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The Queer Small Boy

Dickens meets his childhood self on the road. The exchange recalls a scene from his past when he and his father would walk by Gad's Hill Place.

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 Gads-hill we are coming to, where Falstaff went out to rob those travellers, 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.

From Travelling Abroad

Paris Morgue

Whenever I am at Paris, I am dragged by invisible force into the Morgue. I never want to go there, but am always pulled there.

From Travelling Abroad

Condition of the Great Tasmania

I believe the sick could as soon have eaten the ship, as the ship's provisions.

From The Great Tasmania's Cargo

Covent Garden

Covent-garden Market, when it was market morning, was wonderful company. The great waggons of cabbages, with growers' men and boys lying asleep under them, and with sharp dogs from market-garden neighbourhoods looking after the whole, were as good as a party. But one of the worst night sights I know in London, is to be found in the children who prowl about this place; who sleep in the baskets, fight for the offal, dart at any object they think they can lay their their thieving hands on, dive under the carts and barrows, dodge the constables, and are perpetually making a blunt pattering on the pavement of the Piazza with the rain of their naked feet.

From Night Walks

London's Shabbiness

The shabbiness of our English capital, as compared with Paris, Bordeaux, Frankfort, Milan, Geneva—almost any important town on the continent of Europe—I find very striking after an absence of any duration in foreign parts. London is shabby in contrast with Edinburgh, with Aberdeen, with Exeter, with Liverpool, with a bright little town like Bury St. Edmunds. London is shabby in contrast with New York, with Boston, with Philadelphia.

From The Boiled Beef of New England

Foul Language

The blaring use of the very worst language possible, in our public thoroughfares—especially in those set apart for recreation—is another disgrace to us, and another result of constabular contemplation, the like of which I have never heard in any other country to which my uncommercial travels have extended.

From The Ruffian

Charlatan Preachers

All sorts of people seemed to become vicariously religious at my expense. I received the most uncompromising warning that I was a Heathen: on the conclusive authority of a field preacher, who, like the most of his ignorant and vain and daring class, could not construct a tolerable sentence in his native tongue or pen a fair letter. This inspired individual called me to order roundly, and knew in the freest and easiest way where I was going to, and what would become of me if I failed to fashion myself on his bright example, and was on terms of blasphemous confidence with the Heavenly Host.

From A Fly-Leaf in a Life

Alcohol Consumption

Now, I have always held that there may be, and that there unquestionably is, such a thing as use without abuse, and that therefore the total abolitionists are irrational and wrong-headed.

From A Plea for Total Abstinence

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The Uncommercial Traveller

The Uncommercial Traveller - A collection of essays written by Dickens in the 1860s
Read it online | Shop for the Book | Illustrations

A series of sketches written by Dickens for his weekly magazine All the Year Round in the 1860s. 17 of these sketches were collected in a single volume in 1861. Eleven more sketches were added when The Uncommercial Traveller was included in the Cheap Edition of Dickens' works in 1865. Eight more were added in the Illustrated Library Edition of 1874 and one additional sketch was included in the Gadshill Edition of the collection in 1898 bringing the total to 37. The stories sometimes ramble aimlessly, not unlike the Traveller himself. The Uncommercial Traveller in Wikipedia.

Uncommercial Traveller

Abbreviations: UT - Uncommercial Traveller     ATYR - All the Year Round

I - His General Line of Business II - Shipwreck III - Wapping Workhouse IV - Two Views of a Cheap Theatre V - Poor Mercantile Jack VI - Refreshments for Travellers VII - Travelling Abroad VIII - The Great Tasmania's Cargo IX - City of London Churches X - Shy Neighborhoods XI - Tramps XII - Dullborough Town XIII - Night Walks XIV - Chambers
  • XV - Nurse's Stories
    • The UT fondly recalls visits to places he has never been...in the beloved books of his youth. He also recalls being terrified as a child by the macabre stories told him by his nurse
    • Captain Murderer
    • Originally published in ATYR on Sep 8, 1860

  • XVI - Arcadian London XVII - The Italian Prisoner XVIII - The Calais Night Mail XIX - Some Recollections of Mortality XX - Birthday Celebrations XXI - The Short-Timers XXII - Bound for the Great Salt Lake XXIII - The City of the Absent XXIV - An Old Stage-Coaching House XXV - The Boiled Beef of New England XXVI - Chatham Dockyard XXVII - In the French-Flemish Country XXVIII - Medicine Men of Civilisation XXIX - Titbull's Alms-Houses XXX - The Ruffian XXXI - Aboard Ship XXXII - A Small Star In the East XXXIII - A Little Dinner in an Hour XXXIV - Mr. Barlow XXXV - On an Amateur Beat XXXVI - A Fly-Leaf in a Life XXXVII - A Plea for Total Abstinence Back to Top
    Sketches by Boz | Pickwick | Oliver Twist | Nickleby | Old Curiosity Shop | Barnaby Rudge
    Chuzzlewit | Christmas Carol | Christmas Books | Dombey and Son | Copperfield | Bleak House
    Hard Times | Little Dorrit | Tale of Two Cities | Great Expectations | Our Mutual Friend
    Edwin Drood | Minor Works | The Uncommercial Traveller