A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land
by William R. Hughes
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"He was," says one of the highest of living scientists and writers, "one of the chief representatives of the science of archaeology as understood in its broadest and widest sense. He has never been a mere collector of remains of ancient art, regarded only as curiosities, but has always had in view their use as exponents of the great unwritten history—the history of the people—which is not to be obtained from other sources; his writings have tended to the same end. Hence he stands as one of the foremost amongst those few of the present day who understand the science in its best and widest sense, his works being referred to as the authority at home and abroad."

Speaking with his friend and companion for many years, Mr. George Payne, F.S.A., Hon. Sec. to the Kent Archaeological Society, on my last visit, about several personal characteristics of our mutual friend, such as his persistent energy and his indomitable disposition to stoically resist the infirmities of approaching age, and decline any assistance in helplessness, and especially as to the quaestio vexata, "Bill Stumps, his mark," Mr. Payne expressed his opinion, that at the bottom of his heart Mr. Roach Smith may probably have had a feeling that Dickens in some way (however unintentionally) slighted the science of archaeology, which he (Mr. Roach Smith) had all his life tried to elevate.

A most distinguished antiquarian, a thoroughly honourable man, a versatile and accomplished gentleman, and a kind-hearted and liberal friend, the town of Strood, to which he was for so many years endeared, will long and deservedly mourn his loss.

[17] It is interesting to place on record here, that the germ of Charles Dickens's "Readings," which afterwards developed so marvellously both in England and America, originated in Birmingham. On the 27th of December, 1853, he read his Christmas Carol in the Town Hall in aid of the funds of the Institute. On the 29th he read The Cricket on the Hearth, and on the 30th he repeated the Carol to an audience principally composed of working men. The success was overwhelming.

[18] Miss Hogarth informs me that her brother-in-law frequently dined out in the neighbourhood, accompanied by his daughter and herself.



"The home of his infancy, to which his heart had yearned with an intensity of affection not to be described."—The Pickwick Papers.

"I believe the power of observation in numbers of very young children to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy. Indeed, I think that most grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may, with greater propriety, be said not to have lost the faculty than to have acquired it; the rather, as I generally observe such men to retain a certain freshness, and gentleness, and capacity of being pleased, which are also an inheritance they have preserved from their childhood."—David Copperfield.

THE naval and military town of Chatham, unlike the Cathedral city of Rochester, has, at first sight, few attractions for the lover of Dickens. Mr. Phillips Bevan calls it "a dirty, unpleasant town devoted to the interests of soldiers, sailors, and marines." We are not disposed to agree entirely with him; but we must admit that it has little of the picturesque to recommend it—no venerable Castle or Cathedral to attract attention, no scenes in the novels of much importance to visit, no characters therein of much interest to identify. Mr. Pickwick's own description of the four towns of Strood, Rochester, Chatham, and Brompton, certainly applies more nearly to Chatham than to the others; but things have improved in many ways since the days of that veracious chronicler, as we are glad to testify:—

"The principal productions of these towns," says Mr. Pickwick, "appear to be soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers, and dockyard men. The commodities chiefly exposed for sale in the public streets are marine stores, hard-bake, apples, flat-fish, and oysters. The streets present a lively and animated appearance, occasioned chiefly by the conviviality of the military. . . .

"The consumption of tobacco in these towns," continues Mr. Pickwick, "must be very great; and the smell which pervades the streets must be exceedingly delicious to those who are extremely fond of smoking. A superficial traveller might object to the dirt, which is their leading characteristic; but to those who view it as an indication of traffic and commercial prosperity, it is truly gratifying."

And yet for all this, there are circumstances to be noticed of the deepest possible interest connected with Chatham, and spots therein to be visited, which every pilgrim to "Dickens-Land" must recognize. At Chatham,—"my boyhood's home," as he affectionately calls it,—many of the earlier years of Charles Dickens (probably from his fourth to his eleventh) were passed; here it was "that the most durable of his earlier impressions were received; and the associations around him when he died were those which at the outset of his life had affected him most strongly."

Admirers of the great novelist are much indebted to Mr. Robert Langton, F. R. Hist. Soc., for his Childhood and Youth of Charles Dickens, a book quite indispensable to a tramp in this neighbourhood, the charming illustrations by the late Mr. William Hull, the author, and others rendering the identification of places perfectly easy. Dickens says, "If anybody knows to a nicety where Rochester ends and Chatham begins, it is more than I do." "It's of no consequence," as Mr. Toots would say, for the High Street is one continuous thoroughfare, but as a matter of fact, a narrow street called Boundary Lane on the north side of High Street separates the two places.

A few words of recapitulation as to early family history[19] may be useful here. John Dickens, who is represented as "a fine portly man," was a Navy pay-clerk, and Elizabeth his wife (nee Barrow), who is described as "a dear good mother and a fine woman," the parents of the future genius, resided in the beginning of this century at 387, Mile End Terrace, Commercial Road, Landport, Portsea,[20] "and is so far in Portsea as being in the island of that name." Here Charles Dickens was born, at twelve o'clock at night, on Friday, 7th February, 1812. He was the second child and eldest son of a rather numerous family consisting of eight sons and daughters, and was baptized at St. Mary's, Kingston (the parish church of Portsea), under the names of Charles John Huffham; the last of these is no doubt a misspelling, as the name of his grandfather, from whom he took it, was Huffam, but Dickens himself scarcely ever used it. In the old family Bible now in possession of Mr. Charles Dickens it is Huffam in his father's own handwriting. The Dickens family left Mile End Terrace on 24th June, 1812, and went to live in Hawke Street, Portsea, from whence, in consequence of a change in official duties of the elder Dickens, they removed to Chatham in 1816 or 1817, and resided there for six or seven years, until they went to live in London.

Bearing these circumstances in mind, it is very natural that we should determine on an early pilgrimage to Chatham, and Sunday morning sees us at the old church—St. Mary's—where Dickens himself must often have been taken as a child, and where he saw the marriage of his aunt Fanny with James Lamert, a Staff Doctor in the Army,—the Doctor Slammer of Pickwick,—of whom Mr. Langton says:—"The regimental surgeon's kindly manner, and his short odd way of expressing himself, still survive in the recollections of a few old people." Dr. Lamert's son James, by a former wife, was a great crony of young Charles Dickens, taking him to the Rochester theatre, and getting up private theatricals in which they both acted.

Surely there is a faint description of those times in the second chapter of David Copperfield:—

"Here is our pew in the church. What a high-backed pew! With a window near it, out of which our house can be seen, and is seen many times during the morning's service by Peggotty, who likes to make herself as sure as she can that it's not being robbed, or is not in flames. But though Peggotty's eye wanders, she is much offended if mine does, and frowns to me, as I stand upon the seat, that I am to look at the clergyman. But I can't always look at him—I know him without that white thing on, and I am afraid of his wondering why I stare so, and perhaps stopping the service to enquire—and what am I to do? It's a dreadful thing to gape, but I must do something. I look at my mother, but she pretends not to see me. I look at a boy in the aisle, and he makes faces at me. I look at the sunlight coming in at the open door through the porch, and there I see a stray sheep—I don't mean a sinner, but mutton—half making up his mind to come into the church. I feel that if I looked at him any longer, I might be tempted to say something out loud; and what would become of me then!"

The church, now undergoing reconstruction, is not a very presentable structure, and has little of interest to recommend it, except a brass to a famous navigator named Stephen Borough, the discoverer of the northern passage to Russia (1584), and a monument to Sir John Cox, who was killed in an action with the Dutch (1672). The name of Weller occurs on a gravestone near the church door.

We cross the High Street, proceed along Railway Street, formerly Rome Lane, pass the Chatham Railway Station (near which is a statue of Lieutenant Waghorn, R.N., "pioneer and founder of the Overland Route," born at Chatham, 1800, and died 1850),[21] and find ourselves at Ordnance Terrace, a conspicuous row of two-storied houses, prominently situated on the higher ground facing us, beyond the Station. In one of these houses (No. 11—formerly No. 2) the Dickens family resided from 1817 to 1821. The present occupier is a Mr. Roberts, who kindly allows us to inspect the interior. It has the dining-room on the left-hand side of the entrance and the drawing-room on the first floor, and is altogether a pleasantly-situated, comfortable, and respectable dwelling. No. 11, "the second house in the terrace," is overgrown with a Virginia creeper, which, from its possible association with Dickens's earliest years, may have induced him to plant the now magnificent one which exists at Gad's Hill. "Here it was," says Forster, "that his first desire for knowledge, and his greatest passion for reading, were awakened by his mother, who taught him the first rudiments, not only of English, but also, a little later, of Latin. She taught him regularly every day for a long time, and taught him, he was convinced, thoroughly well." Mr. Langton also says that "It was during his residence here that some of the happiest hours of the childhood of little Charles were passed, as his father was in a fairly good position in the Navy Pay Office, and they were a most genial, lovable family." Here it was that the theatrical entertainments and the genial parties took place, when, in addition to his brothers and sisters and his cousin, James Lamert, there were also present his friends and neighbours, George Stroughill, and Master and Miss Tribe.

Mr. Langton further states that "Ordnance Terrace is known to have formed the locality and characters for some of the earlier Sketches by Boz." "The Old Lady" was a Miss Newnham, who lived at No. 5, and who was, by all accounts, very kind to the Dickens children. The "Half-pay Captain" was also a near neighbour, and he is supposed to have supplied one of the earliest characters to Dickens as a mere child. Some of the neighbours at the corner house next door (formerly No. 1) were named Stroughill,—pronounced Stro'hill (there was, it will be remembered, a Struggles at the famous cricket-match at All-Muggleton)—and the son, George, is said to have had some of the characteristics of Steerforth in David Copperfield. He had a sister named Lucy, probably the "Golden Lucy," from her beautiful locks, and who, according to Mr. Langton, "was the special favourite and little sweetheart of Charles Dickens." She was possibly the prototype of her namesake, in the beautiful story of the Wreck of the Golden Mary.

About the year 1821 pecuniary embarrassments beset and tormented the Dickens family, which were afterwards to be "ascribed in fiction" in the histories of the Micawbers and the Dorrits, and the family removed to the House on the Brook. In order to follow their steps in perfect sequence, we have to return by the way we came from the church, cross the High Street, and proceed along Military Road, so as to visit the obscure dwelling, No. 18, St. Mary's Place, situated in the valley through which a brook, now covered over, flows from the higher lands adjacent, into the Medway.

The House on the Brook—"plain-looking, whitewashed plaster front, and a small garden before and behind"—next door to the former Providence (Baptist) Chapel, now the Drill Hall of the Salvation Army, is a very humble and unpretentious six-roomed dwelling, and of a style very different to the one in Ordnance Terrace. Here the Dickens family lived from 1821 to 1823. The Reverend William Giles, the Baptist Minister, father of Mr. William Giles, the schoolmaster, formerly officiated at the chapel. This was the Mr. Giles who, when Dickens was half-way through Pickwick, sent him a silver snuff-box, with an admiring inscription to the "Inimitable Boz." Dickens went to school at Mr. Giles's Academy in Clover Lane (now Clover Street), Chatham, and boys of this and neighbouring schools were thus nicknamed:—

"Baker's Bull-dogs, "Giles's Cats, "New Road Scrubbers, "Troy Town Rats."

It was in the House on the Brook that he acquired those "readings and imaginings" which in "boyish recollections" he describes as having been brought away from Chatham:—"My father had left a small collection of books in a little room up-stairs, to which I had access (for it adjoined my own), and which nobody else in our house ever troubled. From that blessed little room Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphry Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe, came out, a glorious host to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time,—they and the Arabian Nights, and the Tales of the Genii,—and did me no harm; for whatever harm was in some of them was not there for me. I knew nothing of it."

It is very probable that his first literary effort, The Tragedy of Misnar, the Sultan of India, "founded" (says Forster), "and very literally founded, no doubt, on the Tales of the Genii," was composed after perusal of some of the works above referred to, but it is to be feared that it was never even rehearsed. The circumstances of the family had so changed for the worse, that here were neither juvenile parties nor theatrical entertainments.

A view from one of the upper windows of the house in St. Mary's Place gives the parish church and churchyard precisely as described in that pathetic little story, A Child's Dream of a Star. Charles Dickens was the child who "strolled about a good deal, and thought of a number of things," and his little sister Fanny—or his younger sister Harriet Ellen—was doubtless "his constant companion" referred to in the story.

We leave with feelings of respect the humble but famous little tenement, its condition now sadly degraded; proceed along the High Street, and soon reach "The Mitre Inn and Clarence Hotel," a solid-looking and comfortable house of entertainment, at which Lord Nelson and King William IV., when Duke of Clarence, frequently stayed, and (what is more to our purpose) where we find associations of Charles Dickens. There are a beautiful bowling-green and grounds at the back, approached by a series of terraces well planted with flowers, and the green is surrounded by fine elms which constitute quite an oasis in the desert of the somewhat prosaic Chatham. The Mitre is thus immortalized in the "Guest's Story" of the Holly Tree Inn:—

"There was an Inn in the Cathedral town where I went to school, which had pleasanter recollections about it than any of these. I took it next. It was the Inn where friends used to put up, and where we used to go to see parents, and to have salmon and fowls, and be tipped. It had an ecclesiastical sign—the 'Mitre'—and a bar that seemed to be the next best thing to a Bishopric, it was so snug. I loved the landlord's youngest daughter to distraction—but let that pass. It was in this Inn that I was cried over by my rosy little sister, because I had acquired a black-eye in a fight. And though she had been, that holly-tree night, for many a long year where all tears are dried, the Mitre softened me yet."

About the year 1820 the landlord of the Mitre was Mr. John Tribe, and his family being intimate with the Dickenses, young Charles spent many pleasant evenings at the "genial parties" given at this fine old inn. Mr. Langton mentions that the late Mr. Alderman William Tribe, son of Mr. John Tribe, the former proprietor, perfectly recollected Charles Dickens and his sister Fanny coming to the Mitre, and on one occasion their being mounted on a dining-table for a stage, and singing what was then a popular duet, i. e.

"Long time I've courted you, miss, And now I've come from sea; We'll make no more ado, miss, But quickly married be. Sing Fal-de-ral," &c.

The worthy alderman is also stated to have had in his possession a card of invitation to spend the evening at Ordnance Terrace, addressed from Master and Miss Dickens to Master and Miss Tribe, which was dated about this time.

In consequence of the elder Dickens being recalled from Chatham to Somerset House, to comply with official requirements, the family removed to London in 1823,[22] "and took up its abode in a house in Bayham Street, Camden Town." Dickens thus describes his journey to London in "Dullborough Town," one of the sketches in The Uncommercial Traveller:—

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

Mr. W. T. Wildish, the proprietor of the Rochester and Chatham Journal, kindly favours us with some interesting information which has recently appeared in his journal, relating to Charles Dickens's nurse—the Mary Weller of his boyhood (and perhaps the Peggotty as well), but known to later generations as Mrs. Mary Gibson of Front Row, Ordnance Place, Chatham, who died in the spring of the year 1888, at the advanced age of eighty-four. Very touchingly, but unknowingly, did Dickens write from Gad's Hill, 24th September, 1857, being unaware that she was still living:—

"I feel much as I used to do when I was a small child, a few miles off, and somebody—who, I wonder, and which way did she go when she died?—hummed the evening hymn, and I cried on the pillow—either with the remorseful consciousness of having kicked somebody else, or because still somebody else had hurt my feelings in the course of the day."

Mrs. Gibson, when Mary Weller (what a host of pleasant recollections does the married name of the "pretty housemaid" bring up of the Pickwickian days!), lived with the family of Mr. John Dickens, at No. 11, Ordnance Terrace, Chatham, and afterwards when they moved to the House on the Brook. Her recollections were most vivid and interesting. According to the testimony of her son, communicated to Mr. Wildish, Mrs. Gibson "used to be very fond of talking of the time she passed with the Dickens family, and one of her highest satisfactions in her later years was to hear Charles Dickens's works read by her son Robert; and while listening to the descriptions of characters read to her, his mother would detect likenesses unsuspected by other persons whom Dickens must have known when a boy; and she also agreed in thinking, with Dickens's biographer, that in Mr. Micawber's troubles were related some of the experiences of the elder Dickens, who is believed for a time to have occupied a debtor's prison. She, however, would never bring herself to believe that her hero was himself ever reduced to such great hardships as the blacking-bottle period in David Copperfield would suggest if taken literally. She used to speak of the future author as always fond of reading, and said he was wont to retire to the top room of the House on the Brook, and spend what should have been his play-hours in poring over his books, or in acting to the furniture of the room the creatures that he had read about."

Mr. Langton, who had a personal interview with Mrs. Gibson herself, has recorded the fact that she well remembered singing the Evening Hymn to the children of John Dickens, and seemed very much surprised at being asked such a question. She lived with the family when Dickens's little sister, Harriet Ellen, died—a circumstance that no doubt in after years inspired the Child's Dream of a Star already referred to. When the family removed to London, Mary Weller was pressed to accompany them, but was not in a position to accept the offer, in consequence of her promise to marry Mr. Thomas Gibson, a shipwright of the Chatham Dockyard, with whom she lived happily until his death, in 1886, at the age of eighty-two.

Mrs. Gibson modestly declined, on her son Robert's suggestion, to seek an introduction to Charles Dickens, when he read some of his works at the old Mechanics' Institute at Chatham, fearing that he had forgotten her. It is certain, however, that, from the reproduction of her name as the pretty housemaid at Mr. Nupkins's at Ipswich, and from the extract from the letter above referred to, she had a kindly place in his recollections.

Poor David Copperfield, on his way to his aunt's at Dover, stopped at Chatham—"footsore and tired," he says, "and eating bread that I had bought for supper." He is afraid "because of the vicious looks of the trampers;" and even if he could have spared the few pence he possessed for a bed at the "one or two little houses" with the notice "lodgings for travellers," he would have hardly cared to go in, on account of the company he would have been thrown into. And so he says, "I sought no shelter, therefore, but the sky; and toiling into Chatham—which, in that night's aspect, is a mere dream of chalk, and draw-bridges, and mastless ships in a muddy river, roofed like Noah's arks,—crept, at last, upon a sort of grass-grown battery overhanging a lane, where a sentry was walking to and fro. Here" [he continues] "I lay down near a cannon; and, happy in the society of the sentry's footsteps, . . . slept soundly until morning." Of course it is not possible for us to identify this spot. "Very stiff and sore of foot," he says, "I was in the morning, and quite dazed by the beating of drums and marching of troops, which seemed to hem me in on every side when I went down towards the long narrow street." However, he has to reserve his strength for getting to his journey's end, and to this effect he resolves upon selling his jacket.

There are plenty of marine-store dealers at Chatham, whom we notice on our tramp, but none of them would, we believe, now answer to the description of "an ugly old man, with the lower part of his face all covered with a stubbly grey beard, in a filthy flannel waistcoat, and smelling terribly of rum," such as he who assailed little David, in reply to his offer to sell the jacket, with, "Oh, what do you want? Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want? Oh, my lungs and liver, what do you want? Oh—goroo, goroo!" After losing his time, and being rated at and frightened by this "dreadful old man to look at," who in every way tries to avoid giving him the money asked for,—half-a-crown,—offering him in exchange such useless things to a hungry boy as "a fishing-rod, a fiddle, a cocked hat, and a flute," the poor lad is obliged to close with the offer of a few pence, "with which [he says] I soon refreshed myself completely; and, being in better spirits then, limped seven miles upon my road."

The Convict Prison at Chatham is said to have been built on a piece of ground which, in the middle of the last century, belonged to one Thomas Clark, a singular character, who lived on the spot for many years by himself in a small cottage, and who used every night, as he went home, to sing or shout, "Tom's all alone! Tom's all alone!" This, according to the opinion of some, may have given rise to the "Tom all alone's" of Bleak House, more especially considering the fact that military operations were frequently going on at Chatham, which Dickens would notice in his early days. The circumstance is thus referred to in the novel:—"Twice lately there has been a crash, and a crowd of dust, like the springing of a mine, in Tom all alone's, and each time a house has fallen."

Mr. George Robinson of Strood directs our attention to the fact that a "child's caul," such as that described in the first chapter of David Copperfield, which he was born with, and which was advertised "at the low price of fifteen guineas," would be a likely object to be sought after in a sea-faring town like Chatham, in Dickens's early days, when the schoolmaster was less abroad than he is now.

In after years, memories of Chatham Dockyard appear in many of the sketches in the Uncommercial Traveller and other stories. "One man in a Dockyard" describes it as having "a gravity upon its red brick offices and houses, a staid pretence of having nothing to do, an avoidance of display, which I never saw out of England." "Nurse's Stories" says that "nails and copper are shipwrights' sweethearts, and shipwrights will run away with them whenever they can." In Great Expectations the refrain, "Beat it out, beat it out—old Clem! with a clink for the stout—old Clem!" which Pip and his friends sang, is from a song which the blacksmiths in the dockyard used to sing in procession on St. Clement's Day.

By accident we make the acquaintance of Mr. William James Budden of Chatham, who informs us that Charles Dickens was better known there in his latter years for his efforts, by readings and otherwise, to place the Mechanics' Institute on a sound basis and free from debt.

Dickens, as the Uncommercial Traveller, thus describes the Mechanics' Institute and its early efforts to succeed:—

"As the town was placarded with references to the Dullborough Mechanics' Institution, I thought I would go and look at that establishment next. There had been no such thing in the town in my young days, and it occurred to me that its extreme prosperity might have brought adversity upon the Drama. I found the Institution with some difficulty, and should scarcely have known that I had found it if I had judged from its external appearance only; but this was attributable to its never having been finished, and having no front: consequently, it led a modest and retired existence up a stable-yard. It was (as I learnt, on enquiry) a most flourishing Institution, and of the highest benefit to the town: two triumphs which I was glad to understand were not at all impaired by the seeming drawbacks that no mechanics belonged to it, and that it was steeped in debt to the chimney-pots. It had a large room, which was approached by an infirm step-ladder: the builder having declined to construct the intended staircase, without a present payment in cash, which Dullborough (though profoundly appreciative of the Institution) seemed unaccountably bashful about subscribing."

Mr. Budden is of opinion that the origin of the "fat boy" in Pickwick was Mr. James Budden, late of the Red Lion Inn in Military Road, who afterwards acquired a competence, and who had the honour of entertaining Dickens at a subsequent period of his life. Mr. Budden is under the impression, from local hearsay, that Dingley Dell formerly existed somewhere in the neighbourhood of Burham.

* * * * *

We are obligingly favoured with an interview by Mr. John Baird of New Brompton, Chairman of the Chatham Waterworks Company, although he is suffering from serious indisposition at the time of our visit. This gentleman was born in 1810 (two years before Charles Dickens), and recollects reading with delight the famous Sketches by Boz, as they appeared in the Morning Chronicle. The most curious coincidence about Mr. Baird is, that in stature and facial appearance he is the very counterpart of the late Charles Dickens in the flesh—his double, so to speak. This remarkable resemblance, our informant says, is "something to be proud of, to be mistaken for so great a man, but it was very inconvenient at times."

On one occasion, as Mr. Baird was hastening to catch a train at Rochester Bridge Station, a stout elderly lady, handsomely dressed, supposed to be Dean Scott's wife,—but to whom he was unknown,—bowed very politely to him, and in slackening his pace to return the compliment, which he naturally did not understand, he very nearly missed his train.

Sir Arthur Otway told Mr. Baird that the Rev. Mr. Webster, late Vicar of Chatham, had always mistaken him for Charles Dickens.

At one of the Readings given by Dickens on behalf of the Mechanics' Institute at Chatham, Mr. Charles Collins, his son-in-law, and his wife and her sister being present in the reserved seats in the gallery, Mr. Baird noticed that they looked very eagerly at him, and this pointed notice naturally made him feel very uncomfortable. Dickens himself, accompanied by his son and daughter, once passed our friend in the street, and scanned him very closely, and he fancies that Dickens called attention to the resemblance.

At the last reading which the novelist gave at Chatham, Mr. Baird being present as one of the audience, the policeman at the door mistook him for Dickens, and shouted to those in attendance outside, "Mr. Dickens's carriage!" It is interesting to add, that after the reading a cordial vote of thanks to Dickens was proposed by Mr. H. G. Adams, the Naturalist, at one time editor of The Kentish Coronal, who recounted the well-known story of the novelist's father taking him, when a little boy, to see Gad's Hill Place, and of the strong impression it made upon his mind.

Our informant had the honour of meeting Dickens at dinner at Mr. James Budden's, and states that he was standing against the mantel-piece in the drawing-room when the novelist arrived, and that he walked up to him and shook hands cordially, without the usual ceremony of introduction. Dickens was no doubt too polite to refer to the curious resemblance.

But the most remarkable case remains to be told, illustrating the converse of the old proverb—"It is a wise father that knows his own child." This is given in Mr. Baird's own words:—

"My daughter, when a little girl about six years old, was with her mother and some friends in a railway carriage at Strood station (next Rochester), and one of them called the child's attention to a gentleman standing on the platform, asking if she knew who he was. With surprised delight she at once exclaimed, 'That's my papa!' That same gentleman was Mr. Charles Dickens!"

Mr. Baird speaks of the great appreciation which the people of Chatham had of Dickens's services at the readings, and says it was very good and kind of him to give those services gratuitously. He confirms the general opinion as to the origin of the "fat boy," and the "very fussy little man" at Fort Pitt, who was the prototype of Dr. Slammer.

It struck us both forcibly that Mr. Baird's appearance at the time of our visit was very like the last American photograph of Dickens, taken by Gurney in 1867.

* * * * *

Mr. J. E. Littlewood[23] of High Street, Chatham, knew Charles Dickens about the year 1845 or 1846 at the Royalty (Miss Kelly's) Theatre in Dean Street, Soho, our informant having been in times past a bit of an amateur actor, and played Bob Acres in The Rivals. He subsequently heard Dickens read at the Chatham Mechanics' Institute about 1861, and said that the facial display in the trial scene from Pickwick (one of the pieces read) was wonderful. He had the honour of dining at the late Mr. Budden's in High Street, opposite Military Road, to meet Dickens. There was a large company present. In acknowledging the toast of his health, which had been proposed at the dinner—either by Sir Arthur Otway or Captain Fanshawe—Dickens said he was very pleased to read "in memory of the old place," meaning Chatham, but that he might be reading "all the year round" for charities.

Mr. Littlewood also heard Dickens say, that "he had passed many happy hours in the House on the Brook" looking at "the Lines" opposite. "At that time" (said our informant) "the place was more rural—considered a decent spot—not so crowded up as now—nor so vulgar—many respectable people lived there in Dickens's boyhood. The place has sadly changed since for the worse."

* * * * *

Mr. Humphrey Wood, Solicitor, of Chatham, was, about the year 1867, local Hon. Secretary to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and, having applied to Charles Dickens to give a Reading on behalf of the Society, received the following polite answer to his application. If only a few words had to be said, they were well said and to the purpose.

"GAD'S HILL PLACE, "HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT. "Thursday, 5th September, 1867.


"In reply to your letter, I beg to express my regret that my compliance with the request it communicates to me, is removed from within the bounds of reasonable possibility by the nature of my engagements, present and prospective.

"Your faithful servant, "CHARLES DICKENS. "HUMPHREY WOOD, ESQ."

Like other towns in Kent, Chatham contains many names which are suggestive of some of Dickens's characters, viz. Dowler, Whiffen, Kimmins, Wyles, Arkcoll, Perse, Winch, Wildish, Hockaday, Mowatt, Hunnisett, and others.

It is, of course, scarcely necessary to mention, in passing, that Chatham is one of the most important centres of ship-building for the Royal Navy; the dockyards—often referred to in Dickens's minor works—cover more than seventy acres, and are most interesting. Here, at the Navy Pay-Office, the elder Dickens was employed during his residence at Chatham.

Fort Pitt next claims our attention. It stands on the high ground above the Railway Station at Chatham, just beyond Ordnance Terrace. In Charles Dickens's early days, and indeed long after, until the establishment of the magnificent Institution at Netley, Fort Pitt was the principal military Hospital in England, and was visited by Her Majesty during the Crimean War. It is still used as a hospital, and contains about two hundred and fifty beds. The interesting museum which previously existed there has been removed to Netley.

From Fort Pitt we see the famous "Chatham lines," which constitute the elaborate and almost impregnable fortifications of this important military and ship-building town. The "lines" were commenced as far back as 1758, and stretch from Gillingham to Brompton, a distance of several miles, enclosing the peninsula formed by the bend of the river Medway. Forster says:—

"By Rochester and the Medway to the Chatham lines was a favourite walk with Charles Dickens. He would turn out of Rochester High Street through the Vines, . . . would pass round by Fort Pitt, and coming back by Frindsbury would bring himself by some cross-fields again into the high-road."

The Chatham lines are locally understood as referring to a piece of ground about three or four hundred yards square, near Fort Pitt, used as an exercising-ground for the military.

Chapter IV. of Pickwick, "describing a field day and bivouac," refers to the Chatham lines as the place where the review was held, on the third day of the visit of the Pickwickians to this neighbourhood, and which (having been relieved of the company of their quondam friend, Mr. Jingle, who had caused at least one of the party so much anxiety) they all attended, possibly at Mr. Pickwick's suggestion, as he is stated to have been "an enthusiastic admirer of the army." The programme is thus referred to:—

"The whole population of Rochester and the adjoining towns, rose from their beds at an early hour of the following morning, in a state of the utmost bustle and excitement. A grand review was to take place upon the lines. The manoeuvres of half a dozen regiments were to be inspected by the eagle eye of the commander-in-chief; temporary fortifications had been erected, the citadel was to be attacked and taken, and a mine was to be sprung."

The evolutions of this "ceremony of the utmost grandeur and importance" proceed. Mr. Pickwick and his two friends (Mr. Tupman "had suddenly disappeared, and was nowhere to be found"), who are told to keep back, get hustled and pushed by the crowd, and the unoffending Mr. Snodgrass, who is in "the very extreme of human torture," is derided and asked "vere he vos a shovin' to." Subsequently they get hemmed in by the crowd, "are exposed to a galling fire of blank cartridges, and harassed by the operations of the military." Mr. Pickwick loses his hat, and not only regains that useful article of dress, but finds the lost Mr. Tupman, and the Pickwickians make the acquaintance of old Wardle and his hospitable family from Dingley Dell, by whom they are heartily entertained, and from whom they receive a warm invitation to visit Manor Farm on the morrow.

There is a fine view of Chatham and Rochester from the fields round Fort Pitt, and on a bright sunny morning the air coming over from the Kentish Hills is most refreshing, very different indeed to what it was on a certain evening in Mr. Winkle's life, when "a melancholy wind sounded through the deserted fields like a giant whistling for his house-dog." We ramble about for an hour or more, and in imagination call up the pleasant times which Charles Dickens, as a boy, spent here.

Almost every inch of the ground must have been gone over by him. What a delightful "playing-field" this and the neighbouring meadows must have been to him and his young companions, before the railway and the builder took possession of some of the lower portions of the hill which forms the base of Fort Pitt. "Here," says Mr. Langton, "is the place where the schools of Rochester and Chatham used to meet to settle their differences, and to contend in the more friendly rivalry of cricket," and no doubt Dickens frequently played when "Joe Specks" in Dullborough "kept wicket." In after life the memory of the past came back to Dickens with all its freshness, when he again visited the neighbourhood as the Uncommercial Traveller in "Dullborough":—

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

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

"When I had been let out at the platform-door, like a prisoner whom his turnkey grudgingly released, I looked in again over the low wall, at the scene of departed glories. Here, in the haymaking time, had I been delivered from the dungeons of Seringapatam, an immense pile (of haycock), by my countrymen, the victorious British (boy next door and his two cousins), and had been recognized with ecstasy by my affianced one (Miss Green), who had come all the way from England (second house in the terrace) to ransom me, and marry me."

Fort Pitt must have had considerable attractions in Mr. Pickwick's time, as it would appear that it was visited by him and his friends on the first day of their arrival at Rochester. Lieutenant Tappleton (Dr. Slammer's second), when presenting the challenge for the duel, thus speaks to Mr. Winkle in the second chapter of Pickwick:—

"'You know Fort Pitt?'

"'Yes; I saw it yesterday.'

"'If you will take the trouble to turn into the field which borders the trench, take the foot-path to the left, when you arrive at an angle of the fortification; and keep straight on till you see me; I will precede you to a secluded place, where the affair can be conducted without fear of interruption.'

"'Fear of interruption!' thought Mr. Winkle."

Everybody remembers how the meeting took place on Fort Pitt. Mr. Winkle, attended by his friend Mr. Snodgrass, as second, is punctuality itself.

"'We are in excellent time,' said Mr. Snodgrass, as they climbed the fence of the first field; 'the sun is just going down.' Mr. Winkle looked up at the declining orb, and painfully thought of the probability of his 'going down' himself, before long."

Presently the officer appears, "the gentleman in the blue cloak," and "slightly beckoning with his hand to the two friends, they follow him for a little distance," and after climbing a paling and scaling a hedge, enter a secluded field.

Dr. Slammer is already there with his friend Dr. Payne,—Dr. Payne of the 43rd, "the man with the camp-stool."

The arrangements proceed, when suddenly a check is experienced.

"'What's all this?' said Dr. Slammer, as his friend and Mr. Snodgrass came running up.—'That's not the man.'

"'Not the man!' said Dr. Slammer's second.

"'Not the man!' said Mr. Snodgrass.

"'Not the man!' said the gentleman with the camp-stool in his hand.

"'Certainly not,' replied the little doctor. 'That's not the person who insulted me last night.'

"'Very extraordinary!' exclaimed the officer.

"'Very,' said the gentleman with the camp-stool."

Mutual explanations follow, and, notwithstanding the temporary dissatisfaction of Dr. Payne, Mr. Winkle comes out like a trump—defends the honour of the Pickwick Club and its uniform, and wins the admiration of Dr. Slammer.

"'My dear sir,' said the good-humoured little doctor, advancing with extended hand, 'I honour your gallantry. Permit me to say, Sir, that I highly admire your conduct, and extremely regret having caused you the inconvenience of this meeting, to no purpose.'

"'I beg you won't mention it, Sir,' said Mr. Winkle.

"'I shall feel proud of your acquaintance, Sir,' said the little doctor.

"'It will afford me the greatest pleasure to know you, Sir,' replied Mr. Winkle.

"Thereupon the doctor and Mr. Winkle shook hands, and then Mr. Winkle and Lieutenant Tappleton (the doctor's second), and then Mr. Winkle and the man with the camp-stool, and finally Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass: the last-named gentleman in an excess of admiration at the noble conduct of his heroic friend.

"'I think we may adjourn,' said Lieutenant Tappleton.

"'Certainly,' added the doctor."

We ourselves also adjourn, taking with us many pleasant memories of Chatham and Fort Pitt, and of the period relating to "the childhood and youth of Charles Dickens."

* * * * *

No tramp in "Dickens-Land" can possibly be complete without a visit to the birthplace of the great novelist, and on another occasion we therefore devote a day to Portsea, Hants. A fast train from Victoria by the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway takes us to Portsmouth Town, the nearest station, which is about half a mile from Commercial Road, and a tram-car puts us down at the door. We immediately recognize the house from the picture in Mr. Langton's book, but the first impression is that the illustration scarcely does justice to it. From the picture it appears to us to be a very ordinary house in a row, and to be situated rather low in a crowded and not over respectable neighbourhood. Nothing of the kind. The house, No. 387, Mile End Terrace, Commercial Road, Landport, where the parents of Charles Dickens resided before they removed to another part of Portsea, and subsequently went to live at Chatham, and where the future genius first saw light, was eighty years ago quite in a rural neighbourhood; and in those days must have been considered rather a genteel residence for a family of moderate means in the middle class. Even now, with the pressure which always attends the development of large towns, and their extension on the border-land of green country by the frequent conversion of dwelling-houses into shops, or the intrusion of shops where dwelling-houses are, this residence has escaped and remains unchanged to this day.

There is another point of real importance to notice. Mr. Langton, referring to this house, says:—"The engraving shows the little fore-court or front garden, with the low kitchen window of the house, whence the movements of Charles [who is presumably represented in the engraving by the figure of a boy about two or three years old, with curly locks, dressed in a smart frock, and having a large ball in his right hand], attended by his dear little sister Fanny, could be overlooked."[24] Very pretty indeed, but alas! I am afraid, purely imaginary, considering, as will hereafter appear, that Charles was a baby in arms, aged about four months and sixteen days, when his parents quitted the house in which he was born.

The house is now, and has been for many years, occupied by Miss Sarah Pearce, the surviving daughter of Mr. John Dickens's landlord, her sisters, who formerly lived with her, being all dead. It stands high on the west side of a good broad road, opposite an old-fashioned villa called Angus House, in the midst of well-trimmed grounds, and the situation is very open, pleasant, and cheerful. It is red-brick built, has a railing in front, and is approached by a little entrance-gate opening on to a lawn, whereon there are a few flower-beds; a hedge divides the fore-court from the next house,[25] and a few steps guarded by a handrail lead to the front door. It is a single-fronted, eight-roomed house, having two underground kitchens, two floors above, and a single dormer window high up in the sloping red-tiled roof. As is usual with old-fashioned houses of this type, the shutters to the lower windows are outside. Both the front and back parlours on the ground floor are very cheerful, cosy little rooms (in one of them we are glad to see a portrait of the novelist), and the view from the back parlour looking down into the well-kept garden, which abuts on other gardens, is very pretty, marred only by a large gasometer in the distance, which could hardly have been erected in young Charles Dickens's earliest days. In the garden we notice a lovely specimen of the Lavatera arborea, or tree-mallow, covered with hundreds of white and purple blossoms. It is a rarity to see such a handsome, well-grown tree, standing nearly eight feet high, and it is not unlikely, from the luxuriance of its growth, that it existed in Charles Dickens's infancy. From the pleasant surroundings of the place generally, and from the fact that flowers are much grown in the neighbourhood (especially roses), it is more than probable that Dickens's love for flowers was early developed by these associations. The road leads to Cosham, and to the picturesque old ruin of Porchester Castle, a nice walk from the town of Portsmouth, and probably often traversed by Dickens, his sister, and his nurse.

Mr. Langton states that "it is said in after years Charles Dickens could remember places and things at Portsmouth that he had not seen since he was an infant of little more than two years old (he left Portsmouth when he was only four or five), and there is no doubt whatever that many of the earliest reminiscences of David Copperfield were also tender childish memories of his own infancy at this place."

Mr. William Pearce, solicitor of Portsea, son of the former landlord, and brother of Miss Sarah Pearce, the present occupant, has been kind enough to supply the following interesting information respecting No. 387, Mile End Terrace:—

"The celebrated novelist was born in the front bedroom of the above house, which my sisters many years ago converted into a drawing-room, and it is still used as such.

"Mr. John Dickens, the father of the novelist, and his wife came to reside in the house directly after they were married. Mr. John Dickens rented the house of my father at L35 a-year, from the 24th June, 1808, until the 24th June, 1812, when he quitted, and moved into Hawke Street, in the town of Portsea. Miss Fanny Dickens, the novelist's sister, was the first child born in the house, and then the novelist.

"I was born on the 22nd February, 1814, and have often heard my mother say that Mr. Gardner, the surgeon, and Mrs. Purkis, the monthly nurse (both of whom attended my mother with me and her six other children), attended Mrs. Dickens with her two children, Fanny and Charles, who were both born in the above house; besides this, Mrs. Purkis has often called on my sisters at the house in question, and alluded to the above circumstances.

"Mr. Cobb (whom I recollect), a fellow-clerk of Mr. John Dickens in the pay-office in the Portsmouth Dockyard, rented the same house of my father after Mr. John Dickens left, and often alluded to the many happy hours he spent in it while Mr. Dickens resided there."

We next visit the site of old Kingston Parish Church,—St. Mary's, Portsea—where Charles Dickens was baptized on 4th March, 1812. A very handsome and large new church, costing nearly forty thousand pounds, and capable of seating over two thousand persons, has been erected, and occupies the place of the old church, where the ceremony took place. Mr. Langton has given a very pretty little drawing of the old church in his book, so that its associations are preserved to lovers of Dickens. The old church itself was the second edifice erected on the same spot, and thus the present one is the third parish church which has been built here. There is a large and crowded burial-ground attached to it; but a cursory examination does not disclose any names on the gravestones to indicate characters in the novels.

It is right to note here, that the kind people of Portsmouth were desirous of inserting a stained-glass window in their beautiful new church to the memory of one of their most famous sons (the eminent novelist, Mr. Walter Besant, was born at Portsmouth, as also were Isambard K. Brunel, the engineer, and Messrs. George and Vicat Cole, Royal Academicians), but they were debarred by the conditions of Dickens's will, which expressly interdicted anything of the kind. It states:—

"I conjure my friends on no account to make me the subject of any monument, memorial, or testimonial whatever. I rest my claim to the remembrance of my country upon my published works, and to the remembrance of my friends upon their experience of me in addition thereto."

Before leaving Portsmouth, we just take a hasty glance at the Theatre Royal, which remains much as it was during the days of Mr. Vincent Crummles and his company, as graphically described in the twenty-second and following chapters of Nicholas Nickleby. Of that genial manager, Mr. T. Edgar Pemberton, in his Charles Dickens and the Stage, observes:—

"Every line that is written about Mr. Crummles and his followers is instinct with good-natured humour, and from the moment when, in the road-side inn 'yet twelve miles short of Portsmouth,' the reader comes into contact with the kindly old circuit manager, he finds himself in the best of good company."

Mr. Rimmer, in his About England with Dickens, referring to the "Common Hard" at Portsmouth, says that the "people there point out in a narrow lane leading to the wharf, the house where Nicholas is supposed to have sojourned."


[19] So far as I am aware, nothing has been done to trace the genealogy of the Dickens family, and it may therefore be of interest to place on record the title of, and an extract from, a very scarce and curious thin quarto volume (pp. 1-28) in my collection. Sir Walter Scott was immensely proud of his lineage and historical associations, but it would be a wonderful thing if we could trace the descent of Charles Dickens from King Edward III.

In the Rambler in Worcestershire (Longmans, 1854), Mr. John Noake, the author, in alluding to the parish of Churchill, Worcestershire, says:—"The Dickens family of Bobbington were lords of this manor from 1432 to 1657, and it is said that from this family Mr. Dickens, the author, is descended."




Lieut.-Colonel in the First Regiment of Foot Guards, Dedicated, by permission, to his Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester, to which is added The genealogy of the Author from King Edward III.; also A few grateful stanzas to the Deity, three months previous to his death, Sep. 21st, 1789.

CAMBRIDGE: Printed by J. Archdeacon, Printer to the University. And may be had of the Editor, C. DICKENS, LL.D., near Huntingdon, and of T. PAYNE AND SON, Booksellers, London. MDCCXC.

Above the title is written in ink: "Peter Cowling to Charles Robert Dickens, 3rd son to Sam. Trevor Dickens, this 10th August, 1807, and from said Chas. R. Dickens to his loved father, on the 16th June, 1832."


Genealogy of the late Thomas Dickens, Esq.


LIONEL, Duke of Clarence his Son

PHILIPPA, married to EDMUND MORTIMER, Earl of March his Daughter

ROGER, Earl of March her Son

ANN, who married RICHARD, Duke of York and Earl of Cambridge his Daughter

RICHARD, Duke of York her Son

GEORGE, Duke of Clarence, brother to Edward IV. his Son

Countess of SALISBURY his Daughter

Viscount MONTAGUE her Son

Lady BARRINGTON his Daughter

Sir Francis BARRINGTON her Son

Lady MASHAM his Daughter

William MASHAM, ESQ. her Son


JOHANNA MASHAM, who married Counsellor Hildesley his Daughter


MARY HILDESLEY, who married the Reverend SAMUEL DICKENS his Daughter

THOMAS DICKENS, ESQ., the Author her Son

Opposite GEORGE, Duke of Clarence, is written in ink, "Drown'd in a Butt of Malmsey Madeira," and following THOMAS DICKENS, ESQ., the Author, also written in ink—

"Lieut.-Gen. Sir SAML. T. DICKENS, K.C.H. his Son

Capt. SAML. T. DICKENS, R.N. his Son"

And following the last-mentioned names written in pencil—


Also written in pencil underneath the above—

"qy. CHARLES DICKENS the Novelist."

[20] In a copy—in my collection—of the second edition 8vo of "The History and Antiquities of Rochester and its Environs, embellished with engravings (pp. i-xvii, 1-419), printed and sold by W. Wildash, Rochester, 1817," there occurs in the list of subscribers—about four hundred in number—the name:—DICKENS MR. JOHN, CHATHAM.

[21] A most interesting paper entitled "The Life and Labours of Lieutenant Waghorn," appeared in Household Words (No. 21), August 17th, 1850.

[22] See Note to Chapter ii. p. 38.

[23] Since this was written, Mr. Littlewood has passed over to the great majority. He was found drowned near Chatham Pier in March, 1890.

[24] This was taken from the first edition of Mr. Langton's book, published in 1883. In the new edition, 1891—a beautiful volume—this passage has been eliminated, but the engraving is untouched.

[25] This house is appropriately named "Highland House," and was also the property of John Dickens's landlord, in which the family then and for many years after resided. At the time referred to Mr. Pearce owned not only the above-mentioned houses, but all the surrounding property.



"Its river winding down from the mist on the horizon, as though that were its source, and already heaving with a restless knowledge of its approach towards the sea."—Edwin Drood.

"Oh, the solemn woods over which the light and shadow travelled swiftly, as if Heavenly wings were sweeping on benignant errands through the summer air; the smooth green slopes, the glittering water, the garden where the flowers were symmetrically arranged in clusters of the richest colours, how beautiful they looked!"—Bleak House.

ANOTHER delightful morning, fine but overcast, favours our tramp in this neighbourhood. We are up betimes on Monday, and take the train by the South-Eastern Railway from Strood station to Aylesford. It is a distance of nearly eight miles between these places; and the intermediate stations of any note which we pass on the way are Cuxton (about three miles) and Snodland (about two miles further on), which are two large villages. As the railway winds, we obtain excellent views of the chalk escarpments on the series of hills opposite, these being the result of centuries of quarrying. The land on either side of the river is marshy and intersected by numerous water-courses. These grounds are locally termed "saltings," caused by the overflow of the Medway at certain times, and are used as sanitaria for horses which require bracing.

Cuxton is at the entrance of the valley between the two chalk ranges of hills which form the water-parting of the river Medway. As Mr Phillips Bevan rightly observes—"this valley is utilized for quarrying and lime-burning to such an extent, that it has almost the appearance of a northern manufacturing district," but it is a consolation, on the authority of Sir A. C. Ramsay, to know that "man cannot permanently disfigure nature!"

At Snodland the river becomes narrower, and the scenery of the valley is more picturesque. Early British and Roman remains have been found in the district, and according to the authority previously quoted—"In one of the quarries, which are abundant, Dr. Mantell discovered some of the most interesting and rarest chalk fossils with which we are acquainted, including the fossil Turtle (Chelonia Benstedi)."

Alighting from the train at Aylesford station, we have but a few minutes to ramble by the river, the banks of which are brightened by the handsome flowers of the purple loosestrife. We notice the charming position of the Norman church, which stands on an eminence on the right bank of the Medway, overlooking the main street, and is surrounded by fine old elm trees—the bells were chiming "Home, sweet home," a name very dear to Dickens. The Medway ceases to be a tidal river at Allington beyond Aylesford, and one or other of the weirs at Allington or Farleigh (further on) may have suggested the idea of "Cloisterham Weir" in Edwin Drood; but they are too far distant (as shown in Chapter V.) to fit in with the story. The ancient stone bridge which spans the Medway at Aylesford is seven-arched; a large central one, and three smaller ones on either side. One or two of the arches on the left bank are filled up, as though the river had silted on that side. Mr. Roach Smith considers the bridge to be a very fine specimen of mediaeval architecture. It is somewhat narrow, but there are large abutments which afford shelter to foot passengers.

We are much inclined to think that Aylesford Bridge was in the mind of Dickens when he makes the Pickwickians cross the Medway, only a wooden bridge is mentioned in the text for the purpose perhaps of concealing identity. The place is certainly worth visiting, and the approach to it by the river is exceedingly picturesque.

Aylesford is supposed to be the place where the great battle between Hengist and Vortigern took place. Near to it, at a place called Horsted, is the tomb of Horsa, who fell in the battle between the Britons and Saxons, A.D. 455. Names of Dickens's characters, Brooks, Joy, etc., occur at Aylesford. There is a very fine quarry here, from whence the famous Kentish rag-stone—"a concretionary limestone"—is obtained. It forms the base, and is overlaid by the Hassock sands and the river drift. In the distance is seen the bold series of chalk rocks constituting the ridge of the valley.

Just outside Aylesford we pass Preston Hall, a fine modern Tudor mansion standing in very pretty grounds, and belonging to Mr. H. Brassey.

We now resume our tramp towards the principal point of our destination, Town Malling,[26] or West Malling, as it is indifferently called (the "a" in Malling being pronounced long, as in "calling"). The walk from Aylesford lies through the village of Larkview, and is rather pretty, but there is nothing remarkable to notice until we approach Town Malling. Here it becomes beautifully wooded, especially in the neighbourhood of Clare House Park, the Spanish or edible chestnut, with its handsome dark green lanceolate serrate leaves, and clumps of Scotch firs, with their light red trunks and large cones, the result of healthy growth, which would have delighted the heart of Mr. Ruskin, being conspicuous. On the road we pass a field sown with maize, a novelty to one accustomed to the Midlands. The farmer to whom it belongs says that it is a poor crop this year, owing to the excess of wet and late summer, but in a good season it gives a fine yield. We are informed that it is used in the green state as food for cattle and chickens.

A pleasant tramp of about three miles brings us to Town Malling, which stands on the Kentish rag. The approach to Town Malling is by a waterfall, and there are the ruins of the old Nunnery, founded by Bishop Gundulph in 1090, in the place. East Malling is a smaller town, and lies nearer to Maidstone. Our object in visiting this pretty, old-fashioned Kentish country town, is to verify its identity with that of Muggleton of the Pickwick Papers. Great weight must be attached to the fact that the present Mr. Charles Dickens, in his annotated Jubilee Edition of the above work, introduces a very pretty woodcut of "High Street, Town Malling," with a note to the effect that—

"Muggleton, perhaps, is only to be taken as a fancy sketch of a small country town; but it is generally supposed, and probably with sufficient accuracy, that, if it is in any degree a portrait of any Kentish town, Town Malling, a great place for cricket in Mr. Pickwick's time, sat for it."

The reader will remember that when at the hospitable Mr. Wardle's residence at Manor Farm in Dingley Dell (by the bye, there is a veritable "Manor Farm" at Frindsbury, near Strood, with ponds adjacent, which may perhaps have suggested the episode of Mr. Pickwick on the ice), an excursion was determined on by the Pickwickians to witness a grand cricket match about to be played between the "All Muggleton" and the "Dingley Dellers," a conference first took place as to whether the invalid, Mr. Tupman, should remain or go with them.

"'Shall we be justified,' asked Mr. Pickwick, 'in leaving our wounded friend to the care of the ladies?'

"'You cannot leave me in better hands,' said Mr. Tupman.

"'Quite impossible,' said Mr. Snodgrass."

The result of the conference was satisfactory.

"It was therefore settled that Mr. Tupman should be left at home in charge of the females, and that the remainder of the guests under the guidance of Mr. Wardle should proceed to the spot, where was to be held that trial of skill, which had roused all Muggleton from its torpor, and inoculated Dingley Dell with a fever of excitement.

"As their walk, which was not above two miles long,[27] lay through shady lanes and sequestered footpaths, and as their conversation turned upon the delightful scenery by which they were on every side surrounded, Mr. Pickwick was almost inclined to regret the expedition they had used, when he found himself in the main street of the town of Muggleton."

The chronicle of Pickwick then proceeds to state that—

"Muggleton is a corporate town, with a mayor, burgesses, and freemen; . . . an ancient and loyal borough, mingling a zealous advocacy of Christian principles with a devoted attachment to commercial rights; in demonstration whereof, the mayor, corporation, and other inhabitants, have presented at divers times, no fewer than one thousand four hundred and twenty petitions, against the continuance of negro slavery abroad, and an equal number against any interference with the factory system at home; sixty-eight in favour of the sales of livings in the Church, and eighty-six for abolishing Sunday trading in the streets."

On the occasion of their second visit to Manor Farm to spend Christmas, the Pickwickians came by the "Muggleton Telegraph," which stopped at the "Blue Lion," and they walked over to Dingley Dell.

Assuming, as has been suggested by Mr. Frost in his In Kent with Charles Dickens, that Dingley Dell is somewhere on the eastern side of the river Medway, within fifteen miles of Rochester,—Mr. William James Budden (a gentleman whom we met at Chatham) gave as his opinion that it was near Burham,[28]—then it would require a much greater walk than that ("which was not above two miles long") to reach Town Malling (leaving out of the question the fact that Burham is only about six miles from Rochester instead of fifteen miles, as the waiter at the Bull told Mr. Pickwick in reply to his enquiry), whereby we reluctantly for the time arrive at the conclusion,—as Mr. Frost did before us—that Dingley Dell as such near Town Malling cannot be identified.

On another visit to "Dickens-Land" Mr. R. L. Cobb suggested that Cobtree Hall, near Aylesford, was the prototype of Dingley Dell. It may have been; but except one goes as the crow flies, it is more than two miles distant from Town Malling. But as Captain Cuttle would say—we "make a note of it."

After all, Dingley Dell is no doubt a type of an English yeoman's hospitable home. There are numbers of such in Kent, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Devonshire, and other counties, and the one in question may have been seen by Dickens almost anywhere.

There is, at any rate, one objection to Muggleton being Town Malling—the latter is not, as mentioned in the text, "a corporate town." The neighbouring corporate towns which might be taken for it are Faversham, Tunbridge Wells, and Seven Oaks; but, as Mr. Rimmer, in his About England with Dickens, points out—"These have no feature in common with the enterprising borough which had so distinguished itself in the matter of petitions." On the other hand, there is one very strong reason in favour of Town Malling, and that is its devotion to the noble old English game of cricket. So far as we could make out, no town in Kent has done better service in this respect. But more of this presently.

* * * * *

So many friends recommended us to see Cobtree Hall that, after the foregoing was written, we determined to follow their advice, and on a subsequent occasion we take the train to Aylesford and walk over, the distance being a pleasant stroll of about a mile. We were well repaid. The mansion, formerly called Coptray Friars, belonging to the Aylesford Friary, is an Elizabethan structure of red brick with stone facings prettily covered with creeping plants, standing on an elevated position in a beautifully wooded and undulating country overlooking the Medway and surrounded by cherry orchards and hop gardens. Major Trousdell was so courteous as to show us over the building, which has been altered and much enlarged during the last half century. Internally there is something to favour the hypothesis of its being the type of Manor Farm, Dingley Dell. Such portions of the old building remaining, as the kitchen, are highly suggestive of the gathering described in that good-humoured Christmas chapter of Pickwick (xxviii.), and there is a veritable beam to correspond with Phiz's plate of "Christmas Eve at Mr. Wardle's." "The best sitting-room, [described as] a good long, dark-panelled room with a high chimney-piece, and a capacious chimney up which you could have driven one of the new patent cabs, wheels and all," may still be discerned in the handsome modern dining-room, with carved marble mantel-piece of massive size formerly supplied with old-fashioned "dogs." The views from the bay-window are very extensive and picturesque. The mansion divides the two parishes of Boxley and Allington, the initials of which are carved on the beam in the kitchen. Externally, there is much more to commend it to our acceptance. Remains of a triangular piece of ground, with a few elm-trees, still survive as "the rookery," where Mr. Tupman met with his mishap, and to our delight there is "the pond," not indeed covered with ice, as on Mr. Pickwick's memorable adventure, but crowded with water-lilies on its surface; its banks surrounded by the fragrant meadow-sweet and the brilliant rose-coloured willow herb. Furthermore we were informed, by Mr. Franklin of Maidstone, that the "Red Lion," which formerly stood on the spot now occupied by Mercer's Stables, is locally considered to be the original of "a little roadside public-house, with two elm-trees, a horse-trough, and a sign-post in front;" where the Pickwickians sought assistance after the breakdown of the "four-wheeled chaise" which "separated the wheels from the body and the bin from the perch," but were inhospitably repulsed by the "red-headed man and the tall bony woman," who suggested that they had stolen the "immense horse" which had recently played Mr. Winkle such pranks. Finally, in a pleasant chat with the Rev. Cyril Grant, Vicar of Aylesford, and his curate, the Rev. H. B. Boyd (a son of A. K. H. B.), we elicited the fact that Cobtree Hall is locally recognized as the original of Manor Farm. Nay more, in Aylesford churchyard a tomb was pointed out on the west side with the inscription:—"Also to the memory of Mr. W. Spong, late of Cobtree, in the Parish of Boxley, who died Nov. 15th, 1839," who is said to have been the prototype of the genial and hospitable "old Wardle."

True, neither the distance to Rochester nor to Town Malling fits in with the narrative, but this is not material. Dickens, with the usual "novelist's licence," found it convenient often-times to take a nucleus of fact, and surround it with a halo of fiction, and this may have been one of many similar instances. His wonderfully-gifted and ever-facile imagination was never at fault.

So on our return journey we console ourselves by reading the following description, in chapter vi. of Pickwick, of the first gathering of the Pickwickians at their host's, one of the most delightful bits in the whole book, and "make-believe," as the Marchioness would say, that we have actually seen Manor Farm, Dingley Dell.

"Several guests who were assembled in the old parlour, rose to greet Mr. Pickwick and his friends upon their entrance; and during the performance of the ceremony of introduction, with all due formalities, Mr. Pickwick had leisure to observe the appearance, and speculate upon the characters and pursuits, of the persons by whom he was surrounded—a habit in which he in common with many other great men delighted to indulge.

"A very old lady, in a lofty cap and faded silk gown,—no less a personage than Mr. Wardle's mother,—occupied the post of honour on the right-hand corner of the chimney-piece; and various certificates of her having been brought up in the way she should go when young, and of her not having departed from it when old, ornamented the walls, in the form of samplers of ancient date, worsted landscapes of equal antiquity, and crimson silk tea-kettle holders of a more modern period. The aunt, the two young ladies, and Mr. Wardle, each vying with the other in paying zealous and unremitting attentions to the old lady, crowded round her easy-chair, one holding her ear-trumpet, another an orange, and a third a smelling-bottle, while a fourth was busily engaged in patting and punching the pillows, which were arranged for her support. On the opposite side sat a bald-headed old gentleman, with a good-humoured benevolent face,—the clergyman of Dingley Dell; and next him sat his wife, a stout, blooming old lady, who looked as if she were well skilled, not only in the art and mystery of manufacturing home-made cordials, greatly to other people's satisfaction, but of tasting them occasionally, very much to her own. A little hard-headed, Ripstone pippin-faced man, was conversing with a fat old gentleman in one corner; and two or three more old gentlemen, and two or three more old ladies, sat bolt upright and motionless on their chairs, staring very hard at Mr. Pickwick and his fellow-voyagers.

"'Mr. Pickwick, mother,' said Mr. Wardle, at the very top of his voice.

"'Ah!' said the old lady, shaking her head; 'I can't hear you.'

"'Mr. Pickwick, grandma!' screamed both the young ladies together.

"'Ah!' exclaimed the old lady. 'Well; it don't much matter. He don't care for an old 'ooman like me, I dare say.'

"'I assure you, madam,' said Mr. Pickwick, grasping the old lady's hand, and speaking so loud that the exertion imparted a crimson hue to his benevolent countenance; 'I assure you, ma'am, that nothing delights me more, than to see a lady of your time of life heading so fine a family, and looking so young and well.'

"'Ah!' said the old lady, after a short pause; 'it's all very fine, I dare say; but I can't hear him.'

"'Grandma's rather put out now,' said Miss Isabella Wardle, in a low tone; 'but she'll talk to you presently.'

"Mr. Pickwick nodded his readiness to humour the infirmities of age, and entered into a general conversation with the other members of the circle.

"'Delightful situation this,' said Mr. Pickwick.

"'Delightful!' echoed Messrs. Snodgrass, Tupman, and Winkle.

"'Well, I think it is,' said Mr. Wardle.

"'There ain't a better spot o' ground in all Kent, sir,' said the hard-headed man with the pippin-face; 'there ain't indeed, sir—I'm sure there ain't, sir,' and the hard-headed man looked triumphantly round, as if he had been very much contradicted by somebody, but had got the better of him at last. 'There ain't a better spot o' ground in all Kent,' said the hard-headed man again after a pause.

"''Cept Mullins' meadows!' observed the fat man, solemnly.

"'Mullins' meadows!' ejaculated the other, with profound contempt.

"'Ah, Mullins' meadows,' repeated the fat man.

"'Reg'lar good land that,' interposed another fat man.

"'And so it is, sure-ly,' said a third fat man.

"'Everybody knows that,' said the corpulent host.

"The hard-headed man looked dubiously round, but finding himself in a minority, assumed a compassionate air, and said no more.

"'What are they talking about?' inquired the old lady of one of her grand-daughters, in a very audible voice; for, like many deaf people, she never seemed to calculate on the possibility of other persons hearing what she said herself.

"'About the land, grandma.'

"'What about the land? Nothing the matter, is there?'

"'No, no. Mr. Miller was saying our land was better than Mullins' meadows.'

"'How should he know anything about it?' inquired the old lady indignantly. 'Miller's a conceited coxcomb, and you may tell him I said so.' Saying which, the old lady, quite unconscious that she had spoken above a whisper, drew herself up, and looked carving-knives at the hard-headed delinquent."

* * * * *

In the course of our tramp we fall in with "a very queer small boy," rejoicing in the Christian names of "Spencer Ray," upon which we congratulate him, and express a hope that he will do honour to the noble names which he bears, one being that of the great English philosopher, and the other that of the famous English naturalist. This boy, who is just such a bright intelligent lad as Dickens himself would have been at his age (twelve and a half years), gives us some interesting particulars respecting Town Malling and its proclivities for cricket, upon which he is very eloquent. It appears that in the year 1887 the cricketers of Town Malling won eleven matches out of twelve; but during this year they have not been so successful. He directed us to the cricket-ground, which we visit, and find to be but a few minutes' walk from the centre of the town, bearing to the westward. It is a very fine field, nearly seven acres in extent, in splendid order, as level as a die, and as green as an emerald. It lies well open, and is flanked by the western range of hills of the Medway valley.

The marquee into which Mr. Pickwick and his friends were invited, first by "one very stout gentleman, whose body and legs looked like half a gigantic roll of flannel, elevated on a couple of inflated pillow-cases," and then by the irrepressible Jingle with—"This way—this way—capital fun—lots of beer—hogsheads; rounds of beef—bullocks; mustard—cart-loads; glorious day—down with you—make yourself at home—glad to see you—very," has been replaced by a handsome pavilion.

There is no cricket-playing going on at the time, but there are several cricketers in the field, and from them we learn confirmatory evidence of the long existence of the ground in its present condition, and the enthusiasm of the inhabitants for the old English game.

Another proof of the long-established love of the people of Town Malling for cricket we subsequently find in the fact that the parlour of the Swan Hotel, which is an old cricketing house, and probably represents the "Blue Lion of Muggleton," has in it many very fine lithographic portraits of all the great cricketers of the middle of the nineteenth century, including:—Pilch, Lillywhite, Box, Cobbett, Hillyer (a native of Town Malling), A. Mynn, Taylor, Langdon, Kynaston, Felix (Felix on the Bat), Ward, Kingscote, and others. Several of these names will be recognized as those of eminent Kentish cricketers. About a quarter of a century ago—my friend and colleague Mr. E. Orford Smith (himself a Kentish man and a cricketer) informs me that—the Kentish eleven stood against all England, and retained their position for some years.

As we stand on the warm day in the centre of the ground, and admire the lights and shadows passing over the surrounding scenery, we can almost conjure up the scene of the famous contest, when, on the occasion of the first innings of the All-Muggleton Club, "Mr. Dumkins and Mr. Podder, two of the most renowned members of that most distinguished club, walked, bat in hand, to their respective wickets. Mr. Luffey, the highest ornament of Dingley Dell, was pitched to bowl against the redoubtable Dumkins, and Mr. Struggles was selected to do the same kind office for the hitherto unconquered Podder."

Everybody remembers how the game proceeded under circumstances of the greatest excitement, in which batters, bowlers, scouts, and umpires, all did their best under the encouraging shouts of the members:—"Run—run—another.—Now, then, throw her up—up with her—stop there—another—no—yes—no—throw her up! throw her up!" Mr. Jingle himself being as usual very profuse in his remarks, as—"'Ah, ah!—stupid'—'Now, butter-fingers'—'Muff'—'Humbug'—and so forth." "In short, when Dumkins was caught out, and Podder stumped out, All-Muggleton had notched some fifty-four, while the score of the Dingley Dellers was as blank as their faces." So "Dingley Dell gave in, and allowed the superior prowess of All-Muggleton," Mr. Jingle again expressing his views of the winners:—"'Capital game—well played—some strokes admirable,' as both sides crowded into the tent at the conclusion of the game."

Yes! We are convinced that Muggleton and Town Malling (except for the mayor and corporation) are one. At any rate we feel quite safe in assuming that Town Malling was the type from which Muggleton was taken; and we confidently recommend all admirers of Pickwick to include that pleasant Kentish country-town in their pilgrimage.

Having exhausted, so far as our examination is concerned, the cricket-ground, by the kindness of our young friend who acts as guide, we see a little more of the town. It consists of a long wide street, with a few lateral approaches. The houses are well built, and the church, which is partly Norman, and, like most of the village churches in Kent, is but a little way from the village, stands on an eminence from whence a good view may be obtained. We observe, as indicative of the fine air and mild climate of the place, many beautiful specimens of magnolia, and wistaria (in second flower) in front of the better class of houses. One of these is named "Boley House," and as we are told that Sir Joseph Hawley resided near, our memories immediately revert to the cognomen of a well-known character in The Chimes. Other names in the place are suggestive of Dickens's worthies, e.g. Rudge, Styles, Briggs, Saunders, Brooker, and John Harman. The last-mentioned is the second instance in which Dickens has varied a local name by the alteration of a single letter. There is also the not uncommon name of "Brown," who, it will be remembered, was the maker of the shoes of the spinster aunt when she eloped with the faithless Jingle; "in a po-chay from the 'Blue Lion' at Muggleton," as one of Mr. Wardle's men said; and the discovery of the said shoes led to the identification of the errant pair at the "White Hart" in the Borough. After Sam Weller had described nearly all the visitors staying in the hotel from an examination of their boots:—

"'Stop a bit,' replied Sam, suddenly recollecting himself. 'Yes; there's a pair of Vellingtons a good deal vorn, and a pair o' lady's shoes, in number five.' 'Country make.'

"'Any maker's name?'


"'Where of?'


"'It is them,' exclaimed Wardle. 'By heavens, we've found them.'"

What happened afterwards every reader of Pickwick very well knows.

Near Town Malling there is a curious monument erected to the memory of Beadsman, the horse, belonging to Sir Joseph Hawley, which won the Derby in 1859, and which was bred in the place. The monument (an exceedingly practical one) consists of a useful pump for the supply of water.

After some luncheon at the Boar Inn, we are sorry to terminate our visit to this pleasant place; but time flies, and trains, like tides, "wait for no man." So we hurry to the railway station, passing on our way a fine hop-garden, and take tickets by the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway for Maidstone. We have a few minutes to spare, and our notice is attracted to a curious group in the waiting-room. It consists of a rural policeman, and what afterwards turned out, to be his prisoner, a slouching but good-humoured-looking labourer, with a "fur cap" like Rogue Riderhood. The officer leans against the mantelpiece, pleasantly chatting with his charge, who is seated on the bench, leisurely eating some bread and cheese with a large clasp-knife, in the intervals of which proceeding he recounts some experiences for the edification of the officer and bystanders. These are occasionally received with roars of laughter. One of his stories relates to a house-breaker who, being "caught in the act" by a policeman, and being asked what he was doing, coolly replied, "Attending to my business, of course!" (This must surely be taken "in a Pickwickian sense.") After finishing his bread and cheese, the charge eats an apple, and then regales himself with something from a large bottle. The unconcernedness of the man, whatever his offence may be (poaching perhaps), is in painful contrast to the careworn and anxious faces of his wife and little daughter (both decently dressed), the latter about seven years old, and made too familiar with crime at such an age. After we arrive at Maidstone (only a few minutes' run by railway), it is a wretched sight to witness the leave-taking at the gaol. First the man shakes hands with his wife, all his forced humour having left him, and then affectionately kisses the little girl, draws a cuff over his eyes, and walks heavily into the gaol after the officer. We are glad to notice that he is not degraded as a wild beast by being handcuffed. It was an episode that Dickens himself perhaps would have witnessed with interest, and possibly stored up for future use. What particularly strikes us is the difference in the relations between these people and what would be the case under similar circumstances in a large town. There is not that feature of hardness, that familiarity with crime which breeds contempt, in the rural incident. Poor man! let us hope his punishment will soon be finished, and that he may return to his family, and not become an old offender; but for the present, as Mr. Bagnet says, "discipline must be maintained."

Maidstone, the county and assize town of Kent, appears to be a thriving and solid-looking place, as there are several paper-mills, saw-mills, stone quarries, and other indications of prosperity. There are but few historical associations connected with it, as Maidstone "has lived a quiet life." Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion, and the attack on the town by Fairfax in 1648, are among the principal incidents. Dickens frequently walked or drove over to this town from Gad's Hill. Many of the names which we notice over the shops in the principal street are very suggestive of, if not actually used for, some of the characters in his novels, e.g. Pell, Boozer, Hibling, Fowle, Stuffins, Bunyard, Edmed, Gregsbey, Dunmill, and Pobgee.

It has been said that Maidstone possesses a gaol; it also has large barracks, and, what is better still, a Museum, Free Library, and Public Gardens. Chillington Manor House,—a highly picturesque and well-preserved Elizabethan structure, formerly the residence of the Cobhams,—contains the Museum and Library. Standing in a quiet nook in the Brenchley Gardens, the lines of George Macdonald, quoted in the local Guide Book, well describe its beauties:—

"Its windows were aerial and latticed, Lovely and wide and fair, And its chimneys like clustered pillars Stood up in the thin blue air."

The Museum—the new wing of which was built as a memorial of his brother, by Mr. Samuel Bentlif—is the property of the Corporation, and owes much of its contents to the liberality of Mr. Pretty, the first curator, and to the naturalist and traveller, Mr. J. L. Brenchley. It contains excellent fine art, archaeological, ethnological, natural history, and geological collections. Among the last-named, in addition to other interesting local specimens, are some fossil remains of the mammoth (Elephas primigenius) from the drift at Aylesford, obtained by its present able curator, Mr. Edward Bartlett, to whom we are indebted for a most pleasant ramble through the various rooms. We notice an original "Dickens-item" in the shape of a very good carved head of the novelist, forming the right top panel of an oak fire-place, the opposite side being one of Tennyson, by a local carver named W. Hughes, who was formerly employed at Gad's Hill Place. No pilgrim in "Dickens-Land" should omit visiting Maidstone and its treasures in Chillington Manor House; nor of seeing the splendid view of the Medway from the churchyard, looking towards Tovil.

We are particularly anxious to verify Dickens's experience of the walk from Maidstone to Rochester. In a letter to Forster, written soon after he came to reside at Gad's Hill Place, he says:—"I have discovered that the seven miles between Maidstone and Rochester is one of the most beautiful walks in England," and so indeed we find it to be. It is, however, a rather long seven miles; so, cheerfully leaving the gloomy-looking gaol to our right and proceeding along the raised terrace by the side of the turn-pike road, we pass through the little village of Sandling, and soon after commence the ascent of the great chalk range of hills which form the eastern water-parting of the Medway. The most noticeable object before we reach "Upper Bell" is "Kit's Coty (or Coity) House," about one and a half miles north-east from Aylesford, and not very far from the Bell Inn. According to Mr. Phillips Bevan, the peculiar name is derived from the Celtic "Ked," and "Coity" or "Coed" (Welsh), and means the Tomb in the Wood. Seymour considers the words a corruption of "Catigern's House." Below Kit's Coty House, Mr. Wright, the archaeologist, found the remains of a Roman villa, with quantities of Samian ware, coins, and other articles.

There are many excavations in the chalk above Kit's Coty House, apparently for interments; and the whole district appears in remote ages to have been a huge cemetery. Tradition states that "the hero Catigern was buried here, after the battle fought at Aylesford between Hengist and Vortigern."

The Cromlech, which is now included in the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, 1882, lies under the hillside, a few yards from the main road, and is fenced in with iron railings, and beautifully surrounded by woods, the yew,[29] said to have been one of the sacred trees of the Druids, being conspicuous here and there. That somewhat rare plant the juniper is also found in this neighbourhood. The "dolmens" which have been "set on end by a vanished people" are four in number, and consist of sandstone, three of them, measuring about eight feet each, forming the uprights, and the fourth, which is much larger, serving as the covering stone.

In a field which we visit, not very far from Kit's Coty House, is another group of stones, called the "countless stones." As we pass some boys are trying to solve the arithmetical problem, which cannot be readily accomplished, as the stones lie intermingled in a very strange and irregular manner, and are overgrown with brushwood. The belief that these stones cannot be counted is one constantly found connected with similar remains, e.g. Stonehenge, Avebury, etc. We heard a local story of a baker, who once tried to effect the operation by placing a loaf on the top of each stone as a kind of check or tally; but a dog running away with one of his loaves, upset his calculations.

Both the "Coty House" and the "countless stones" consist of a silicious sandstone of the Eocene period, overlying the chalk, and are identical with the "Sarsens," or "Grey Wethers," which occur at the pre-historic town of Avebury, and at Stonehenge; the smaller stones of the latter are, however, of igneous origin, and "are believed by Mr. Fergusson to have been votive offerings." These masses, of what Sir A. C. Ramsay calls "tough and intractable silicious stone," have been, he says, "left on the ground, after the removal by denudation of other and softer parts of the Eocene strata." We subsequently saw several of these "grey wethers" in the grounds of Cobham Hall, and we noticed small masses of the same stone in situ in Pear Tree Lane, near Gad's Hill Place.

Speaking of Kit's Coty House in his Short History of the English People, the late Mr. J. R. Green, in describing the English Conquest and referring to this neighbourhood, says:—"It was from a steep knoll on which the grey weather-beaten stones of this monument are reared that the view of their first battle-field would break on the English warriors; and a lane which still leads down from it through peaceful homesteads would guide them across the ford which has left its name in the little village of Aylesford. The Chronicle of the conquering people tells nothing of the rush that may have carried the ford, or of the fight that went struggling up through the village. It only tells that Horsa fell in the moment of victory, and the flint heap of Horsted, which has long preserved his name, and was held in after-time to mark his grave, is thus the earliest of those monuments of English valour of which Westminster is the last and noblest shrine. The victory of Aylesford did more than give East Kent to the English; it struck the keynote of the whole English conquest of Britain."

Dickens's visits to this locality in his early days may have suggested the discovery of the stone with the inscription:—

In later life he was fond of bringing his friends here "by a couple of postilions in the old red jackets of the old red royal Dover road" to enjoy a picnic. Describing a visit here with Longfellow he says:—"It was like a holiday ride in England fifty years ago."

Returning to the main road, we reach the high land of Blue Bell—"Upper Bell," as it is marked on the Ordnance Map. We are not quite on the highest range, but sufficiently high (about three hundred feet) to enable us to appreciate the splendid view that presents itself. In the valley below winds the Medway, broadening as it approaches Rochester.[30] The opposite heights consist of the western range of hills, the width of the valley from point to point being about ten miles. The "sky-line" of hills running from north to south cannot be less than sixty miles, extending to the famous Weald of Kent (weald, wald, or wolde, being literally "a wooded region, an open country"); all the intervening space of undulating slope and valley (river excepted) is filled up by hamlets, grass, root, and cornfields, hop-gardens, orchards and woodlands, the whole forming a picture of matchless beauty. No wonder Dickens was very fond of this delightful walk; it must be gone over to be appreciated.[31]

We tramp on through Boxley and Bridge Woods, down the hill, and pass Borstal Convict Prison and Fort Clarence, where there are guns which we were informed would carry a ball from this elevated ground right over the Thames into the county of Essex (a distance of seven miles); and so we get back again to Rochester.


[26] Lambarde says, "Malling, in Saxon Mealing, or Mealuing, that is, the Low place flourishing with Meal or Corne, for so it is everywhere accepted."

[27] The italics are interpolated.

[28] Burham, although now enshrouded in the smoke of lime-making, was probably sixty years ago a delightfully rural spot.

[29] Mr. Roach Smith reminded us that the yew was in times past planted for its wood to be used as bows.

[30] Professor Huxley, in his Physiography, has estimated that "at the present rate of wear and tear, denudation can have lowered the surface of the Thames Basin by hardly more than an inch since the Norman Conquest; and nearly a million years must elapse before the whole basin of the Thames will be worn down to the sea-level"; and Dr. A. Geikie, after a series of elaborate calculations, has postulated "as probably a fair average, a valley of 1000 feet deep may be excavated in 1,200,000 years." Taking these estimates as a basis, and allowing for an average height of three hundred feet, we roughly arrive at a period of about four hundred thousand years as the possible length of time which it has taken to form this beautiful valley. Professor Huxley may well say that "the geologist has thoughts of time and space to which the ordinary mind is a stranger."

[31] Mr. Kitton's illustration (from the painting by Gegan, a local artist, executed many years since) gives a good idea of the scenery of this beautiful district. It also reproduces the profile of a huge chalk cliff not now visible, but which existed about half a century ago, having a curious resemblance to the head of a lion, and forming at the time a conspicuous landmark to travellers.



"We have a fine sea, wholesome for all people; profitable for the body, profitable for the mind."—Our English Watering-Place.

"All is going on as it was wont. The waves are hoarse with repetition of their mystery; the dust lies piled upon the shore; the sea-birds soar and hover; the winds and clouds go forth upon their trackless flight; the white arms beckon in the moonlight to the invisible country far away."—Dombey and Son.

"A moment, and I occupy my place in the Cathedral, where we all went together every Sunday morning, assembling first at school for that purpose. The earthy smell, the sunless air, the sensation of the world being shut out, the resounding of the organ through the black and white arched galleries and aisles, are wings that take me back and hold me hovering above those days in a half-sleeping and half-waking dream."—David Copperfield.

TAKING advantage of an excursion train (for tramps usually go on the cheap), we start early on Wednesday by the South-Eastern Railway from Chatham station for Broadstairs. As usual the weather favours us—it is a glorious day. Passing the stations of New Brompton, Rainham, Newington, and Sittingbourne, we soon get into open country, in the midst of hop gardens with their verdant aisles of the fragrant and tonic, tendril-like plants reaching in some instances perhaps to several hundred yards, and crowned with yellowish-green fruit-masses, which have a special charm for those unaccustomed to such scenery. The odd-looking "oast-houses,"[32] or drying-houses for the hops, are a noticeable feature of the neighbourhood, dotting it about here and there in pairs. They are mostly red-brick and cone-shaped, somewhat smaller than the familiar glass-houses of the Midland districts, and have a wooden cowl, painted white, at the apex for ventilation. We are rather too early for the hop-picking, and thus—but for a time only—miss an interesting sight. Dickens, in one of his letters to Forster, gives a dreary picture of this annual harvest:—

"Hop-picking is going on, and people sleep in the garden, and breathe in at the key-hole of the house door. I have been amazed, before this year, by the number of miserable lean wretches, hardly able to crawl, who come hop-picking. I find it is a superstition that the dust of the newly-picked hop, falling freshly into the throat, is a cure for consumption. So the poor creatures drag themselves along the roads, and sleep under wet hedges, and get cured soon and finally."

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