Dickens inns first began to attract the attention of tourists and readers in 1880, when an article on “Mr. Pick-wick and Nicholas Nickleby” in “Scribner’s Monthly,” written by Alfred Rimmer and illustrated by Charles A. Vanderhoof, pointed out to an unsuspecting public that although the novelist had been dead ten years, yet a great deal of him survived in concrete form in London and elsewhere in England. For the first time some one had arisen to point out the great sentimental and historic interest these comfortable, ancient hostelries can have for one who has read the works of the great novelist, and has absorbed them as only the true Dickensian can.
Since that time Dickens inns have attracted American pilgrims, and many magazine articles and a few books have been devoted to describing and picturing these old places that remain. Mr. B. W. Matz, probably the dean of Dickensians, published a sizable book on “The Inns and Taverns of Pickwick,” and by actual count he mentioned seventy-four, including a few coffee houses. Since then, a larger volume on “Dickensian Inns and Taverns” has come from his pen, and in this he takes us to one hundred and twenty-nine, although he especially omits the Pickwickian interest. However, a few of the houses necessarily are duplicated, but it is perfectly safe to assert that Dickens introduced into his works so enormous a number of inns, hotels, taverns and such like places that their total is at least one hundred and fifty.
All of these places have not survived to the present day, and fewer of them measure up to the demands of the word historic. At the same time the attempt to include so many here would be both impractical and disproportionate. Some of these inns and hotels have already been mentioned, and in this chapter a few of the leading interesting Dickens inns not already referred to will be pointed out.
Few of the Dickens London inns survive. Even Mivart’s, now Claridge’s in Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, where Nicholas Nickleby overheard Sir Mulberry Hawk talking familiarly about his sister Kate, is no more, a new and larger Claridge’s having succeeded the ancient hotel. It has been suggested by Mr. Matz that Mivart’s was the house at which Mr. Dombey stopped after his return from the Continent.
There is still something of Dickens London surviving, and the Dickens Tour is one of the most popular ones with American tourists in the British Capital. But the enthusiastic Dickensian is not satisfied with this : he usually follows some of the roads Mr. Pickwick or Nicholas Nickleby took and visits as many Dickens inns in “the Provinces” as he has time to give. While he may not visit all there are a few he will strive to enter, or at least see.
Of all surviving Dickens inns in England the Bull Hotel at Rochester is the one the American Dickensian usually tries to visit. The reason this house is so popular lies partly in the fact that it is not a long distance from Gad’s Hill Place, the novelist’s last home, which is a shrine for the Dickens pilgrim.
To go through the Bull Hotel is to find that Pickwickian characters are popularly regarded as real human beings, instead of the creation of a most fecund novelist. Dickens as a very young man had stopped at the Bull; when he wrote Pickwick he laid two or three scenes there, and even gave it a reputation in words that still survive on the inn signboard. It will be recalled that Jingle commended it in his abrupt, decisive way as “Good housenice beds”; and you will find that statement from “Pickwick” carefully quoted on the sign.
The visitor is shown Pickwick’s room, the one in fact that Dickens had occupied; he will find the ball-room, with its “elevated den” for the musicians, more or less as it was in Pickwick’s time-1827. There also is the coffee room, and the private banqueting room where the dinner was held for Pip, in “Great Expectations”; and the great inn yard, where Dickens feasted the “Seven Poor Travellers.” Winkle’s room and Tupman’s room are shown, as if they were genuine flesh and blood guests. One night in 1836 the Princess Victoria, later to be Queen Victoria, slept at the Bull and no stronger argument could be made for the hold the novelist still maintains than to be informed that “the Princess had Winkle’s room,” for the fictitious character is always given precedence of the slight, young girl who became a Queen.
The Bull Inn, or Hotel, is a very ancient hostelry, al-though its early history is bathed in mystery. It is said to date from the fourteenth century, and that Queen Elizabeth once stopped there. Hogarth also is said to have been a guest. In 1864 the place was rebuilt, and in 1836, when “Pickwick” was being published in monthly parts, the house was known as the Crown, which was long its name. However, it is as the Bull that the place appeals to Dickens lovers, although, curiously enough the inn is not specifically named in the works of the novelist, yet described in a manner that made its identification easy.
No reader of “Pickwick” needs be told that many Lon-don coaching houses and inns figure as scenes in that immortal work. Alas for the enthusiast who seeks them today in the British metropolis ! Almost every one of them has vanished in that “march of improvement” which has been in progress for the last hundred years.
The Golden Cross Inn, where in Chapter II of “Pick-wick Papers” the famous club started on its peregrinations, and where the mild mannered Samuel Pickwick was saved from the wrath of a London cabby by the timely intervention of Jingle, disappeared many years ago when Trafalgar Square absorbed it. There is still a Golden Cross in the Strand, but such expert Dickensians as Mr. Matz assure us that this one has no connection with Mr. Pickwick. The old Golden Cross also figured in “David Copperfield,” and as early as 1757 it was the starting place for the Brighton coach.
Some other London Pickwickian inns were the White Hart, Southwark, where Sam Weller was “boots,” and where he so fascinated Mr. Pickwick that that worthy hired him as his personal servant; La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, which was the terminal of Tony Weller’s coach route. The senior Weller drove the Ipswich coach, which started from the Bull Inn, Whitechapel; the Spaniards, at Hampstead, which dates from 1630, where traditions of Dick Turpin abound, and where Mrs. Bardell and her friends were celebrating when the party was thrown into confusion. Mrs. Bardell was taken away in a hackney coach to the Fleet for failure to pay her attorneys their costs in the famous breach of promise suit. The Spaniards is one of the ancient _places which, being out of the centre of London, has survived the hand of improvement. Osborne’s Adelphi Hotel is another survivor. Its Dickens interest is due to the fact that there Mr. Pickwick abandoned his idea of travel and the famous club came to an end. The Angel, Bury St. Edmunds, should not be forgotten, for it was while Mr. Pickwick was comfortably installed there that he was summonsed in the famous breach of promise suit.
The Angel, which is said to occupy the site of three earlier inns, known as the Angel, the Castle, and White Bear, was built in 1779. In the square before it is held the Bury Fair annually on September 21. In 1835 Dickens stopped there during a reporting expedition, and in 1861, when he gave a reading in the old town, he again put up at the Angel.
Few Dickens inns have a greater attraction for Dickens. ians than the Great White Horse, Ipswich. This is not only due to the “stone statue of some rampacious animal” which surmounts the entrance, but equally to the circumstance that it was here that Mr. Pickwick had that embarrassing adventure with “the lady with yellow curl papers.” This is now one of the Trust Houses.
There are the inns made notable by being introduced into other books by the great novelist. For instance, the Coach and Horses, Islesworth; the Red Lion, Barnet; and the Angel, Islington, which, however, was already widely known as a centre for mail coaches, figure in “Oliver Twist.” The Saracen’s Head is recalled by all readers of “Nicholas Nickleby,” as it was the place where Squeers and his pupils started for “Dotheboys Hall.” It stood on Snow Hill, London, and long ago was removed. In the same novel many other inns and hotels are mentioned as scenes for moving incidents. Among these is the George and New Inn, Greta Bridge, where Mr. Squeers and the boys left the coach for his humane school.
Although the inn is thus named in the novel, the novelist probably purposely confused the inquirer, because the George is half a mile from New Inn, and the latter has long been a farm house, named “Thorpe Grange. The George still stands beside the picturesque bridge, and it was later used as the original of “The Holly Tree Inn,” in the Christmas story of that name, by Dickens. Dickens once, when a young man, stayed at the New Inn. Both these houses have long since ceased to be used for their original purpose.
The King’s Head, Chigwell, has been identified as the original of the Maypole Inn of “Barnaby Rudge.” So strong is the affection of Dickens’s lovers in the old “May-pole” that in 1899 “The Charles Dickens Lodge” was consecrated in the inn, and continues to meet there, using “the best bed room” for meetings and the Chester room for its banquets.
Other inns figure in “Barnaby Rudge,” and a few in “Old Curiosity Shop.” The favorite tavern of Quilp, and Dick Swiveller’s favorite, the latter identified with the Red Lion, Bevis Marks’ “The Blue Dragon” inn in “Martin Chuzzlewit,” has been identified with the George Inn, Amesbury. “Dombey and Son” is a book of few inns. They had become hotels by that time, and Mr. Dombey was at the Bedford Hotel, Brighton, and Cousin Feenix stopped at Long’s Hotel in Bond Street, when he arrived from the continent to attend Mr. Dombey’s wedding.
“David Copperfield,” being largely, in the earlier part of the book, autobiographical, introduces a number of inns, taverns and hotels. There are the Royal, Lowestoft; Jack Straw’s Castle, the Sun Inn, Canterbury; the Buck Inn and the Duke’s Head Inn, at Yarmouth, and the Plough Inn, Blunderstone, among others, the majority of which are still in existence.
Mr. Matz identifies the Old Cheshire Cheese, which is in Wine Court, off Fleet Street, London, as the tavern mentioned in “A Tale of Two Cities,” where Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton dined after the trial at the Old Bailey, and asserts that Dickens was known to have visited the quaint old chop house where Doctor Johnson is believed to have frequently presided over the long table on the ground floor.
“The Fox under the Hill,” now a modern public house in London, is said to have been the tavern where Wemmick’s wedding breakfast, in “Great Expectations,” was served.
“The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters,” a tavern which figures in “Our Mutual Friend,” is said to still exist. The resort of Rogue Riderhood and Gaffer Hexam is to-day known as the Grapes, and is still a favorite resort for London watermen of Limehouse. The Ship tavern at Greenwich, where Bella Wilfer, in the same. novel, entertained her father to dinner, has given way to a modern structure, the Ship Hotel.
Wood’s Hotel, Furnival’s Inn, London, which was demolished in 1898, was frequently visited by Dickens, when, as a very young man, he had chambers at 13 Furnival’s Inn. The House was introduced in the novelist’s last and unfinished romance, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” It was at Wood’s Hotel that Mr. Grewgious went for his dinner “three hundred days in the year at least.”
But there are ever so many Dickens Hotels in England, either standing or recalled. All of them have picturesqueness, and to those familiar with the great novelist’s works, a deep interest; however, enough has been given here to suggest their number and importance. In the majority of instances the chief sentimental interest of these old places rests upon their use by Dickens, although all of them have a quaint character of their own.