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Charles Dickens
by [?]

When Dickens was at the flood-tide of prosperity, Thackeray, one year his senior, waited on his doorstep with pictures to illustrate “Pickwick.”

He worked steadily, and made from eight to twenty-five thousand dollars a year. His fame increased, and the “New York Ledger” paid him ten thousand dollars for one story which he wrote in a fortnight. His collected works fill forty volumes. There are more of Dickens’ books sold every year now than in any year in which he lived. There were more of Dickens’ books sold last year than any previous year.

“I am glad that the public buy his books,” said Macready; “for if they did not he would take to the stage and eclipse us all.”

“Not So Bad As We Seem,” by Bulwer-Lytton, was played at Devonshire House in the presence of the Queen, Dickens taking the principal part. He gave theatrical performances in London, Liverpool and Manchester, for the benefit of Leigh Hunt, Sheridan Knowles and various other needy authors and actors. He wrote a dozen plays, and twice as many more have been constructed from his plots.

He gave public readings through England, Scotland and Ireland, where the people fought for seats. The average receipts for these entertainments were eight hundred dollars per night.

In Eighteen Hundred Sixty-three, he made a six months’ tour of the United States, giving a series of readings. The prices of admission were placed at extravagant figures, but the box-office was always besieged until the ticket-seller put out his lights and hung out a sign: “The standing-room is all taken.”

The gross receipts of these readings were two hundred twenty-nine thousand dollars; the expenses thirty-nine thousand dollars; net profit, one hundred ninety thousand dollars.

Charles Dickens died of brain-rupture in Eighteen Hundred Seventy, aged fifty-eight. His dust rests in Westminster Abbey.

* * * * *

“To know the London of Dickens is a liberal education,” once said James T. Fields, who was affectionately referred to by Charles Dickens as “Massachusetts Jemmy.” And I am aware of no better way to become acquainted with the greatest city in the world than to follow the winding footsteps of the author of “David Copperfield.”

Beginning his London life when ten years of age, he shifted from one lodging to another, zigzag, tacking back and forth from place to place, but all the time making head, and finally dwelling in palaces of which nobility might be proud. It took him forty-eight years to travel from the squalor of Camden Town to Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

He lodged first in Bayham Street. “A washerwoman lived next door, and a Bow Street officer over the way.” It was a shabby district, chosen by the elder Dickens because the rent was low. As he neglected to pay the rent, one wonders why he did not take quarters in Piccadilly.

I looked in vain for a sign reading, “Washin dun Heer,” but I found a Bow Street orf’cer who told me that Bayham Street had long since disappeared.

Yet there is always a recompense in prowling about London, because if you do not find the thing you are looking for, you find something else equally interesting. My Bow Street friend proved to be a regular magazine of rare and useful information–historical, archeological and biographical.

A Lunnun Bobby has his clothes cut after a pattern a hundred years old, and he always carries his gloves in his hand–never wearing them–because this was a habit of William the Conqueror.

But never mind; he is intelligent, courteous and obliging, and I am perfectly willing that he should wear skirts like a ballet-dancer and a helmet too small, if it is his humor.

My perliceman knew an older orf’cer who was acquainted with Mr. Dickens. Mr. Dickens ‘ad a full perliceman’s suit ‘imself, issued to ‘im on an order from Scotland Yard, and he used to do patrol duty at night, carrying ‘is bloomin’ gloves in ‘is ‘and and ‘is chinstrap in place. This was told me by my new-found friend, who volunteered to show me the way to North Gower Street.