Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dickens at the Bull Hotel

In 1880, 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 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. The publication was enough to attract the attention of tourists on Dickens´inns. Since then, these buildings where Dickens was hosted, developed sentimental feelings and historical interest for his readers. Not all of them exist now, but the memories are kept alive.
Though we can imagine them in a romantic perspective, there is a letter from Dickens to John Forster, January 29, 1854 (reproduced in the section ¨Dickens´Comments¨ in his book Hard Times, from Norton and Company inc., New York edition 1966) that illustrates the author´s complaints about staying at the Bull Hotel in Rochester; he sees the brick building as the representation of his disgust for the  historical context .
¨I am afraid I shall not be able to get much here. Except the crowds at the street –corners reading the placards pro and con; and the cold absence of smoke from the mill-chimneys; there is very little in the streets to make the town remarkable. I am told that the people ¨sit at home and mope¨. The delegates with the money from the neighbouring places come in to-day to report the amounts they bring; and to-morrow the people are paid. When I have seen both these ceremonies I shall return. It is a nasty place (I thought it was a model town); and I am in the Bull Hotel, before which some time ago the people assembled supposing the masters to be here, and on demanding to have them out were remonstrated with by the landlady in person. I saw the account in an Italian paper, in which it was stated that ¨the populace then environed the Palazzo Bull, until the padrona of the Palazzo heroically appeared at one of the upper windows and addressed them!¨ One can hardly conceive anything less likely to be represented to an Italian mind by this description, than the old, grubby, smoky, mean, intensely formal red brick house with a narrow gateway and a dingy yard to which it applies¨.

Charles Dickens. Hard Times. Norton and Company inc., New York edition 1966

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