« AnkstesnisTęsti »
PEGGOTTY'S HOUSE, YARMOUTH.
spots that I love to haunt are at their idlest and dullest."
And now we have got as far as the Monument, and Todgers's is not far away. I shall let you hunt for it alone, now that I have brought you so far. I have done my share of this search for Todgers's, with the same result which has befallen all who have tried to follow Mr. Pecksniff "in a kind of frenzy," from the stage-coach to where he at last stopped in a kind of paved yard near the Monument, before a very dingy house, on the front of which was a little oval board like a tea-tray, with this inscription Commercial Boarding-House, M. Todgers.'" No, companion of my long stroll from the Temple, nobody has ever found. Todgers's. "Instances are known of people who, being asked to dine at Todgers's, had traveled round and round it for a weary time with its very chimney-pots in view; and, finding it at last impossible of attainment, had gone home again with a gentle. melancholy in their spirits, tranquil and uncomplaining. Nobody had ever found Todgers's on verbal direction, though given within a minute's walk of it. Todgers's was in a labyrinth, whereof the mystery was known to but a chosen few." And, as I have not the fortune to be one of those chosen few, and have never, to my knowledge, succeeded in discovering the true Todgers's, I shall heartlessly leave you in this labyrinth of lanes, and by-ways, and court-yards, and passages, to hunt it out yourself, guided by the undying odor of moldy oranges and decaying fish.
I shall stop here and look in with Tom Pinch at the Man in the Monument, who takes the money for going upstairs; and I shall listen with congenial delight to his cynical sayings as he watches the blameless countryman, with the female of his kind, painfully climbing the stairs: "They don't know what a many steps there is! It's worth twice the money to stop here-oh, my eye!"
Long as this walk from the Temple may have seemed, O wearied reader! we have yet not lagged on the way, and have left unvisited many a scene of interest. But these and many other London spots time forbids us now to visit. There is no end to the strolls through London streets which we may take with Dickens, and I know no more delightful guide than this alert figure, as he takes in turn the arm of each of his myriad creations-those creations "which ought to be counted in the census "--and leads us with them to their favorite haunts. We may fondly fancy that we know something about London, but we find even the self-sufficient Forster constrained to own that there is much to learn concerning it from each of his successive books. If not a born Londoner, Dickens was born for London, and derived his best inspiration from its familiar scenes. To him, as to Macaulay, "its smoky atmosphere and muddy river had more charm than the pure air of Hertfordshire and the crystal currents of the Rib." His love for its streets was keener than that expressed by Horace Walpole or Leigh Hunt, by
WHITE HORSE INN, IPSWICH.
Charles Lamb or Thackeray. Only Dr. Johnson's affection equaled it in intensity and steadfastness; but, unlike the sturdy Doctor, Dickens was passionately fond of country life and country scenery, and there is no pretense in any of his enthusiasm about it. He would go away at times for a trip through, or a residence in, France, Switzerland, Italy; but the quiet and isolation he sought, the beauty of form and of color in lake and mountain and snow-peak he loved so well, did not suffice him to live on; his best brain-work failed him, and he was always finally forced to go, for his intellectual food, back to his beloved streets. "For a week or a fortnight, I can write prodigiously in a retired place, as at Broadstairs; and then a day in London sets me up again and starts me. But the toil and the labor of writing day after day without that magic lantern [London] is IMMENSE!!" Especially during the process of incubation was he given to queer "night-walks." He writes to Felton of himself, while composing his "Christmas Carol": "And thinking whereof, he walked about the black streets of London, fifteen and twenty miles, many a night, when all sober folks had gone to bed."
Outside of London, there is many an excursion, near or far, which we may make. We may run across country, in company with Dickens, Mark Lemon, and John Leech, on their famous exploring expedition to Yarmouth :-" the strangest place in the wide world. shall certainly try my hand at it," he writes to Forster. How well he tried his hand at it we all know from the petty detail of the name "Blunderstone"—which, finding on a guide-post between Yarmouth and Lowestoft, he transferred to the village of David Copperfield's birth: to the grandeur of his description of the sea-storm in which Steerforth perished. Yarmouth is peculiarly famed for its terrible storms and frequent hopeless wrecks, as this past winter has shown. The boat-house, in which he made a home for the Peggotty family, and for Little Em'ly, stands intact in our memory, albeit its original no longer exists. A year or more ago, no one suspecting its existence, it was discovered, in removing the roofs from some old buildings, in just the state represented in our sketch; the very window still there in which the light was placed for Em'ly's return. At the time Dickens saw it, it stood far from other dwellings, out on the open dunes, looking
across the German Ocean. When it was uncovered, the town had grown all around it.
As we return by rail from Yarmouth down the eastern coast, we cannot pass through Ipswich without stopping awhile, for the sake of the Pickwickian memories with which the old town is filled. In its main street there still "stands an inn, known far and wide by the appellation of the Great White Horse,-rendered the more conspicuous by a stone statue of some rampacious animal with flowing mane and tail, distantly resembling an insane cart-horse, which is elevated above the principal door." There stands that horse in our sketch; there is the door through which passed Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Peter Magnus. Within those walls is the dreary coffee-room, wherein those gentlemen sat amicably drinking until midnight, and exchanging their touching confidences as to the proper form of a declaration. There still reposes that modest chamber in which the great philosopher guilelessly found refuge a little later; wherein he was, to his horror, confronted by the dread apparition of the lady in yellow curlpapers; and whence he was driven forth in ignominy by that justly indignant virgin. We may still pace those interminable halls, through which, afterward, wandered that venerable form, carrying that famous fat silver watch, hopelessly seeking his rightful bed-chamber, until rescued by Sam.
Ipswich holds forever for us one other memory,-that of Dr. Marigold and his wife, whom he "courted from the footboard of the cart,-I did, indeed! She was a Suffolk young woman, and it was in Ipswich market-place, right opposite the corn-chandler's shop." Here he put up the wedding-ring, as a "choice lot," in his own Cheap Jack patter, and so, handing it up to the smiling English maiden in the window, got that choice lot for his wife. Perhaps he had better have left it alone, like most bargains; for, though "she wasn't a bad wife, she had a temper"; and, as Doctor Marigold philosophically puts it, “thirteen year of temper in a Palace would try the worst of you; but thirteen year of temper in a Cart would try the best of you,you are kept so very close to it in a cart, you see. Wiolence in a cart is so wiolent, and aggrawation in a cart is so aggrawatin'!’
We may follow Nell and her grandfather in their flight from London, of which he writes: "There is a description of getting gradually out of town, and passing through neighborhoods of distinct and vari
ous characters, with which, if I had read it as anybody else's writing, I think I should have been very much struck." He is quite right. It would be a delightful tramp to follow the course of that pathetic pair to the end, and to the church wherein she lies, as did the Single Gentleman so often in after life; but we have too few indications to permit us to do it. We have no difficulty, however, in tracking Oliver Twist and the housebreaker from Bethnal Green, through the whole length of the town, to Chertsey, where the burglary was committed. I can point out to you the very house, with the little window through which Oliver was squeezed. We may see some charming scenery, if we are not too exacting in our selection of society and not afraid of footing it, by accompanying Sikes in his flight after the murder of Nancy. Fleeing from those pursuing eyes, he strikes north to Islington and so on to Highgate, a quiet suburb on the north of London, which might be a hundred miles off up in Yorkshire, so quaint and so far away it seems. Here is many "an oldfashioned, genteel house," such as Mrs. Steerforth lived in, when David first visited her. It may have been that fine old brick mansion once occupied by Oliver Cromwell, and later by Madame von der Linde. Here too, is the pretty cottage, once the home of David and Dora, in which they went through those delightful housekeeping experiments. From here we follow Sikes through one of the pleasantest strolls in all England,
to Hampstead Heath-that breezy upland where Dickens loved to wander. It is haunted with many famous historic ghosts; only one of which we revive to-day. It is that of John Sadleir, the great speculator, whose body-the death-wound given by himself-was found on the Heath. It was out of his "gracious rascality," ruining himself and thousands of innocent people, that Dickens shaped Merdle and his "complaint" and suicide. Here, on the Heath, we may stop awhile in this clear morning air, to enjoy the view; for all London lies spread out beneath us, its customary pall of smoke not yet settled down. Over the dome of St. Paul's, and the tall towers of Westminster, and the vast mass of buildings between, rise the green slopes of the Surrey hills; on the left we follow the winding of the Thames even to its embouchure at Gravesend; on the right, in the misty distance, the eye can pick out the battlements and turrets of Windsor Castle. Castle. A right royal prospect it is.
But we must hurry on after our hurried companion, who, driven by the Furies, does not even glance, as he passes through Hendon, at its picturesque, ivy-grown little church on a gentle eminence, its pretty grave-yard giving us a view which quite rivals that from Harrow church-yard. We push on to Hatfield. Here, in the little inn on the left of our sketch, Sikes rested, and had food; and here, in the tap-room, the peddler attempted to remove, with his "infallible composition," the blood-stain from
Sikes's hat, to his intense rage and terror. We leave the poor wretch rushing out to return to London and his death, while we go farther north.
There is, however, a more gracious memory than his connected with this place. In the grave-yard of the little church of Hatfield, Hertfordshire,-it is on the right,-Mrs. Lirriper tells us they buried "my poor Lirriper"; and we cannot but smile, albeit with a certain moisture of the eye, as we remember how that "dear old thing" came down here on the coach, with a sandwich and a drop of sherry in a basket, when she had paid all his debts; and "kissed my hand and laid it with a kind of proud and swelling love on my husband's grave; though bless you it had taken me so long to clear his name that my wedding-ring was worn quite fine and smooth when I laid it on the green green waving grass."
Instead of walking farther, we may here take the coach, which, tooled by its swell driver, has left the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, this morning,-the " Whytorseller" of Mr. Guppy, where he was sent to meet Esther Summerson, on her coming to London. Our first stoppage is at Barnet, where
that young lady, in her night ride with Inspector Bucket, records their first change of horses. While our fresh relay is being put in, we shall have time to stroll out to the main street, the scene of Oliver Twist's first meeting with the Artful Dodger.* Leaving the coach at St. Alban's, we may, after a visit to the fine old Abbey church, follow Esther and Mr. Bucket to the brickyards, where Lady Dedlock had been that night; and we may then search for the site of Bleak House, near at hand. The house itself, of that name, was found by Dickens at Broadstairs, his favorite sea-side resort, and is still shown to visitors as one of the sights of the place-a square, solitary, sullen, brick house, standing bare and bleak above all others in the place.
Days of splendid strolling may be spent in and about Rochester, where the visitor may still put up at the old Bull Inn-a model of antique discomfort-which harbored Mr. Pickwick, and may follow that eminent philosopher and his friends in their wanderings about that neighborhood; may trace the still more interesting scenes of " Edwin
* See illustration in SCRIBNER for August, 1880.
Drood," all easy of identification; and may find many a spot familiar in Dickens's work or his life, in this old cathedral town of which he was so fond. And all about it, all through sunny Kent, we may stroll through the scenes he knew so well, and loved so well: from Portsea, his birth-place, and Chalk, where he passed his honeymoon; through Cobham park and woods, the last walk he took on the day before his death; by all the woodland paths and village streets with which his feet were so familiar; and on to Gad's Hill, his latest home.
One of Dickens's favorite walks was by way of Higham to the little village of Cooling, among the marshes, between the Thames and the Medway. This is the lonely village of "Great Expectations," wherein it is reproduced with extraordinary faithfulness: its narrow, neglected roads, its few scattered houses, its forlorn rectory, its general aspect of decay and dreariness. In its church-yard, "a bleak place, overgrown with nettles," still stand the dozen little grave-stones, of varying sizes, of the dozen little children, which he was fond of pointing out to his friends, and which he has reduced to "five little stone-lozenges," for Pip to puzzle over. The visit should be made on a cloudy day, such as Dickens himself used to select; for
it is then that the weird strangeness of the scene is best shown. As we stand in the graveyard, looking across the low wall over which the convict climbed before Pip dared start away, we see the same dreary marshes, the limitless stretches of low land and grass and mud, intersected with dikes and mounds and gates, the low, leaden line of the river beyond; damp mists hang heavy over it all, and the wind "rushes from its distant savage lair" off in the ocean.
Across the marshes and stubble-fields we come to the Thames, and the scene of the attempt to put the convict, Magwitch, on the out-going Hamburg or Rotterdam steamer, which resulted in his capture. Just above is an old water-side inn, the Ship and Lobster, wherein the party spent the preceding night, and where Pip, on awakening, heard the sign of the house (The Ship he calls it) "creaking and banging about." The whole description of their rowing from the Temple stairs down the river is full of vivid and accurate detail; to make sure of which, we are told that Dickens chartered a steamer and made the trip, with a party of invited friends. It is worth while to go over the same course in the Gravesend steamer from London Bridge, on any bright day, such as he then selected.