HotFreeBooks.com
A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land
by William R. Hughes
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

We remember how often the city and the river have been the scene of many and many an exploit in Dickens's novels. Northward are the dreary marshes, the famous "meshes" of Great Expectations, hereafter to be noticed. Then far to the eastward runs the valley of the Medway, the picturesque city of Rochester thereon being crowned by those conspicuous landmarks, its magnificent Castle and ancient Cathedral. In the background is the busy town of Chatham, its heights being capped by an enormous square and lofty building erected by the sect called "Jezreelites," whatever that may be. We were informed that the so-called "immortal" leader had just died, and it has since been reported that the gloomy building is likely to be converted into a huge jam factory. Beyond, and nearly seven miles off, is the high land called "Blue Bell," about three hundred feet above mean sea-level, and all along to the south the undulating grounds and beautiful woodland scenery of Cobham Park complete the picture.



As Major Budden points out in detail these many natural beauties of the district, we can quite understand and sympathize with Dickens's love for this exquisite spot; and we heartily congratulate the present owner of Gad's Hill Place on the charming historical property which he possesses, and which, so far as we can perceive (all honour to him), is kept in the same excellent condition that characterized it during the novelist's lifetime. What is particularly striking about it is at once its compactness, completeness, and unpretentiousness.

Descending to the library, whence we started nearly three hours previously, we refresh ourselves with a glass of water from the celebrated deep well—a draught deliciously cool and clear—which the hospitable Major presses us to "dilute" (as Professor Huxley has somewhere said) in any way we please, but which we prefer to drink, as Dickens himself drank it—pure. Before we rise to leave the spot we have so long wished to see, and which we have now gone over to our hearts' content, we sadly recall to memory for a moment the "last scene of all that ends this strange, eventful history,"—that tragic incident which occurred on Thursday, 9th June, 1870, when there was an "empty chair" at Gad's Hill Place, and all intelligent English-speaking nations experienced a personal sorrow.

And so with many grateful acknowledgments to our kind and courteous host, who gives us some nice flowers and cuttings as a parting souvenir, we take our leave, having derived from our bright sunny visit to Gad's Hill Place that "wave of pleasure" which Mr. Herbert Spencer describes as "raising the rate of respiration,—raised respiration being an index of raised vital activities in general." In fine, the impression left on our minds is such as to induce us to feel that we understand and appreciate more of Dickens's old home than any illustration or written description of it, however excellent, had hitherto adequately conveyed to us. We have seen it for ourselves.

* * * * *

The reminiscences which follow are from Mrs. Lynn Linton and three of Charles Dickens's nearest neighbours.

GAD'S HILL SIXTY YEARS AGO.

The early love which Charles Dickens felt for Gad's Hill House, and his boyish ambition to be one day its owner, had been already anticipated by my father. As a boy and young man, my father's heart was set on this place; and when my grandfather's death put him in sufficient funds he bought it. Being a beneficed clergyman, both of whose livings were in the extreme north of England, he could not live in the house; but he kept it empty for many years, always hoping to get leave of absence from the Bishop for a term long enough to justify the removal of his large family from Keswick to Rochester. In 1831 a five years' leave of absence was granted; and we all came up by coach to this Mecca of my father's love. We were three days and three nights on the road; and I remember quite distinctly the square courtyard and outside balcony of the old Belle Sauvage Inn, where we put up on our arrival in London. I remember, too, the powerful scent of the Portugal laurel and the bay-tree which grew on the right-hand side of Gad's Hill House as we entered—brought out by the warm damp of the late autumn afternoon. In our time all the outhouses had leaden figures on the top. There was a cupola with an alarm bell, which one night was rung lustily, to the terror of the whole neighbourhood, and the ashamed discovery among ourselves that rats were not burglars. In the shrubbery were two large leaden figures of Pomona and Vertumnus, standing on each side of the walk leading up to the arbour. We had then two arbours—one opposite the house at the end of the green walk, and another in a dilapidated state further in the shrubbery. They were built of big flint stones, many of which had holes in them, where small birds made their nests. I remember in one was a tomtit which was quite tame, and used to fly in and out while we were watching it. The two cedars, which I believe are still there, were a little choked and overshadowed by a large oak-tree, which my father cut down. Between seventy and eighty coaches, "vans," and mail-carts passed our house during the day, besides private carriages, specially those of travellers posting to or from Dover. Regiments, too, often passed on their way to Gravesend, where they embarked for India; and ships' companies, paid off, rowdy and half-tipsy, made the road really dangerous for the time being. We used to lock the two gates when we heard them coming, shouting and singing up the hill; and we had to stand many a mimic siege from the blue-jackets trying to force their way in. Sweet-water grapes grew and ripened in the open air over the wash-house; and the back of the house was covered with a singularly fine and luscious jargonelle pear. The garden was rich in apples. We had many kinds, from the sweet and pulpy nonsuch, to the small tight little pearmain and lemon pippin. We had nonpareils, golden pippins, brown and golden russets, Ribstone pippins, and what we called a port-wine apple—the flesh red, like that of the "blood-oranges." The small orchard to the right was as rich in cherry-trees, filberts, and cobnuts. In the garden we had a fig-tree, and the mulberry-tree, which is still there, was in full bearing in our time. The garden altogether was wonderfully prolific in flowers as well as fruits—roses as well as strawberries and apples; and the green-house was full of grapes. Nightingales sang in the trees near the house, and the shrubbery was full of song birds. We had a grand view from the leads, where we used sometimes to go, and whence I remember seeing a farmyard fire over at Higham—which fire they said had been caused by an incendiary. There was a Low Church clergyman in the neighbourhood who might have been Chadband or Stiggins. He was fond of some girls we knew, and called them his "lambs." He used to put his arm round their waists, and they sat on his knees quite naturally. I myself heard him preach at Shorne against the institution of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. He said it was not only superstitious but irreligious; as pancakes meant "pan Kakon," all evil. This I, then a girl of thirteen or so, heard and remember. When my father died his property had to be sold, as he did not make an eldest son. Mr. W. H. Wills, the trusty friend of Charles Dickens, and editor of Household Words and All The Year Round, was also a friend of mine. We met at a dinner, and he spoke to me about Gad's Hill, but as if he wanted to buy it for himself. He was afraid to mention Charles Dickens's name, lest we should ask too much. So he told me afterwards. I had been left executrix under my father's will, being then the only unmarried daughter; and I took the news to our solicitor and co-executor, Mr. Loaden. He wrote to Mr. Wills, and the sale was effected. We scored a little triumph over the "ornamental timber." Mr. Dickens objected to our price; the case was submitted to an arbitrator, and we got more than we originally asked. But there was never one moment of pique on either side, nor a drop of bad blood as the consequence. It was always a matter for a laugh and a joke between Mr. Wills and myself. When we first went to Gad's Hill there was a fish-pond at the back; but my father had it filled up, lest one of his adventurous little ones should tumble in. Officers used to come up from Chatham to the Falstaff, and have pigeon matches in our big field; and one of the sights which used to delight our young eyes, was the gallant bearing and gay uniforms of the Commandant at Chatham, when he and his staff rode by. We were great walkers in those days, and used to ramble over Cobham Park, and round by Shorne, and down to the dreary marshes beyond Higham. But this was not a favourite walk with us, and we girls never went there alone. The banks on the Rochester road—past Davies's Straits—were full of sweet violets, white and purple; and the fungi, lichens, flowers, and ferns about Shorne and Cobham yet linger in my memory as things of rarest beauty. We always thought that the coachman, "Old Chumley," as he was called, was old Weller. He was a fine, cheery, trustworthy man; and once when my father was in London, he had one of my sisters and myself—girls then about fifteen and thirteen—put under his charge to be delivered to him at the end of the journey. The dear old fellow took as much care of us as if he had been our father himself. I remember my brothers gave him a new whip, and he was very fond of us all.

E. L. L.

* * * * *

* * * We had at a subsequent visit to Gad's Hill Place, on the invitation of our hospitable friends, Major and Mrs. Budden, the pleasure of a long and interesting conversation with Mr. James Hulkes, J.P., of the Little Hermitage, Frindsbury, a Kentish man, who came to live here more than sixty years ago, and who was thus a very near neighbour of Charles Dickens during the whole of the time that he resided at Gad's Hill Place. We were shown into a delightful room at the back of the house, overlooking the shrubberies of the mansion—in the distance appearing the high ground on which stands the monument to Charles Larkin. The room is a happy combination of part workshop, with a fine lathe and assortment of tools fitted round it—part study, with a nice collection of books, engravings and pictures (some of hunting scenes) on the walls—and part naturalist's den, with cases of stuffed birds and animals, guns and fishing-rods—the fragrant odour of tobacco breathing friendly welcome to a visitor of smoking proclivities. The varied tastes of the owner were sufficiently apparent, and a long chat of over two hours seemed to us but a few minutes.

Mr. Hulkes said he just remembered the road from Strood to Gad's Hill being cut through the sands down to the chalk. It was for some time afterwards called "Davies's Straits," after the Rev. George Davies, the then Chairman of the Turnpike Road Board, and the term indicated the difficulty and expense of the operation. Before the new road was cut, the old highway constituting this part of the Dover Road was very hilly and dangerous.

Reverting to the subject of Charles Dickens, our relator remarked, "I fear I cannot be of much use to you by giving information about Mr. Dickens, as I only knew him as a kind friend, a very genial host, and a most charming companion; to the poor he was always kind—a deserving beggar never went from his house unrelieved." What indeed could be said more! These few simple words, spoken so earnestly after a period of nearly twenty years, sufficed to bring before us the lost neighbour whose memory was so warmly cherished by his surviving friend.

John Forster, in the Life, speaks of Mr. Hulkes as being "one of the two nearest country neighbours with whom the [Dickens] family had become very intimate," and mentions that both Mr. and Mrs. Hulkes were present at the wedding of the novelist's second daughter, Kate, with Mr. Charles Alston Collins. Mr. Hulkes spoke of the pleasant parties at Gad's Hill Place, at which he met Mr. Forster, Mr. Wilkie Collins, Mr. Percy Fitzgerald, Mr. Marcus Stone, Mr. H. F. Chorley, and many others; and observed that, on the occasion of charades and private theatricals there, Charles Dickens was always in fine form. He showed us an original manuscript programme (of which we were allowed to take a copy), written on half-a-sheet of foolscap; and from the fact that "Gads Hill Gazette Printing Office" appears in the corner it would seem that it was printed on the occasion for the guests. It is as follows:—

December 31st, 1863.

"A night's exploit on Gad's Hill."—Shakespeare.

Her Majesty's Servants will have the honour of presenting Three Charades!!!

Each Charade is a word of two syllables, arranged in three Scenes. The first scene is the first syllable; the second is the second syllable; the third scene is the entire word.

(At the end of each Charade the audience is respectfully invited to name the word.)



Charade 1!

Scene I.—The awful end of the Profligate Sailor.

Scene II.—On the way to foreign parts.

Scene III.—Miss Belinda Jane and the faithful policeman (Division Q).

Charade 2!!

Scene I.—Archery at Castle Doodle.

Scene II.—Fra Diavolo a Dread Reality.

Scene III.—The Choice of a too Lowly Youth.

Charade 3!!!

Scene I.—The Pathetic History of the Poor Little Sweep.

Scene II.—Mussulman Barbarity to Christians.

Scene III.—Merry England.

Gad's Hill Gazette Printing Office.

The various parts were taken by Dickens and his family, and the entire word of the last Charade is supposed to be "May Day."

In connection with charades, Mr. Hulkes alluded to Dickens's remarkable facility for "guessing a subject fixed on when he was out of the room, in half a dozen questions;" and related the story of how at the young people's game of "Yes and No," he found out the proper answer to a random question fixed upon by Mr. Charles Collins, one of the company, in his absence, which was, "The top-boot of the left leg of the head post-boy at Newman's Yard, London." The squire sometimes took a stroll with his neighbour, but observed "he was too fast a walker for me—I couldn't keep up with him!"

Mr. Hulkes possesses a nearly complete "file" (from 1862 to 1866) of the Gad's Hill Gazette, to which he was one of the subscribers, and which was edited by the novelist's son, Mr. Henry Fielding Dickens, and, as before stated, printed at Gad's Hill Place. It chronicled the arrivals and departures, the results of cricket matches and billiard games, with interesting gossip of events relating to the family and the neighbourhood. Occasionally there was a leading article, and now and then an acrostic appeared. Among the subscribers were the novelist and his family, The Lord Chief Justice, The Dean of Bristol, Lady Molesworth, Mrs. Milner Gibson, M. Stone, A. Halliday, J. Hulkes, C. Kent, W. H. Wills, H. F. Chorley, Edmund Yates, etc. The number for January 20th, 1866, contains a humorous correspondence on the management of the journal between "Jabez Skinner" and "Blackbury Jones." Mr. H. F. Dickens kindly allows a copy of the number for December 30th, 1865, to be reproduced, which is interesting as giving an account of the Staplehurst accident, and also the notice issued when the journal was discontinued.

THE

GAD'S HILL GAZETTE

Edited by H. F. Dickens

December 30th 1865 Price 2d

* * * * *

We are very glad to meet our subscribers again after such a long lapse of time, and we hope that they will patronise us in the same kind and indulgent manner as they did, last season.

In the circulars, we announced that some great improvements were to be made in the Gazette— We are sorry that they cannot appear in this number (as our suppliers of type have disappointed us) but we hope that next week, we shall be able to publish this journal in quite a different form.

Hoping that our subscribers will excuse us this week, we beg to wish them all A Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

* * * * *

Christmas at Gad's Hill.

During the past week, Gad's Hill has resounded with the sounds of festivity and merriment.

(Continued on the next page)

As is usually the case, the house has been filled with the guests who have come to taste of Mr Dickens' hospitality. These consisted of Mr Mad, and Master Fechter, Mr & Mrs C. Collins, Mr Mrs and Master C. Dickens junr, Mr Morgan (who suddenly appeared on Christmas Day, having just returned from America) Mr M. Stone, Mr Chorley and Mr Dickenson.

The latter gentleman has not yet entirely recovered from the effects of a most disastrous railway accident in which he was a sufferer, and had it not been for the courage and intrepidity of Mr Dickens, he would not now be spending his Christmas at Gad's Hill.

A short time before the accident occurred, Mr Dickenson had a dispute with a French gentleman about the opening of the window when the former offered to change places, if the open window was disagreeable to his fellow traveller—this they did.—

Then came the accident, accompanied by all its frightful incidents. The French gentleman was killed, Mr Dickenson was stunned and hurled with great violence under the debris of a carriage.

Mr Dickens, who was in another compartment, managed to crawl out of the window and then, caring little for his own safety, busied himself in helping the wounded. Whilst engaged in doing this, he passed by a carriage, underneath which he saw a gentleman (Mr Dickenson) lying perfectly still, and bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

He was immediately taken to the town of Staplehurst where he so far recovered as to be able to return to London, that evening.

Next morning he was suffering from a very severe concussion of the brain and was ill for many weeks—But to our subject.

On Christmas Day, Mr, Mrs & Miss Malleson came to dinner. At about 9, an ex tempore dance began and was kept up till about 2 o'clock Tuesday morning. During the week, billiards has been much resorted to. (See next page)

All the visitors are still here, except Mr Fechter and family who left on December 26th, and Mr Morgan (who is to return on 31st. Talking of Mr Fechter, our readers will be glad to hear that he has made a most decided success in his new piece entitled—The Master of Ravenswood—

* * * * *

Sporting Intelligence.

Billiards

Of all the matches that have been played during the past week the most important was a Great Handicap on Christmas Day, the prize being a pewter. Annexed is an account of it.

Stone Scratch C Dickens jun 20 Harry 30 Fechter 5 Dickenson 20 C Dickens 35 Morgan 10 Collins 30 Plorn 40

Our space will not allow us to enter into the minute details of this match suffice it to say that Mr Dickenson won but that as regards good play, he was excelled by Mr Stone (who, however, was so heavily weighted that he could not win. Great credit is due to Mr Ch Dickens junr for the way in which he handicapped the men.

On Saturday 30th a match is to be played between The Earl of Darnley and Mr M Stone.

* * * * *

Gad's Hill Gazette Office. January—1867.

In a circular issued last August, we announced that a final number of the Gad's Hill Gazette was to be published this Xmas. We are grieved however to state, that the shortening of the Wimbledon School holidays (in which establishment the Editor is a pupil) has rendered this impossible.

It is with feelings of the deepest regret that we find ourselves obliged to conclude the publication of our Journal in this sudden and unexpected manner, but we feel sure that the great indulgence of the Public will overlook this, as it has done many other great errors in the Gad's Hill Gazette.

In conclusion, we beg to take leave of our Subscribers in our public capacity of Editor, thanking them for their kindness in supporting our Journal, and wishing them all

—"A Happy New Year."—

(Signed) Sole Editor

Mrs. Hulkes had a number of pleasant recollections of Gad's Hill Place, and of Charles Dickens and his family. "As a girl," said this lady, "I was an admiring reader of his works, and I longed to see and know the author; but little did I think that my high ambition would ever be gratified." That a warm friendship existed between his admirer and Charles Dickens, who subsequently became her near neighbour, is evidenced by the fact that, in reply to her request, he allowed this lady the great privilege of reading the catastrophe of that exquisitely-pathetic and nobly-altruistic story of A Tale of Two Cities, some weeks before its publication, as appears from the following letter:—

"GAD'S HILL PLACE, "HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT. "Sunday evening, Sixteenth Oct., 1857.

"MY DEAR MRS. HULKES,

"My daughter has shown me your note, and it has impressed me with the horrible determination to become a new kind of Bluebeard, and lay an awful injunction of secrecy on you for five mortal weeks.

"Here is the remainder of the Tale of Two Cities. Not half-a-dozen of my oldest and most trusty literary friends have seen it. It is a real pleasure to me to entrust you with the catastrophe, and to ask you to keep a grim and inflexible silence on the subject until it is published. When you have read the proofs, will you kindly return them to me?

"With my regard to Mr. Hulkes,

"Believe me always, "Faithfully yours, "CHARLES DICKENS.

"MRS. HULKES."

Mrs. Hulkes said that when Dickens went to Paris in 1863, he jokingly said to her, "I am going to Paris; what shall I bring you?" She replied, "A good photograph of yourself, as I do not like the one you gave me; and I hear the French people are more successful than the English, or their climate may help them." And he brought a photograph of himself, of which there were only four printed. It now graces Mrs. Hulkes' drawing-room, and represents the novelist very life-like in full face, head and bust. The photograph was taken by Alphonse Maze, and has been exquisitely engraved in Mr. Kitton's Charles Dickens by Pen and Pencil.

Mrs. Hulkes mentioned a curious and interesting circumstance. On the night before the funeral of her friend, Miss Dickens sent down to the Little Hermitage to ask if she could kindly give her some roses. Mrs. Hulkes cut a quantity from one of the trees in the garden (Lamarque, she believes), and the tree never bloomed again, and soon after died. No doubt, as she observed, it bled to death from the excessive cutting. It was the second case only of the kind in her experience as a rose-grower during very many years.

Charles Dickens also took interest in his friend's son (their only child, who has since finished his University career), and this gentleman prizes as a relic a copy of A Child's History of England, which was presented to him, with the following inscription written in the characteristic blue ink—"Charles Dickens. To his little friend, Cecil James Hulkes. Christmas Eve, 1864." In a letter to Miss Hogarth, written from New York, on Friday, 3rd January, 1868, he says:—"I have a letter from Mrs. Hulkes by this post, wherein the boy encloses a violet, now lying on the table before me. Let her know that it arrived safely and retaining its colour."

There are many interesting relics of Gad's Hill Place now in the possession of the family at the Little Hermitage, notably Charles Dickens's seal with his crest, and the initials C. D., his pen-tray, his desk, a photograph of the study on 8th June, 1870 (a present from Miss Hogarth), the portrait above referred to, an arm-chair, a drawing-room settee, a dressing-table, and a library writing-table.

* * * * *

On another occasion we were favoured with an interview by Mr. J. N. Malleson, of Brighton, who formerly resided at the Great Hermitage, Higham, and who was a neighbour of Charles Dickens for many years. Mr. Malleson came to the Great Hermitage in 1859, and a day or two after Christmas Day in that year—having previously been a guest at the wedding of Dickens's second daughter Kate, with Mr. Charles Alston Collins—he met the novelist, who, stopping to chat pleasantly, asked his neighbours where they dined at Christmas? "Oh, Darby and Joan," said our informant. Dickens laughingly replied:—"That shall never happen again"; and the following year, and every year afterwards, except when their friend was in America, Mr. and Mrs. Malleson received and accepted invitations to dine at Gad's Hill Place. On the exception in question, the family of Dickens dined at the Great Hermitage.

* * * * *

In the autumn of the year 1889 we had a most interesting chat with Mr. William Stocker Trood, at his residence, Spearcehay Farm, Pitminster, pleasantly situated in the vale of Taunton, for many years landlord of the Sir John Falstaff at Gad's Hill. The first noteworthy circumstance to record is that his name is not Edwin Trood, as commonly supposed, but William Stocker, as above stated, Stocker being an old family name. This fact disposes of the supposition that the former two names, with the alteration of a single letter, gave rise in Dickens's mind to the designation of the principal character in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The name of "Trood" is by the substitution of one letter easily converted into Drood, and that word is perhaps more euphonious with "Edwin" as prefixed to it; but "William Stocker" is not by any means easily converted into "Edwin." The idea that "Edwin Drood" is derived from "William Stocker Trood" may therefore be dismissed as a popular fallacy. It may be mentioned, however, en passant, that Mr. Trood had a brother named Edward, who sometimes visited him at the Falstaff, and also a son who bore the name of his uncle.

We found our informant to be wonderfully genial, hale and hearty, although in his eighty-fifth year. He had a perfect recollection of Charles Dickens, and remembered his first coming to Gad's Hill Place. Before the house was properly furnished and put in order, both Mr. and Mrs. Dickens sometimes slept at the Falstaff; and afterwards, when visitors were staying at Gad's Hill Place, and the bedrooms there were full, some of them slept at the Inn; in particular, John Forster, Wilkie Collins, and Marcus Stone. He said Mr. Dickens was a very nice man to speak to, and Mrs. Dickens was a very nice lady. They were always kind and pleasant as neighbours, but Mr. Dickens did not talk much. Said Mr. Trood:—"When I was at Higham, Mr. Dickens used to say no one could put in a word; I had all the talk to myself." The sons were all very pleasant; in fact, he liked the family very much indeed.

Mr. Trood sometimes acted as local banker to Charles Dickens, and used to cash his cheques for him. Only the day before his death, he cashed a cheque for L22, and was subsequently offered L24 for it by an admirer of Dickens who desired the autograph; but to his credit it should be mentioned that he did not accept the offer.

Our informant next spoke of the wonderful partiality of Dickens to cricket; he would stand out all night if he could watch a cricket match. The matches were always played in Mr. Dickens's field, and the business meetings of the club were held monthly at the Falstaff. Mr. Trood was Treasurer of the club. Occasionally there was a dinner.

A circumstance was related which made a profound impression on our friend. The family at Gad's Hill Place were very fond of music, and on one occasion there were present as visitors two great violinists, one a German and the other an Italian, and it was a debated question among the listeners outside the gates, where the music could be distinctly heard, which played the better. Mr. Trood had just returned from Gravesend in the cool of the summer evening, about ten o'clock, and stood in the road opposite listening, "spellbound," to the delightful music. Miss Dickens played the accompaniments.

Mr. Trood spoke with a lively and appreciative recollection of the Christmas sports that were held in a field at the back of Gad's Hill Place, and of the good order and nice feeling that prevailed at those gatherings, although several thousand people were present. Among the games that were played, the wheeling of barrows by blind-folded men seemed to tickle him most.

Our octogenarian friend also spoke of the great love of Dickens for scarlet geraniums. Hundreds of the "Tom Thumb" variety were planted in the beds on the front lawn and in the back garden at Gad's Hill Place.

Soon after the terrible railway accident at Staplehurst, Dickens came over to the Falstaff and spoke to Mr. Trood, who congratulated him. Said Dickens, "I never thought I should be here again." It is a wonderful coincidence to record, that a young gentleman named Dickenson, who subsequently became intimate with the novelist, changed places (so as to get the benefit of meeting the fresh air) with a French gentleman in the same carriage who was killed, and Mr. Dickenson escaped! The accident happened on the 9th June, 1865, and Dickens died on the "fatal anniversary," 9th June, 1870.

Mr. Trood confirmed his daughter's (Mrs. Latter's) account of the fracas with the men and performing bears, given in another chapter, adding, "That was a concern."

* * * * *

The beautiful city of Exeter is not far from Taunton, and we naturally avail ourselves of the opportunity of stopping there for a few hours, and stroll over to see the village of Alphington. It was here, in the year 1839, that Charles Dickens took and furnished Mile End Cottage for his father and mother and their youngest son. He thus describes the event in a letter to Forster:—"I took a little house for them this morning (5th March, 1839), and if they are not pleased with it I shall be grievously disappointed. Exactly a mile beyond the city on the Plymouth road there are two white cottages: one is theirs, and the other belongs to their landlady. I almost forget the number of rooms, but there is an excellent parlour with two other rooms on the ground floor, there is really a beautiful little room over the parlour which I am furnishing as a drawing-room, and there is a splendid garden. The paint and paper throughout is new and fresh and cheerful-looking, the place is clean beyond all description, and the neighbourhood I suppose the most beautiful in this most beautiful of English counties." The negotiations with the landlady and the operation of furnishing the house are most humorously pourtrayed in the same letter.

The cottage is also described in Nicholas Nickleby, which he was writing at the time. Mrs. Nickleby, in allusion to her old home, calls it "the beautiful little thatched white house one storey high, covered all over with ivy and creeping plants, with an exquisite little porch with twining honeysuckles and all sorts of things."

Fifty years have passed since the parents of the novelist went to live at Alphington, which, notwithstanding the subsequent growth of the city, still continues to be a pretty suburb with fine views of the Ide Hills to the westward, and Heavitree to the eastward. Our efforts to obtain any reminiscences of the Dickens family in the village were quite unsuccessful—so long a time had elapsed since their departure—although, to oblige us, the vicar of the place kindly made enquiries, and took some interest in the matter.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] Since this was written, Gad's Hill Place has been purchased by the Hon. F. G. Latham. Major Budden has resigned his commission locally, and now holds a commission in the Limerick City Artillery Militia. It is very pleasant to place on record that in subsequent visits to "Dickens-Land" I was always received with friendly kindness by Major and Mrs. Budden, whose hospitality I often enjoyed. Their enthusiasm for the late owner of Gad's Hill Place, and their willingness to show every part of their beautiful residence to any one specially interested, was most gratifying to a lover of Dickens. Like the novelist, Mrs. Budden is fond of private theatricals, and has published a little book on Mrs. Farley's Wax-Works and How to Use Them.

[12] It has been suggested that the lines above quoted might give one the impression that they are those of Falstaff. This, of course, is not the case. They are spoken by Poins, when in company with Falstaff, Prince Henry, and others. They occur in Act I. Scene ii. of King Henry IV., Part 1.

A Note to Charles Knight's Edition of Shakespeare, contained in the "Illustrations to Act I." of the same Play, states that Gad's Hill appears to have been a place notorious for robbers before the time of Shakespeare, for Stevens discovered an entry of the date of 1558 in the books of the Stationers' Company, of a ballad entitled, "The Robbery at Gad's Hill." And the late Sir Henry Ellis, of the British Museum, communicated to Mr. Boswell, Editor of Malone's Shakespeare, a narrative in the handwriting of Sir Roger Manwood, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, dated 5th July, 1590, which shows that Gad's Hill was at that period the resort of a band of well-mounted robbers of more than usual daring, as appears from the following extract:—

"In the course of that Michaelmas term, I being at London, many robberies were done in the bye-ways at Gad's Hill, on the west part of Rochester, and at Chatham, down on the east part of Rochester, by horse thieves, with such fat and lusty horses, as were not like hackney horses nor far-journeying horses; and one of them sometimes wearing a vizard grey beard, he was by common report in the country called 'Justice Grey Beard;' and no man durst travel that way without great company."

[13] At an interview with Mr. H. F. Dickens some time afterwards, he told me the story of the origin of The Gad's Hill Gazette. There was a good deal of sand exposed at the back of the house, and the sons of the novelist—who like other boys were full of energy,—were fond of playing at "burying" each other. Their father naturally feared that this kind of play might have some disastrous effects, and develop into burying in earnest. So he said one day to his sons, "Why not establish a newspaper, if you want a field for your energies?" The Gad's Hill Gazette was the result. At first the tiny journal was written on a plain sheet and copies made; then a Manifold Writer was used; and afterwards came the Printing Press.



CHAPTER VIII.

CHARLES DICKENS AND STROOD.

"So altered was the battle-ground, where thousands upon thousands had been killed in the great fight."—The Battle of Life.

"Keep me always at it, I'll keep you always at it, you keep somebody else always at it. There you are, with the Whole Duty of Man in a commercial country."—Little Dorrit.

THE town of Strood,—the Roman Strata,—which stands on the left bank of the river Medway, has, like the city of Rochester, its interesting historical associations. Its Church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, stands high on the north side of the London road leading to Gad's Hill, and has a brass of T. Glover and his three wives. At one time there was a hospital for travellers, founded by Bishop Glanville (temp. Richard I.), near the Church. The most interesting remains are, however, those of the Temple Farm, distant about half a mile south, formerly (temp. Henry II.) the mansion of the Knights Templars of the Teutonic order, to whom it, together with the lands thereto belonging, was given by that monarch. The gift was confirmed by King John and by Henry III. (1227); but the unfortunate brethren of the order did not retain possession more than a century, for in the reign of Edward II. they were dispossessed of their lands and goods, under pretence of their leading a vicious course of life, but in reality to satisfy the avarice of their dispossessors. The present building dates from about James I., has one fine room overlooking the river, and underneath is a spacious vault called by Grose the "Preceptory," excavated out of the chalk, and having fine groined stone arches and aisles—the walls are of very great thickness. Near Frindsbury Church—in which are three most interesting wall-paintings of St. William the Baker of Perth, St. Lawrence, and another figure, all three discovered on the jambs of the Norman windows only a few years ago—stands the Quarry House, a handsome old red-brick mansion, "described as more Jacobean than Elizabethan," built in the form of a capital E, each storey slightly receding behind the front level of that beneath it, the top tapering into pretty gables, the effect being enhanced by heavy buttresses.

There is a dreadful legend of the ancient people of Strood common to several other parts of the kingdom, e.g. Auster in Dorsetshire, which the quaint and diligent Lambarde, quoting from Polydore Virgil, evidently regarded as serious, and takes immense pains to confute! It relates to St. Thomas a Becket and his contention with King Henry II., whereby he began to be looked upon as the King's enemy, and as such began to be "so commonly neglected, contemned, and hated:—

"That when as it happened him upon a time to come to Stroude, the Inhabitants thereabouts (being desirous to dispite that good Father) sticked not to cut the tail from the horse on which he road, binding themselves thereby with a perpetuall reproach: for afterward (by the will of God) it so happened, that every one which came of that kinred of men which plaied that naughty prank, were borne with tails, even as brute beasts be."



Surely had the credulous historian lived in Darwinian times, he might have recorded this as a splendid instance of "degeneration"!



In a lecture delivered here some years ago, the Rev. Canon Scott Robertson, Editor of Archaeologia Cantiana, gave a graphic picture of "Strood in the Olden Times." To this we are much indebted for the opportunity of giving an abstract of several of the most interesting details.

In the thirteenth century Strood and Rochester were the scene of a severe struggle between Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, the leader of the Barons in their war against Henry III. to resist the aggressive encroachments of the King on the liberties of the subject, and the supporters of that monarch.



Simon de Montfort, who was a Strood landowner, and possessed of other large properties in Kent, took the lead, followed by several other nobles, in the siege of Rochester. Their first obstacle was the fortified gate-house at the Strood end of Rochester Bridge, and for some time their efforts were in vain, till at length, by means of small ships filled with inflammable matter, set on fire and driven towards the centre of the wooden bridge, causing "actual or expected ignition of the timbers," the King's soldiers were dismayed and retreated. The Earl of Gloucester simultaneously reached the south end of the city, and the Barons took possession thereof, sacking the town, monastery, and Cathedral Church. The garrison of the Castle shut themselves up in the strong Norman Keep, and held it till relieved by Prince Edward, the King's son.

The Castle was subsequently taken by Simon de Montfort after the Battle of Lewes (1264), where Henry III. was taken prisoner and brought to Rochester, and a Proclamation was issued transferring the custody of the Royal Castle to the Barons.

At the Battle of Evesham (1265) Simon de Montfort was slain; and the King, on becoming master of the situation, imposed a fine, equivalent to about L1,500 of our money, on Strood, because it was the headquarters of Simon during his assault on Rochester. The fine caused much ill-feeling between the two towns, which lasted until the reign of Edward I. Such was Strood in the olden times.

Long years have since passed, and the amenities of an industrial age have succeeded to these turmoils. The town of Strood appears to be flourishing, and now possesses large engineering works, cement manufactories, flour mills, and other extensive industries.

Allusion has been previously made to a very entertaining brochure, entitled Charles Dickens and Rochester, by Mr. Robert Langton, F. R. Hist. Soc. of Manchester (himself, we believe, a Rochester man). In it there is scarcely any reference to Strood, although the sister-town, Chatham, is freely mentioned. Our enquiries at Strood, on the Tuesday and subsequently, resulted in the discovery of many most interesting memorials of Charles Dickens in connection with that town, enough almost to fill a small volume. There was a general impression that Dickens had no great liking for Strood, and yet it was a doctor from that town who was one of his most intimate friends, and who attended him in his last illness; it was a builder in Strood who executed most of the alterations and repairs at Gad's Hill Place; it was a Strood contractor who gave him the souvenir of old Rochester Bridge; it was at Strood that an eminent local scientist lived, who was incidentally, but very importantly, associated with him in the movement connected with the Guild of Literature and Art; and it was at a quiet roadside inn at Strood that he sometimes called to refresh himself after one of those long walks, alone or with friends, for which he was famous.



Let us reverse the order of the above, and give a recollection from the last-mentioned. The "Crispin and Crispianus" is a very old-fashioned inn, which stands on the north side of the London road just out of Strood, and was, as we were informed, erected some centuries ago. It is a long building, of brick below, with an overhanging upper floor and weather-boarded front, surmounted by a single dormer window. The sanded floor of the common parlour is, as the saying goes, "as clean as a new pin." Round the room is a settle terminating with arms at each side of the door, which is opposite the fireplace. Mrs. Masters, the cheerful and obliging landlady, who has lived here thirty years, describes Dickens to us (as we sit in the seat he used now and then to occupy), when on one of his walks, as habited in low shoes not over-well mended, loose large check-patterned trousers that sometimes got entangled in the shoes when walking, a brown coat thrown open, sometimes without waistcoat, a belt instead of braces, a necktie which now and then got round towards his ear, and a large-brimmed felt hat, similar to an American's, set well at the back of his head. In his hand he carried by the middle an umbrella, which he was in the habit of constantly swinging, and if he had dogs (a not unfrequent occurrence), he had a small whip as well. He walked in the middle of the road at a rapid pace, upright, but with his eyes cast down as if in deep thought. When he called at the Crispin for refreshment, usually a glass of ale (mild sixpenny—bitter ale was not drawn in those days), or a little cold brandy and water, he walked straight in, and sat down at the corner of the settle on the right-hand side where the arm is, opposite the fire-place; he rarely spoke to any one, but looked round as though taking in everything at a glance. (In David Copperfield he says, "I looked at nothing, that I know of, but I saw everything.") Once he and a friend were sheltering there during a thunderstorm (by a coincidence, a storm occurs at the time we are here), and while Dickens stood looking out of the window he saw opposite a poor woman with a baby, who appeared very worn, wet, and travel-stained. She too was sheltering from the rain.

"Call her in here," said Dickens. Mrs. Masters obeyed.

"Now," said he, "draw her some brandy."

"How much?" she asked.

"Never mind," he answered, "draw her some."

The landlady drew her four-pennyworth, the quantity generally served.

"Now," said Dickens to the woman, "drink that up," which she did, and soon seemed refreshed. Dickens gave her a shilling, and remarked to Mrs. Masters that "now she will go on her way rejoicing." The story is a trivial one, but the units make the aggregate, and it sufficiently indicates his kindness of heart and thoughtfulness for others.

In some of his walks Dickens was accompanied either by his sister-in-law, Miss Hogarth, or by friends who were staying at "Gad's" (or the "Place," as it was sometimes called). Mrs. Masters, whose recollections of Dickens are very vivid, said—"Lor! we never thought much about him when he was alive; it was only when his death took place that we understood what a great man he was." Alas! it is not the first instance that "a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house." The news of his death was a great shock to Mrs. Masters, who heard of it from Edward, son of Mr. W. S. Trood, the landlord of the Sir John Falstaff, as he was bearing the intelligence to Rochester within half-an-hour after the event.

In passing we should mention, that the Crispin and Crispianus has been immortalized in the chapter on "Tramps," in The Uncommercial Traveller, where, in reference to the handicrafts of certain tramps, Dickens imagines himself to be a travelling clockmaker, and after adjusting "t'ould clock" in the keeper's kitchen, "he sees to something wrong with the bell of the turret stable clock up at the Hall [Cobham Hall]. . . . 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. . . . So should we lie that night at the ancient sign of the Crispin and Crispianus [at Strood], and rise early next morning to be betimes on tramp again."[14]

We are also indebted to Mrs. Masters for an introduction to our next informant, Mr. J. Couchman, master-builder and undertaker of Strood, who, though advanced in years and tried by illness, is very free and chatty; and from him and his son we obtained some interesting facts. He had worked for Charles Dickens at Gad's Hill Place, from the date of his going there ("which," says Mr. Couchman, "was on Whitsun Monday, 1856,") until the 11th June, 1870, two days after the sad occurrence "which eclipsed the gaiety of nations."

From Mr. Couchman's standpoint as a tradesman, it is interesting to record his experience of Dickens in his own words. "Mr. Dickens," he says, "was always very straightforward, honourable, and kind, and paid his bills most regularly. The first work I did for him was to make a dog-kennel; I also put up the chalet at Gad's Hill. When it was forwarded from London, which was by water, Mr. Fechter [whose name he did not at first remember] sent a Frenchman to assist in the erection. The chalet consisted of ninety-four pieces, all fitting accurately together like a puzzle. The Frenchman did not understand it, and could not make out the fitting of the pieces. So I asked Mr. Henry [Mr. Henry Fielding Dickens, the novelist's sixth son, the present Recorder of Deal] if he understood French. He said 'Yes,' and told me the names of the different pieces, and I managed it without the Frenchman, who stayed the night, and went away next day." In conversation, we suggest that the circumstance of the chalet having been made in Switzerland may have embarrassed the Frenchman, he not having been accustomed to that kind of work. In his letter to Forster of the 7th June, 1865, Dickens says:—"The chalet is going on excellently, though the ornamental part is more slowly put together than the substantial. It will really be a very pretty thing; and in the summer (supposing it not to be blown away in the spring), the upper room will make a charming study. It is much higher than we supposed."

Mr. Couchman also took down the chalet after Charles Dickens's death, and erected it at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, where it remained for a short time, and was subsequently presented to the Earl of Darnley by several members of the Dickens family. His lordship afterwards ordered him to fit it up at Cobham Hall, where, as previously stated, it now stands. The woods of which it is constructed he believed to be Baltic oak and a kind of pine, the lighter parts being of maple or sycamore. We saw it subsequently.

Several contracts were entered into by Mr. Couchman with Charles Dickens for the extension and modification of Gad's Hill Place, notably during the year 1861. We are favoured with a sight of an original specification signed by both parties, which is as follows:—

"Specification of works proposed to be done at Gad's Hill House, Higham, for C. Dickens, Esq.

"Bricklayer.—To take off slates and copings and heighten brick walls and chimneys, and build No. 2 new chimneys with stock and picking bricks laid in cement. No. 2 chimney bars, to cope gable ends with old stone. No. 2 hearthstones. No. 2 plain stone chimney-pieces. No. 2—2 ft. 6 in. Register stoves. To lath and plaster ceiling, side walls, and partitions with lime and hair two coats, and set to slate the new roof with good countess slates and metal nails.

"Carpenter.—To take off roof, to lay floor joist with 7 x 2-1/2 in. yellow battens; to fix roof, ceiling, joist and partitions of good fir timber, 4 ft. x 2 ft.; to use old timber that is sound and fit for use; to close board roof, lead flat and gutters; to lay 1 in. x 9 in. white deal floors, to skirt rooms with 8 in. x 3/4 in. deal; to fix No. 4 pairs of 1-3/4 in. sashes and frames for plate-glass as per order. All the sashes to have weights and pulleys for opening. To fix No. 2—6 ft. 6 in. x 2 ft. 6 in. 1-1/2 in., four panel doors, and encase frames with all necessary mouldings; to fix window linings, and 1-1/2 in. square framings and doors for No. 2 dressing-rooms; to fix No. 2, 7 in. rim locks. No. 2 box latches, sash fastenings, sash weights, to fix 4 in. O. G. iron eaves, gutter with cistern heads, and 3 in. iron leading pipes.

"Plumber, Glazier, and Painter.—To take up old lead guttering, and lay new gutters and lead flats with 6lb. lead, ridge and flushings with 5lb. lead; to paint all wood and iron-work that requires painting 4 coats in oil, the windows to be glazed with good plate glass; to paper rooms and landings when the walls are dry with paper of the value of 1s. 6d. per piece, the old lead to be the property of the plumber. The two cisterns to be carried up and replaced on new roof, the pipes attached to them to be lengthened as required by the alterations; and a water tap to be fitted in each dressing-room.

"All old materials not used and rubbish to be carted away by the contractor. All the work to be completed in a sound and workman-like manner to the satisfaction of C. Dickens, Esq., for the sum of L241. The roof to be slated and flat covered with lead in one month from commencing the work. The whole to be completed—paper excepted—and all rubbish cleared away by the 30th day of November, 1861.

"(Signed) J. COUCHMAN, "Builder. "High Street, Strood, "Sep. 10th, 1861."

Then follows in Dickens's own handwriting:—

"The above contract I accept on the stipulated conditions; the specified time, in common with all the other conditions, to be strictly observed.

"(Signed) CHARLES DICKENS.

"Gad's Hill Place, "Saturday, 21st Sep., 1861."

What is most interesting to notice in the above specification, is the careful way in which Dickens appears to have mastered all the details, and the very sensible interlineations given in italics which he made, (1) as to the sashes and weights, (2) as to the two cisterns, and especially (3) in the final memorandum as to time.

It is also worthy of remark, that the work was completed in the specified time, the bill duly sent in, and the next day Dickens sent a cheque for the amount.

Another contract, amounting to L393, was executed by Mr. Couchman, for extensions at Gad's Hill. On its completion, Mr. Dickens paid him by two cheques. He went up to London to the Bank (Coutts's in the Strand) to cash them. The clerk just looked at the cheques, the signature apparently being very familiar to him, and then put the usual question—"How will you have it?" to which he replied, "Notes, please."

It appears that, as is frequently the case in large establishments, orders were sometimes given by the servants for work which the master knew nothing about until the bill was presented; and to prevent this, Dickens issued instructions to the tradesmen that they were not to execute any work for him without his written authority. The following is an illustration of this new arrangement:—

"GAD'S HILL PLACE, "HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT. "Thursday, 5th Nov., 1858.

"MR. COUCHMAN,

"Please to ease the coach-house doors, and to put up some pegs, agreeably to George Belcher's directions.

"CHARLES DICKENS."

It should be mentioned that George Belcher was the coachman at the time.

Mr. Couchman recalls an interesting custom that was maintained at Gad's Hill. There were a number of tin check plates, marked respectively 3d. and 6d. each, which enabled the person to whom they were given to obtain an equivalent in refreshment of any kind at the Sir John Falstaff. The threepenny checks were for the workmen, and the sixpenny ones for the tradesmen. The chief housemaid had the distribution of these checks to persons employed in the house, the head-gardener to those engaged in the gardens, and the coachman to those in the stables. On one occasion, our informant remembers when his men were engaged upon some work at Gad's Hill, such checks were given out to them, and that he also had one offered to him; but, recollecting that his position as a master scarcely entitled him to the privilege, he stated his objections to the housemaid, who said in reply that it was a pity to break an old custom, he had better have one. "So," says our informant, "I had a sixpenny ticket with the others, and obtained my refreshment."

He has in his photographic album a carte-de-visite of Charles Dickens, by Watkins. It is the well-known one in which the novelist is represented in a sitting position, dressed in a grey suit; and the owner considered it a very good likeness. He also showed us a funeral card which he thought had been sent to him by the family of Dickens at the time of his death, but judging by its contents, this seems impossible. It is, however, well worth transcribing:—

To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England's most popular author), who died at his Residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, June 9th, 1870. Aged 58 years.

He was a sympathizer with the poor, suffering, and oppressed; and by his death one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world.

Mr. Couchman confirms the verbal sketch of Dickens as drawn by his neighbour, Mrs. Masters, and states that Dickens used to put up his dogs ("Linda" and "Turk"), "boisterous companions as they always were," in the stables whenever he came to see him on business.

Mr. William Ball, J.P., of Hillside, Strood, kindly favoured us with many interviews, and generally took great interest in the subject of our visit to "Dickens-Land," rendering invaluable assistance in our enquiries. This gentleman is the son of Mr. John H. Ball, the well-known contractor, who removed old Rochester Bridge; he is also a brother-in-law of the late gifted tenor, Mr. Joseph Maas, to whom a handsome memorial tablet, consisting of a marble medallion of the deceased, over which is a lyre with one of the strings broken, has since been erected on the east wall of the south transept of Rochester Cathedral. By Mr. Ball's considerate courtesy and that of his daughters, we are allowed to see many interesting relics of Charles Dickens and Gad's Hill.[15] When Mr. Ball's father removed the old bridge in 1859, it will be remembered that he offered to present the novelist with one of the balustrades as a souvenir, the offer being gracefully and promptly accepted, as the following letter testifies:—

"GAD'S HILL PLACE, "HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT. "Thursday, eighth June, 1859.

"SIR,

"I feel exceedingly obliged to you for your kind and considerate offer of a remembrance of old Rochester Bridge; that will interest me very much. I accept the relic with many thanks, and with great pleasure.

"Do me the favor to let it be delivered to a workman who will receive instructions to bring it away, and once again accept my acknowledgments.

"Yours faithfully, "CHARLES DICKENS.

"MR. JOHN H. BALL."

The present Mr. William Ball, then a young lad, was the bearer of the gift, and on being asked by us why he didn't ask to see the great novelist, replies, "Yes, I ought to have done so, but I was afraid of the dogs!"

The balustrade, which was placed on the back lawn at Gad's Hill, was mounted on a square pedestal, on the sides of which were representations of the four seasons, and a sun-dial crowned the capital. Something like it, but a little modified, appears in one of Mr. Luke Fildes's beautiful illustrations to the original edition of Edwin Drood, entitled "Jasper's Sacrifices." Three more of the balustrades now ornament Mr. Ball's garden at Hillside.

Mr. Ball the elder was invited to send in a tender for the construction of the tunnel at Gad's Hill previously mentioned, but it was not accepted, as appears from a letter addressed to him by Mr. Alfred L. Dickens (Charles Dickens's brother), of which we are allowed to take a copy:—

"8, RICHMOND TERRACE, "WHITEHALL, S.W. "August 30th, 1859.

"DEAR SIR,

"I am very sorry that absence from home has prevented my replying to your note as to the tender for the Gad's Hill tunnel before.

"I much regret that the amount of your tender is so much higher than my estimate, that I cannot recommend my brother to accept it.

"I am, "Dear Sir, "Yours faithfully, "ALFRED L. DICKENS. "MR. BALL."

Among the Dickens relics at Hillside, we are shown by Mr. Ball the pretty set of five silver bells presented by his friend Mr. F. Lehmann, to the novelist, who always used them when driving out in his basket pony-phaeton. They are fastened on to a leather pad, and make a pleasant musical sound when shaken. They are of graduated sizes, the largest being somewhat smaller than a tennis-ball, and appear to be in the key of C: comprising the Tonic, Third, Fifth, Octave, and Octave of the Third.

There is also a hall clock with maker's name—"Bennett, Cheapside, London." This was the "werry identical" clock respecting which Dickens wrote the following characteristically humorous letter to Sir John Bennett:—

"MY DEAR SIR,

"Since my hall clock was sent to your establishment to be cleaned it has gone (as indeed it always had) perfectly well, but has struck the hours with great reluctance, and after enduring internal agonies of a most distressing nature, it has now ceased striking altogether. Though a happy release for the clock, this is not convenient to the household. If you can send down any confidential person with whom the clock can confer, I think it may have something on its works that it would be glad to make a clean breast of.

"Faithfully yours, "CHARLES DICKENS."

Included among the relics are a very handsome mahogany fire-screen in three folds, of red morocco, with Grecian key-border, a musical Canterbury, and a bookcase. But the most interesting object from an art point of view is an India proof copy, "before letters," of Sir Edwin Landseer's beautiful picture of "King Charles's Spaniels," the original of which is said to have been painted for the late Mr. Vernon in two days, and is now in the National Gallery. The engraving of the picture is by Outram. It has the initials in pencil "E. L.," and a little ticket on the frame—"Lot 445," that being the number in the auctioneer's catalogue.

The following is the story as recently told by Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A., in his most interesting and readable Autobiography and Reminiscences, 1887:—

"His" [Sir Edwin's] "rapidity of execution was extraordinary. In the National Gallery there is a picture of Two Spaniels, of what is erroneously called the Charles II. breed (the real dog of that time is of a different form and breed altogether, as may be seen in pictures of the period), the size of life, with appropriate accompaniments, painted by him in two days. An empty frame had been sent to the British Institution, where it was hung on the wall, waiting for its tenant—a picture of a lady with dogs—till Landseer felt the impossibility of finishing the picture satisfactorily. Time had passed, till two days only remained before the opening of the Exhibition. Something must be done; and in the time named those wonderfully life-like little dogs were produced."

Mr. Ball has also an interesting photograph of the "Last Lot," some bottles of wine, evidently taken on the occasion of the sale at Gad's Hill Place after Dickens's death, the auctioneer being represented with his hammer raised ready to fall, and a smile upon his face. Among the crowd, consisting principally of London and local dealers, may be seen two local policemen with peaked caps, and auctioneer's porters in shirt-sleeves and aprons. The sale took place in a large tent at the back of the house and close to the well, which can be readily seen through an opening in the tent.

The next person whom we meet at Strood is Mr. Charles Roach Smith, F.S.A., the eminent archaeologist, who has achieved a European reputation, and from whom we get many interesting particulars relating to Dickens. We heard some idle gossip at Rochester to the effect that Mr. Roach Smith always felt a little "touchy" about the satire on archaeology in Pickwick, in re "Bill Stumps, his mark." That, however, we took cum grano salis, because this gentleman, from his delightful conversation and frank manner, is evidently above any such littleness. He is, however, free to confess, that Dickens had not much love for Strood, but infinitely preferred Chatham.

There had been but little personal intercourse between Dickens and Mr. Roach Smith, though each respected the other. Our informant says that, soon after the novelist came to Gad's Hill Place, Mrs. Dickens called and left her husband's card, which he, whether rightly or not, took as an intimation that the acquaintance was not to be extended. He spoke with all the enthusiasm of a man of science, and rather bitterly too, of a certain reading given by Dickens at Chatham to an overflowing house, whereas on the same evening a distinguished Professor of Agriculture (a Mr. Roberts or Robinson, we believe), who came to instruct the people at Ashford (one of the neighbouring towns) by means of a lecture, failed to secure an audience, and only got a few pence for admissions. The learned Professor subsequently poured forth his troubles to Mr. Roach Smith, from whom he obtained sympathy and hospitality. We venture to remind our good friend that the public in general much prefer amusement to instruction, at which he laughs, and says that in this matter he perfectly agrees with us. He expresses his strong opinion as to Dickens's reading of the "Murder of Nancy" (Oliver Twist), which he characterizes as "repulsive and indecent."

The most important communication made to us by Mr. Roach Smith is that contained in volume ii. of his recently published Reminiscences and Retrospections, Social and Archaeological, 1886. As this interesting work may not be generally accessible, it is as well to quote the passage intact. It has reference to the Guild of Literature and Art, for the promotion of which Dickens, Lord Lytton, John Forster, Mark Lemon, John Leech, and others, gave so much valuable time and energy, in addition to liberal pecuniary support. The following is the extract:—

"Of Mr. Dodd I knew much. He was one of my earliest friends when I lived in Liverpool Street—I may say, one of my earliest patrons; and the intimacy continued up to his death, a few years since. The story of his connection with the movement for a dramatic college, and of his rapid separation from it, a deposition by order of the projectors and directors, forms a curious episode in the history of our friendship; and especially so, as I had an important, though unseen, part to sustain.

"In the summer of 1858 I was summoned to Mr. Dodd's residence at the City Wharf, New North Road, Hoxton, to give consent to be a trustee, with Messrs. Cobden and Bright, for five acres of land, which Mr. Dodd was about to give for the building of a dramatic college, which had been resolved on at a public meeting, held on the 21st of July in this year, in the Princess's Theatre, Mr. Charles Kean acting as chairman. 'I give this most freely,' said Mr. Dodd to me, 'for it is to the stage I am indebted for my education; to it I owe whatsoever may be good in me.' That there was much good in him, thousands can testify; and thousands yet to come will be evidence to his benevolence. Of course, I felt pleased in being selected to act as a trustee for this gift. I conceived, and I suppose I was correct, that Mr. Dodd intended that his gift was strictly for a dramatic college, and for no other purpose, then or thereafter. Having expressed my willingness and resolution to be faithful to the trust, I said, 'I presume, Mr. Dodd, you stipulate for a presentation?' He looked rather surprised; and asked his solicitor, who sat by him, how they came to overlook this? Both of them directly agreed that this simple return should be required.

"I must leave such of my readers as feel inclined, to search in the public journals for the correspondence between the directors and Mr. Dodd up to the 13th of January, 1859, when, at a meeting held in the Adelphi Theatre, Lord Tenterden in the chair, it was stated that Mr. Dodd evinced, through his solicitor, a disposition to fence round his gift with legal restrictions and stipulations, which apprised the committee of coming difficulty; and the meeting unanimously agreed to decline Mr. Dodd's offer of land. Previously and subsequently to this, Mr. Dodd was most discourteously commented on and attacked in the newspapers, the editors of which, however, sided with him. I was told that the stipulation for a presentation was the great offence; but I should think that the provision made against the improper use of the land must have been the real grievance. In the very last letter I received from Mr. Dodd, not very long anterior to his death, he says that Mark Lemon told him that Charles Dickens had said he had never occasion to repent but of two things, one being his conduct to Mr. Dodd. That Dickens, Thackeray, and others sincerely believed they were taking the best steps for accomplishing their benevolent object, there can be no doubt; their judgment, not their heart, was wrong. The scheme was based upon a wrong principle, as was shown by its collapse in less than twenty years, after the expenditure of very large subscriptions, and the patronage of the Queen. Articles in The Era of the 22nd July, 1877, leave no doubt, while they clearly reveal the causes of failure."

It may be mentioned that the Mr. Henry Dodd above referred to, appears to have been a large city contractor, or something of that kind. According to Mr. Roach Smith, what with him led on to fortune was a long and heavy fall of snow, which had filled the streets of the city of London, and rendered traffic impossible. The city was blocked by snow, and there was no remedy at hand. Mr. Dodd boldly undertook a contract to remove the mighty obstruction in a given time. This he did thoroughly and within the limited number of days. Afterwards he appears to have undertaken brick-making and other works on a very large scale. In the opinion of Mr. Roach Smith, Mr. Dodd was the origin of the "golden dustman" in Our Mutual Friend, whom every reader of Dickens remembers as Mr. Nicodemus, alias Noddy Boffin.

Speaking of Dickens's readings, our informant relates a conversation with Charles Dickens's sixth son, Mr. Henry Fielding Dickens. The former gentleman asked the latter whose model he took?

"Oh, my father's," said Mr. Henry Dickens.

"I would not take any man's model," said Mr. Roach Smith, "I would take my own." And judging from the perfect intonation and thoroughly musical rhythm of his voice, there is no doubt whatever that his model, whoever it may have been, was one of very high standard.

We have since learnt that Mr. Roach Smith is the President of the Strood Elocution Society, an almost unique institution of its kind. It has been established upwards of thirteen years; and at the weekly meetings "the various readers are subjected to an exhaustive and salutary criticism by the members present." Mr. Roach Smith has always taken immense interest in the progress of this Society. Miss Dickens occasionally helped at the above meetings.

Mr. Roach Smith kindly favours us with the following extract from the third and forthcoming volume of his Retrospections with reference to the late Mr. J. H. Ball, of Strood, which may appropriately be here introduced:—

"Although I have said that I was the gainer by our acquaintance, yet now and then I had a chance of serving him. Soon after the death of the great novelist, Charles Dickens, and when people were speculating as to what would become of his residence at Gad's Hill, Mr. Ball, wishing to purchase it, commissioned me to call on the executrix, Miss Hogarth, and offer ten thousand pounds, for which he had written a cheque. I accordingly went, and sent in my card. Miss Hogarth, fortunately, could not see me; she was hastening to catch the train for London, the carriage being at the door, and not a moment to be lost; but she would be happy to see me on her return in a day or two. I then wrote to Mr. Forster, the other executor; and received a reply that the place was not for sale. I kept him ignorant of the sum that Mr. Ball was willing to give, and thus saved my friend some thousands of pounds, . . . for the house and land were not worth half the money."



After some further conversation with our kind octogenarian friend, who insists on showing us hospitality notwithstanding his sufferings from a trying illness, we take our departure with many pleasant memories of our visit.[16]

We have, after one or two unsuccessful attempts, the good fortune to meet with Mr. Stephen Steele, M.R.C.S. and L.S.A., of Bridge House, Esplanade, Strood, who was admitted a member of the medical profession so far back as the year 1831, and has therefore been in practice nearly sixty years. It will be remembered that this experienced surgeon was sent for by Miss Hogarth, to see Dickens in his last illness. He is good enough to go over and describe to us in graphic and sympathetic language the whole of the circumstances attending that sorrowful event. Previously to doing so, he gives us some interesting details of his recollections of Charles Dickens. Dr. Steele had occupied the onerous post of Chairman of the Liberal Association at Rochester for thirty years, and believes that in politics Dickens was a Liberal, for he frequently prefaced his remarks in conversation with him on any subject of passing interest by the expression, "We Liberals, you know—"



As a matter of fact, Dickens discharged his conscience of his political creed in the remarks which followed his address as President of the Birmingham and Midland Institute,[17] delivered 27th September, 1869, when he said—"My political creed is contained in two articles, and has no reference to any party or persons. My faith in the 'people governing' is, on the whole, infinitesimal; my faith in the 'people governed' is, on the whole, illimitable." At a subsequent visit to Birmingham on the 6th January, 1870, when giving out the prizes at the Institute, he further emphasized his political faith in these words:—"When I was here last autumn, I made a short confession of my political faith—or perhaps, I should better say, want of faith. It imported that I have very little confidence in the people who govern us—please to observe 'people' with a small 'p,'—but I have very great confidence in the People whom they govern—please to observe 'People' with a large 'P.'"

A few days after Charles Dickens's first visit, my friend Mr. Howard S. Pearson, Lecturer on English Literature at the Institute, addressed a letter to him on the subject of the remarks at the conclusion of his Presidential Address, and promptly received in reply the following communication, which Mr. Pearson kindly allows me to print, emphasizing his (Dickens's) observations:—

"GAD'S HILL PLACE, "HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT. "Wednesday, 6th October, 1869.

"SIR,

"You are perfectly right in your construction of my meaning at Birmingham. If a capital P be put to the word People in its second use in the sentence, and not in its first, I should suppose the passage next to impossible to be mistaken, even if it were read without any reference to the whole spirit of my speech and the whole tenor of my writings.

"Faithfully yours, "CHARLES DICKENS. "H. S. PEARSON, ESQUIRE."

Dr. Steele had dined several times at Gad's Hill Place, and was impressed with Dickens's wonderful powers as a host. He never absorbed the whole of the conversation to himself, but listened attentively when his guests were speaking, and endeavoured, as it were, to draw out any friends who were not generally talkative. He liked each one to chat about his own hobby in which he took most interest. Our informant was also present at Gad's Hill Place at several theatrical entertainments, and especially remembers some charades being given. After the performance of the latter was over, Dickens walked round among his guests in the drawing-room, and enquired if any one could guess the "word." Says the doctor, "We never seemed to do so, but there was always a hearty laugh when we were told what it was. There was a good deal of company at Gad's Hill at Christmas time."

A propos of private theatricals at Gad's Hill Place, Mr. T. Edgar Pemberton, in Charles Dickens and the Stage, calls attention to the fact that "Mr. Clarkson Stanfield's Lighthouse Act drop subsequently decorated the walls of Gad's Hill Place; and although it took the painter less than a couple of days to execute, fetched a thousand guineas at the famous Dickens Sale in 1870." A cloth painted for The Frozen Deep, which was the next and last of these productions, also had a foremost place in the Gad's Hill picture-gallery.

Dr. Steele mentions a conversation once with Dickens about Gad's Hill and Shakespeare's description of it. He (the doctor) considers that Shakespeare could not have described it so accurately if he had not been there, and Dickens agreed with him in this opinion. Possibly he may have stayed at the "Plough," which was an inn on the same spot as, or close to, the "Falstaff." The place must have been much wooded at that time, and Shakespeare might have been there on his way to Dover. A note in the Rochester and Chatham Journal, 1883, states that "Shakespeare's company made a tour in Sussex and Kent in the summer of 1597."

Dr. Steele, in common with his friend Charles Dickens, strongly deprecated the action of certain parties in Rochester, by voting at a public meeting something to this effect:—"That the Theatre was an irreligious kind of institution, and, in the opinion of the meeting, it ought to be closed."

The doctor observes that Dickens was not much of a Church-goer. He went occasionally to Higham, and used to give the vicar assistance for the poor and distressed. Dickens and Miss Hogarth asked Dr. Steele to point out objects of charity worthy of relief, and they gave him money for distribution.

He remarks that Dickens did not care much about associating with the local residents, going out to dinners, &c. Most of the principal people of Rochester would have been glad of the honour of his presence as a guest, but he rarely accepted invitations, preferring the quietude of home.[18]

As regards readings, our informant says he is under the impression that Dickens must have had some lessons or hints from some one of experience (possibly his friend Fechter, the actor), as he noticed from time to time a regular improvement, which was permanently maintained. On the subject of the American War, he thinks Dickens's sympathies were decidedly with the South. With respect to the American Readings, Dr. Steele expresses his opinion that the excitement, fatigue, and worry consequent thereon had considerably shortened Dickens's life, if it had not pretty well killed him. He considered him a most genial sort of man; "he always looked you straight in the face when speaking."

Before referring to the closing chapter in Dickens's life, we have some interesting talk respecting Venesection,—a propos of that memorable occasion on the ice at Dingley Dell, when "Mr. Benjamin Allen was holding a hurried consultation with Mr. Bob Sawyer on the advisability of bleeding the company generally, as an improving little bit of professional practice,"—and Dr. Steele gives us his opinion thereon, and on some points connected with the medical profession. He was a student of Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospitals, and was under the distinguished physicians Drs. Addison and Elliotson. He considered the characters of Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen not at all overdrawn. They were good representations of the medical students of those days. He believed the practice of Venesection commenced to be general about the year 1811, for his father was a medical practitioner before him, and he does not remember his (the father's) telling him that he practised it before that time. Says our friend, "We used to bleed regularly in my young days, and in cases of pneumonia and convulsions we never thought of omitting to bleed. We should have considered that to have done so would have been a grave instance of irregular practice. And," he adds, "I bleed in cases of convulsions now." The doctor did not think well of the change at the time, but, speaking generally, he says Venesection had had its turn, and has now given place to other treatment.

The events in connection with the fatal illness of Dickens are then touchingly related as follows:—

"I was sent for on Wednesday, the eighth of June, 1870, to attend at Gad's Hill Place, and arrived about 6.30 p.m. I found Dickens lying on the floor of the dining-room in a fit. He was unconscious, and never moved. The servants brought a couch down, on which he was placed. I applied clysters and other remedies to the patient without effect. Miss Hogarth, his sister-in-law, had already sent a telegram (by the same messenger on horseback who summoned me) to his old friend and family doctor, Mr. Frank Beard, who arrived about midnight. He relieved me in attendance at that time, and I came again in the morning. There was unhappily no change in the symptoms, and stertorous breathing, which had commenced before, now continued. In conversation Miss Hogarth and the family expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with the attendance of Mr. Beard and myself. I said, 'That may be so, and we are much obliged for your kind opinion; but we have a duty to perform, not only to you, my dear madam, and the family of Mr. Dickens, but also to the public. What will the public say if we allow Charles Dickens to pass away without further medical assistance? Our advice is to send for Dr. Russell Reynolds.' Mr. Beard first made the suggestion.

"The family reiterated their expression of perfect satisfaction with the treatment of Mr. Beard and myself, but immediately gave way, Dr. Russell Reynolds was sent for, and came in the course of the day. This eminent physician without hesitation pronounced the case to be hopeless. He said at once on seeing him, 'He cannot live.' And so it proved. At a little past 6 o'clock on Thursday, the 9th of June, 1870, Charles Dickens passed quietly away without a word—about twenty-four hours after the seizure."



Such is the simple narrative which the kind-hearted octogenarian surgeon, whom it is a delightful pleasure to meet and converse with, communicates to us, and then cordially wishes us "good-bye."

* * * * *

There is an annual pleasure fair at Strood, instituted, it is said, so far back as the reign of Edward III. It takes place during three days in the last week of August, and as it is going on while we are on our tramp, we just look in for a few minutes, the more especially as we were informed by Mr. William Ball, and others who had seen him, that Dickens used to be very fond of going there at times in an appropriate disguise, where perhaps he may have seen the prototype of the famous "Doctor Marigold." The fair is now held on a large piece of waste ground near the Railway Station. There are the usual set-out of booths, "Aunt Sallies," shooting-galleries, "Try your weight and strength, gentlemen" machines, a theatre, with a tragedy and comedy both performed in about an hour, and hot-sausage and gingerbread stalls in abundance. But the deafening martial music poured forth from a barrel-organ by means of a steam-engine, belonging to the proprietor of a huge "Merry-go-round," and the wet and muddy condition of the ground from the effects of the recent thunderstorm, make us glad to get away.

A MYSTERIOUS DICKENS-ITEM.

Mr. C. D. Levy, Auctioneer, etc., of Strood, was good enough to lend me what at first sight, and indeed for some time afterwards, was supposed to be a most unique Dickens-item. It came into his possession in this way. At the sale of Charles Dickens's furniture and effects, which took place at Gad's Hill in 1870, Mr. Levy was authorized by a customer to purchase Dickens's writing-desk, which, however, he was unable to secure. In transferring the desk to the purchaser at the time of the sale, a few old and torn papers tumbled out, and being considered of no value, were disregarded and scattered. One of these scraps was picked up by Mr. Levy, and proved on further examination to be a sheet of headed note-paper having the stamp of "Gad's Hill Place, Higham by Rochester, Kent."—On the first page were a few rough sketches drawn with pen and ink, which greatly resembled some of the characters in The Mystery of Edwin Drood—Durdles, Jasper, and Edwin Drood. At the side was a curious row of capital letters looking like a puzzle. On the second and third pages were short-hand notes, and on the fourth page a few lines written in long-hand, continued on the next page,—wonderfully like Charles Dickens's own handwriting,—being the commencement of a speech with reference to a cricket match. The sheet of paper had evidently been made to do double duty, for after the sketches had been drawn on the front page, the sheet was put aside, and when used again was turned over, so that what ordinarily would have been page 4 became page 1 for the second object. No "Daniel" in Strood or Rochester had ever been able to decipher the mysterious hieroglyphics, or make known the interpretation thereof, during twenty years, or give any explanation of the sketches. But everybody thought that in some way or other they related to The Mystery of Edwin Drood—and possibly contained a clue to the solution of that exquisite fragment. So, as a student and admirer of Dickens, Mr. Levy kindly left the matter in my hands to make out what I could of it. Reference was accordingly had to several learned pundits in the short-hand systems of "Pitman," "Odell," and "Harding," but without avail; and eventually Mr. Gurney Archer, of 20, Abingdon Street, Westminster (successor to the old-established and eminent firm of Messrs. W. B. Gurney and Sons, who have been the short-hand writers to the House of Lords from time immemorial), kindly transcribed the short-hand notes, which referred to a speech relating to a cricket match, a portion of which had already been written out in long-hand, as above stated,—but there was not a word in the short-hand about Edwin Drood!

So far, one portion of the mystery had been explained—not so the sketches, which were still believed to contain the key to The Mystery of Edwin Drood. As a dernier ressort, application was made to the fountain-head—to Mr. Luke Fildes, R.A., the famous illustrator of that beautiful work. He received me most courteously, scrutinized the document closely; we had a long chat about Edwin Drood generally, the substance of which has been given in a previous chapter—but he admitted that the sketches failed to give any solution of the mystery.

The document was subsequently sent by Mr. Kitton to Mrs. Perugini, who at once replied that it had caused some merriment when she saw it again, as she remembered it very well. It had been done by her brother, Mr. Henry Fielding Dickens, when a young man living at home at Gad's Hill—that the short-hand notes referred to his speech at a dinner after one of the numerous cricket matches held there, and that the sketches were rough portraits of some of the cricketers. The capital letters at the side referred to a double acrostic. The heads of the speech had been suggested by his father as being desirable to be brought before the cricket club, which at that time was in a rather drooping condition.

Now although the original theory about this curious document entirely broke down, and not an atom has been added to what was already known about The Mystery of Edwin Drood, still there is one subject of much interest which the document has brought to light. The short-hand is the same system, "Gurney's," as that which Charles Dickens wrote as a reporter in his early newspaper days—a system not generally used now, but which he subsequently taught his son to write. Of the many sheets which Dickens covered with notes in days gone by not one remains. But there are two manuscripts by Dickens in Gurney's system of short-hand, now in the Dyce and Forster collection at South Kensington, which relate to some private matters in connection with publishing arrangements. The document is certainly interesting from this point of view (i. e. the system which Dickens used), and from its reference to life at Gad's Hill, and especially to cricket, the favourite game mentioned many times in this book, in which the novelist took so much interest. Mr. Henry Fielding Dickens, with whom I had on another occasion some conversation on the subject of this souvenir of his youth at Gad's Hill, remarked that many more important issues had hung upon much more slender evidence. It was done about the year 1865-6, before he went to college.

At our interview Mr. H. F. Dickens told me the details of the following touching incident which happened at one of the cricket matches at Gad's Hill. His father was as usual attired in flannels, acting as umpire and energetically taking the score of the game, when there came out from among the bystanders a tall, grizzled, and sun-burnt Sergeant of the Guards. The Sergeant walked straight up to Mr. Dickens, saying, "May I look at you, sir?" "Oh, yes!" said the novelist, blushing up to the eyes. The Sergeant gazed intently at him for a minute or so, then stood at attention, gave the military salute, and said, "God bless you, sir." He then walked off and was seen no more. In recounting this anecdote, Mr. H. F. Dickens agreed with me that, reading between the lines, one can almost fancy some lingering reminiscences similar to those in the early experience of Private Richard Doubledick.

FOOTNOTES:

[14] Since our tramp in Dickens-Land, Messrs. Winch and Sons have, with liberality and good taste, restored the old sign at this historic hostelry with which the memory of Charles Dickens is associated. It has been suggested that the sign may possibly have had its origin from the Battle of Agincourt fought on the day of "Saints Crispin-Crispian," 25th October, 1415. Victories in more recent times have been thus commemorated on sign-boards, such as the Vigo expedition, and the fights at Portobello, Trafalgar, Waterloo, Alma, and elsewhere, and the heroes who won them thus celebrated.

The sign, which is very well painted, represents the patron saints of the shoe-making fraternity, the holy brothers, Crispin and Crispian, at work on their cobbler's bench. The legend runs that it was at Soissons, in the year 287, while they were so employed "labouring with their hands," that they were seized by the emissaries of the Emperor Maximinian, and led away to torture and to death. The sign is understood to have been faithfully copied from a well-known work preserved to this day, at the church of St. Pantaleon at Troyes.—Abstract of a note in the Rochester and Chatham Journal, October 5th, 1889.

[15] Enthusiastic admirers of Dickens will doubtless envy me the possession of some remarkable memorials of the great writer. My friend Mr. Ball is kind enough to present me with a very curious souvenir of the novelist: his old garden hat! Mr. Ball's father obtained it from the gardener at Gad's Hill Place, to whom it had been given after his master's death. The hat is a "grey-bowler," size 7-1/4, maker's name "Hillhouse," Bond Street, and is the same hat that he is seen to wear in the photograph of him leaning against the entrance-porch, an engraving of which appears on page 183. Many hats from Shakespeare and Gesler have become historical, and there is no reason why Dickens's should not in the future be an equally interesting personal relic. The gift was accompanied by a couple of collars belonging to the novelist, with the initials "C. D." very neatly marked in red cotton. The collar is technically known as a "Persigny," and its size is 16. Last, not least, a small bottle of "very rare old Madeira" from Gad's Hill, which calls to mind pleasant recollections of "the last bottle of the old Madeira," opened by dear old Sol. Gills in the final chapter of Dombey and Son. Needless to say, the consumption of the valued contents of Dickens's bottle is reserved for a very special and appropriate occasion.

[16] This was written soon after our first visit to Strood at the end of August, 1888. Within little more than two years afterwards, on Thursday, 7th August, 1890, I had the mournful pleasure of being present at the funeral of my friend, which took place at Frindsbury Church on that day, in the presence of the sorrowing relatives and of a large concourse of admirers, both local and from a distance. There were also present many representatives of distinguished scientific societies, including Dr. John Evans, F.R.S., Treasurer of the Royal Society, and President of the Society of Antiquaries.

The kindness which I received from Mr. Roach Smith, to whom I presented myself in the first instance as a perfect stranger, and which was extended during the period of two years that I was privileged to enjoy his friendship, and at times his hospitality, would be ill requited if I did not here place on record my humble tribute of appreciation. Born about the commencement of the present century at Landguard Manor House, near Shanklin, Isle of Wight, after a somewhat diversified education and experience, he finally settled in London as a wholesale druggist, from which business he retired in 1856, and came to live at Temple Place, Strood. The bent of his mind was, however, distinctly in favour of archaeology, and in this science, which he commenced in the early years of his business, his work has been enormous. In the matter of the identification of Roman remains he was facile princeps, and for many years stood without a rival, his investigations and explorations extending over England and Europe. His principal works are Collectanea Antiqua, seven volumes; Illustrations of Roman London; Catalogue of London Antiquities; Richborough, Reculver, and Lymne, and numberless contributions scattered over the journal of the Society of Antiquaries, the Archaeologia Cantiana, and other publications. He was an enthusiastic Shakespearean, the author of the Rural Life of Shakespeare, and of a little work on The Scarcity of Home-Grown Fruits. He also published two volumes of Retrospections: Social and Archaeological, and was engaged at his death in completing the third volume. He contributed many articles to Dr. William Smith's Classical Dictionaries, and other similar works.

He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries so far back as 1836, and at the time of his death was an Honorary Member or Fellow of at least thirty learned societies of a kindred nature in Great Britain and on the continent, and had been honoured by his colleagues and admirers in having his medal struck on two occasions.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse