Charles Dickens.

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" Oh ! That's all ! " said I.

"Yes. That's all. The Doctor's a smart man. He
quite enters into it. It's a joke of mine. I like it for a
time. You needn't mention it, but I think I shall go out
next Tuesday ! "

I assured him that I would consider our interview perfectly
confidential; and rejoined the Doctor. As we were passing


through a gallery on our way out, a well-dressed lady, of
quiet and composed manners, came up, and proffering a slip
of paper and a pen, begged that I would oblige her with an
autograph. I complied, and we parted.

" I think I remember having had a few interviews like
that, with ladies out of doors. I hope sJie is not mad ? "


" On what subject ? Autographs ? "

"No. She hears voices in the air."

" Well ! " thought I, " it would be well if we could shut up
a few false prophets of these later times, who have professed
to do the same ; and I should like to try the experiment on
a Mormonist or two to begin with. 11

In this place, there is the best Jail for untried offenders in
the world. There is also a very well-ordered State prison,
arranged upon the same plan as that at Boston, except that
here, there is always a sentry on the wall with a loaded gun.
It contained at that time about two hundred prisoners. A
spot was shown me in the sleeping ward, where a watchman
was murdered some years since in the dead of night, in a
desperate attempt to escape, made by a prisoner who had
broken from his cell. A woman, too, was pointed out to
me, who, for the murder of her husband, had been a close
prisoner for sixteen years.

" Do you think, 11 I asked of my conductor, " that after so
very long an imprisonment, she has any thought or hope of
ever regaining her liberty ? "

'* Oh dear yes," he answered. ** To be sure she has.""

" She has no chance of obtaining it, I suppose ? "

"Well, I don't know:" which, by-the-bye, is a national
answer. " Her friends mistrust her."

" What have they to do with it ? " I naturally inquired.

" Well, they won't petition. 11
: "But if they did, they couldn't get her out, I suppose?"

" Well, not the first time, perhaps, nor yet the second, but
tiring and wearying for a few years might do it."


" Does that ever do it ? "

" Why yes, that'll do it sometimes. Tolitical friends 11 do
it sometimes. It's pretty often done, one way or another."

I shall always entertain a very pleasant and grateful recol-
lection of Hartford. It is a lovely place, and I had many
friends there, whom I can never remember with indifference.
We left it with no little regret on the evening of Friday the
llth, and travelled that night by railroad to New Haven.
Upon the way, the guard and I were formally introduced
to each other (as we usually were on such occasions), and
exchanged a variety of small-talk. We reached New Haven
at about eight o'clock, after a journey of three hours, and
put up for the night at the best inn.

New Haven, known also as the City of Elms, is a fine town.
Many of its streets (as its alias sufficiently imports) are planted
with rows of grand old elm-trees ; and the same natural
ornaments surround Yale College, an establishment of con-
siderable eminence and reputation. The various departments
of this Institution are erected in a kind of park or common
in the middle of the town, where they are dimly visible among
the shadowing trees. The effect is very like that of an old
cathedral yard in England; and when their branches are in
full leaf, must be extremely picturesque. Even in the winter
time, these groups of well-grown trees, clustering among the
busy streets and houses of a thriving city, have a very quaint
appearance : seeming to bring about a kind of compromise
between town and country; as if each had met the other
half-way, and shaken hands upon it ; which is at once novel
and pleasant.

After a night's rest, we rose early, and in good time went
down to the wharf, and on board the packet New Yorkjfor
New York. This was the first American steamboat of any
size that I had seen ; and certainly to an English eye it was
infinitely less like a steamboat than a huge floating bath. I
could hardly persuade myself, indeed, but that the bathing
establishment off Westminster Bridge, which I left a baby,


had suddenly grown to an enormous size ; run away from
home ; and set up in foreign parts as a steamer. Being in
America, too, which our vagabonds do so particularly favour,
it seemed the more probable. i*fea:>

The great difference in appearance between these packets
and ours, is, that there is so much of them out of the water :
the main-deck being enclosed on all sides, and filled with
casks and goods, like any second or third floor in a stack of
warehouses ; and the promenade or hurricane-deck being a-top
of that again. A part of the machinery is always above
this deck ; where the connecting-rod, in a strong and lofty
frame, is seen working away like an iron top-sawyer. There
is seldom any mast or tackle : nothing aloft but two tall
black chimneys. The man at the helm is shut up in a little
house in the fore part of the boat (the wheel being connected
with the rudder by iron chains, working the whole length of
the deck) ; and the passengers, unless the weather be very fine
indeed, usually congregate below. Directly you have left the
wharf, all the life, and stir, and bustle of a packet cease. You
wonder for a long time how she goes on, for there seems to
be nobody in charge of her ; and when another of these dull
machines comes splashing by, you feel quite indignant with
it, as a sullen, cumbrous, ungraceful, unshiplike leviathan:
quite forgetting that the vessel you are on board of, is its
very counterpart.

There is always a clerk's office on the lower deck, where you
pay your fare ; a ladies 1 cabin ; baggage and stowage rooms ;
engineer's room ; and in short a great variety of perplexities
which render the discovery of the gentlemen's cabin, a matter
of some difficulty. It often occupies the whole length of the
boat (as it did in this case), and has three or four tiers of
berths on each side. When I first descended into the cabin
of the New York, it looked, in my unaccustomed eyes, about
as long as the Burlington Arcade.

The Sound which has to be crossed on this passage, is not
always a very safe or pleasant navigation, and has been the


scene of some unfortunate accidents. It was a wet morning,
and very misty, and we soon lost sight of land. The day
was calm, however, and brightened towards noon. After
exhausting (with good help from a friend) the larder, and
the stock of bottled beer, I lay down to sleep : being very
much tired with the fatigues of yesterday. But I woke from
my nap in time to hurry up, and see Hell Gate, the Hog's
Back, the Frying Pan, and other notorious localities, attractive
to all readers of famous Diedrich Knickerbocker's History.
We were now in a narrow channel, with sloping banks on
either side, besprinkled with pleasant villas, and made refresh-
ing to the sight by turf and trees. Soon we shot in quick
succession, past a lighthouse ; a madhouse (how the lunatics
flung up their caps and roared in sympathy with the head-
long engine and the driving tide !) ; a jail ; and other build-
ings : and so emerged into a noble bay, whose waters sparkled
in the now cloudless sunshine like Nature's eyes turned up to

Then there lay stretched out before us, to the right, confused
heaps of buildings, with here and there a spire or steeple,
looking down upon the herd below ; and here and there,
again, a cloud of lazy smoke ; and in the foreground a forest
of ships' masts, cheery with flapping sails and waving flags.
Crossing from among them to the opposite shore, were steam
ferry-boats laden with people, coaches, horses, waggons,
baskets, boxes : crossed and recrossed by other ferry-boats :
all travelling to and fro : and never idle. Stately among
these restless Insects, were two or three large ships, moving
with slow majestic pace, as creatures of a prouder kind, dis-
dainful of their puny journeys, and making for the broad sea.
Beyond, were shining heights, and islands in the glancing
river, and a distance scarcely less blue and bright than the
sky it seemed to meet. The city's hum and buzz, the clinking
of capstans, the ringing of bells, the barking of dogs, the
clattering of wheels, tingled in the listening ear. All of
which life and stir, coming across the stirring water, caught


new life and animation from its free companionship; and,
sympathising with its buoyant spirits, glistened as it seemed
in sport upon its surface, and hemmed the vessel round, and
plashed the water high about her sides, and, floating her
gallantly into the dock, flew off again to welcome other
cornel's, and speed before them to the busy port.



THE beautiful metropolis of America is by no means so clean
a city as Boston, but many of its streets have the same
characteristics ; except that the houses are not quite so fresh-
coloured, the sign-boards are not quite so gaudy, the gilded
letters not quite so golden, the bricks not quite so red, the
stone not quite so white, the blinds and area railings not
quite so green, the knobs and plates upon the street doors
not quite so bright and twinkling. There are many by-
streets, almost as neutral in clean colours, and positive in
dirty ones, as by-streets in London ; and there is one quarter,
commonly called the Five Points, which, in respect of filth
and wretchedness, may be safely backed against Seven Dials,
or any other part of famed St. Giles's.

The great promenade and thoroughfare, as most people
know, is Broadway ; a wide and bustling street, which, from
the Battery Gardens to its opposite termination in a country
road, may be four miles long. Shall we sit down in an upper
floor of the Carlton House Hotel (situated in the best part
of this main artery of New York), and when we are tired of
looking down upon the life below, sally forth arm-in-arm, and
mingle with the stream ?

Warm weather ! The sun strikes upon our heads at this'
open window, as though its rays were concentrated through
a burning-glass ; but the day is in its zenith, and the season


an unusual one. Was there ever such a sunny street as this
Broadway ! The pavement stones are polished with the tread
of feet until they shine again ; the red bricks of the houses
might be yet in the dry, hot kilns ; and the roofs of those
omnibuses look as though, if water were poured on them,
they would hiss and smoke, and smell like half-quenched fires.
No stint of omnibuses here ! Half-a-dozen have gone by
within as many minutes. Plenty of hackney cabs and coaches
too ; gigs, phaetons, large- wheeled tilburies, and private
carriages rather of a clumsy make, and not very different
from the public vehicles, but built for the heavy roads beyond
the city pavement. Negro coachmen and white ; in straw
hats, black hats, white hats, glazed caps, fur caps ; in coats
of drab, black, brown, green, blue, nankeen, striped jean and
linen ; and there, in that one instance (look while it passes,
or it will be too late), in suits of livery. Some southern
republican that, who puts his blacks in uniform, and swells
with Sultan pomp and power. Yonder, where that phaeton
with the well-clipped pair of grays has stopped standing at
their heads now is a Yorkshire groom, who has not been
very long in these parts, and looks sorrowfully round for a
companion pair of top-boots, which he may traverse the city
half a year without meeting. Heaven save the ladies, how
they dress ! We have seen more colours in these ten minutes,
than we should have seen elsewhere, in as many days. What
various parasols ! what rainbow silks and satins ! what pinking
of thin stockings, and pinching of thin shoes, and fluttering
of ribbons and silk tassels, and display of rich cloaks with
gaudy hoods and linings ! The young gentlemen are fond,
you see, of tuniing down their shirt-collars and cultivating
their whiskers, especially under the chin; but they cannot
approach the ladies in their dress or bearing, being, to say
the truth, humanity of quite another sort. Byrons of the
desk and counter, pass on, and let us see what kind of men
those are behind ye : those two labourers in holiday clothes,
of whom one carries- in his hand a crumpled scrap of paper


from which he tries to spell out a hard name, while the other
looks about for it on all the doors and windows.

Irishmen both ! You might know them, if they were
masked, by their long-tailed blue coats and bright buttons,
and their drab trousers, which they wear like men well used
to working dresses, who are easy in no others. It would be
hard to keep your model republics going, without the country-
men and countrywomen of those two labourers. For who
else would dig, and delve, and drudge, and do domestic work,
and make canals and roads, and execute great lines of Internal
Improvement! Irishmen both, and sorely puzzled too, to
find out what they seek. Let us go down, and help them,
for the love of home, and that spirit of liberty which admits
of honest service to honest men, and honest work for honest
bread, no matter what it be.

That's well ! We have got at the right address at last,
though it is written in strange characters truly, and might
have been scrawled with the blunt handle of the spade the
writer better knows the use of, than a pen. Their way lies
yonder, but what business takes them there ? They carry
savings : to hoard up ? No. They are brothers, those men.
One crossed the sea alone, and working very hard for one
half year, and living harder, saved funds enough to bring the
other out. That done, they worked together side by side,
contentedly sharing hard labour and hard living for another
term, and then their sisters came, and then another brother,
and lastly, their old mother. And what now ? Why, the
poor old crone is restless in a strange land, and yearns to
lay her bones, she says, among her people in the old grave-
yard at home : and so they go to pay her passage back : and
God help her and them, and every simple heart, and all who
turn to the Jerusalem of their younger days, and have an
altar-fire upon the cold hearth of their fathers.

This narrow thoroughfare, baking and blistering in the sun,
is Wall Street : the Stock Exchange and Lombard Street of
New York. Many a rapid fortune has been made in this


street, and many a no less rapid ruin. Some of these very
merchants whom you see hanging about here now, have
locked up money in their strong-boxes, like the man in the
Arabian Nights, and opening them again, have found but
withered leaves. Below, here by the water-side, where the
bowsprits of ships stretch across the footway, and almost
thrust themselves into the windows, lie the noble American
vessels which have made 'their Packet Service the finest in
the world. They have brought hither the foreigners who
abound in all the streets : not, perhaps, that there are more
here, than in other commercial cities ; but elsewhere, they
have particular haunts, and you must find them out ; here,
they pervade the town.

We must cross Broadway again ; gaining some refreshment
from the heat, in the sight of the great blocks of clean ice
which are being carried into shops and bar-rooms; and the
pine-apples and water-melons profusely displayed for sale.
Fine streets of spacious houses here, you see ! Wall Street
has furnished and dismantled many of them very often and
here a deep green leafy square. Be sure that is a hospitable
house with inmates to be affectionately remembered always,
where they have the open door and pretty show of plants
within, and where the child with laughing eyes is peeping
out of window at the little dog below. You wonder what
may be the use of this tall flagstaff in the by-street, with
something like Liberty's head-dress on its top : so do I. But
there is a passion for tall flagstaff's hereabout, and you may
see its twin brother in five minutes, if you have a mind.

Again across Broadway, and so passing from the many-
coloured crowd and glittering shops into another long main
street, the Bowery. A railroad yonder, see, where two stout
horses trot along, drawing a score or two of people and a
great wooden ark, with ease. The stores are poorer here;
the passengers less gay. Clothes ready-made, and meat ready-
cooked, are to be bought in these parts ; and the lively whirl
of carriages is exchanged for the deep rumble of carts and


waggons. These signs which are so plentiful, in shape like
river buoys, or small < balloons, hoisted by cords to poles, and
dangling there, announce, as you may see by looking up,
" OYSTERS IN EVERY STYLE." They tempt the hungry most
at night, for then dull candles glimmering inside, illuminate
these dainty words, and make the mouths of idlers water, as
they read and linger.

What is this dismal-fronted pile of bastard Egyptian, like
an enchanter's palace in a melodrama ! a famous prison,
called The Tombs. Shall we go in ?

>o. A long narrow lofty building, stove-heated as usual,
with four galleries, one above the other, going round it, and
communicating by stairs. Between the two sides of each
gallery, and in its centre, a bridge, for the greater convenience
of crossing. On each of these bridges sits a man : dozing or
reading, or talking to an idle companion. On each tier, are
two opposite rows of small iron doors. They look like
furnace-doors, but are cold and black, as though the fires
within had all gone out. Some two or three are open, and
women, with drooping heads bent down, are talking to the
inmates. The whole is lighted by a skylight, but it is fast
closed; and from the roof there dangle, limp and drooping,
two useless windsails.

A man with keys appears, to show us round. A good-
looking fellow, and, in his way, civil and obliging.

"Are those black doors the cells?' 11


"Are they all full? 11

" Well, they're pretty nigh full, and that's a fact, and no
two ways about it."

" Those at the bottom are unwholesome, surely ? "

"Why, we do only put coloured people in 'em. That's
the truth."

" When do the prisoners take exercise ? "

"Well, they do without it pretty much."

" Do they never walk in the yard ? "


" Considerable seldom."

"Sometimes, I suppose?

" Well, it's rare they do. They keep pretty bright with-
out it."

" But suppose a man were here for a twelvemonth. I know
this is only a prison for criminals who are charged with grave
offences, while they are awaiting their trial, or under remand,
but the law here, affords criminals many means of delay.
What with motions for new trials, and in arrest of judgment,
and what not, a prisoner might be here for twelve months,
I take it, might he not ? "

" Well, I guess he might."

" Do you mean to say that in all that time he would never
come out at that little iron door, for exercise ? "

" He might walk some, perhaps not much."

" W r ill you open one of the doors ? "

" All, if you like."

The fastenings jar and rattle, and one of the doors turns
slowly on its hinges. Let us look in. A small bare cell,
into which the light enters through a high chink in the wall.
There is a rude means of washing, a table, and a bedstead.
Upon the latter, sits a man of sixty ; reading. He looks up
for a moment ; gives an impatient dogged shake ; and fixes
his eyes upon his book again. As we withdraw our heads,
the door closes on him, and is fastened as before. This man
has murdered his wife, and will probably be hanged.

" How long has he been here ? "

"A month."

"When will he be tried?"

" Next term."

"When is that?"

" Next month."

" In England, if a man be under sentence of death, even
he has air and exercise at certain periods of the day."


With what stupendous and untranslatable coolness he says


this, and how loungingly he leads on to the women's side :
making, as he goes, a kind of iron castanet of the key and
the stair-rail !

Each cell door on this side has a square aperture in it.
Some of the women peep anxiously through it at the sound
of footsteps ; others shrink away in shame. For what offence
can that lonely child, of ten or twelve years old, be shut up
here ? Oh ! that boy ? He is the son of the prisoner we saw
just now ; is a witness against his father ; and is detained
here for safe keeping, until the trial ; that's all.

But it is a dreadful place for the child to pass the long
days and nights in. This is rather hard treatment for a
young witness, is it not ? What says our conductor ?

" Well, it an't a very rowdy life, and thaf s a fact ! "

Again he clinks his metal castanet, and leads us leisurely
away. I have a question to ask him as we go.

" Pray, why do they call this place The Tombs ? "

" Well, it's the cant name. 11

" I know it is. Why ? "

"Some suicides happened here, when it was first built. I
expect it come about from that. 11

"I saw just now, that that man's clothes were scattered
about the floor of his cell. Don't you oblige the prisoners
to be orderly, and put such things away ? "

" Where should they put ''em ? "

" Not on the ground surely. What do you say to hanging
them up ? "

He stops and looks round to emphasise his answer :

" Why, I say that's just it. When they had hooks they
would hang themselves, so they're taken out of every cell, and
there's only the marks left where they used to be ! "

The prison-yard in which he pauses now, has been the
scene of terrible performances. Into this narrow, grave-like
place, men are brought out to die. The wretched creature
stands beneath the gibbet on the ground ; the rope about
his neck ; and when the sign is given, a weight at its other

PIGS. 101

end comes running down, and swings him up into the air
a corpse.

The law requires that there be present at this dismal
spectacle, the judge, the jury, and citizens to the amount of
twenty-five. From the community it is hidden. To the
dissolute and bad, the thing remains a frightful mystery.
Between the criminal and them, the prison-wall is interposed
as a thick gloomy veil. It is the curtain to his bed of death,
his winding-sheet, and grave. From him it shuts out life,
and all the motives to unrepenting hardihood in that last
hour, which its mere sight and presence is often all-sufficient
to sustain. There are no bold eyes to make him bold; no
ruffians to uphold a ruffian's name before. All beyond 'the
pitiless stone wall, is unknown space.

Let us go forth again into the cheerful streets.

Once more in Broadway ! Here are the same ladies in
bright colours, walking to and fro, in pairs and singly ; yonder
the very same light blue parasol which passed and repassed
the hotel-window twenty times while we were sitting there.
We are going to cross here. Take care of the pigs. Two
portly sows are trotting up behind this carriage, and a select
party of half-a-dozen gentlemen hogs have just now turned
the corner.

Here is a solitary swine lounging homeward by himself.
He has only one ear; having parted with the other to
vagrant-dogs in the course of his city rambles. But he gets
on very well without it; and leads a roving, gentlemanly,
vagabond kind of life, somewhat answering to that of our
club-men at home. He leaves his lodgings every morning at
a certain hour, throws himself upon the town, gets through
his day in some manner quite satisfactory to himself, and
regularly appears at the door of his own house again at
night, like the mysterious master of Gil Bias. He is a free-
and-easy, careless, indifferent kind of pig, having a very large
acquaintance among other pigs of the same character, whom
he rather knows by sight than conversation, as he seldom


troubles himself to stop and exchange civilities, but goes
grunting down the kennel, turning up the news and small-
talk of the city in the shape of cabbage-stalks and offal, and
bearing no tails but his own : which is a very short one, for
his old enemies, the dogs, have been at that too, and have
left him hardly enough to swear by. He is in every respect
a republican pig, going wherever he pleases, and mingling
with the best society, on an equal, if not superior footing,
for every one makes way when he appears, and the haughtiest
give him the wall, if he prefer it. He is a great philosopher,
and seldom moved, unless by the dogs before mentioned.

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 9 of 43)