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THE CENTURY MAGAZINE
BY LEWIS MELVILLE
Author of "The Life of William Makepeace Thackeray," etc.
WITH PICTURES BY ERNEST WALL-COUSINS AND FREDERICK GARDNER
No man not even rays the cast, und in embraced the royal borough
man, not even Charles Lamb, has land House in the west to Clerkenwell in
Thackeray might enjoy himself well enough at Brighton, find pleasure on a Continental tour, and derive satisfaction from a visit to America; but London was always shining in his inner eye. Thackeray loved his London, and no man was better acquainted with it; but his London had its limits. It was not the London of the antiquarian, or of the topographer, but of the man about town. He could easily have lost himself in the neighborhood of Fulham, and it is extremely improbable that he ever ventured into that vast space airily described by dwellers at the other end of the metropolis as the "East End"; of the northern suburbs he knew little or nothing, and the Thames was his southern boundary. He might locate Alderman Sir William Dobbin's house at Denmark Hill, and place some other worthy citizen at Highbury; but he was about as unfamiliar with these regions as with Timbuctoo, the charms of which place he sang in some of his earliest verses. Thackeray's London stretched from Hol
of Kensington, the aristocratic region of Mayfair, the clubland of St. James's, the Strand, the Temple, Covent Garden, and the unfashionable district of Bloomsbury.
The student of Thackeray's life, turning to the writings of the novelist, will observe how often the places with which Thackeray was acquainted figure in his works. The districts in which he lived, the inns of court in which he had chambers, the Bohemian haunts he frequented, the clubs to which he belonged, all are impressed into the service, even as were the experiences of his life and many of the people he knew. It would be nearly as easy to recreate certain parts of London from his books as to trace the genealogy of many of his characters. He was not, indeed, always exact in his books in the matter of locality, but his daughter, Lady Ritchie, has related that, walking beside her, he would point out the houses in which he imagined the creatures of his brain to have lived. He would show the Osbornes' house in Russell Square, the house where
Copyright, 1911, by THE CENTURY CO. All rights reserved.
Colonel Newcome lived in Fitzroy Square, Becky Sharp's house in Curzon Street, and so on. His characters were so real to him that. often he was at pains to present them with a definite habitation.
Thackeray, who was born in India, first
deed, demolished ten years after the little boy saw it, and the pillars of the colonnade. that he remembered now support the portico of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. This was all Thackeray knew of the metropolis before he went to Dr. Turner's school, facing the Thames, on Chiswick Mall. There, being very unhappy, he found courage to attempt to run away. He ran down Chiswick Lane, but when he came to the broad main road upon which that thoroughfare abuts, his nerve failed him, and the poor little lad slunk back to the school, and reentered the grounds, fortunately without his absence having been discovered. It is said that Dr. Turner occupied Walpole House, which still stands, and is now occupied by Sir
saw London in November, 1817, when he was six years of age. "I remember peeping through the colonnade at Carlton House, and seeing the abode of the great Prince Regent," he recalled the experience years after. "I can yet see the guards pacing before the palace. The palace! What palace? The palace exists no more than the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is but a name now. Where be the sentries who used to salute as the royal chariots drove in and out? The chariots, with the kings inside, have driven to the realms of Pluto; the tall guards have marched into darkness, and the echoes of their drums are rolling in Hades. Where the palace once stood, a hundred little children are paddling up and down the steps to St. James's Park." Carlton House was, in
Drawn by Ernest Wall-Cousins CHARTERHOUSE SCHOOL IN THACKERAY'S TIME-THE CHAPEL-WASH-HOUSE COURT
Herbert Beerbohm Tree, and that at Walpole House it was where Miss Pinkerton had her school-the school immortalized by the fact that among her pupils were Rebecca Sharp and Amelia Sedley.
At Chiswick little William Makepeace remained until 1822, when his mother,
who had married Major Carmichael Smyth, returned to England, and decided that he should go to the Charterhouse, at the other end of the town, where two of the English humorists of the eighteenth century, Addison and Steele, had been educated. Thackeray now became a boarder in the house of an assistant master, the Rev. Edward Penny, who lived in Wilderness Row, Clerkenwell Road, and whose house was connected with the school-grounds by a tunnel running under the road. The house is still in existence, and upon it has been placed a tablet, the rough lettering of which states:
Thackeray at first was as unhappy at the Charterhouse as he had been at Dr. Tur
ner's. He was a quiet, nervous lad, and was perhaps a little frightened by the crowds of rough boys, most of them older than himself, that he encountered in the playground. He remained at the school until May, 1828, but the last four years he spent at No. 7 Charterhouse Square, where Mrs. Boyes made a home for lads at the Charterhouse and the Merchant Taylors' schools. There, if
not content, he was at least far less miserable than in the previous years. He was older and better able to take care of himself, and he had made friends with Mrs. Boyes's son, and with Leech and George Stovin Venables. Venables it was who broke Thackeray's nose in a fight at Penny's; and when it had been successfully set, it was deliberately broken again by a brutal bully. "I got at last big enough and strong enough," Thackeray has put on record, "to give the ruffian the soundest thrashing a boy ever had." These are the only known pugilistic encounters in which
Thackeray indulged. He had no love of fighting for fighting's sake, nor did he care for any boyish games; he was happiest, like Dobbin after him, lying under a tree in the playground or, maybe, in the quaint Charterhouse Square, at the gates of the school, reading, for choice, a novel, or drawing thumbnail sketches in the margins of his books.
As time passed, Thackeray came to look back on the Charterhouse with an eye that became more and more kindly, until the "Slaughter House School" of the earlier stories became the "Grey Friars" of "The Newcomes." Thackeray, who sent to his old school-to take a few names at random-George Osborne, the younger Rawdon Crawley, Clive
Drawn by Ernest Wall Cousins
come, and Philip Firmin, in later years frequently found his way to the Charterhouse. "To other than Cistercians, Grey Friars is a dreary place possibly," he wrote. "Nevertheless, the pupils educated there love to revisit it; and the oldest of us grow young again for an hour or two as we come back to those scenes of childhood." It was his delight to give pleasure to the boys there-and to how many other boys elsewhere! "There's A's son, or B's son, as the case might be," he would say to a companion; "let's go across and tip him."
His advocacy of tipping in one of "The
comes" of the retreat that Thomas Sutton provided for poor gentlemen is known to all of us, and admired and loved. It was there that the preux chevalier Colonel
Drawn by Frederick Gardner
Newcome sought refuge from the terrible Campaigner, and there that he said "Adsum" when his name was called. The Charterhouse has changed in many respects since Thackeray visited it on Founder's Day, 1863, a fortnight before he died. The school, to which his daughters presented his bed as a souvenir, has been removed to Godalming; but Thomas Sutton's hospital stands to this day with its ancient buildings and its fine quadrangle. but little disturbed. It is still a place of great peace, where a man who has done his life's work may well be content to await the summons to another and a better world with such patience and resignation as was shown by Colonel Newcome.
For three years after leaving the Charterhouse, Thackeray was absent from London, first studying at his stepfather's house
in Devonshire, then going to Cambridge University, and afterward staying at Weimar. When he returned to the metropolis in the autumn of 1831, it was to prepare for the bar. He read with the conveyancer Taprell, who occupied the ground floor of No. 1 Hare Court, Temple, and he had chambers, either then or subsequently, at No. 2 Brick Court, close by, where Oliver Goldsmith had lived. "I have been many a time in the chambers in the Temple which were Goldsmith's, and passed up the staircase which Johnson and Burke and Reynolds trod to see their friend, their poet, their kind Goldsmith," he said, in one of his lectures on the English humorists, "-the stair on which the poor women sat weeping bitterly when they heard that the greatest and most generous of all men was dead within the black oak door." Subsequently he removed. to chambers at No. 10 Crown Office Row, in the block of buildings where Charles Lamb was born. The quaint old Temple, with its traditions, always made a strong appeal to the romance that was within him. "The man of letters," he wrote, "can't but love the place which has been inhabited by so many of his brethren, or peopled by their creations, as real to us at this day as the authors whose children they were and Sir Roger de Coverley walking in Temple Garden, and discoursing with