The Life of Charles Dickens, Vol. I-III, Complete
by John Forster
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Transcriber's Note:

For the reader: Italic text is surrounded by underscores, bold text is surrounded by equal signs and underlined text is surrounded by tildes. Two breves above the letter e are indicated by ĕ in the text.










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This Book is Dedicated





SUCH has been the rapidity of the demand for successive impressions of this book, that I have found it impossible, until now, to correct at pages 31, 87, and 97 three errors of statement made in the former editions; and some few other mistakes, not in themselves important, at pages 96, 101, and 102. I take the opportunity of adding that the mention at p. 83 is not an allusion to the well-known "Penny" and "Saturday" Magazines, but to weekly periodicals of some years' earlier date resembling them in form. One of them, I have since found from a later mention by Dickens himself, was presumably of a less wholesome and instructive character. "I used," he says, "when I was at school, to take in the Terrific Register, making myself unspeakably miserable, and frightening my very wits out of my head, for the small charge of a penny weekly; which, considering that there was an illustration to every number in which there was always a pool of blood, and at least one body, was cheap." An obliging correspondent writes to me upon my reference to the Fox-under-the-hill, at p. 62: "Will you permit me to say that the house, shut up and almost ruinous, is still to be found at the bottom of a curious and most precipitous court, the entrance of which is just past Salisbury Street. . . . It was once, I think, the approach to the halfpenny boats. The house is now shut out from the water-side by the Embankment."



* * * * *

CHAPTER I. 1812-1822.

Pages 21-46.


PAGE Birth at Landport in Portsea 21 Family of John Dickens 22 Powers of observation in children 23 Two years old 23 In London, aet. 2-3 23 In Chatham, aet. 4-9 23 Vision of boyhood 24 The queer small child 25 Mother's teaching 26 Day-school in Rome Lane 27 Retrospects of childhood 27 David Copperfield and Charles Dickens 28 Access to small but good library 29 Tragedy-writing 30 Comic-song singing 31 Cousin James Lamert 31 First taken to theatre 32 At Mr. Giles's school 32 Encored in the recitations 33 Boyish recollections 33 Birthplace of his fancy 35 Last night in Chatham 35 In London 36 First impressions 36 Bayham Street, Camden-town 36 Faculty of early observation 37 His description of his father 38 Small theatre made for him 38 Sister Fanny at Royal Academy of Music 39 Walks about London 39 Biography and autobiography 40 At his godfather's and his uncle's 41 First efforts at description 42 "Res Angusta Domi" 42 Mother exerting herself 43 Father in the Marshalsea 43 Visit to the prison 44 Captain Porter 44 Old friends disposed of 45 At the pawnbroker's 46

CHAPTER II. 1822-1824.

Pages 47-70.


Mr. Dilke's half-crown 48 Story of boyhood told 48 D. C. and C. D. 48 Enterprise of the cousins Lamert 49 First employment in life 51 Blacking-warehouse 51 A poor little drudge 52 Bob Fagin and Poll Green 52 "Facilis Descensus" 52 Crushed hopes 53 The home in Gower Street 53 Regaling alamode 54 Home broken up 54 At Mrs. Roylance's in Camden-town 55 Sundays in prison 55 Pudding-shops and coffee-shops 56 What was and might have been 57 Thomas and Harry 58 A lodging in Lant Street 59 Meals in the Marshalsea 59 C. D. and the Marchioness 60 Originals of Garland family 60 Adventure with Bob Fagin 61 Saturday-night shows 61 Appraised officially 62 Publican and wife at Cannon Row 63 Marshalsea incident in Copperfield 64 Incident as it occurred 65 Materials for Pickwick 66 Sister Fanny's musical prize 66 From Hungerford Stairs to Chandos Street 67 Father's quarrel with James Lamert 68 Quits the warehouse 68 Bitter associations of servitude 69 What became of the blacking business 70

CHAPTER III. 1824-1830.

Pages 71-95.


Outcome of boyish trials 71 Disadvantage in later years 72 Advantages 73 Next move in life 74 Wellington House Academy 74 Revisited and described 75 Letter from a schoolfellow 76 C. D.'s recollections of school 77 Schoolfellow's recollections of C. D. 77 Fac-simile of schoolboy letter 79 Daniel Tobin 81 Another schoolfellow's recollections 82 Writing tales and getting up plays 83 Master Beverley scene-painter 84 Street-acting 84 The schoolfellows after forty years 85 Smallness of the world 86 In attorneys' offices 87 At minor theatres 88 The father on the son's education 89 Studying short-hand 90 In British Museum reading-room 90 Preparing for the gallery 91 D. C. for C. D. 91 A real Dora in 1829 92 The same Dora in 1855 93 Dora changed into Flora 94 Ashes of youth and hope 95

CHAPTER IV. 1831-1835.

Pages 96-106.


AET. 19-23.

Reporting for True Sun 96 First seen by me 97 Reporting for Mirror and Chronicle 97 First published piece 97 Discipline and experiences of reporting 98 Life as a reporter 99 John Black 100 Mr. Thomas Beard 101 A letter to his editor 102 Incident of reporting days 102 The same more correctly told 103 Origin of "Boz" 104 Captain Holland 104 Mr. George Hogarth 105 Sketches in Evening Chronicle 105 C. D.'s first hearty appreciator 106

CHAPTER V. 1836.

Pages 107-115.


Sketches by Boz 107 Fancy-piece by N. P. Willis: a poor English author 107 Start of Pickwick 108 Marriage to Miss Hogarth 108 First connection with Chapman & Hall 109 Mr. Seymour's part in Pickwick 109 Letters relating thereto 110 C. D.'s own account 110 False claims refuted 111 Pickwick's original, his figure and his name 112 First sprightly runnings of genius 113 The Sketches characterized 114 Mr. Seymour's death 115 New illustrator chosen 115 Mr. Hablot K. Browne 115 C. D. leaves the gallery 116 Strange Gentleman and Village Coquettes 116


Pages 117-140.


First letter from him 117 As he was thirty-five years ago 118 Mrs. Carlyle and Leigh Hunt 119 Birth of eldest son 119 From Furnival's Inn to Doughty Street 119 A long-remembered sorrow 120 I visit him 120 Hasty compacts with publishers 121 Self-sold into quasi-bondage 121 Agreements for editorship and writing 121 Mr. Macrone's scheme to reissue Sketches 122 Attempts to prevent it 123 Exorbitant demand 123 Impatience of suspense 123 Purchase advised 124 Oliver Twist 125 Characters real to himself 125 Sense of responsibility for his writings 126 Criticism that satisfied him 126 Help given with his proofs 126 Writing Pickwick, Nos. 14 and 15 127 Scenes in a debtors' prison 128 A recollection of Smollett 128 Reception of Pickwick 129 A popular rage 129 Mr. Carlyle's "dreadful" story 130 Secrets of success 130 Pickwick inferior to later books 131 Exception for Sam Weller and Mr. Pickwick 131 Personal habits of C. D. 132 Reliefs after writing 133 Natural discontents 134 The early agreements 134 Tale to follow Oliver Twist 135 Compromise with Mr. Bentley 135 Trip to Flanders 135 First visit to Broadstairs 136 Piracies of Pickwick 137 A sufferer from agreements 138 First visit to Brighton 138 What he is doing with Oliver Twist 139 Reading De Foe 139 "No Thoroughfare" 139 Proposed help to Macready 140

CHAPTER VII. 1837-1838.

Pages 141-151.


Edits Life of Grimaldi 141 His own opinion of it 142 An objection answered 142 His recollections of 1823 142 Completion of Pickwick 143 A purpose long entertained 144 Relations with Chapman & Hall 144 Payments made for Pickwick 145 Agreement for Nicholas Nickleby 145 Oliver Twist characterized 146 Reasons for acceptance with every class 146 Nightmare of an agreement 147 Letter to Mr. Bentley 147 Proposal as to Barnaby Rudge 148 Result of it 148 Birth of eldest daughter 149 Young Gentlemen and Young Couples 149 First number of Nicholas Nickleby 150 2d of April, 1838 150


Pages 152-164.


Interest in characters at close of Oliver 152 Writing of the last chapter 153 Cruikshank illustrations 154 Etchings for last volume 154 How executed 154 Slander respecting them exposed 155 Falsehood ascribed to the artist 155 Reputation of the new tale 156 Its workmanship 157 Social evils passed away 157 Living only in what destroyed them 157 Chief design of the story 158 Its principal figures 158 Comedy and tragedy of crime 159 Reply to attacks 160 Le Sage, Gay, and Fielding 160 Likeness to them 161 Again the shadow of Barnaby 161 Appeal to Mr. Bentley for delay 161 A very old story 162 "Sic vos non vobis" 162 Barnaby given up by Mr. Bentley 163 Resignation of Miscellany 163 Parent parting from child 164

CHAPTER IX. 1838-1839.

Pages 165-179.


Doubts of success dispelled 165 Realities of English life 166 Characters self-revealed 167 Miss Bates and Mrs. Nickleby 167 Smike and Dotheboys 167 A favorite type of humanity 168 Sydney Smith and Newman Noggs 168 Kindliness and breadth of humor 169 Goldsmith and Smollett 169 Early and later books 170 Biographical not critical 171 Characteristics 171 Materials for the book 171 Birthday letter 172 A difficulty at starting 172 Never in advance with Nickleby 173 Always with later books 173 Enjoying a play 174 At the Adelphi 174 Writing Mrs. Nickleby's love-scene 175 Sydney Smith vanquished 175 Winding up the story 176 Parting from creatures of his fancy 177 The Nickleby dinner 178 Persons present 178 The Maclise portrait 178

CHAPTER X. 1838-1839.

Pages 180-190.


The Cottage at Twickenham 180 Daniel Maclise 180 Ainsworth and other friends 181 Mr. Stanley of Alderley 182 Petersham cottage 182 Childish enjoyments 182 Writes a farce for Covent Garden 183 Entered at the Middle Temple 183 We see Wainewright in Newgate 184 Oliver Twist and the Quarterly 184 Hood's Up the Rhine 185 Shakspeare Society 185 Birth of second daughter 186 House-hunting 186 Barnaby at his tenth page 186 Letter from Exeter 187 A landlady and her friends 187 A home for his father and mother 188 Autobiographical 189 Visit to an upholsterer 189 Visit from the same 190


Pages 191-199.


Thoughts for the future 191 Doubts of old serial form 192 Suggestion for his publishers 192 My mediation with them 193 Proposed weekly publication 193 Design of it 193 Old favorites to be revived 194 Subjects to be dealt with 194 Chapters on Chambers 194 Gog and Magog Relaxations 194 Savage Chronicles 195 Others as well as himself to write 195 Travels to Ireland and America in view 195 Stipulation as to property and payments 196 Great hopes of success 197 Assent of his publishers 197 No planned story 197 Terms of agreement 197 Notion for his hero 198 A name hit upon 199 Sanguine of the issue 199

CHAPTER XII. 1840-1841.

Pages 200-216.


Visit to Walter Landor 200 First thought of Little Nell 200 Hopeful of Master Humphrey 201 A title for the child-story 202 First sale of Master Humphrey's Clock 202 Its original plan abandoned 203 Reasons for this 203 To be limited to one story 203 Disadvantages of weekly publication 204 A favorite description 204 In Bevis Marks for Sampson Brass 205 At Lawn House, Broadstairs 205 Dedication of his first volume to Rogers 205 Chapters 43-45 206 Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness 207 Masterpiece of kindly fun 207 Closing of the tale 208 Effect upon the writer 208 Making-believe very much 209 The end approaching 209 The realities of fiction 209 Death of Little Nell 210 My share in the close 211 A suggestion adopted by him 211 Success of the story 211 Useful lessons 212 Its mode of construction 213 Character and characteristics 213 The art of it 213 A recent tribute 214 Harte's "Dickens in Camp" 215


Pages 217-231.


A good saying 217 Landor mystified 218 The mirthful side of Dickens 218 Extravagant flights 218 Humorous despair 219 Riding exercise 220 First of the ravens 220 The groom Topping 220 The smoky chimneys 221 Juryman at an inquest 222 Practical humanity 222 Publication of Clock's first number 222 Transfer of Barnaby settled 223 A true prediction 224 Revisiting old scenes 224 C. D. to Chapman & Hall 224 Terms of sale of Barnaby 225 A gift to a friend 226 Final escape from bondage 226 Published libels about him 227 Said to be demented 227 To be insane and turned Catholic 228 Begging letter-writers 228 A donkey asked for 228 Mr. Kindheart 229 Friendly meetings 229 Social talk 229 Reconciling friends 230 Hint for judging men 230


Pages 232-248.


Advantage in beginning Barnaby 232 Birth of fourth child and second son 233 The Raven 233 A loss in the family 234 Grip's death 235 C. D. describes his illness 235 Family mourners 236 Apotheosis by Maclise 237 Grip the second 239 The inn at Chigwell 239 A Clock Dinner 240 Lord Jeffrey in London 240 The Lamplighter 240 The Pic Nic Papers 241 Character of Lord George Gordon 241 A doubtful fancy 242 Interest in new labor 243 Constraints of weekly publication 243 The prison-riots 244 A serious illness 244 Close of Barnaby 244 Character of the tale 245 Defects in the plot 245 The No-Popery riots 245 Descriptive power displayed 246 Leading persons in story 247 Mr. Dennis the hangman 248


Pages 249-262.


His son Walter Landor 249 Dies in Calcutta (1863) 250 C. D. and the new poor-law 250 Moore and Rogers 251 Jeffrey's praise of Little Nell 251 Resolve to visit Scotland 251 Edinburgh dinner proposed 252 Sir David Wilkie's death 252 Peter Robertson 253 Professor Wilson 253 A fancy of Scott 254 Lionization made tolerable 254 Thoughts of home 255 The dinner and speeches 255 His reception 256 Wilson's eulogy 256 Home yearnings 257 Freedom of city voted to him 257 Speakers at the dinner 257 Politics and party influences 258 Whig jealousies 259 At the theatre 260 Hospitalities 260 Moral of it all 260 Proposed visit to the Highlands 261 Maclise and Macready 261 Guide to the Highlands 262 Mr. Angus Fletcher (Kindheart) 262


Pages 263-276.


A fright 264 Fletcher's eccentricities 264 The Trossachs 264 The traveler's guide 265 A comical picture 265 Highland accommodation 265 Grand scenery 266 Changes in route 267 A waterfall 267 Entrance to Glencoe 267 The pass of Glencoe 268 Loch Leven 269 A July evening 269 Postal service at Loch Earn Head 269 The maid of the inn 270 Impressions of Glencoe 270 An adventure 271 Torrents swollen with rain 271 Dangerous traveling 272 Incidents and accidents 272 Broken-down bridge 273 A fortunate resolve 273 Post-boy in danger 274 The rescue 274 Narrow escape 274 A Highland inn and inmates 275 English comfort at Dalmally 275 Dinner at Glasgow proposed 276 Eagerness for home 276


Pages 277-283.


Peel and his party 277 Getting very radical 278 Thoughts of colonizing 278 Political squib by C. D. 278 Fine old English Tory times 279 Mesmerism 280 Metropolitan prisons 280 Book by a workman 280 An August day by the sea 281 Another story in prospect 281 Clock discontents 281 New adventure 282 Agreement for it signed 282 The book that proved to be Chuzzlewit 283 Peel and Lord Ashley 283 Visions of America 283


Pages 284-291.


Greetings from America 284 Reply to Washington Irving 284 Difficulties in the way 285 Resolve to go 286 Wish to revisit scenes of boyhood 286 Proposed book of travel 286 Arrangements for the journey 287 Impatience of suspense 287 Resolve to leave the children 288 Mrs. Dickens reconciled 288 A grave illness 288 Domestic griefs 289 The old sorrow 289 At Windsor 290 Son Walter's christening 290 At Liverpool with the travelers 291


Pages 292-309.


Rough passage 293 A steamer in a storm 293 Resigned to the worst 293 Of himself and fellow-travelers 294 The Atlantic from deck 294 The ladies' cabin 294 Its occupants 295 Card-playing on the Atlantic 295 Ship-news 296 A wager 297 Halifax harbor 297 Ship aground 297 Captain Hewitt 298 Speaker of House of Assembly 299 Ovation to C. D. 299 Arrival at Boston 300 Incursion of editors 300 At Tremont House 300 The welcome 301 Deputations 301 Dr. Channing to C. D. 302 Public appearances 302 A secretary engaged 303 Bostonians 303 General characteristics 304 Personal notices 304 Perils of steamers 305 A home-thought 305 American institutions 306 How first impressed 306 Reasons for the greeting 306 What was welcomed in C. D. 307 Old World and New World 308 Daniel Webster as to C. D. 308 Channing as to C. D. 308 Subsequent disappointments 309 New York invitation to dinner} Fac-similes of signatures } Additional fac-similes } Facing page 309. New York invitation to ball } Fac-similes of signatures } Additional fac-similes }


Pages 310-334.


Second letter 310 International copyright 311 Third letter 311 The dinner at Boston 312 Worcester, Springfield, and Hartford 313 Queer traveling 313 Levees at Hartford and New Haven 313 At Wallingford 314 Serenades 314 Cornelius C. Felton 315 Payment of personal expenses declined 315 At New York 315 Irving and Colden 315 Description of the ball 316 Newspaper accounts 317 A phase of character 317 Opinion in America 318 International copyright 318 American authors in regard to it 319 Outcry against the nation's guest 319 Declines to be silent on copyright 319 Speech at dinner 320 Irving in the chair 320 Chairman's break-down 321 An incident afterwards in London 321 Results of copyright speeches 322 A bookseller's demand for help 322 Suggestion for copyright memorial 323 Henry Clay's opinion 323 Life in New York 324 Distresses of popularity 324 Intentions for future 325 Refusal of invitations 325 Going south and west 325 As to return 326 Dangers incident to steamers 326 Slavery 327 Ladies of America 327 Party conflicts 328 Non-arrival of Cunard steamer 328 Copyright petition for Congress 328 No hope of the Caledonia 329 A substitute for her 330 Anxiety as to letters 330 Of distinguished Americans 330 Hotel bills 331 Thoughts of the children 331 Acadia takes Caledonia's place 332 Letter to C. D. from Carlyle 332 Carlyle on copyright 332 Argument against stealing 333 Rob Roy's plan worth bettering 334 C. D. as to Carlyle 334


Pages 335-357.


At Philadelphia 335 Rule in printing letters 335 Promise as to railroads 336 Experience of them 337 Railway-cars 337 Charcoal stoves 337 Ladies' cars 338 Spittoons 338 Massachusetts and New York 339 Police-cells and prisons 339 House of detention and inmates 340 Women and boy prisoners 341 Capital punishment 342 A house of correction 342 Four hundred single cells 343 Comparison with English prisons 344 Inns and landlords 344 At Washington 344 Hotel extortion 345 Philadelphia penitentiary 345 The solitary system 345 Solitary prisoners 346 Talk with inspectors 346 Bookseller Carey 347 Changes of temperature 347 Henry Clay 348 Proposed journeyings 348 Letters from England 349 Congress and Senate 349 Leading American statesmen 349 The people of America 350 Englishmen "located" there 350 "Surgit amari aliquid" 351 The copyright petition 351 At Richmond 351 Irving appointed to Spain 352 Experience of a slave city 353 Incidents of slave-life 353 Discussion with a slaveholder 353 Feeling of South to England 354 Levees at Richmond 354 One more banquet accepted 355 My gift of Shakspeare 355 Home letters and fancies 356 Self-reproach of a noble nature 356 Washington Irving's leave-taking 357


Pages 358-380.


Character in the letters 358 The Notes less satisfactory 359 Personal narrative in letters 359 The copyright differences 360 Social dissatisfactions 360 A fact to be remembered 361 Literary merits of the letters 361 Personal character portrayed 362 On board for Pittsburgh 362 Choicest passages of Notes 362 Queer stage-coach 363 Something revealed on the top 364 At Harrisburg 364 Treaties with Indians 365 Local legislatures 365 A levee 365 Morning and night in canal-boat 366 At and after breakfast 366 Making the best of it 367 Hardy habits 368 By rail across mountain 368 Mountain scenery 369 New settlements 369 Original of Eden in Chuzzlewit 369 A useful word 370 Party in America 371 Home news 371 Meets an early acquaintance 372 "Smallness of the world" 372 Queer customers at levees 372 Our anniversary 373 The Cincinnati steamer 374 Frugality in water and linen 374 Magnetic experiments 375 Life-preservers 376 Bores 376 Habits of neatness 377 Wearying for home 377 Another solitary prison 378 New terror to loneliness 378 Arrival at Cincinnati 378 Two judges in attendance 379 The city described 379 On the pavement 380


Pages 381-406.


Descriptions in letters and in Notes 381 Outline of westward travel 382 An Arabian-Night city 383 A temperance festival 383 A party at Judge Walker's 383 The party from another view 384 Young lady's description of C. D. 384 Mournful results of boredom 385 Down the Mississippi 386 Listening and watching 386 A levee at St. Louis 386 Compliments 387 Lord Ashburton's arrival 387 Talk with a judge on slavery 388 A negro burnt alive 388 Feeling of slaves themselves 389 American testimony 389 Pretty little scene 390 A mother and her husband 390 The baby 391 St. Louis in sight 392 Meeting of wife and husband 392 Trip to a prairie 393 On the prairie at sunset 393 General character of scenery 394 The prairie described 394 Disappointment and enjoyment 394 Soiree at Planter's House Inn 395 Good fare 395 No gray heads in St. Louis 396 Dueling 396 Mrs. Dickens as a traveler 397 From Cincinnati to Columbus 397 What a levee is like 398 From Columbus to Sandusky 398 The travelers alone 399 A log house inn 400 Making tidy 400 A monetary crisis 400 Americans not a humorous people 401 The only recreations 401 From Sandusky to Buffalo 402 On Lake Erie 402 Reception and consolation of a mayor 403 From Buffalo to Niagara 403 Nearing the Falls 404 The Horse-shoe 404 Effect upon him of Niagara 405 The old recollection 405 Looking forward 406


Pages 407-418.


Last two letters 407 Dickens vanquished 407 Obstacles to copyright 408 Two described 408 Value of literary popularity 409 Substitute for literature 410 The secretary described 410 His paintings 411 The lion and —— 411 Toryism of Toronto 412 Canadian attentions 412 Proposed theatricals 413 Last letter 413 The private play 414 Stage manager's report 414 Bill of the performance 415 The lady performers 417 A touch of Crummles 417 HOME 418


Autograph of C. D. (1837) Fly-leaf

C. D. aet. 27. From Maclise's Painting, by Graves, A.R.A. Title-page

Fac-simile of Letter written in Boyhood 79

Outline of the Maclise Painting of 1839. Engraved by Jeens 178

Apotheosis of Grip the Raven, by Maclise, R.A. 237

Fac-simile of C. D.'s autograph signature Boz (1841) 276

Fac-simile of Invitation to the Public Dinner in New York, with the signatures 309

Fac-simile of Invitation to the Public Ball in New York, with the signatures 309

Fac-simile of the Bill of the Private Play in Canada 415







Birth at Landport in Portsea—Family of John Dickens—Powers of Observation in Children—Two Years Old—In London, aet. 2-3—In Chatham, aet. 4-9—Vision of Boyhood—The Queer Small Child—Mother's Teaching—Day-School in Rome Lane—Retrospects of Childhood—David Copperfield and Charles Dickens—Access to Small but Good Library—Tragedy-Writing—Comic-Song Singing—Cousin James Lamert—First taken to Theatre—At Mr. Giles's School—Encored in the Recitations—Boyish Recollections—Birthplace of his Fancy—Last Night in Chatham—In London—First Impressions—Bayham Street, Camden-town—Faculty of Early Observation—His Description of his Father—Small Theatre made for him—Sister Fanny at Royal Academy of Music—Walks about London—Biography and Autobiography—At his Godfather's and his Uncle's—First Efforts at Description—"Res Angusta Domi"—Mother exerting Herself—Father in the Marshalsea—Visit to the Prison—Captain Porter—Old Friends disposed of—At the Pawnbroker's.

CHARLES DICKENS, the most popular novelist of the century, and one of the greatest humorists that England has produced, was born at Landport in Portsea on Friday, the 7th of February, 1812.

His father, John Dickens, a clerk in the Navy-pay office, was at this time stationed in the Portsmouth dockyard. He had made acquaintance with the lady, Elizabeth Barrow, who became afterwards his wife, through her elder brother, Thomas Barrow, also engaged on the establishment at Somerset House; and she bore him in all a family of eight children, of whom two died in infancy. The eldest, Fanny (born 1810), was followed by Charles (entered in the baptismal register of Portsea as Charles John Huffham, though on the very rare occasions when he subscribed that name he wrote Huffam); by another son, named Alfred, who died in childhood; by Letitia (born 1816); by another daughter, Harriet, who died also in childhood; by Frederick (born 1820); by Alfred Lamert (born 1822); and by Augustus (born 1827); of all of whom only the second daughter now survives.

Walter Scott tells us, in his fragment of autobiography, speaking of the strange remedies applied to his lameness, that he remembered lying on the floor in the parlor of his grandfather's farm-house, swathed up in a sheepskin warm from the body of the sheep, being then not three years old. David Copperfield's memory goes beyond this. He represents himself seeing so far back into the blank of his infancy as to discern therein his mother and her servant, dwarfed to his sight by stooping down or kneeling on the floor, and himself going unsteadily from the one to the other. He admits this may be fancy, though he believes the power of observation in numbers of very young children to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy, and thinks that the recollection of most of us can go farther back into such times than many of us suppose. But what he adds is certainly not fancy. "If it should appear from anything I may set down in this narrative that I was a child of close observation, or that as a man I have a strong memory of my childhood, I undoubtedly lay claim to both of these characteristics." Applicable as it might be to David Copperfield, this was simply and unaffectedly true of Charles Dickens.

He has often told me that he remembered the small front garden to the house at Portsea, from which he was taken away when he was two years old, and where, watched by a nurse through a low kitchen-window almost level with the gravel walk, he trotted about with something to eat, and his little elder sister with him. He was carried from the garden one day to see the soldiers exercise; and I perfectly recollect that, on our being at Portsmouth together while he was writing Nickleby, he recognized the exact shape of the military parade seen by him as a very infant, on the same spot, a quarter of a century before.

When his father was again brought up by his duties to London from Portsmouth, they went into lodgings in Norfolk Street, Middlesex Hospital; and it lived also in the child's memory that they had come away from Portsea in the snow. Their home, shortly after, was again changed, on the elder Dickens being placed upon duty in Chatham dockyard; and the house where he lived in Chatham, which had a plain-looking whitewashed plaster front and a small garden before and behind, was in St. Mary's Place, otherwise called the Brook, and next door to a Baptist meeting-house called Providence Chapel, of which a Mr. Giles, to be presently mentioned, was minister. Charles at this time was between four and five years old;[1] and here he stayed till he was nine. Here the most durable of his early impressions were received; and the associations that were around him when he died were those which at the outset of his life had affected him most strongly.

The house called Gadshill Place stands on the strip of highest ground in the main road between Rochester and Gravesend. Often had we traveled past it together, years and years before it became his home, and never without some allusion to what he told me when first I saw it in his company, that amid the recollections connected with his childhood it held always a prominent place, for, upon first seeing it as he came from Chatham with his father, and looking up at it with much admiration, he had been promised that he might himself live in it, or in some such house, when he came to be a man, if he would only work hard enough. Which for a long time was his ambition. The story is a pleasant one, and receives authentic confirmation at the opening of one of his essays on traveling abroad, when as he passes along the road to Canterbury there crosses it a vision of his former self:

"So smooth was the old high-road, and so fresh were the horses, and so fast went I, that it was midway between Gravesend and Rochester, and the widening river was bearing the ships, white-sailed or black-smoked, out to sea, when I noticed by the wayside a very queer small boy.

"'Holloa!' said I to the very queer small boy, 'where do you live?'

"'At Chatham,' says he.

"'What do you do there?' says I.

"'I go to school,' says he.

"I took him up in a moment, and we went on. Presently, the very queer small boy says, 'This is Gadshill we are coming to, where Falstaff went out to rob those travelers, and ran away.'

"'You know something about Falstaff, eh?' said I.

"'All about him,' said the very queer small boy. 'I am old (I am nine), and I read all sorts of books. But do let us stop at the top of the hill, and look at the house there, if you please!'

"'You admire that house?' said I.

"'Bless you, sir,' said the very queer small boy, 'when I was not more than half as old as nine, it used to be a treat for me to be brought to look at it. And now I am nine, I come by myself to look at it. And ever since I can recollect, my father, seeing me so fond of it, has often said to me, If you were to be very persevering and were to work hard, you might some day come to live in it. Though that's impossible!' said the very queer small boy, drawing a low breath, and now staring at the house out of window with all his might.

"I was rather amazed to be told this by the very queer small boy; for that house happens to be my house, and I have reason to believe that what he said was true."

The queer small boy was indeed his very self. He was a very little and a very sickly boy. He was subject to attacks of violent spasm which disabled him for any active exertion. He was never a good little cricket-player. He was never a first-rate hand at marbles, or peg-top, or prisoner's base. But he had great pleasure in watching the other boys, officers' sons for the most part, at these games, reading while they played; and he had always the belief that this early sickness had brought to himself one inestimable advantage, in the circumstance of his weak health having strongly inclined him to reading. It will not appear, as my narrative moves on, that he owed much to his parents, or was other than in his first letter to Washington Irving he described himself to have been, a "very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy;" but he has frequently been heard to say that his first desire for knowledge, and his earliest 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. I once put to him a question in connection with this to which he replied in almost exactly the words he placed five years later in the mouth of David Copperfield: "I faintly remember her teaching me the alphabet; and when I look upon the fat black letters in the primer, the puzzling novelty of their shapes, and the easy good nature of O and S, always seem to present themselves before me as they used to do."

Then followed the preparatory day-school, a school for girls and boys to which he went with his sister Fanny, and which was in a place called Rome (pronounced Room) Lane. Revisiting Chatham in his manhood, and looking for the place, he found it had been pulled down to make a new street, "ages" before; but out of the distance of the ages arose nevertheless a not dim impression that it had been over a dyer's shop; that he went up steps to it; that he had frequently grazed his knees in doing so; and that in trying to scrape the mud off a very unsteady little shoe, he generally got his leg over the scraper.[2] Other similar memories of childhood have dropped from him occasionally in his lesser writings; whose readers may remember how vividly portions of his boyhood are reproduced in his fancy of the Christmas-tree, and will hardly have forgotten what he says, in his thoughtful little paper on Nurses' stories, of the doubtful places and people to which children may be introduced before they are six years old, and forced, night after night, to go back to against their wills, by servants to whom they are intrusted. That childhood exaggerates what it sees, too, has he not tenderly told? How he thought the Rochester High Street must be at least as wide as Regent Street, which he afterwards discovered to be little better than a lane; how the public clock in it, supposed to be the finest clock in the world, turned out to be as moon-faced and weak a clock as a man's eyes ever saw; and how in its town-hall, which had appeared to him once so glorious a structure that he had set it up in his mind as the model on which the genie of the lamp built the palace for Aladdin, he had painfully to recognize a mere mean little heap of bricks, like a chapel gone demented. Yet not so painfully, either, when second thoughts wisely came. "Ah! who was I that I should quarrel with the town for being changed to me, when I myself had come back, so changed, to it? All my early readings and early imaginations dated from this place, and I took them away so full of innocent construction and guileless belief, and I brought them back so worn and torn, so much the wiser and so much the worse!"

And here I may at once expressly mention, what already has been hinted, that even as Fielding described himself and his belongings in Captain Booth and Amelia, and protested always that he had writ in his books nothing more than he had seen in life, so it may be said of Dickens in more especial relation to David Copperfield. Many guesses have been made since his death, connecting David's autobiography with his own; accounting, by means of such actual experiences, for the so frequent recurrence in his writings of the prison-life, its humor and pathos, described in them with such wonderful reality; and discovering in what David tells Steerforth at school of the stories he had read in his childhood, what it was that had given the bent to his own genius. There is not only truth in all this, but it will very shortly be seen that the identity went deeper than any had supposed, and covered experiences not less startling in the reality than they appear to be in the fiction.

Of the "readings" and "imaginations" which he describes as brought away from Chatham, this authority can tell us. It is one of the many passages in Copperfield which are literally true, and its proper place is here. "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, Humphrey 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 astonishing to me now how I found time, in the midst of my porings and blunderings over heavier themes, to read those books as I did. It is curious to me how I could ever have consoled myself under my small troubles (which were great troubles to me), by impersonating my favorite characters in them. . . . I have been Tom Jones (a child's Tom Jones, a harmless creature) for a week together. I have sustained my own idea of Roderick Random for a month at a stretch, I verily believe. I had a greedy relish for a few volumes of voyages and travels—I forget what, now—that were on those shelves; and for days and days I can remember to have gone about my region of our house, armed with the centre-piece out of an old set of boot-trees: the perfect realization of Captain Somebody, of the royal British Navy, in danger of being beset by savages, and resolved to sell his life at a great price. . . . When I think of it, the picture always rises in my mind, of a summer evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I sitting on my bed, reading as if for life. Every barn in the neighborhood, every stone in the church, and every foot of the churchyard, had some association of its own, in my mind, connected with these books, and stood for some locality made famous in them. I have seen Tom Pipes go climbing up the church-steeple; I have watched Strap, with the knapsack on his back, stopping to rest himself upon the wicket-gate; and I know that Commodore Trunnion held that club with Mr. Pickle, in the parlor of our little village ale-house." Every word of this personal recollection had been written down as fact, some years before it found its way into David Copperfield; the only change in the fiction being his omission of the name of a cheap series of novelists then in course of publication, by which his father had become happily the owner of so large a lump of literary treasure in his small collection of books.

The usual result followed. The child took to writing, himself, and became famous in his childish circle for having written a tragedy called Misnar, the Sultan of India, founded (and very literally founded, no doubt) on one of the Tales of the Genii. Nor was this his only distinction. He told a story offhand so well, and sang small comic songs so especially well, that he used to be elevated on chairs and tables, both at home and abroad, for more effective display of these talents; and when he first told me of this, at one of the Twelfth-night parties on his eldest son's birthday, he said he never recalled it that his own shrill little voice of childhood did not again tingle in his ears, and he blushed to think what a horrible little nuisance he must have been to many unoffending grown-up people who were called upon to admire him.

His chief ally and encourager in these displays was a youth of some ability, much older than himself, named James Lamert, stepson to his mother's sister, and therefore a sort of cousin, who was his great patron and friend in his childish days. Mary, the eldest daughter of Charles Barrow, himself a lieutenant in the navy, had for her first husband a commander in the navy called Allen; on whose death by drowning at Rio Janeiro she had joined her sister, the navy-pay clerk's wife, at Chatham; in which place she subsequently took for her second husband Dr. Lamert, an army-surgeon, whose son James, even after he had been sent to Sandhurst for his education, continued still to visit Chatham from time to time. He had a turn for private theatricals; and as his father's quarters were in the ordnance hospital there, a great rambling place otherwise at that time almost uninhabited, he had plenty of room in which to get up his entertainments. The staff-doctor himself played his part, and his portrait will be found in Pickwick.

By Lamert, I have often heard him say, he was first taken to the theatre at the very tenderest age. He could hardly, however, have been younger than Charles Lamb, whose first experience was of having seen Artaxerxes when six years old; and certainly not younger than Walter Scott, who was only four when he saw As You Like It on the Bath stage, and remembered having screamed out, Ain't they brothers? when scandalized by Orlando and Oliver beginning to fight.[3] But he was at any rate old enough to recollect how his young heart leaped with terror as the wicked king Richard, struggling for life against the virtuous Richmond, backed up and bumped against the box in which he was; and subsequent visits to the same sanctuary, as he tells us, revealed to him many wondrous secrets, "of which not the least terrific were, that the witches in Macbeth bore an awful resemblance to the thanes and other proper inhabitants of Scotland; and that the good king Duncan couldn't rest in his grave, but was constantly coming out of it and calling himself somebody else."

During the last two years of Charles's residence at Chatham, he was sent to a school kept in Clover Lane by the young Baptist minister already named, Mr. William Giles. I have the picture of him here, very strongly in my mind, as a sensitive, thoughtful, feeble-bodied little boy, with an unusual sort of knowledge and fancy for such a child, and with a dangerous kind of wandering intelligence that a teacher might turn to good or evil, happiness or misery, as he directed it. Nor does the influence of Mr. Giles, such as it was, seem to have been other than favorable. Charles had himself a not ungrateful sense in after-years that this first of his masters, in his little-cared-for childhood, had pronounced him to be a boy of capacity; and when, about half-way through the publication of Pickwick, his old teacher sent a silver snuff-box with admiring inscription to the "inimitable Boz," it reminded him of praise far more precious obtained by him at his first year's examination in the Clover Lane academy, when his recitation of a piece out of the Humorist's Miscellany about Doctor Bolus had received, unless his youthful vanity bewildered him, a double encore. A habit, the only bad one taught him by Mr. Giles, of taking for a time, in very moderate quantities, the snuff called Irish blackguard, was the result of this gift from his old master; but he abandoned it after some few years, and it was never resumed.

It was in the boys' playing-ground near Clover Lane in which the school stood, that, according to one of his youthful memories, he had been, in the hay-making time, delivered from the dungeons of Seringapatam, an immense pile "(of haycock)," by his countrymen the victorious British "(boy next door and his two cousins)," and had been recognized with ecstasy by his affianced one "(Miss Green)," who had come all the way from England "(second house in the terrace)" to ransom and marry him. It was in this playing-field, too, as he has himself recorded, he first heard in confidence from one whose father was greatly connected, "being under government," of the existence of a terrible banditti called the radicals, whose principles were that the prince-regent wore stays, that nobody had a right to any salary, and that the army and navy ought to be put down; horrors at which he trembled in his bed, after supplicating that the radicals might be speedily taken and hanged. Nor was it the least of the disappointments of his visit in after-life to the scenes of his boyhood that he found this play-field had been swallowed up by a railway station. It was gone, with its two beautiful trees of hawthorn; and where the hedge, the turf, and all the buttercups and daisies had been, there was nothing but the stoniest of jolting roads.

He was not much over nine years old when his father was recalled from Chatham to Somerset House, and he had to leave this good master, and the old place endeared to him by recollections that clung to him afterwards all his life long. It was here he had made the acquaintance not only of the famous books that David Copperfield specially names, of Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, the Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, Robinson Crusoe, the Arabian Nights, and the Tales of the Genii, but also of the Spectator, the Tatler, the Idler, the Citizen of the World, and Mrs. Inchbald's Collection of Farces. These latter had been, as well, in the little library to which access was open to him; and of all of them his earliest remembrance was the having read them over and over at Chatham, not for the first, the second, or the third time. They were a host of friends when he had no single friend; and in leaving the place, I have often heard him say, he seemed to be leaving them too, and everything that had given his ailing little life its picturesqueness or sunshine. It was the birthplace of his fancy; and he hardly knew what store he had set by its busy varieties of change and scene, until he saw the falling cloud that was to hide its pictures from him forever. The gay bright regiments always going and coming, the continual paradings and firings, the successions of sham sieges and sham defenses, the plays got up by his cousin in the hospital, the navy-pay yacht in which he had sailed to Sheerness with his father, and the ships floating out in the Medway with their far visions of sea,—he was to lose them all. He was never to watch the boys at their games any more, or see them sham over again the sham sieges and sham defenses. He was to be taken to London inside the stage-coach Commodore; and Kentish woods and fields, Cobham park and hall, Rochester cathedral and castle, and all the wonderful romance together, including the red-cheeked baby he had been wildly in love with, were to vanish like a dream. "On the night before we came away," he told me, "my good master came flitting in among the packing-cases to give me Goldsmith's Bee as a keepsake. Which I kept for his sake, and its own, a long time afterwards." A longer time afterwards he recollected the stage-coach journey, and said in one of his published papers that never had he forgotten, through all the intervening years, the smell of the damp straw in which he was packed and forwarded like game, carriage-paid. "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 expected to find it."

The earliest impressions received and retained by him in London were of his father's money involvements; and now first he heard mentioned "the deed," representing that crisis of his father's affairs in fact which is ascribed in fiction to Mr. Micawber's. He knew it in later days to have been a composition with creditors; though at this earlier date he was conscious of having confounded it with parchments of a much more demoniacal description. One result from the awful document soon showed itself in enforced retrenchment. The family had to take up its abode in a house in Bayham Street, Camden-town.

Bayham Street was about the poorest part of the London suburbs then, and the house was a mean small tenement, with a wretched little back-garden abutting on a squalid court. Here was no place for new acquaintances to him: no boys were near with whom he might hope to become in any way familiar. A washerwoman lived next door, and a Bow-Street officer lived over the way. Many, many times has he spoken to me of this, and how he seemed at once to fall into a solitary condition apart from all other boys of his own age, and to sink into a neglected state at home which had been always quite unaccountable to him. "As I thought," he said on one occasion very bitterly, "in the little back-garret in Bayham Street, of all I had lost in losing Chatham, what would I have given, if I had had anything to give, to have been sent back to any other school, to have been taught something anywhere!" He was at another school already, not knowing it. The self-education forced upon him was teaching him, all unconsciously as yet, what, for the future that awaited him, it most behooved him to know.

That he took, from the very beginning of this Bayham-Street life, his first impression of that struggling poverty which is nowhere more vividly shown than in the commoner streets of the ordinary London suburb, and which enriched his earliest writings with a freshness of original humor and quite unstudied pathos that gave them much of their sudden popularity, there cannot be a doubt. "I certainly understood it," he has often said to me, "quite as well then as I do now." But he was not conscious yet that he did so understand it, or of the influence it was exerting on his life even then. It seems almost too much to assert of a child, say at nine or ten years old, that his observation of everything was as close and good, or that he had as much intuitive understanding of the character and weaknesses of the grown-up people around him, as when the same keen and wonderful faculty had made him famous among men. But my experience of him led me to put implicit faith in the assertion he unvaryingly himself made, that he had never seen any cause to correct or change what in his boyhood was his own secret impression of anybody whom he had had, as a grown man, the opportunity of testing in later years.

How it came that, being what he was, he should now have fallen into the misery and neglect of the time about to be described, was a subject on which thoughts were frequently interchanged between us; and on one occasion he gave me a sketch of the character of his father, which, as I can here repeat it in the exact words employed by him, will be the best preface I can make to what I feel that I have no alternative but to tell. "I know my father to be as kind-hearted and generous a man as ever lived in the world. Everything that I can remember of his conduct to his wife, or children, or friends, in sickness or affliction, is beyond all praise. By me, as a sick child, he has watched night and day, unweariedly and patiently, many nights and days. He never undertook any business, charge, or trust, that he did not zealously, conscientiously, punctually, honorably discharge. His industry has always been untiring. He was proud of me, in his way, and had a great admiration of the comic singing. But, in the ease of his temper, and the straitness of his means, he appeared to have utterly lost at this time the idea of educating me at all, and to have utterly put from him the notion that I had any claim upon him, in that regard, whatever. So I degenerated into cleaning his boots of a morning, and my own; and making myself useful in the work of the little house; and looking after my younger brothers and sisters (we were now six in all); and going on such poor errands as arose out of our poor way of living."

The cousin by marriage of whom I have spoken, James Lamert, who had lately completed his education at Sandhurst and was waiting in hopes of a commission, lived now with the family in Bayham Street, and had not lost his taste for the stage, or his ingenuities in connection with it. Taking pity on the solitary lad, he made and painted a little theatre for him. It was the only fanciful reality of his present life; but it could not supply what he missed most sorely, the companionship of boys of his own age, with whom he might share in the advantages of school and contend for its prizes. His sister Fanny was at about this time elected as a pupil to the Royal Academy of Music; and he has told me what a stab to his heart it was, thinking of his own disregarded condition, to see her go away to begin her education, amid the tearful good wishes of everybody in the house.

Nevertheless, as time went on, his own education still unconsciously went on as well, under the sternest and most potent of teachers; and, neglected and miserable as he was, he managed gradually to transfer to London all the dreaminess and all the romance with which he had invested Chatham. There were then at the top of Bayham Street some almshouses, and were still when he revisited it with me nearly twenty-seven years ago; and to go to this spot, he told me, and look from it over the dust-heaps and dock-leaves and fields (no longer there when we saw it together) at the cupola of St. Paul's looming through the smoke, was a treat that served him for hours of vague reflection afterwards. To be taken out for a walk into the real town, especially if it were anywhere about Covent Garden or the Strand, perfectly entranced him with pleasure. But most of all he had a profound attraction of repulsion to St. Giles's. If he could only induce whomsoever took him out to take him through Seven-Dials, he was supremely happy. "Good Heaven!" he would exclaim, "what wild visions of prodigies of wickedness, want, and beggary arose in my mind out of that place!" He was all this time, the reader will remember, still subject to continual attacks of illness, and, by reason of them, a very small boy even for his age.

That part of his boyhood is now very near of which, when the days of fame and prosperity came to him, he felt the weight upon his memory as a painful burden until he could lighten it by sharing it with a friend; and an accident I will presently mention led him first to reveal it. There is, however, an interval of some months still to be described, of which, from conversations or letters that passed between us, after or because of this confidence, and that already have yielded fruit to these pages, I can supply some vague and desultory notices. The use thus made of them, it is due to myself to remark, was contemplated then; for though, long before his death, I had ceased to believe it likely that I should survive to write about him, he had never withdrawn the wish at this early time strongly expressed, or the confidences, not only then but to the very eve of his death reposed in me, that were to enable me to fulfill it.[4] The fulfillment indeed he had himself rendered more easy by partially uplifting the veil in David Copperfield.

The visits made from Bayham Street were chiefly to two connections of the family, his mother's elder brother and his godfather. The latter, who was a rigger, and mast-, oar-, and block-maker, lived at Limehouse in a substantial handsome sort of way, and was kind to his godchild. It was always a great treat to him to go to Mr. Huffham's; and the London night-sights as he returned were a perpetual joy and marvel. Here, too, the comic-singing accomplishment was brought into play so greatly to the admiration of one of the godfather's guests, an honest boat-builder, that he pronounced the little lad to be a "progidy." The visits to the uncle who was at this time fellow-clerk with his father, in Somerset House, were nearer home. Mr. Thomas Barrow, the eldest of his mother's family, had broken his leg in a fall; and, while laid up with this illness, his lodging was in Gerrard Street, Soho, in the upper part of the house of a worthy gentleman then recently deceased, a bookseller named Manson, father to the partner in the celebrated firm of Christie & Manson, whose widow at this time carried on the business. Attracted by the look of the lad as he went up-stairs, these good people lent him books to amuse him; among them Miss Porter's Scottish Chiefs, Holbein's Dance of Death, and George Colman's Broad Grins. The latter seized his fancy very much; and he was so impressed by its description of Covent Garden, in the piece called "The Elder Brother," that he stole down to the market by himself to compare it with the book. He remembered, as he said in telling me this, snuffing up the flavor of the faded cabbage-leaves as if it were the very breath of comic fiction. Nor was he far wrong, as comic fiction then and for some time after was. It was reserved for himself to give sweeter and fresher breath to it. Many years were to pass first, but he was beginning already to make the trial.

His uncle was shaved by a very odd old barber out of Dean Street, Soho, who was never tired of reviewing the events of the last war, and especially of detecting Napoleon's mistakes, and rearranging his whole life for him on a plan of his own. The boy wrote a description of this old barber, but never had courage to show it. At about the same time, taking for his model the description of the canon's housekeeper in Gil Blas, he sketched a deaf old woman who waited on them in Bayham Street, and who made delicate hashes with walnut-ketchup. As little did he dare to show this, either; though he thought it, himself, extremely clever.

In Bayham Street, meanwhile, affairs were going on badly; the poor boy's visits to his uncle, while the latter was still kept a prisoner by his accident, were interrupted by another attack of fever; and on his recovery the mysterious "deed" had again come uppermost. His father's resources were so low, and all his expedients so thoroughly exhausted, that trial was to be made whether his mother might not come to the rescue. The time was arrived for her to exert herself, she said; and she "must do something." The godfather down at Limehouse was reported to have an Indian connection. People in the East Indies always sent their children home to be educated. She would set up a school. They would all grow rich by it. And then, thought the sick boy, "perhaps even I might go to school myself."

A house was soon found at number four, Gower Street north; a large brass plate on the door announced MRS. DICKENS'S ESTABLISHMENT; and the result I can give in the exact words of the then small actor in the comedy, whose hopes it had raised so high: "I left, at a great many other doors, a great many circulars calling attention to the merits of the establishment. Yet nobody ever came to school, nor do I recollect that anybody ever proposed to come, or that the least preparation was made to receive anybody. But I know that we got on very badly with the butcher and baker; that very often we had not too much for dinner; and that at last my father was arrested." The interval between the sponging-house and the prison was passed by the sorrowful lad in running errands and carrying messages for the prisoner, delivered with swollen eyes and through shining tears; and the last words said to him by his father before he was finally carried to the Marshalsea were to the effect that the sun was set upon him forever. "I really believed at the time," said Dickens to me, "that they had broken my heart." He took afterwards ample revenge for this false alarm by making all the world laugh at them in David Copperfield.

The readers of Mr. Micawber's history who remember David's first visit to the Marshalsea prison, and how upon seeing the turnkey he recalled the turnkey in the blanket in Roderick Random, will read with curious interest what follows, written as a personal experience of fact two or three years before the fiction had even entered into his thoughts:

"My father was waiting for me in the lodge, and we went up to his room (on the top story but one), and cried very much. And he told me, I remember, to take warning by the Marshalsea, and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a year and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy; but that a shilling spent the other way would make him wretched. I see the fire we sat before, now; with two bricks inside the rusted grate, one on each side, to prevent its burning too many coals. Some other debtor shared the room with him, who came in by-and-by; and, as the dinner was a joint-stock repast, I was sent up to 'Captain Porter' in the room overhead, with Mr. Dickens's compliments, and I was his son, and could he, Captain P., lend me a knife and fork?

"Captain Porter lent the knife and fork, with his compliments in return. There was a very dirty lady in his little room; and two wan girls, his daughters, with shock heads of hair. I thought I should not have liked to borrow Captain Porter's comb. The captain himself was in the last extremity of shabbiness; and if I could draw at all, I would draw an accurate portrait of the old, old, brown great-coat he wore, with no other coat below it. His whiskers were large. I saw his bed rolled up in a corner; and what plates, and dishes, and pots he had, on a shelf; and I knew (God knows how) that the two girls with the shock heads were Captain Porter's natural children, and that the dirty lady was not married to Captain P. My timid, wondering station on his threshold was not occupied more than a couple of minutes, I dare say; but I came down again to the room below with all this as surely in my knowledge as the knife and fork were in my hand."

How there was something agreeable and gipsy-like in the dinner after all, and how he took back the captain's knife and fork early in the afternoon, and how he went home to comfort his mother with an account of his visit, David Copperfield has also accurately told. Then, at home, came many miserable daily struggles that seemed to last an immense time, yet did not perhaps cover many weeks. Almost everything by degrees was sold or pawned, little Charles being the principal agent in those sorrowful transactions. Such of the books as had been brought from Chatham—Peregrine Pickle, Roderick Random, Tom Jones, Humphrey Clinker, and all the rest—went first. They were carried off from the little chiffonier, which his father called the library, to a bookseller in the Hampstead Road, the same that David Copperfield describes as in the City Road; and the account of the sales, as they actually occurred and were told to me long before David was born, was reproduced word for word in his imaginary narrative: "The keeper of this bookstall, who lived in a little house behind it, used to get tipsy every night, and to be violently scolded by his wife every morning. More than once, when I went there early, I had audience of him in a turn-up bedstead, with a cut in his forehead or a black eye bearing witness to his excesses overnight (I am afraid he was quarrelsome in his drink); and he, with a shaking hand, endeavoring to find the needful shillings in one or other of the pockets of his clothes, which lay upon the floor, while his wife, with a baby in her arms and her shoes down at heel, never left off rating him. Sometimes he had lost his money, and then he would ask me to call again; but his wife had always got some (had taken his, I dare say, while he was drunk), and secretly completed the bargain on the stairs, as we went down together."

The same pawnbroker's shop, too, which was so well known to David, became not less familiar to Charles; and a good deal of notice was here taken of him by the pawnbroker, or by his principal clerk who officiated behind the counter, and who, while making out the duplicate, liked of all things to hear the lad conjugate a Latin verb and translate or decline his musa and dominus. Everything to this accompaniment went gradually; until, at last, even of the furniture of Gower Street number four there was nothing left except a few chairs, a kitchen table, and some beds. Then they encamped, as it were, in the two parlors of the emptied house, and lived there night and day.

All which is but the prelude to what remains to be described.


[1] "I shall cut this letter short, for they are playing Masaniello in the drawing-room, and 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 to me, 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." From Gadshill, 24 Sept. 1857. "Being here again, or as much here as anywhere in particular."

[2] "The mistress of the establishment holds no place in our memory; but, rampant on one eternal door-mat, in an eternal entry long and narrow, is a puffy pug-dog, with a personal animosity towards us, who triumphs over Time. The bark of that baleful Pug, a certain radiating way he had of snapping at our undefended legs, the ghastly grinning of his moist black muzzle and white teeth, and the insolence of his crisp tail curled like a pastoral crook, all live and flourish. From an otherwise unaccountable association of him with a fiddle, we conclude that he was of French extraction, and his name Fidele. He belonged to some female, chiefly inhabiting a back parlor, whose life appears to us to have been consumed in sniffing, and in wearing a brown beaver bonnet."—Reprinted Pieces, 287. (In such quotations as are made from his writings, the Charles Dickens Edition will be used.)

[3] "A few weeks' residence at home convinced me, who had till then been an only child in the house of my grandfather, that a quarrel between brothers was a very natural event."—Lockhart's Life, i. 30.

[4] The reader will forgive my quoting from a letter of the date of the 22d April, 1848. "I desire no better for my fame, when my personal dustiness shall be past the control of my love of order, than such a biographer and such a critic." "You know me better," he wrote, resuming the same subject on the 6th of July, 1862, "than any other man does, or ever will." In an entry of my diary during the interval between these years, I find a few words that not only mark the time when I first saw in its connected shape the autobiographical fragment which will form the substance of the second chapter of this biography, but also express his own feeling respecting it when written: "20 January, 1849. The description may make none of the impression on others that the reality made on him. . . . Highly probable that it may never see the light. No wish. Left to J. F. or others." The first number of David Copperfield appeared five months after this date; but though I knew, even before he adapted his fragment of autobiography to the eleventh number, that he had now abandoned the notion of completing it under his own name, the "no wish," or the discretion left me, was never in any way subsequently modified. What follows, from the same entry, refers to the manuscript of the fragment: "No blotting, as when writing fiction; but straight on, as when writing ordinary letter."




Mr. Dilke's Half-crown—Story of Boyhood told—D. C. and C. D.—Enterprise of the Cousins Lamert—First Employment in Life—Blacking-Warehouse—A Poor Little Drudge—Bob Fagin and Poll Green—"Facilis Descensus"—Crushed Hopes—The Home in Gower Street—Regaling Alamode—Home broken up—At Mrs. Roylance's in Camden-town—Sundays in Prison—Pudding-Shops and Coffee-Shops—What was and might have been—Thomas and Harry—A Lodging in Lant Street—Meals in the Marshalsea—C. D. and the Marchioness—Originals of Garland Family—Adventure with Bob Fagin—Saturday-Night Shows—Appraised officially—Publican and Wife at Cannon Row—Marshalsea Incident in Copperfield—Incident as it occurred—Materials for Pickwick—Sister Fanny's Musical Prize—From Hungerford Stairs to Chandos Street—Father's Quarrel with James Lamert—Quits the Warehouse—Bitter Associations of Servitude—What became of the Blacking-Business.

THE incidents to be told now would probably never have been known to me, or indeed any of the occurrences of his childhood and youth, but for the accident of a question which I put to him one day in the March or April of 1847.

I asked if he remembered ever having seen in his boyhood our friend the elder Mr. Dilke, his father's acquaintance and contemporary, who had been a clerk in the same office in Somerset House to which Mr. John Dickens belonged. Yes, he said, he recollected seeing him at a house in Gerrard Street, where his uncle Barrow lodged during an illness, and Mr. Dilke had visited him. Never at any other time. Upon which I told him that some one else had been intended in the mention made to me, for that the reference implied not merely his being met accidentally, but his having had some juvenile employment in a warehouse near the Strand; at which place Mr. Dilke, being with the elder Dickens one day, had noticed him, and received, in return for the gift of a half-crown, a very low bow. He was silent for several minutes; I felt that I had unintentionally touched a painful place in his memory; and to Mr. Dilke I never spoke of the subject again. It was not, however, then, but some weeks later, that Dickens made further allusion to my thus having struck unconsciously upon a time of which he never could lose the remembrance while he remembered anything, and the recollection of which, at intervals, haunted him and made him miserable, even to that hour.

Very shortly afterwards I learnt in all their detail the incidents that had been so painful to him, and what then was said to me or written respecting them revealed the story of his boyhood. The idea of David Copperfield, which was to take all the world into his confidence, had not at this time occurred to him; but what it had so startled me to know, his readers were afterwards told with only such change or addition as for the time might sufficiently disguise himself under cover of his hero. For the poor little lad, with good ability and a most sensitive nature, turned at the age of ten into a "laboring hind" in the service of "Murdstone and Grinby," and conscious already of what made it seem very strange to him that he could so easily have been thrown away at such an age, was indeed himself. His was the secret agony of soul at finding himself "companion to Mick Walker and Mealy Potatoes," and his the tears that mingled with the water in which he and they rinsed and washed out bottles. It had all been written, as fact, before he thought of any other use for it; and it was not until several months later, when the fancy of David Copperfield, itself suggested by what he had so written of his early troubles, began to take shape in his mind, that he abandoned his first intention of writing his own life. Those warehouse experiences fell then so aptly into the subject he had chosen, that he could not resist the temptation of immediately using them; and the manuscript recording them, which was but the first portion of what he had designed to write, was embodied in the substance of the eleventh and earlier chapters of his novel. What already had been sent to me, however, and proof-sheets of the novel interlined at the time, enable me now to separate the fact from the fiction, and to supply to the story of the author's childhood those passages, omitted from the book, which, apart from their illustration of the growth of his character, present to us a picture of tragical suffering, and of tender as well as humorous fancy, unsurpassed in even the wonders of his published writings.

The person indirectly responsible for the scenes to be described was the young relative James Lamert, the cousin by his aunt's marriage of whom I have made frequent mention, who got up the plays at Chatham, and after passing at Sandhurst had been living with the family in Bayham Street in the hope of obtaining a commission in the army. This did not come until long afterwards, when, in consideration of his father's services, he received it, and relinquished it then in favor of a younger brother; but he had meanwhile, before the family removed from Camden-town, ceased to live with them. The husband of a sister of his (of the same name as himself, being indeed his cousin, George Lamert), a man of some property, had recently embarked in an odd sort of commercial speculation, and had taken him into his office and his house, to assist in it. I give now the fragment of the autobiography of Dickens:

"This speculation was a rivalry of 'Warren's Blacking, 30, Strand,'—at that time very famous. One Jonathan Warren (the famous one was Robert), living at 30, Hungerford Stairs, or Market, Strand (for I forget which it was called then), claimed to have been the original inventor or proprietor of the blacking-recipe, and to have been deposed and ill used by his renowned relation. At last he put himself in the way of selling his recipe, and his name, and his 30, Hungerford Stairs, Strand (30, Strand, very large, and the intermediate direction very small), for an annuity; and he set forth by his agents that a little capital would make a great business of it. The man of some property was found in George Lamert, the cousin and brother-in-law of James. He bought this right and title, and went into the blacking-business and the blacking-premises.

"—In an evil hour for me, as I often bitterly thought. Its chief manager, James Lamert, the relative who had lived with us in Bayham Street, seeing how I was employed from day to day, and knowing what our domestic circumstances then were, proposed that I should go into the blacking-warehouse, to be as useful as I could, at a salary, I think, of six shillings a week. I am not clear whether it was six or seven. I am inclined to believe, from my uncertainty on this head, that it was six at first, and seven afterwards. At any rate, the offer was accepted very willingly by my father and mother, and on a Monday morning I went down to the blacking-warehouse to begin my business life.

"It is wonderful to me how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age. It is wonderful to me that, even after my descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to London, no one had compassion enough on me—a child of singular abilities, quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt, bodily or mentally—to suggest that something might have been spared, as certainly it might have been, to place me at any common school. Our friends, I take it, were tired out. No one made any sign. My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge.

"The blacking-warehouse was the last house on the left-hand side of the way, at old Hungerford Stairs. It was a crazy, tumble-down old house, abutting of course on the river, and literally overrun with rats. Its wainscoted rooms, and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old gray rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rise up visibly before me, as if I were there again. The counting-house was on the first floor, looking over the coal-barges and the river. There was a recess in it, in which I was to sit and work. My work was to cover the pots of paste-blacking; first with a piece of oil-paper, and then with a piece of blue paper; to tie them round with a string; and then to clip the paper close and neat, all round, until it looked as smart as a pot of ointment from an apothecary's shop. When a certain number of grosses of pots had attained this pitch of perfection, I was to paste on each a printed label, and then go on again with more pots. Two or three other boys were kept at similar duty down-stairs on similar wages. One of them came up, in a ragged apron and a paper cap, on the first Monday morning, to show me the trick of using the string and tying the knot. His name was Bob Fagin; and I took the liberty of using his name, long afterwards, in Oliver Twist.

"Our relative had kindly arranged to teach me something in the dinner-hour; from twelve to one, I think it was; every day. But an arrangement so incompatible with counting-house business soon died away, from no fault of his or mine; and, for the same reason, my small work-table, and my grosses of pots, my papers, string, scissors, paste-pot, and labels, by little and little, vanished out of the recess in the counting-house, and kept company with the other small work-tables, grosses of pots, papers, string, scissors, and paste-pots, down-stairs. It was not long before Bob Fagin and I, and another boy whose name was Paul Green, but who was currently believed to have been christened Poll (a belief which I transferred, long afterwards again, to Mr. Sweedlepipe, in Martin Chuzzlewit), worked generally, side by side. Bob Fagin was an orphan, and lived with his brother-in-law, a waterman. Poll Green's father had the additional distinction of being a fireman, and was employed at Drury Lane theatre; where another relation of Poll's, I think his little sister, did imps in the pantomimes.

"No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sunk into this companionship; compared these every-day associates with those of my happier childhood; and felt my early hopes of growing up to be a learned and distinguished man, crushed in my breast. The deep remembrance of the sense I had of being utterly neglected and hopeless; of the shame I felt in my position; of the misery it was to my young heart to believe that, day by day, what I had learned, and thought, and delighted in, and raised my fancy and my emulation up by, was passing away from me, never to be brought back any more; cannot be written. My whole nature was so penetrated with the grief and humiliation of such considerations, that even now, famous and caressed and happy, I often forget in my dreams that I have a dear wife and children; even that I am a man; and wander desolately back to that time of my life.

"My mother and my brothers and sisters (excepting Fanny in the Royal Academy of Music) were still encamped, with a young servant-girl from Chatham workhouse, in the two parlors in the emptied house in Gower Street north. It was a long way to go and return within the dinner-hour, and usually I either carried my dinner with me, or went and bought it at some neighboring shop. In the latter case, it was commonly a saveloy and a penny loaf; sometimes, a fourpenny plate of beef from a cook's shop; sometimes, a plate of bread and cheese, and a glass of beer, from a miserable old public-house over the way: the Swan, if I remember right, or the Swan and something else that I have forgotten. Once, I remember tucking my own bread (which I had brought from home in the morning) under my arm, wrapped up in a piece of paper like a book, and going into the best dining-room in Johnson's alamode beef-house in Clare Court, Drury Lane, and magnificently ordering a small plate of alamode beef to eat with it. What the waiter thought of such a strange little apparition, coming in all alone, I don't know; but I can see him now, staring at me as I ate my dinner, and bringing up the other waiter to look. I gave him a halfpenny, and I wish, now, that he hadn't taken it."

I lose here for a little while the fragment of direct narrative, but I perfectly recollect that he used to describe Saturday night as his great treat. It was a grand thing to walk home with six shillings in his pocket, and to look in at the shop-windows and think what it would buy. Hunt's roasted corn, as a British and patriotic substitute for coffee, was in great vogue just then; and the little fellow used to buy it, and roast it on the Sunday. There was a cheap periodical of selected pieces called the Portfolio, which he had also a great fancy for taking home with him. The new proposed "deed," meanwhile, had failed to propitiate his father's creditors; all hope of arrangement passed away; and the end was that his mother and her encampment in Gower Street north broke up and went to live in the Marshalsea. I am able at this point to resume his own account:

"The key of the house was sent back to the landlord, who was very glad to get it; and I (small Cain that I was, except that I had never done harm to any one) was handed over as a lodger to a reduced old lady, long known to our family, in Little College Street, Camden-town, who took children in to board, and had once done so at Brighton; and who, with a few alterations and embellishments, unconsciously began to sit for Mrs. Pipchin in Dombey when she took in me.

"She had a little brother and sister under her care then; somebody's natural children, who were very irregularly paid for; and a widow's little son. The two boys and I slept in the same room. My own exclusive breakfast, of a penny cottage loaf and a penny-worth of milk, I provided for myself. I kept another small loaf, and a quarter of a pound of cheese, on a particular shelf of a particular cupboard; to make my supper on when I came back at night. They made a hole in the six or seven shillings, I know well; and I was out at the blacking-warehouse all day, and had to support myself upon that money all the week. I suppose my lodging was paid for, by my father. I certainly did not pay it myself; and I certainly had no other assistance whatever (the making of my clothes, I think, excepted), from Monday morning until Saturday night. No advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no support, from any one that I can call to mind, so help me God.

"Sundays, Fanny and I passed in the prison. I was at the academy in Tenterden Street, Hanover Square, at nine o'clock in the morning, to fetch her; and we walked back there together, at night.

"I was so young and childish, and so little qualified—how could I be otherwise?—to undertake the whole charge of my own existence, that, in going to Hungerford Stairs of a morning, I could not resist the stale pastry put out at half-price on trays at the confectioners' doors in Tottenham Court Road; and I often spent in that the money I should have kept for my dinner. Then I went without my dinner, or bought a roll, or a slice of pudding. There were two pudding-shops between which I was divided, according to my finances. One was in a court close to St. Martin's Church (at the back of the church) which is now removed altogether. The pudding at that shop was made with currants, and was rather a special pudding, but was dear: two penn'orth not being larger than a penn'orth of more ordinary pudding. A good shop for the latter was in the Strand, somewhere near where the Lowther Arcade is now. It was a stout, hale pudding, heavy and flabby; with great raisins in it, stuck in whole, at great distances apart. It came up hot, at about noon every day; and many and many a day did I dine off it.

"We had half an hour, I think, for tea. When I had money enough, I used to go to a coffee-shop, and have half a pint of coffee, and a slice of bread-and-butter. When I had no money, I took a turn in Covent Garden market, and stared at the pineapples. The coffee-shops to which I most resorted were, one in Maiden Lane; one in a court (non-existent now) close to Hungerford market; and one in St. Martin's Lane, of which I only recollect that it stood near the church, and that in the door there was an oval glass plate, with COFFEE-ROOM painted on it, addressed towards the street. If I ever find myself in a very different kind of coffee-room now, but where there is such an inscription on glass, and read it backward on the wrong side MOOR-EEFFOC (as I often used to do then, in a dismal reverie,) a shock goes through my blood.

"I know I do not exaggerate, unconsciously and unintentionally, the scantiness of my resources and the difficulties of my life. I know that if a shilling or so were given me by any one, I spent it in a dinner or a tea. I know that I worked, from morning to night, with common men and boys, a shabby child. I know that I tried, but ineffectually, not to anticipate my money, and to make it last the week through; by putting it away in a drawer I had in the counting-house, wrapped into six little parcels, each parcel containing the same amount and labeled with a different day. I know that I have lounged about the streets, insufficiently and unsatisfactorily fed. I know that, but for the mercy of God, I might easily have been, for any care that was taken of me, a little robber or a little vagabond.

"But I held some station at the blacking-warehouse too. Besides that my relative at the counting-house did what a man so occupied, and dealing with a thing so anomalous, could, to treat me as one upon a different footing from the rest, I never said, to man or boy, how it was that I came to be there, or gave the least indication of being sorry that I was there. That I suffered in secret, and that I suffered exquisitely, no one ever knew but I. How much I suffered, it is, as I have said already, utterly beyond my power to tell. No man's imagination can overstep the reality. But I kept my own counsel, and I did my work. I knew from the first that, if I could not do my work as well as any of the rest, I could not hold myself above slight and contempt. I soon became at least as expeditious and as skillful with my hands as either of the other boys. Though perfectly familiar with them, my conduct and manners were different enough from theirs to place a space between us. They, and the men, always spoke of me as 'the young gentleman.' A certain man (a soldier once) named Thomas, who was the foreman, and another named Harry, who was the carman and wore a red jacket, used to call me 'Charles' sometimes, in speaking to me; but I think it was mostly when we were very confidential, and when I had made some efforts to entertain them over our work with the results of some of the old readings, which were fast perishing out of my mind. Poll Green uprose once, and rebelled against the 'young gentleman' usage; but Bob Fagin settled him speedily.

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