Dickens, the Pirate


Charles Dickens, Like the Average Youngster, Had His Dreams of Becoming a Pirate.

Image from Shorpy.

The English boys of years ago — there never was any doubt as to American boys of that or any other period before or after — had romantic ideas as to becoming ruthless robbers by land or pirates on the high seas is shown by a recently discovered speech made by Charles Dickens and reported in the London Times of April 13, 1864, from which the following quotation from the London Dickensonian is taken: “Mr. Dickens said his first recollections of the northwest of London (this was in 1824, when he was twelve years old), were connected with a certain waste plot of ground used almost exclusively for beating carpets. The only ornaments of the locality, were a piece of stagnant water, a few straggling docks and some stunted greens.

With it, however, was associated the romantic story of the ‘Field of the Forty Footsteps,’ according to which a duel had been fought there between two brothers, the forty dreadful paces over which the victor pursued his victim being marked by the withering up of the grass in forty distinct places. Dickens had often gone there, he said, accompanied by an adventurous young Englishman, aged eleven, with whom he had intended going to the Spanish Main as soon as ever they could amass sufficient wealth to buy a cutlass and a rifle.”

The University of London afterward was erected on this site. Dickens as a boy in April, 1827, saw the cornerstone laid and “the ceremony of laying the first stone of a new and splendid public building” of which Mr. Pecksniff was the architect, as narrated in “Martin Chuzzlewit,” was a reminiscence of this event.

Suburbanite Economist (Chicago, Illinois) Jan 23, 1914

Title: Coming out; and The field of the Forty Footsteps.
Authors: Jane Porter, Anna Maria Porter
Published: 1828
Original from: Oxford University

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