable, too, to go on a chair-mending tour. What judges we
should be of rushes, and how knowingly (with a sheaf and a
bottomless chair at our back) we should lounge on bridges, looking
over at osier-beds! Among all the innumerable occupations that
cannot possibly be transacted without the assistance of lookers-on,
chair-mending may take a station in the first rank. When we sat
down with our backs against the barn or the public-house, and began
to mend, what a sense of popularity would grow upon us! When all
the children came to look at us, and the tailor, and the general
dealer, and the farmer who had been giving a small order at the
little saddler's, and the groom from the great house, and the
publican, and even the two skittle-players (and here note that,
howsoever busy all the rest of village human-kind may be, there
will always be two people with leisure to play at skittles,
wherever village skittles are), what encouragement would be on us
to plait and weave! No one looks at us while we plait and weave
these words. Clock-mending again. Except for the slight
inconvenience of carrying a clock under our arm, and the monotony
of making the bell go, whenever we came to a human habitation, what
a pleasant privilege to give a voice to the dumb cottage-clock, and
set it talking to the cottage family again! Likewise we foresee
great interest in going round by the park plantations, under the
overhanging boughs (hares, rabbits, partridges, and pheasants,
scudding like mad across and across the chequered ground before
us), and so over the park ladder, and through the wood, until we
came to the Keeper's lodge. Then, would, the Keeper be
discoverable at his door, in a deep nest of leaves, smoking his
pipe. Then, on our accosting him in the way of our trade, would he
call to Mrs. Keeper, respecting 't'ould clock' in the kitchen.
Then, would Mrs. Keeper ask us into the lodge, and on due
examination we should offer to make a good job of it for
eighteenpence; which offer, being accepted, would set us tinkling
and clinking among the chubby, awe-struck little Keepers for an
hour and more. So completely to the family's satisfaction would we
achieve our work, that the Keeper would mention how that there was
something wrong with the bell of the turret stable-clock up at the
Hall, and that if we thought good of going up to the housekeeper on
the chance of that job too, why he would take us. Then, should we
go, among the branching oaks and the deep fern, by silent ways of
mystery known to the Keeper, seeing the herd glancing here and
there as we went along, until we came to the old Hall, solemn and
grand. Under the Terrace Flower Garden, and round by the stables,
would the Keeper take us in, and as we passed we should observe how
spacious and stately the stables, and how fine the painting of the
horses' names over their stalls, and how solitary all: the family
being in London. Then, should we find ourselves presented to the
housekeeper, sitting, in hushed state, at needlework, in a bay-
window looking out upon a mighty grim red-brick quadrangle, guarded
by stone lions disrespectfully throwing somersaults over the
escutcheons of the noble family. Then, our services accepted and
we insinuated with a candle into the stable-turret, we should find
it to be a mere question of pendulum, but one that would hold us
until dark. Then, should we fall to work, with a general
impression of Ghosts being about, and of pictures indoors that of a
certainty came out of their frames and 'walked,' if the family
would only own it. Then, should we work and work, until the day
gradually turned to dusk, and even until the dusk gradually turned
to dark. Our task at length accomplished, we should be taken into
an enormous servants' hall, and there regaled with beef and bread,
and powerful ale. Then, paid freely, we should be at liberty to
go, and should be told by a pointing helper to keep round over
yinder by the blasted ash, and so straight through the woods, till
we should see the town-lights right afore us. Then, feeling
lonesome, should we desire upon the whole, that the ash had not
been blasted, or that the helper had had the manners not to mention
it. However, we should keep on, all right, till suddenly the
stable bell would strike ten in the dolefullest way, quite chilling
our blood, though we had so lately taught him how to acquit
himself. Then, as we went on, should we recall old stories, and
dimly consider what it would be most advisable to do, in the event
of a tall figure, all in white, with saucer eyes, coming up and
saying, 'I want you to come to a churchyard and mend a church
clock. Follow me!' Then, should we make a burst to get clear of
the trees, and should soon find ourselves in the open, with the
town-lights bright ahead of us. So should we lie that night at the
ancient sign of the Crispin and Crispanus, and rise early next
morning to be betimes on tramp again.

Bricklayers often tramp, in twos and threes, lying by night at
their 'lodges,' which are scattered all over the country.
Bricklaying is another of the occupations that can by no means be
transacted in rural parts, without the assistance of spectators--of
as many as can be convened. In thinly-peopled spots, I have known
brick-layers on tramp, coming up with bricklayers at work, to be so
sensible of the indispensability of lookers-on, that they
themselves have sat up in that capacity, and have been unable to
subside into the acceptance of a proffered share in the job, for
two or three days together. Sometimes, the 'navvy,' on tramp, with
an extra pair of half-boots over his shoulder, a bag, a bottle, and
a can, will take a similar part in a job of excavation, and will
look at it without engaging in it, until all his money is gone.
The current of my uncommercial pursuits caused me only last summer
to want a little body of workmen for a certain spell of work in a
pleasant part of the country; and I was at one time honoured with
the attendance of as many as seven-and-twenty, who were looking at

Who can be familiar with any rustic highway in summer-time, without
storing up knowledge of the many tramps who go from one oasis of
town or village to another, to sell a stock in trade, apparently
not worth a shilling when sold? Shrimps are a favourite commodity
for this kind of speculation, and so are cakes of a soft and spongy
character, coupled with Spanish nuts and brandy balls. The stock
is carried on the head in a basket, and, between the head and the
basket, are the trestles on which the stock is displayed at trading
times. Fleet of foot, but a careworn class of tramp this, mostly;
with a certain stiffness of neck, occasioned by much anxious
balancing of baskets; and also with a long, Chinese sort of eye,
which an overweighted forehead would seem to have squeezed into
that form.

On the hot dusty roads near seaport towns and great rivers, behold
the tramping Soldier. And if you should happen never to have asked
yourself whether his uniform is suited to his work, perhaps the
poor fellow's appearance as he comes distressfully towards you,
with his absurdly tight jacket unbuttoned, his neck-gear in his
hand, and his legs well chafed by his trousers of baize, may
suggest the personal inquiry, how you think YOU would like it.
Much better the tramping Sailor, although his cloth is somewhat too
thick for land service. But, why the tramping merchant-mate should
put on a black velvet waistcoat, for a chalky country in the dog-
days, is one of the great secrets of nature that will never be

I have my eye upon a piece of Kentish road, bordered on either side
by a wood, and having on one hand, between the road-dust and the
trees, a skirting patch of grass. Wild flowers grow in abundance
on this spot, and it lies high and airy, with a distant river
stealing steadily away to the ocean, like a man's life. To gain
the milestone here, which the moss, primroses, violets, blue-bells,
and wild roses, would soon render illegible but for peering
travellers pushing them aside with their sticks, you must come up a
steep hill, come which way you may. So, all the tramps with carts
or caravans--the Gipsy-tramp, the Show-tramp, the Cheap Jack--find
it impossible to resist the temptations of the place, and all turn
the horse loose when they come to it, and boil the pot. Bless the
place, I love the ashes of the vagabond fires that have scorched
its grass! What tramp children do I see here, attired in a handful
of rags, making a gymnasium of the shafts of the cart, making a
feather-bed of the flints and brambles, making a toy of the hobbled
old horse who is not much more like a horse than any cheap toy
would be! Here, do I encounter the cart of mats and brooms and
baskets--with all thoughts of business given to the evening wind--
with the stew made and being served out--with Cheap Jack and Dear
Jill striking soft music out of the plates that are rattled like
warlike cymbals when put up for auction at fairs and markets--their
minds so influenced (no doubt) by the melody of the nightingales as
they begin to sing in the woods behind them, that if I were to
propose to deal, they would sell me anything at cost price. On
this hallowed ground has it been my happy privilege (let me whisper
it), to behold the White-haired Lady with the pink eyes, eating
meat-pie with the Giant: while, by the hedge-side, on the box of
blankets which I knew contained the snakes, were set forth the cups
and saucers and the teapot. It was on an evening in August, that I
chanced upon this ravishing spectacle, and I noticed that, whereas
the Giant reclined half concealed beneath the overhanging boughs
and seemed indifferent to Nature, the white hair of the gracious
Lady streamed free in the breath of evening, and her pink eyes
found pleasure in the landscape. I heard only a single sentence of
her uttering, yet it bespoke a talent for modest repartee. The
ill-mannered Giant--accursed be his evil race!--had interrupted the
Lady in some remark, and, as I passed that enchanted corner of the
wood, she gently reproved him, with the words, 'Now, Cobby;'--
Cobby! so short a name!--'ain't one fool enough to talk at a time?'

Within appropriate distance of this magic ground, though not so
near it as that the song trolled from tap or bench at door, can
invade its woodland silence, is a little hostelry which no man
possessed of a penny was ever known to pass in warm weather.
Before its entrance, are certain pleasant, trimmed limes; likewise,
a cool well, with so musical a bucket-handle that its fall upon the
bucket rim will make a horse prick up his ears and neigh, upon the
droughty road half a mile off. This is a house of great resort for
haymaking tramps and harvest tramps, insomuch that as they sit
within, drinking their mugs of beer, their relinquished scythes and
reaping-hooks glare out of the open windows, as if the whole
establishment were a family war-coach of Ancient Britons. Later in
the season, the whole country-side, for miles and miles, will swarm
with hopping tramps. They come in families, men, women, and
children, every family provided with a bundle of bedding, an iron
pot, a number of babies, and too often with some poor sick creature
quite unfit for the rough life, for whom they suppose the smell of
the fresh hop to be a sovereign remedy. Many of these hoppers are
Irish, but many come from London. They crowd all the roads, and
camp under all the hedges and on all the scraps of common-land, and
live among and upon the hops until they are all picked, and the
hop-gardens, so beautiful through the summer, look as if they had
been laid waste by an invading army. Then, there is a vast exodus
of tramps out of the country; and if you ride or drive round any
turn of any road, at more than a foot pace, you will be bewildered
to find that you have charged into the bosom of fifty families, and
that there are splashing up all around you, in the utmost
prodigality of confusion, bundles of bedding, babies, iron pots,
and a good-humoured multitude of both sexes and all ages, equally
divided between perspiration and intoxication.


It lately happened that I found myself rambling about the scenes
among which my earliest days were passed; scenes from which I
departed when I was a child, and which I did not revisit until I
was a man. This is no uncommon chance, but one that befalls some
of us any day; perhaps it may not be quite uninteresting to compare
notes with the reader respecting an experience so familiar and a
journey so uncommercial.

I call my boyhood's home (and I feel like a Tenor in an English
Opera when I mention it) Dullborough. Most of us come from
Dullborough who come from a country town.

As I left Dullborough in the days when there were no railroads in
the land, I left it in a stage-coach. Through all the years that
have since passed, have I ever lost the smell of the damp straw in
which I was packed--like game--and forwarded, carriage paid, to the
Cross Keys, Wood-street, Cheapside, London? There was no other
inside passenger, and I consumed my sandwiches in solitude and
dreariness, and it rained hard all the way, and I thought life
sloppier than I had expected to find it.

With this tender remembrance upon me, I was cavalierly shunted back
into Dullborough the other day, by train. My ticket had been
previously collected, like my taxes, and my shining new portmanteau
had had a great plaster stuck upon it, and I had been defied by Act
of Parliament to offer an objection to anything that was done to
it, or me, under a penalty of not less than forty shillings or more
than five pounds, compoundable for a term of imprisonment. When I
had sent my disfigured property on to the hotel, I began to look
about me; and the first discovery I made, was, that the Station had
swallowed up the playing-field.

It was gone. The two beautiful hawthorn-trees, the hedge, the
turf, and all those buttercups and daisies, had given place to the
stoniest of jolting roads: while, beyond the Station, an ugly dark
monster of a tunnel kept its jaws open, as if it had swallowed them
and were ravenous for more destruction. 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; the locomotive
engine that had brought me back, was called severely No. 97, and
belonged to S.E.R., and was spitting ashes and hot water over the
blighted ground.

When I had been let out at the platform-door, like a prisoner whom
his turnkey grudgingly released, I looked in again over the low
wall, at the scene of departed glories. Here, in the haymaking
time, had I been delivered from the dungeons of Seringapatam, an
immense pile (of haycock), by my own countrymen, the victorious
British (boy next door and his two cousins), and had been
recognised with ecstasy by my affianced one (Miss Green), who had
come all the way from England (second house in the terrace) to
ransom me, and marry me. Here, had I first heard in confidence,
from one whose father was greatly connected, being under
Government, of the existence of a terrible banditti, called 'The
Radicals,' whose principles were, that the Prince Regent wore
stays, and that nobody had a right to any salary, and that the army
and navy ought to be put down--horrors at which I trembled in my
bed, after supplicating that the Radicals might be speedily taken
and hanged. Here, too, had we, the small boys of Boles's, had that
cricket match against the small boys of Coles's, when Boles and
Coles had actually met upon the ground, and when, instead of
instantly hitting out at one another with the utmost fury, as we
had all hoped and expected, those sneaks had said respectively, 'I
hope Mrs. Boles is well,' and 'I hope Mrs. Coles and the baby are
doing charmingly.' Could it be that, after all this, and much
more, the Playing-field was a Station, and No. 97 expectorated
boiling water and redhot cinders on it, and the whole belonged by
Act of Parliament to S.E.R.?

As it could be, and was, I left the place with a heavy heart for a
walk all over the town. And first of Timpson's up-street. When I
departed from Dullborough in the strawy arms of Timpson's Blue-Eyed
Maid, 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. I found no such place as Timpson's now--
no such bricks and rafters, not to mention the name--no such
edifice on the teeming earth. Pickford had come and knocked
Timpson's down. Pickford had not only knocked Timpson's down, but
had knocked two or three houses down on each side of Timpson's, and
then had knocked the whole into one great establishment with a pair
of big gates, in and out of which, his (Pickford's) waggons are, in
these days, always rattling, with their drivers sitting up so high,
that they look in at the second-floor windows of the old-fashioned
houses in the High-street as they shake the town. I have not the
honour of Pickford's acquaintance, but I felt that he had done me
an injury, not to say committed an act of boyslaughter, in running
over my Childhood in this rough manner; and if ever I meet Pickford
driving one of his own monsters, and smoking a pipe the while
(which is the custom of his men), he shall know by the expression
of my eye, if it catches his, that there is something wrong between

Moreover, I felt that Pickford had no right to come rushing into
Dullborough and deprive the town of a public picture. He is not
Napoleon Bonaparte. When he took down the transparent stage-coach,
he ought to have given the town a transparent van. With a gloomy
conviction that Pickford is wholly utilitarian and unimaginative, I
proceeded on my way.

It is a mercy I have not a red and green lamp and a night-bell at
my door, for in my very young days I was taken to so many lyings-in
that I wonder I escaped becoming a professional martyr to them in
after-life. I suppose I had a very sympathetic nurse, with a large
circle of married acquaintance. However that was, as I continued
my walk through Dullborough, I found many houses to be solely
associated in my mind with this particular interest. At one little
greengrocer's shop, down certain steps from the street, I remember
to have waited on a lady who had had four children (I am afraid to
write five, though I fully believe it was five) at a birth. This
meritorious woman held quite a reception in her room on the morning
when I was introduced there, and the sight of the house brought
vividly to my mind how the four (five) deceased young people lay,
side by side, on a clean cloth on a chest of drawers; reminding me
by a homely association, which I suspect their complexion to have
assisted, of pigs' feet as they are usually displayed at a neat
tripe-shop. Hot candle was handed round on the occasion, and I
further remembered as I stood contemplating the greengrocer's, that
a subscription was entered into among the company, which became
extremely alarming to my consciousness of having pocket-money on my
person. This fact being known to my conductress, whoever she was,
I was earnestly exhorted to contribute, but resolutely declined:
therein disgusting the company, who gave me to understand that I
must dismiss all expectations of going to Heaven.

How does it happen that when all else is change wherever one goes,
there yet seem, in every place, to be some few people who never
alter? As the sight of the greengrocer's house recalled these
trivial incidents of long ago, the identical greengrocer appeared
on the steps, with his hands in his pockets, and leaning his
shoulder against the door-post, as my childish eyes had seen him
many a time; indeed, there was his old mark on the door-post yet,
as if his shadow had become a fixture there. It was he himself; he
might formerly have been an old-looking young man, or he might now
be a young-looking old man, but there he was. In walking along the
street, I had as yet looked in vain for a familiar face, or even a
transmitted face; here was the very greengrocer who had been
weighing and handling baskets on the morning of the reception. As
he brought with him a dawning remembrance that he had had no
proprietary interest in those babies, I crossed the road, and
accosted him on the subject. He was not in the least excited or
gratified, or in any way roused, by the accuracy of my
recollection, but said, Yes, summut out of the common--he didn't
remember how many it was (as if half-a-dozen babes either way made
no difference)--had happened to a Mrs. What's-her-name, as once
lodged there--but he didn't call it to mind, particular. Nettled
by this phlegmatic conduct, I informed him that I had left the town
when I was a child. He slowly returned, quite unsoftened, and not
without a sarcastic kind of complacency, HAD I? Ah! And did I
find it had got on tolerably well without me? Such is the
difference (I thought, when I had left him a few hundred yards
behind, and was by so much in a better temper) between going away
from a place and remaining in it. I had no right, I reflected, to
be angry with the greengrocer for his want of interest, I was
nothing to him: whereas he was the town, the cathedral, the
bridge, the river, my childhood, and a large slice of my life, to

Of course the town had shrunk fearfully, since I was a child there.
I had entertained the impression that the High-street was at least
as wide as Regent-street, London, or the Italian Boulevard at
Paris. I found it little better than a lane. There was a public
clock in it, which I had supposed to be the finest clock in the
world: whereas it now turned out to be as inexpressive, moon-
faced, and weak a clock as ever I saw. It belonged to a Town Hall,
where I had seen an Indian (who I now suppose wasn't an Indian)
swallow a sword (which I now suppose he didn't). The edifice had
appeared to me in those days so glorious a structure, that I had
set it up in my mind as the model on which the Genie of the Lamp
built the palace for Aladdin. A mean little brick heap, like a
demented chapel, with a few yawning persons in leather gaiters, and
in the last extremity for something to do, lounging at the door
with their hands in their pockets, and calling themselves a Corn

The Theatre was in existence, I found, on asking the fishmonger,
who had a compact show of stock in his window, consisting of a sole
and a quart of shrimps--and I resolved to comfort my mind by going
to look at it. Richard the Third, in a very uncomfortable cloak,
had first appeared to me there, and had made my heart leap with
terror by backing up against the stage-box in which I was posted,
while struggling for life against the virtuous Richmond. It was
within those walls that I had learnt as from a page of English
history, how that wicked King slept in war-time on a sofa much too
short for him, and how fearfully his conscience troubled his boots.
There, too, had I first seen the funny countryman, but countryman
of noble principles, in a flowered waistcoat, crunch up his little
hat and throw it on the ground, and pull off his coat, saying, 'Dom
thee, squire, coom on with thy fistes then!' At which the lovely
young woman who kept company with him (and who went out gleaning,
in a narrow white muslin apron with five beautiful bars of five
different-coloured ribbons across it) was so frightened for his
sake, that she fainted away. Many wondrous secrets of Nature had I
come to the knowledge of in that sanctuary: of which not the least
terrific were, that the witches in Macbeth bore an awful
resemblance to the Thanes and other proper inhabitants of Scotland;
and that the good King Duncan couldn't rest in his grave, but was
constantly coming out of it and calling himself somebody else. To
the Theatre, therefore, I repaired for consolation. But I found
very little, for it was in a bad and declining way. A dealer in
wine and bottled beer had already squeezed his trade into the box-
office, and the theatrical money was taken--when it came--in a kind
of meat-safe in the passage. The dealer in wine and bottled beer
must have insinuated himself under the stage too; for he announced
that he had various descriptions of alcoholic drinks 'in the wood,'
and there was no possible stowage for the wood anywhere else.
Evidently, he was by degrees eating the establishment away to the
core, and would soon have sole possession of it. It was To Let,
and hopelessly so, for its old purposes; and there had been no
entertainment within its walls for a long time except a Panorama;
and even that had been announced as 'pleasingly instructive,' and I
know too well the fatal meaning and the leaden import of those
terrible expressions. No, there was no comfort in the Theatre. It
was mysteriously gone, like my own youth. Unlike my own youth, it
might be coming back some day; but there was little promise of it.

As the town was placarded with references to the Dullborough
Mechanics' Institution, I thought I would go and look at that
establishment next. There had been no such thing in the town, in
my young day, and it occurred to me that its extreme prosperity
might have brought adversity upon the Drama. I found the
Institution with some difficulty, and should scarcely have known
that I had found it if I had judged from its external appearance
only; but this was attributable to its never having been finished,
and having no front: consequently, it led a modest and retired
existence up a stable-yard. It was (as I learnt, on inquiry) a
most flourishing Institution, and of the highest benefit to the
town: two triumphs which I was glad to understand were not at all
impaired by the seeming drawbacks that no mechanics belonged to it,
and that it was steeped in debt to the chimney-pots. It had a
large room, which was approached by an infirm step-ladder: the
builder having declined to construct the intended staircase,
without a present payment in cash, which Dullborough (though
profoundly appreciative of the Institution) seemed unaccountably
bashful about subscribing. The large room had cost--or would, when
paid for--five hundred pounds; and it had more mortar in it and
more echoes, than one might have expected to get for the money. It
was fitted up with a platform, and the usual lecturing tools,
including a large black board of a menacing appearance. On
referring to lists of the courses of lectures that had been given
in this thriving Hall, I fancied I detected a shyness in admitting
that human nature when at leisure has any desire whatever to be
relieved and diverted; and a furtive sliding in of any poor make-
weight piece of amusement, shame-facedly and edgewise. Thus, I
observed that it was necessary for the members to be knocked on the
head with Gas, Air, Water, Food, the Solar System, the Geological
periods, Criticism on Milton, the Steam-engine, John Bunyan, and
Arrow-Headed Inscriptions, before they might be tickled by those
unaccountable choristers, the negro singers in the court costume of
the reign of George the Second. Likewise, that they must be
stunned by a weighty inquiry whether there was internal evidence in
Shakespeare's works, to prove that his uncle by the mother's side
lived for some years at Stoke Newington, before they were brought-
to by a Miscellaneous Concert. But, indeed, the masking of
entertainment, and pretending it was something else--as people mask
bedsteads when they are obliged to have them in sitting-rooms, and
make believe that they are book-cases, sofas, chests of drawers,
anything rather than bedsteads--was manifest even in the pretence
of dreariness that the unfortunate entertainers themselves felt
obliged in decency to put forth when they came here. One very
agreeable professional singer, who travelled with two professional
ladies, knew better than to introduce either of those ladies to
sing the ballad 'Comin' through the Rye' without prefacing it
himself, with some general remarks on wheat and clover; and even
then, he dared not for his life call the song, a song, but
disguised it in the bill as an 'Illustration.' In the library,
also--fitted with shelves for three thousand books, and containing
upwards of one hundred and seventy (presented copies mostly),
seething their edges in damp plaster--there was such a painfully
apologetic return of 62 offenders who had read Travels, Popular
Biography, and mere Fiction descriptive of the aspirations of the
hearts and souls of mere human creatures like themselves; and such
an elaborate parade of 2 bright examples who had had down Euclid
after the day's occupation and confinement; and 3 who had had down
Metaphysics after ditto; and 1 who had had down Theology after
ditto; and 4 who had worried Grammar, Political Economy, Botany,
and Logarithms all at once after ditto; that I suspected the
boasted class to be one man, who had been hired to do it.

Emerging from the Mechanics' Institution and continuing my walk
about the town, I still noticed everywhere the prevalence, to an
extraordinary degree, of this custom of putting the natural demand
for amusement out of sight, as some untidy housekeepers put dust,
and pretending that it was swept away. And yet it was ministered
to, in a dull and abortive manner, by all who made this feint.
Looking in at what is called in Dullborough 'the serious
bookseller's,' where, in my childhood, I had studied the faces of
numbers of gentlemen depicted in rostrums with a gaslight on each
side of them, and casting my eyes over the open pages of certain
printed discourses there, I found a vast deal of aiming at jocosity
and dramatic effect, even in them--yes, verily, even on the part of
one very wrathful expounder who bitterly anathematised a poor
little Circus. Similarly, in the reading provided for the young
people enrolled in the Lasso of Love, and other excellent unions, I
found the writers generally under a distressing sense that they
must start (at all events) like story-tellers, and delude the young
persons into the belief that they were going to be interesting. As
I looked in at this window for twenty minutes by the clock, I am in
a position to offer a friendly remonstrance--not bearing on this
particular point--to the designers and engravers of the pictures in
those publications. Have they considered the awful consequences
likely to flow from their representations of Virtue? Have they
asked themselves the question, whether the terrific prospect of
acquiring that fearful chubbiness of head, unwieldiness of arm,
feeble dislocation of leg, crispiness of hair, and enormity of
shirt-collar, which they represent as inseparable from Goodness,
may not tend to confirm sensitive waverers, in Evil? A most
impressive example (if I had believed it) of what a Dustman and a
Sailor may come to, when they mend their ways, was presented to me
in this same shop-window. When they were leaning (they were
intimate friends) against a post, drunk and reckless, with
surpassingly bad hats on, and their hair over their foreheads, they
were rather picturesque, and looked as if they might be agreeable
men, if they would not be beasts. But, when they had got over
their bad propensities, and when, as a consequence, their heads had
swelled alarmingly, their hair had got so curly that it lifted
their blown-out cheeks up, their coat-cuffs were so long that they
never could do any work, and their eyes were so wide open that they
never could do any sleep, they presented a spectacle calculated to
plunge a timid nature into the depths of Infamy.

But, the clock that had so degenerated since I saw it last,
admonished me that I had stayed here long enough; and I resumed my

I had not gone fifty paces along the street when I was suddenly
brought up by the sight of a man who got out of a little phaeton at
the doctor's door, and went into the doctor's house. Immediately,
the air was filled with the scent of trodden grass, and the
perspective of years opened, and at the end of it was a little
likeness of this man keeping a wicket, and I said, 'God bless my
soul! Joe Specks!'

Through many changes and much work, I had preserved a tenderness
for the memory of Joe, forasmuch as we had made the acquaintance of
Roderick Random together, and had believed him to be no ruffian,
but an ingenuous and engaging hero. Scorning to ask the boy left
in the phaeton whether it was really Joe, and scorning even to read
the brass plate on the door--so sure was I--I rang the bell and
informed the servant maid that a stranger sought audience of Mr.
Specks. Into a room, half surgery, half study, I was shown to
await his coming, and I found it, by a series of elaborate
accidents, bestrewn with testimonies to Joe. Portrait of Mr.
Specks, bust of Mr. Specks, silver cup from grateful patient to Mr.
Specks, presentation sermon from local clergyman, dedication poem
from local poet, dinner-card from local nobleman, tract on balance
of power from local refugee, inscribed Hommage de l'auteur a

When my old schoolfellow came in, and I informed him with a smile
that I was not a patient, he seemed rather at a loss to perceive
any reason for smiling in connexion with that fact, and inquired to
what was he to attribute the honour? I asked him with another
smile, could he remember me at all? He had not (he said) that
pleasure. I was beginning to have but a poor opinion of Mr.
Specks, when he said reflectively, 'And yet there's a something
too.' Upon that, I saw a boyish light in his eyes that looked
well, and I asked him if he could inform me, as a stranger who
desired to know and had not the means of reference at hand, what
the name of the young lady was, who married Mr. Random? Upon that,
he said 'Narcissa,' and, after staring for a moment, called me by
my name, shook me by the hand, and melted into a roar of laughter.
'Why, of course, you'll remember Lucy Green,' he said, after we had
talked a little. 'Of course,' said I. 'Whom do you think she
married?' said he. 'You?' I hazarded. 'Me,' said Specks, 'and you
shall see her.' So I saw her, and she was fat, and if all the hay
in the world had been heaped upon her, it could scarcely have
altered her face more than Time had altered it from my remembrance
of the face that had once looked down upon me into the fragrant
dungeons of Seringapatam. But when her youngest child came in
after dinner (for I dined with them, and we had no other company
than Specks, Junior, Barrister-at-law, who went away as soon as the
cloth was removed, to look after the young lady to whom he was
going to be married next week), I saw again, in that little
daughter, the little face of the hayfield, unchanged, and it quite
touched my foolish heart. We talked immensely, Specks and Mrs.
Specks, and I, and we spoke of our old selves as though our old
selves were dead and gone, and indeed, indeed they were--dead and
gone as the playing-field that had become a wilderness of rusty
iron, and the property of S.E.R.

Specks, however, illuminated Dullborough with the rays of interest
that I wanted and should otherwise have missed in it, and linked
its present to its past, with a highly agreeable chain. And in
Specks's society I had new occasion to observe what I had before
noticed in similar communications among other men. All the
schoolfellows and others of old, whom I inquired about, had either
done superlatively well or superlatively ill--had either become
uncertificated bankrupts, or been felonious and got themselves
transported; or had made great hits in life, and done wonders. And
this is so commonly the case, that I never can imagine what becomes
of all the mediocre people of people's youth--especially
considering that we find no lack of the species in our maturity.
But, I did not propound this difficulty to Specks, for no pause in
the conversation gave me an occasion. Nor, could I discover one
single flaw in the good doctor--when he reads this, he will receive
in a friendly spirit the pleasantly meant record--except that he
had forgotten his Roderick Random, and that he confounded Strap
with Lieutenant Hatchway; who never knew Random, howsoever intimate
with Pickle.

When I went alone to the Railway to catch my train at night (Specks
had meant to go with me, but was inopportunely called out), I was
in a more charitable mood with Dullborough than I had been all day;
and yet in my heart I had loved it all day too. Ah! who was I that
I should quarrel with the town for being changed to me, when I
myself had come back, so changed, to it! All my early readings and
early imaginations dated from this place, and I took them away so
full of innocent construction and guileless belief, and I brought
them back so worn and torn, so much the wiser and so much the


Some years ago, a temporary inability to sleep, referable to a
distressing impression, caused me to walk about the streets all
night, for a series of several nights. The disorder might have
taken a long time to conquer, if it had been faintly experimented
on in bed; but, it was soon defeated by the brisk treatment of
getting up directly after lying down, and going out, and coming
home tired at sunrise.

In the course of those nights, I finished my education in a fair
amateur experience of houselessness. My principal object being to
get through the night, the pursuit of it brought me into
sympathetic relations with people who have no other object every
night in the year.

The month was March, and the weather damp, cloudy, and cold. The
sun not rising before half-past five, the night perspective looked
sufficiently long at half-past twelve: which was about my time for
confronting it.

The restlessness of a great city, and the way in which it tumbles
and tosses before it can get to sleep, formed one of the first
entertainments offered to the contemplation of us houseless people.
It lasted about two hours. We lost a great deal of companionship
when the late public-houses turned their lamps out, and when the
potmen thrust the last brawling drunkards into the street; but
stray vehicles and stray people were left us, after that. If we
were very lucky, a policeman's rattle sprang and a fray turned up;
but, in general, surprisingly little of this diversion was
provided. Except in the Haymarket, which is the worst kept part of
London, and about Kent-street in the Borough, and along a portion
of the line of the Old Kent-road, the peace was seldom violently
broken. But, it was always the case that London, as if in
imitation of individual citizens belonging to it, had expiring fits
and starts of restlessness. After all seemed quiet, if one cab
rattled by, half-a-dozen would surely follow; and Houselessness
even observed that intoxicated people appeared to be magnetically
attracted towards each other; so that we knew when we saw one
drunken object staggering against the shutters of a shop, that
another drunken object would stagger up before five minutes were
out, to fraternise or fight with it. When we made a divergence
from the regular species of drunkard, the thin-armed, puff-faced,
leaden-lipped gin-drinker, and encountered a rarer specimen of a
more decent appearance, fifty to one but that specimen was dressed
in soiled mourning. As the street experience in the night, so the
street experience in the day; the common folk who come unexpectedly
into a little property, come unexpectedly into a deal of liquor.

At length these flickering sparks would die away, worn out--the
last veritable sparks of waking life trailed from some late pieman
or hot-potato man--and London would sink to rest. And then the
yearning of the houseless mind would be for any sign of company,
any lighted place, any movement, anything suggestive of any one
being up--nay, even so much as awake, for the houseless eye looked
out for lights in windows.

Walking the streets under the pattering rain, Houselessness would
walk and walk and walk, seeing nothing but the interminable tangle
of streets, save at a corner, here and there, two policemen in
conversation, or the sergeant or inspector looking after his men.
Now and then in the night--but rarely--Houselessness would become
aware of a furtive head peering out of a doorway a few yards before
him, and, coming up with the head, would find a man standing bolt
upright to keep within the doorway's shadow, and evidently intent
upon no particular service to society. Under a kind of
fascination, and in a ghostly silence suitable to the time,
Houselessness and this gentleman would eye one another from head to
foot, and so, without exchange of speech, part, mutually
suspicious. Drip, drip, drip, from ledge and coping, splash from
pipes and water-spouts, and by-and-by the houseless shadow would
fall upon the stones that pave the way to Waterloo-bridge; it being
in the houseless mind to have a halfpenny worth of excuse for
saying 'Good-night' to the toll-keeper, and catching a glimpse of
his fire. A good fire and a good great-coat and a good woollen
neck-shawl, were comfortable things to see in conjunction with the
toll-keeper; also his brisk wakefulness was excellent company when
he rattled the change of halfpence down upon that metal table of
his, like a man who defied the night, with all its sorrowful
thoughts, and didn't care for the coming of dawn. There was need
of encouragement on the threshold of the bridge, for the bridge was
dreary. The chopped-up murdered man, had not been lowered with a
rope over the parapet when those nights were; he was alive, and
slept then quietly enough most likely, and undisturbed by any dream
of where he was to come. But the river had an awful look, the
buildings on the banks were muffled in black shrouds, and the
reflected lights seemed to originate deep in the water, as if the
spectres of suicides were holding them to show where they went
down. The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil
conscience in a tumbled bed, and the very shadow of the immensity
of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river.

Between the bridge and the two great theatres, there was but the
distance of a few hundred paces, so the theatres came next. Grim
and black within, at night, those great dry Wells, and lonesome to
imagine, with the rows of faces faded out, the lights extinguished,
and the seats all empty. One would think that nothing in them knew
itself at such a time but Yorick's skull. In one of my night
walks, as the church steeples were shaking the March winds and rain
with the strokes of Four, I passed the outer boundary of one of
these great deserts, and entered it. With a dim lantern in my
hand, I groped my well-known way to the stage and looked over the
orchestra--which was like a great grave dug for a time of
pestilence--into the void beyond. A dismal cavern of an immense
aspect, with the chandelier gone dead like everything else, and
nothing visible through mist and fog and space, but tiers of
winding-sheets. The ground at my feet where, when last there, I
had seen the peasantry of Naples dancing among the vines, reckless
of the burning mountain which threatened to overwhelm them, was now
in possession of a strong serpent of engine-hose, watchfully lying
in wait for the serpent Fire, and ready to fly at it if it showed
its forked tongue. A ghost of a watchman, carrying a faint corpse
candle, haunted the distant upper gallery and flitted away.
Retiring within the proscenium, and holding my light above my head
towards the rolled-up curtain--green no more, but black as ebony--
my sight lost itself in a gloomy vault, showing faint indications
in it of a shipwreck of canvas and cordage. Methought I felt much
as a diver might, at the bottom of the sea.

In those small hours when there was no movement in the streets, it
afforded matter for reflection to take Newgate in the way, and,
touching its rough stone, to think of the prisoners in their sleep,
and then to glance in at the lodge over the spiked wicket, and see
the fire and light of the watching turnkeys, on the white wall.
Not an inappropriate time either, to linger by that wicked little
Debtors' Door--shutting tighter than any other door one ever saw--
which has been Death's Door to so many. In the days of the
uttering of forged one-pound notes by people tempted up from the
country, how many hundreds of wretched creatures of both sexes--
many quite innocent--swung out of a pitiless and inconsistent
world, with the tower of yonder Christian church of Saint Sepulchre
monstrously before their eyes! Is there any haunting of the Bank
Parlour, by the remorseful souls of old directors, in the nights of
these later days, I wonder, or is it as quiet as this degenerate
Aceldama of an Old Bailey?

To walk on to the Bank, lamenting the good old times and bemoaning
the present evil period, would be an easy next step, so I would
take it, and would make my houseless circuit of the Bank, and give
a thought to the treasure within; likewise to the guard of soldiers
passing the night there, and nodding over the fire. Next, I went
to Billingsgate, in some hope of market-people, but it proving as
yet too early, crossed London-bridge and got down by the water-side
on the Surrey shore among the buildings of the great brewery.
There was plenty going on at the brewery; and the reek, and the
smell of grains, and the rattling of the plump dray horses at their
mangers, were capital company. Quite refreshed by having mingled
with this good society, I made a new start with a new heart,
setting the old King's Bench prison before me for my next object,
and resolving, when I should come to the wall, to think of poor
Horace Kinch, and the Dry Rot in men.

A very curious disease the Dry Rot in men, and difficult to detect
the beginning of. It had carried Horace Kinch inside the wall of
the old King's Bench prison, and it had carried him out with his
feet foremost. He was a likely man to look at, in the prime of
life, well to do, as clever as he needed to be, and popular among
many friends. He was suitably married, and had healthy and pretty
children. But, like some fair-looking houses or fair-looking
ships, he took the Dry Rot. The first strong external revelation
of the Dry Rot in men, is a tendency to lurk and lounge; to be at
street-corners without intelligible reason; to be going anywhere
when met; to be about many places rather than at any; to do nothing
tangible, but to have an intention of performing a variety of
intangible duties to-morrow or the day after. When this
manifestation of the disease is observed, the observer will usually
connect it with a vague impression once formed or received, that
the patient was living a little too hard. He will scarcely have
had leisure to turn it over in his mind and form the terrible
suspicion 'Dry Rot,' when he will notice a change for the worse in
the patient's appearance: a certain slovenliness and
deterioration, which is not poverty, nor dirt, nor intoxication,
nor ill-health, but simply Dry Rot. To this, succeeds a smell as
of strong waters, in the morning; to that, a looseness respecting
money; to that, a stronger smell as of strong waters, at all times;
to that, a looseness respecting everything; to that, a trembling of
the limbs, somnolency, misery, and crumbling to pieces. As it is
in wood, so it is in men. Dry Rot advances at a compound usury
quite incalculable. A plank is found infected with it, and the
whole structure is devoted. Thus it had been with the unhappy
Horace Kinch, lately buried by a small subscription. Those who
knew him had not nigh done saying, 'So well off, so comfortably
established, with such hope before him--and yet, it is feared, with
a slight touch of Dry Rot!' when lo! the man was all Dry Rot and

From the dead wall associated on those houseless nights with this
too common story, I chose next to wander by Bethlehem Hospital;
partly, because it lay on my road round to Westminster; partly,
because I had a night fancy in my head which could be best pursued
within sight of its walls and dome. And the fancy was this: Are
not the sane and the insane equal at night as the sane lie a
dreaming? Are not all of us outside this hospital, who dream, more
or less in the condition of those inside it, every night of our
lives? Are we not nightly persuaded, as they daily are, that we
associate preposterously with kings and queens, emperors and
empresses, and notabilities of all sorts? Do we not nightly jumble
events and personages and times and places, as these do daily? Are
we not sometimes troubled by our own sleeping inconsistencies, and
do we not vexedly try to account for them or excuse them, just as
these do sometimes in respect of their waking delusions? Said an
afflicted man to me, when I was last in a hospital like this, 'Sir,
I can frequently fly.' I was half ashamed to reflect that so could
I--by night. Said a woman to me on the same occasion, 'Queen
Victoria frequently comes to dine with me, and her Majesty and I
dine off peaches and maccaroni in our night-gowns, and his Royal
Highness the Prince Consort does us the honour to make a third on
horseback in a Field-Marshal's uniform.' Could I refrain from
reddening with consciousness when I remembered the amazing royal
parties I myself had given (at night), the unaccountable viands I
had put on table, and my extraordinary manner of conducting myself
on those distinguished occasions? I wonder that the great master
who knew everything, when he called Sleep the death of each day's
life, did not call Dreams the insanity of each day's sanity.

By this time I had left the Hospital behind me, and was again
setting towards the river; and in a short breathing space I was on
Westminster-bridge, regaling my houseless eyes with the external
walls of the British Parliament--the perfection of a stupendous
institution, I know, and the admiration of all surrounding nations
and succeeding ages, I do not doubt, but perhaps a little the
better now and then for being pricked up to its work. Turning off
into Old Palace-yard, the Courts of Law kept me company for a
quarter of an hour; hinting in low whispers what numbers of people
they were keeping awake, and how intensely wretched and horrible
they were rendering the small hours to unfortunate suitors.
Westminster Abbey was fine gloomy society for another quarter of an
hour; suggesting a wonderful procession of its dead among the dark
arches and pillars, each century more amazed by the century
following it than by all the centuries going before. And indeed in
those houseless night walks--which even included cemeteries where
watchmen went round among the graves at stated times, and moved the
tell-tale handle of an index which recorded that they had touched
it at such an hour--it was a solemn consideration what enormous
hosts of dead belong to one old great city, and how, if they were
raised while the living slept, there would not be the space of a
pin's point in all the streets and ways for the living to come out
into. Not only that, but the vast armies of dead would overflow
the hills and valleys beyond the city, and would stretch away all
round it, God knows how far.

When a church clock strikes, on houseless ears in the dead of the
night, it may be at first mistaken for company and hailed as such.
But, as the spreading circles of vibration, which you may perceive
at such a time with great clearness, go opening out, for ever and
ever afterwards widening perhaps (as the philosopher has suggested)
in eternal space, the mistake is rectified and the sense of
loneliness is profounder. Once--it was after leaving the Abbey and
turning my face north--I came to the great steps of St. Martin's
church as the clock was striking Three. Suddenly, a thing that in
a moment more I should have trodden upon without seeing, rose up at
my feet with a cry of loneliness and houselessness, struck out of
it by the bell, the like of which I never heard. We then stood
face to face looking at one another, frightened by one another.
The creature was like a beetle-browed hair-lipped youth of twenty,
and it had a loose bundle of rags on, which it held together with
one of its hands. It shivered from head to foot, and its teeth
chattered, and as it stared at me--persecutor, devil, ghost,
whatever it thought me--it made with its whining mouth as if it
were snapping at me, like a worried dog. Intending to give this
ugly object money, I put out my hand to stay it--for it recoiled as
it whined and snapped--and laid my hand upon its shoulder.
Instantly, it twisted out of its garment, like the young man in the
New Testament, and left me standing alone with its rags in my

Covent-garden Market, when it was market morning, was wonderful
company. The great waggons of cabbages, with growers' men and boys
lying asleep under them, and with sharp dogs from market-garden
neighbourhoods looking after the whole, were as good as a party.
But one of the worst night sights I know in London, is to be found
in the children who prowl about this place; who sleep in the
baskets, fight for the offal, dart at any object they think they
can lay their their thieving hands on, dive under the carts and
barrows, dodge the constables, and are perpetually making a blunt
pattering on the pavement of the Piazza with the rain of their
naked feet. A painful and unnatural result comes of the comparison
one is forced to institute between the growth of corruption as
displayed in the so much improved and cared for fruits of the
earth, and the growth of corruption as displayed in these all
uncared for (except inasmuch as ever-hunted) savages.

There was early coffee to be got about Covent-garden Market, and
that was more company--warm company, too, which was better. Toast
of a very substantial quality, was likewise procurable: though the
towzled-headed man who made it, in an inner chamber within the
coffee-room, hadn't got his coat on yet, and was so heavy with
sleep that in every interval of toast and coffee he went off anew
behind the partition into complicated cross-roads of choke and
snore, and lost his way directly. Into one of these establishments
(among the earliest) near Bow-street, there came one morning as I
sat over my houseless cup, pondering where to go next, a man in a
high and long snuff-coloured coat, and shoes, and, to the best of
my belief, nothing else but a hat, who took out of his hat a large
cold meat pudding; a meat pudding so large that it was a very tight
fit, and brought the lining of the hat out with it. This
mysterious man was known by his pudding, for on his entering, the
man of sleep brought him a pint of hot tea, a small loaf, and a
large knife and fork and plate. Left to himself in his box, he
stood the pudding on the bare table, and, instead of cutting it,
stabbed it, overhand, with the knife, like a mortal enemy; then
took the knife out, wiped it on his sleeve, tore the pudding
asunder with his fingers, and ate it all up. The remembrance of
this man with the pudding remains with me as the remembrance of the
most spectral person my houselessness encountered. Twice only was
I in that establishment, and twice I saw him stalk in (as I should
say, just out of bed, and presently going back to bed), take out
his pudding, stab his pudding, wipe the dagger, and eat his pudding
all up. He was a man whose figure promised cadaverousness, but who
had an excessively red face, though shaped like a horse's. On the
second occasion of my seeing him, he said huskily to the man of
sleep, 'Am I red to-night?' 'You are,' he uncompromisingly
answered. 'My mother,' said the spectre, 'was a red-faced woman
that liked drink, and I looked at her hard when she laid in her
coffin, and I took the complexion.' Somehow, the pudding seemed an
unwholesome pudding after that, and I put myself in its way no

When there was no market, or when I wanted variety, a railway
terminus with the morning mails coming in, was remunerative
company. But like most of the company to be had in this world, it
lasted only a very short time. The station lamps would burst out
ablaze, the porters would emerge from places of concealment, the
cabs and trucks would rattle to their places (the post-office carts
were already in theirs), and, finally, the bell would strike up,
and the train would come banging in. But there were few passengers
and little luggage, and everything scuttled away with the greatest
expedition. The locomotive post-offices, with their great nets--as
if they had been dragging the country for bodies--would fly open as
to their doors, and would disgorge a smell of lamp, an exhausted
clerk, a guard in a red coat, and their bags of letters; the engine
would blow and heave and perspire, like an engine wiping its
forehead and saying what a run it had had; and within ten minutes
the lamps were out, and I was houseless and alone again.

But now, there were driven cattle on the high road near, wanting
(as cattle always do) to turn into the midst of stone walls, and
squeeze themselves through six inches' width of iron railing, and
getting their heads down (also as cattle always do) for tossing-
purchase at quite imaginary dogs, and giving themselves and every
devoted creature associated with them a most extraordinary amount
of unnecessary trouble. Now, too, the conscious gas began to grow
pale with the knowledge that daylight was coming, and straggling
workpeople were already in the streets, and, as waking life had
become extinguished with the last pieman's sparks, so it began to
be rekindled with the fires of the first street-corner breakfast-
sellers. And so by faster and faster degrees, until the last
degrees were very fast, the day came, and I was tired and could
sleep. And it is not, as I used to think, going home at such
times, the least wonderful thing in London, that in the real desert
region of the night, the houseless wanderer is alone there. I knew
well enough where to find Vice and Misfortune of all kinds, if I
had chosen; but they were put out of sight, and my houselessness
had many miles upon miles of streets in which it could, and did,
have its own solitary way.


Having occasion to transact some business with a solicitor who
occupies a highly suicidal set of chambers in Gray's Inn, I
afterwards took a turn in the large square of that stronghold of
Melancholy, reviewing, with congenial surroundings, my experiences
of Chambers.

I began, as was natural, with the Chambers I had just left. They
were an upper set on a rotten staircase, with a mysterious bunk or
bulkhead on the landing outside them, of a rather nautical and
Screw Collier-like appearance than otherwise, and painted an
intense black. Many dusty years have passed since the
appropriation of this Davy Jones's locker to any purpose, and
during the whole period within the memory of living man, it has
been hasped and padlocked. I cannot quite satisfy my mind whether
it was originally meant for the reception of coals, or bodies, or
as a place of temporary security for the plunder 'looted' by
laundresses; but I incline to the last opinion. It is about breast
high, and usually serves as a bulk for defendants in reduced
circumstances to lean against and ponder at, when they come on the
hopeful errand of trying to make an arrangement without money--
under which auspicious circumstances it mostly happens that the
legal gentleman they want to see, is much engaged, and they pervade
the staircase for a considerable period. Against this opposing
bulk, in the absurdest manner, the tomb-like outer door of the
solicitor's chambers (which is also of an intense black) stands in
dark ambush, half open, and half shut, all day. The solicitor's
apartments are three in number; consisting of a slice, a cell, and
a wedge. The slice is assigned to the two clerks, the cell is
occupied by the principal, and the wedge is devoted to stray
papers, old game baskets from the country, a washing-stand, and a
model of a patent Ship's Caboose which was exhibited in Chancery at
the commencement of the present century on an application for an
injunction to restrain infringement. At about half-past nine on
every week-day morning, the younger of the two clerks (who, I have
reason to believe, leads the fashion at Pentonville in the articles
of pipes and shirts) may be found knocking the dust out of his
official door-key on the bunk or locker before mentioned; and so
exceedingly subject to dust is his key, and so very retentive of
that superfluity, that in exceptional summer weather when a ray of
sunlight has fallen on the locker in my presence, I have noticed
its inexpressive countenance to be deeply marked by a kind of
Bramah erysipelas or small-pox.

This set of chambers (as I have gradually discovered, when I have
had restless occasion to make inquiries or leave messages, after
office hours) is under the charge of a lady named Sweeney, in
figure extremely like an old family-umbrella: whose dwelling
confronts a dead wall in a court off Gray's Inn-lane, and who is
usually fetched into the passage of that bower, when wanted, from
some neighbouring home of industry, which has the curious property
of imparting an inflammatory appearance to her visage. Mrs.
Sweeney is one of the race of professed laundresses, and is the
compiler of a remarkable manuscript volume entitled 'Mrs. Sweeney's
Book,' from which much curious statistical information may be
gathered respecting the high prices and small uses of soda, soap,
sand, firewood, and other such articles. I have created a legend
in my mind--and consequently I believe it with the utmost
pertinacity--that the late Mr. Sweeney was a ticket-porter under
the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, and that, in consideration of
his long and valuable services, Mrs. Sweeney was appointed to her
present post. For, though devoid of personal charms, I have
observed this lady to exercise a fascination over the elderly
ticker-porter mind (particularly under the gateway, and in corners
and entries), which I can only refer to her being one of the
fraternity, yet not competing with it. All that need be said
concerning this set of chambers, is said, when I have added that it
is in a large double house in Gray's Inn-square, very much out of
repair, and that the outer portal is ornamented in a hideous manner
with certain stone remains, which have the appearance of the
dismembered bust, torso, and limbs of a petrified bencher.

Indeed, I look upon Gray's Inn generally as one of the most
depressing institutions in brick and mortar, known to the children
of men. Can anything be more dreary than its arid Square, Sahara
Desert of the law, with the ugly old tiled-topped tenements, the
dirty windows, the bills To Let, To Let, the door-posts inscribed
like gravestones, the crazy gateway giving upon the filthy Lane,
the scowling, iron-barred prison-like passage into Verulam-
buildings, the mouldy red-nosed ticket-porters with little coffin
plates, and why with aprons, the dry, hard, atomy-like appearance
of the whole dust-heap? When my uncommercial travels tend to this
dismal spot, my comfort is its rickety state. Imagination gloats
over the fulness of time when the staircases shall have quite
tumbled down--they are daily wearing into an ill-savoured powder,
but have not quite tumbled down yet--when the last old prolix
bencher all of the olden time, shall have been got out of an upper
window by means of a Fire Ladder, and carried off to the Holborn
Union; when the last clerk shall have engrossed the last parchment
behind the last splash on the last of the mud-stained windows,
which, all through the miry year, are pilloried out of recognition
in Gray's Inn-lane. Then, shall a squalid little trench, with rank
grass and a pump in it, lying between the coffee-house and South-
square, be wholly given up to cats and rats, and not, as now, have
its empire divided between those animals and a few briefless
bipeds--surely called to the Bar by voices of deceiving spirits,
seeing that they are wanted there by no mortal--who glance down,
with eyes better glazed than their casements, from their dreary and
lacklustre rooms. Then shall the way Nor' Westward, now lying
under a short grim colonnade where in summer-time pounce flies from
law-stationering windows into the eyes of laymen, be choked with
rubbish and happily become impassable. Then shall the gardens
where turf, trees, and gravel wear a legal livery of black, run
rank, and pilgrims go to Gorhambury to see Bacon's effigy as he
sat, and not come here (which in truth they seldom do) to see where
he walked. Then, in a word, shall the old-established vendor of
periodicals sit alone in his little crib of a shop behind the
Holborn Gate, like that lumbering Marius among the ruins of
Carthage, who has sat heavy on a thousand million of similes.

At one period of my uncommercial career I much frequented another
set of chambers in Gray's Inn-square. They were what is familiarly
called 'a top set,' and all the eatables and drinkables introduced
into them acquired a flavour of Cockloft. I have known an unopened
Strasbourg pate fresh from Fortnum and Mason's, to draw in this
cockloft tone through its crockery dish, and become penetrated with
cockloft to the core of its inmost truffle in three-quarters of an
hour. This, however, was not the most curious feature of those
chambers; that, consisted in the profound conviction entertained by
my esteemed friend Parkle (their tenant) that they were clean.
Whether it was an inborn hallucination, or whether it was imparted
to him by Mrs. Miggot the laundress, I never could ascertain. But,
I believe he would have gone to the stake upon the question. Now,
they were so dirty that I could take off the distinctest impression
of my figure on any article of furniture by merely lounging upon it
for a few moments; and it used to be a private amusement of mine to
print myself off--if I may use the expression--all over the rooms.
It was the first large circulation I had. At other times I have
accidentally shaken a window curtain while in animated conversation
with Parkle, and struggling insects which were certainly red, and
were certainly not ladybirds, have dropped on the back of my hand.
Yet Parkle lived in that top set years, bound body and soul to the
superstition that they were clean. He used to say, when
congratulated upon them, 'Well, they are not like chambers in one
respect, you know; they are clean.' Concurrently, he had an idea
which he could never explain, that Mrs. Miggot was in some way
connected with the Church. When he was in particularly good
spirits, he used to believe that a deceased uncle of hers had been
a Dean; when he was poorly and low, he believed that her brother
had been a Curate. I and Mrs. Miggot (she was a genteel woman)
were on confidential terms, but I never knew her to commit herself
to any distinct assertion on the subject; she merely claimed a
proprietorship in the Church, by looking when it was mentioned, as
if the reference awakened the slumbering Past, and were personal.
It may have been his amiable confidence in Mrs. Miggot's better
days that inspired my friend with his delusion respecting the
chambers, but he never wavered in his fidelity to it for a moment,
though he wallowed in dirt seven years.

Two of the windows of these chambers looked down into the garden;
and we have sat up there together many a summer evening, saying how
pleasant it was, and talking of many things. To my intimacy with
that top set, I am indebted for three of my liveliest personal
impressions of the loneliness of life in chambers. They shall
follow here, in order; first, second, and third.

First. My Gray's Inn friend, on a time, hurt one of his legs, and
it became seriously inflamed. Not knowing of his indisposition, I
was on my way to visit him as usual, one summer evening, when I was
much surprised by meeting a lively leech in Field-court, Gray's
Inn, seemingly on his way to the West End of London. As the leech
was alone, and was of course unable to explain his position, even
if he had been inclined to do so (which he had not the appearance
of being), I passed him and went on. Turning the corner of Gray's
Inn-square, I was beyond expression amazed by meeting another
leech--also entirely alone, and also proceeding in a westerly
direction, though with less decision of purpose. Ruminating on
this extraordinary circumstance, and endeavouring to remember
whether I had ever read, in the Philosophical Transactions or any
work on Natural History, of a migration of Leeches, I ascended to
the top set, past the dreary series of closed outer doors of
offices and an empty set or two, which intervened between that
lofty region and the surface. Entering my friend's rooms, I found
him stretched upon his back, like Prometheus Bound, with a
perfectly demented ticket-porter in attendance on him instead of
the Vulture: which helpless individual, who was feeble and
frightened, and had (my friend explained to me, in great choler)
been endeavouring for some hours to apply leeches to his leg, and
as yet had only got on two out of twenty. To this Unfortunate's
distraction between a damp cloth on which he had placed the leeches
to freshen them, and the wrathful adjurations of my friend to
'Stick 'em on, sir!' I referred the phenomenon I had encountered:
the rather as two fine specimens were at that moment going out at
the door, while a general insurrection of the rest was in progress
on the table. After a while our united efforts prevailed, and,
when the leeches came off and had recovered their spirits, we
carefully tied them up in a decanter. But I never heard more of
them than that they were all gone next morning, and that the Out-
of-door young man of Bickle, Bush and Bodger, on the ground floor,
had been bitten and blooded by some creature not identified. They
never 'took' on Mrs. Miggot, the laundress; but, I have always
preserved fresh, the belief that she unconsciously carried several
about her, until they gradually found openings in life.

Second. On the same staircase with my friend Parkle, and on the
same floor, there lived a man of law who pursued his business
elsewhere, and used those chambers as his place of residence. For
three or four years, Parkle rather knew of him than knew him, but
after that--for Englishmen--short pause of consideration, they
began to speak. Parkle exchanged words with him in his private
character only, and knew nothing of his business ways, or means.
He was a man a good deal about town, but always alone. We used to
remark to one another, that although we often encountered him in
theatres, concert-rooms, and similar public places, he was always
alone. Yet he was not a gloomy man, and was of a decidedly
conversational turn; insomuch that he would sometimes of an evening
lounge with a cigar in his mouth, half in and half out of Parkle's
rooms, and discuss the topics of the day by the hour. He used to
hint on these occasions that he had four faults to find with life;
firstly, that it obliged a man to be always winding up his watch;
secondly, that London was too small; thirdly, that it therefore
wanted variety; fourthly, that there was too much dust in it.
There was so much dust in his own faded chambers, certainly, that
they reminded me of a sepulchre, furnished in prophetic
anticipation of the present time, which had newly been brought to
light, after having remained buried a few thousand years. One dry,
hot autumn evening at twilight, this man, being then five years
turned of fifty, looked in upon Parkle in his usual lounging way,
with his cigar in his mouth as usual, and said, 'I am going out of
town.' As he never went out of town, Parkle said, 'Oh indeed! At
last?' 'Yes,' says he, 'at last. For what is a man to do? London
is so small! If you go West, you come to Hounslow. If you go
East, you come to Bow. If you go South, there's Brixton or
Norwood. If you go North, you can't get rid of Barnet. Then, the
monotony of all the streets, streets, streets--and of all the
roads, roads, roads--and the dust, dust, dust!' When he had said
this, he wished Parkle a good evening, but came back again and
said, with his watch in his hand, 'Oh, I really cannot go on
winding up this watch over and over again; I wish you would take
care of it.' So, Parkle laughed and consented, and the man went
out of town. The man remained out of town so long, that his
letter-box became choked, and no more letters could be got into it,
and they began to be left at the lodge and to accumulate there. At
last the head-porter decided, on conference with the steward, to
use his master-key and look into the chambers, and give them the
benefit of a whiff of air. Then, it was found that he had hanged
himself to his bedstead, and had left this written memorandum: 'I
should prefer to be cut down by my neighbour and friend (if he will
allow me to call him so), H. Parkle, Esq.' This was an end of
Parkle's occupancy of chambers. He went into lodgings immediately.

Third. While Parkle lived in Gray's Inn, and I myself was
uncommercially preparing for the Bar--which is done, as everybody
knows, by having a frayed old gown put on in a pantry by an old
woman in a chronic state of Saint Anthony's fire and dropsy, and,
so decorated, bolting a bad dinner in a party of four, whereof each
individual mistrusts the other three--I say, while these things
were, there was a certain elderly gentleman who lived in a court of
the Temple, and was a great judge and lover of port wine. Every
day he dined at his club and drank his bottle or two of port wine,
and every night came home to the Temple and went to bed in his
lonely chambers. This had gone on many years without variation,
when one night he had a fit on coming home, and fell and cut his
head deep, but partly recovered and groped about in the dark to
find the door. When he was afterwards discovered, dead, it was
clearly established by the marks of his hands about the room that
he must have done so. Now, this chanced on the night of Christmas
Eve, and over him lived a young fellow who had sisters and young
country friends, and who gave them a little party that night, in
the course of which they played at Blindman's Buff. They played
that game, for their greater sport, by the light of the fire only;
and once, when they were all quietly rustling and stealing about,
and the blindman was trying to pick out the prettiest sister (for
which I am far from blaming him), somebody cried, Hark! The man
below must be playing Blindman's Buff by himself to-night! They
listened, and they heard sounds of some one falling about and
stumbling against furniture, and they all laughed at the conceit,
and went on with their play, more light-hearted and merry than
ever. Thus, those two so different games of life and death were
played out together, blindfolded, in the two sets of chambers.

Such are the occurrences, which, coming to my knowledge, imbued me
long ago with a strong sense of the loneliness of chambers. There
was a fantastic illustration to much the same purpose implicitly
believed by a strange sort of man now dead, whom I knew when I had
not quite arrived at legal years of discretion, though I was
already in the uncommercial line.

This was a man who, though not more than thirty, had seen the world
in divers irreconcilable capacities--had been an officer in a South
American regiment among other odd things--but had not achieved much
in any way of life, and was in debt, and in hiding. He occupied
chambers of the dreariest nature in Lyons Inn; his name, however,
was not up on the door, or door-post, but in lieu of it stood the
name of a friend who had died in the chambers, and had given him
the furniture. The story arose out of the furniture, and was to
this effect:- Let the former holder of the chambers, whose name was
still upon the door and door-post, be Mr. Testator.

Mr. Testator took a set of chambers in Lyons Inn when he had but
very scanty furniture for his bedroom, and none for his sitting-
room. He had lived some wintry months in this condition, and had
found it very bare and cold. One night, past midnight, when he sat
writing and still had writing to do that must be done before he
went to bed, he found himself out of coals. He had coals down-
stairs, but had never been to his cellar; however the cellar-key
was on his mantelshelf, and if he went down and opened the cellar
it fitted, he might fairly assume the coals in that cellar to be
his. As to his laundress, she lived among the coal-waggons and
Thames watermen--for there were Thames watermen at that time--in
some unknown rat-hole by the river, down lanes and alleys on the
other side of the Strand. As to any other person to meet him or
obstruct him, Lyons Inn was dreaming, drunk, maudlin, moody,
betting, brooding over bill-discounting or renewing--asleep or
awake, minding its own affairs. Mr. Testator took his coal-scuttle
in one hand, his candle and key in the other, and descended to the
dismallest underground dens of Lyons Inn, where the late vehicles
in the streets became thunderous, and all the water-pipes in the
neighbourhood seemed to have Macbeth's Amen sticking in their
throats, and to be trying to get it out. After groping here and
there among low doors to no purpose, Mr. Testator at length came to
a door with a rusty padlock which his key fitted. Getting the door
open with much trouble, and looking in, he found, no coals, but a
confused pile of furniture. Alarmed by this intrusion on another
man's property, he locked the door again, found his own cellar,
filled his scuttle, and returned up-stairs.

But the furniture he had seen, ran on castors across and across Mr.
Testator's mind incessantly, when, in the chill hour of five in the
morning, he got to bed. He particularly wanted a table to write
at, and a table expressly made to be written at, had been the piece
of furniture in the foreground of the heap. When his laundress
emerged from her burrow in the morning to make his kettle boil, he
artfully led up to the subject of cellars and furniture; but the
two ideas had evidently no connexion in her mind. When she left
him, and he sat at his breakfast, thinking about the furniture, he
recalled the rusty state of the padlock, and inferred that the
furniture must have been stored in the cellars for a long time--was
perhaps forgotten--owner dead, perhaps? After thinking it over, a
few days, in the course of which he could pump nothing out of Lyons
Inn about the furniture, he became desperate, and resolved to
borrow that table. He did so, that night. He had not had the
table long, when he determined to borrow an easy-chair; he had not
had that long, when he made up his mind to borrow a bookcase; then,
a couch; then, a carpet and rug. By that time, he felt he was 'in
furniture stepped in so far,' as that it could be no worse to
borrow it all. Consequently, he borrowed it all, and locked up the
cellar for good. He had always locked it, after every visit. He
had carried up every separate article in the dead of the night,
and, at the best, had felt as wicked as a Resurrection Man. Every
article was blue and furry when brought into his rooms, and he had
had, in a murderous and guilty sort of way, to polish it up while
London slept.

Mr. Testator lived in his furnished chambers two or three years, or
more, and gradually lulled himself into the opinion that the
furniture was his own. This was his convenient state of mind when,
late one night, a step came up the stairs, and a hand passed over
his door feeling for his knocker, and then one deep and solemn rap
was rapped that might have been a spring in Mr. Testator's easy-
chair to shoot him out of it; so promptly was it attended with that

With a candle in his hand, Mr. Testator went to the door, and found
there, a very pale and very tall man; a man who stooped; a man with
very high shoulders, a very narrow chest, and a very red nose; a
shabby-genteel man. He was wrapped in a long thread-bare black
coat, fastened up the front with more pins than buttons, and under
his arm he squeezed an umbrella without a handle, as if he were
playing bagpipes. He said, 'I ask your pardon, but can you tell
me--' and stopped; his eyes resting on some object within the

'Can I tell you what?' asked Mr. Testator, noting his stoppage with
quick alarm.

'I ask your pardon,' said the stranger, 'but--this is not the
inquiry I was going to make--DO I see in there, any small article
of property belonging to ME?'

Mr. Testator was beginning to stammer that he was not aware--when
the visitor slipped past him, into the chambers. There, in a
goblin way which froze Mr. Testator to the marrow, he examined,
first, the writing-table, and said, 'Mine;' then, the easy-chair,
and said, 'Mine;' then, the bookcase, and said, 'Mine;' then,
turned up a corner of the carpet, and said, 'Mine!' in a word,
inspected every item of furniture from the cellar, in succession,
and said, 'Mine!' Towards the end of this investigation, Mr.
Testator perceived that he was sodden with liquor, and that the
liquor was gin. He was not unsteady with gin, either in his speech
or carriage; but he was stiff with gin in both particulars.

Mr. Testator was in a dreadful state, for (according to his making
out of the story) the possible consequences of what he had done in
recklessness and hardihood, flashed upon him in their fulness for
the first time. When they had stood gazing at one another for a
little while, he tremulously began:

'Sir, I am conscious that the fullest explanation, compensation,
and restitution, are your due. They shall be yours. Allow me to
entreat that, without temper, without even natural irritation on
your part, we may have a little--'

'Drop of something to drink,' interposed the stranger. 'I am

Mr. Testator had intended to say, 'a little quiet conversation,'
but with great relief of mind adopted the amendment. He produced a
decanter of gin, and was bustling about for hot water and sugar,
when he found that his visitor had already drunk half of the
decanter's contents. With hot water and sugar the visitor drank
the remainder before he had been an hour in the chambers by the
chimes of the church of St. Mary in the Strand; and during the
process he frequently whispered to himself, 'Mine!'

The gin gone, and Mr. Testator wondering what was to follow it, the
visitor rose and said, with increased stiffness, 'At what hour of
the morning, sir, will it be convenient?' Mr. Testator hazarded,
'At ten?' 'Sir,' said the visitor, 'at ten, to the moment, I shall
be here.' He then contemplated Mr. Testator somewhat at leisure,
and said, 'God bless you! How is your wife?' Mr. Testator (who
never had a wife) replied with much feeling, 'Deeply anxious, poor
soul, but otherwise well.' The visitor thereupon turned and went
away, and fell twice in going down-stairs. From that hour he was
never heard of. Whether he was a ghost, or a spectral illusion of
conscience, or a drunken man who had no business there, or the
drunken rightful owner of the furniture, with a transitory gleam of
memory; whether he got safe home, or had no time to get to; whether
he died of liquor on the way, or lived in liquor ever afterwards;
he never was heard of more. This was the story, received with the
furniture and held to be as substantial, by its second possessor in
an upper set of chambers in grim Lyons Inn.

It is to be remarked of chambers in general, that they must have
been built for chambers, to have the right kind of loneliness. You
may make a great dwelling-house very lonely, but isolating suites
of rooms and calling them chambers, but you cannot make the true
kind of loneliness. In dwelling-houses, there have been family
festivals; children have grown in them, girls have bloomed into
women in them, courtships and marriages have taken place in them.
True chambers never were young, childish, maidenly; never had dolls
in them, or rocking-horses, or christenings, or betrothals, or
little coffins. Let Gray's Inn identify the child who first
touched hands and hearts with Robinson Crusoe, in any one of its
many 'sets,' and that child's little statue, in white marble with a
golden inscription, shall be at its service, at my cost and charge,
as a drinking fountain for the spirit, to freshen its thirsty
square. Let Lincoln's produce from all its houses, a twentieth of
the procession derivable from any dwelling-house one-twentieth of
its age, of fair young brides who married for love and hope, not
settlements, and all the Vice-Chancellors shall thenceforward be
kept in nosegays for nothing, on application to the writer hereof.
It is not denied that on the terrace of the Adelphi, or in any of
the streets of that subterranean-stable-haunted spot, or about
Bedford-row, or James-street of that ilk (a grewsome place), or
anywhere among the neighbourhoods that have done flowering and have
run to seed, you may find Chambers replete with the accommodations
of Solitude, Closeness, and Darkness, where you may be as low-
spirited as in the genuine article, and might be as easily
murdered, with the placid reputation of having merely gone down to
the sea-side. But, the many waters of life did run musical in
those dry channels once;--among the Inns, never. The only popular
legend known in relation to any one of the dull family of Inns, is
a dark Old Bailey whisper concerning Clement's, and importing how
the black creature who holds the sun-dial there, was a negro who
slew his master and built the dismal pile out of the contents of
his strong box--for which architectural offence alone he ought to
have been condemned to live in it. But, what populace would waste
fancy upon such a place, or on New Inn, Staple Inn, Barnard's Inn,
or any of the shabby crew?

The genuine laundress, too, is an institution not to be had in its
entirety out of and away from the genuine Chambers. Again, it is
not denied that you may be robbed elsewhere. Elsewhere you may
have--for money--dishonesty, drunkenness, dirt, laziness, and
profound incapacity. But the veritable shining-red-faced shameless
laundress; the true Mrs. Sweeney--in figure, colour, texture, and
smell, like the old damp family umbrella; the tip-top complicated
abomination of stockings, spirits, bonnet, limpness, looseness, and
larceny; is only to be drawn at the fountain-head. Mrs. Sweeney is
beyond the reach of individual art. It requires the united efforts
of several men to ensure that great result, and it is only
developed in perfection under an Honourable Society and in an Inn
of Court.


There are not many places that I find it more agreeable to revisit
when I am in an idle mood, than some places to which I have never
been. For, my acquaintance with those spots is of such long
standing, and has ripened into an intimacy of so affectionate a
nature, that I take a particular interest in assuring myself that
they are unchanged.

I never was in Robinson Crusoe's Island, yet I frequently return
there. The colony he established on it soon faded away, and it is
uninhabited by any descendants of the grave and courteous
Spaniards, or of Will Atkins and the other mutineers, and has
relapsed into its original condition. Not a twig of its wicker
houses remains, its goats have long run wild again, its screaming
parrots would darken the sun with a cloud of many flaming colours
if a gun were fired there, no face is ever reflected in the waters
of the little creek which Friday swam across when pursued by his
two brother cannibals with sharpened stomachs. After comparing
notes with other travellers who have similarly revisited the Island
and conscientiously inspected it, I have satisfied myself that it
contains no vestige of Mr. Atkins's domesticity or theology, though
his track on the memorable evening of his landing to set his
captain ashore, when he was decoyed about and round about until it
was dark, and his boat was stove, and his strength and spirits
failed him, is yet plainly to be traced. So is the hill-top on
which Robinson was struck dumb with joy when the reinstated captain
pointed to the ship, riding within half a mile of the shore, that
was to bear him away, in the nine-and-twentieth year of his
seclusion in that lonely place. So is the sandy beach on which the
memorable footstep was impressed, and where the savages hauled up
their canoes when they came ashore for those dreadful public
dinners, which led to a dancing worse than speech-making. So is
the cave where the flaring eyes of the old goat made such a goblin
appearance in the dark. So is the site of the hut where Robinson
lived with the dog and the parrot and the cat, and where he endured
those first agonies of solitude, which--strange to say--never
involved any ghostly fancies; a circumstance so very remarkable,
that perhaps he left out something in writing his record? Round
hundreds of such objects, hidden in the dense tropical foliage, the
tropical sea breaks evermore; and over them the tropical sky,
saving in the short rainy season, shines bright and cloudless.

Neither, was I ever belated among wolves, on the borders of France
and Spain; nor, did I ever, when night was closing in and the
ground was covered with snow, draw up my little company among some
felled trees which served as a breastwork, and there fire a train
of gunpowder so dexterously that suddenly we had three or four
score blazing wolves illuminating the darkness around us.
Nevertheless, I occasionally go back to that dismal region and
perform the feat again; when indeed to smell the singeing and the
frying of the wolves afire, and to see them setting one another
alight as they rush and tumble, and to behold them rolling in the
snow vainly attempting to put themselves out, and to hear their
howlings taken up by all the echoes as well as by all the unseen
wolves within the woods, makes me tremble.

I was never in the robbers' cave, where Gil Blas lived, but I often
go back there and find the trap-door just as heavy to raise as it
used to be, while that wicked old disabled Black lies everlastingly
cursing in bed. I was never in Don Quixote's study, where he read
his books of chivalry until he rose and hacked at imaginary giants,
and then refreshed himself with great draughts of water, yet you
couldn't move a book in it without my knowledge, or with my
consent. I was never (thank Heaven) in company with the little old
woman who hobbled out of the chest and told the merchant Abudah to
go in search of the Talisman of Oromanes, yet I make it my business
to know that she is well preserved and as intolerable as ever. I
was never at the school where the boy Horatio Nelson got out of bed
to steal the pears: not because he wanted any, but because every
other boy was afraid: yet I have several times been back to this
Academy, to see him let down out of window with a sheet. So with
Damascus, and Bagdad, and Brobingnag (which has the curious fate of
being usually misspelt when written), and Lilliput, and Laputa, and
the Nile, and Abyssinia, and the Ganges, and the North Pole, and
many hundreds of places--I was never at them, yet it is an affair
of my life to keep them intact, and I am always going back to them.

But, when I was in Dullborough one day, revisiting the associations
of my childhood as recorded in previous pages of these notes, my
experience in this wise was made quite inconsiderable and of no
account, by the quantity of places and people--utterly impossible
places and people, but none the less alarmingly real--that I found
I had been introduced to by my nurse before I was six years old,
and used to be forced to go back to at night without at all wanting
to go. If we all knew our own minds (in a more enlarged sense than
the popular acceptation of that phrase), I suspect we should find
our nurses responsible for most of the dark corners we are forced
to go back to, against our wills.

The first diabolical character who intruded himself on my peaceful
youth (as I called to mind that day at Dullborough), was a certain
Captain Murderer. This wretch must have been an off-shoot of the
Blue Beard family, but I had no suspicion of the consanguinity in
those times. His warning name would seem to have awakened no
general prejudice against him, for he was admitted into the best
society and possessed immense wealth. Captain Murderer's mission

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