None of these writers, however, is so closely identified with this city by the Thames as Dickens, who found its streets at once his workshop, and the principal source of his inspiration. It was from London's street signs that he usually gleaned the names peculiar to his characters; and he kept a book, in which he noted down the odd names that in his daily walks attracted his attention. Subsequently he would combine the first syllable of one with the last syllable of another, producing, as we know, the most extraordinary results. The names he finally selected were commonly the survival of the fittest, and many a now familiar title has passed in Dickens' mind through several changes. Thus, "Martin Chuzzlewit" was the ultimate choice out of Martin Sweezleden, Sweezlewag, Chuzzletoe, Chuzzleboy, Chubblewig, and half a dozen more.
Dickens' House, Devonshire Terrace.
The Promenade, Hyde Park.
Lovers of Dickens can easily drive to his different London residences, the principal ones being Furnival's Inn, Devonshire Terrace, Tavistock Square, and Doughty Street. It was while living in the last-mentioned place that Dickens laid the stepping-stones to his unprecedented popularity, by writing the "Pickwick Papers," the sale of which at one bound far outstripped that of any other book within the century. It fascinated everybody, high and low, from solemn judges on the bench to laughing boys in the street, and its humor, like the piper's music, made all people dance, whether they would or not.
Golden Cross Hotel.
Carlyle tells of a clergyman, who, having ended his exhortation to a sick parishioner, was leaving the room when he heard the sick man murmur something. The minister paused, hoping to catch some echo of his solemn utterances. What was his surprise to hear the invalid exclaim, "Well, thank God, Pickwick will be out in ten days, anyhow!"
In fact, only space is wanting to enumerate the many spots in London identified, beyond a reasonable doubt, as those which figure in the works of Dickens, and to which of late years several books have been devoted. With these as guides, the tourist can easily prepare a list, and, at his leisure, drive or walk to every place that he desires to see; whether it be the Golden Cross Hotel, where Steerforth lodged, and in front of which Mr. Pickwick had his encounter with a cabby; or St.
Andrew's Church, which Oliver Twist and Bill Sikes passed on their way to commit a burglary; or Newgate Prison, where Fagin waited for his doom; or Ralph Nickleby's house, in Golden Square; or the Crown Inn, where Mr. Newman Noggs was known; or Mantelini's dress-making establishment, in Wigmore Street; or Kingsgate Street, the home of Sairey Gamp. Moreover, in one of London's busiest thoroughfares, we may still read the sign of "Dombey & Son"; another structure bears the name of the "Old Curiosity Shop"; and we may eat a chop in the George & Vulture Tavern, with its souvenirs of Sam Weller; or, almost in the shadow of St. Paul's, see Bevis Marks, which, thanks to Dickens' wit, has echoed to the laughter of the world. For here, "in a small dark house, so near the sidewalk that the parlor windows were only cleaned by the elbows of the passers-by," lived the impecunious Dick Swiveller; Miss Sally Brass, "whose sallow complexion was only relieved by the healthy glow on the tip of her nose"; and the half-starved Marchioness, who was fed in the cellar-kitchen, where everything was padlocked, including the grate, and where there was not enough food left out for even a beetle to lunch on.
Those who desire to trace the scenes of "Little Dorrit" can easily verify the words of Dickens:" Whoever turns from Angel Court into Mar-shalsea Palace will find his feet upon the pavement of the prison; will find the courtyard very little altered, if at all; will see the debtors' rooms, and stand among the crowding ghosts of many miserable years." Obeying these instructions, I found indeed the courtyard; but it has somewhat changed since Dickens' time. It is no longer a debtors' jail, but is connected with another form of human misery, being a cheap lodging-house for some of the poorest of the London poor. Yet an officer pointed out to me the room where Arthur Clennam passed the night, when accidentally locked in; and the old pump, which Dickens describes as marking the aristocratic side of the yard, where Mr. Dorrit always walked, as "The Father of the Marshalsea"; and I even climbed two flights of stairs to see some shabby rooms, ascribed by Dickens to Mr. Dorrit and his faithful child, and which really formed once the abode of Mr. and Mrs. Dickens, and were visited, alas! only too often by the novelist when a boy. One who wishes to study the localities mentioned in "Bleak House" can easily make his way to "No. 58," Lincoln's Inn, a spacious mansion, which Dickens no doubt had in mind when he described the residence of the secretive old lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn, whom he called "an oyster of the old school whom nobody could open." The novelist was perfectly familiar with the building, since it was here that his friend and biographer, Forster, lived; and here, one winter's night, Dickens, who had just come from Italy to superintend the publication of his new Christmas story, "The Chimes," read it to Forster, Car-lyle, Jerrold, and other friends. Mac-lise, the artist, made a sketch of the party, and in it one can see the frescos on the ceiling which Dickens often speaks of in "Bleak House," - weird figures with waving arms and ghostly fingers, forever pointing at the fatal spot where Tulkinghorn was destined to lie, face downward on the floor, shot through the heart!