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A Flight

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Travel-writing i
Subjects France—Description and Travel
Great Britain—Description and Travel
Travel; Tourism; Hotels; Resorts; Seaside Resorts—Fiction; Passports;
Other Details
Printed : 30/8/1851
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume III
Magazine : No. 75
Office Book Notes
Views : 1183

Dickens first travelled to Paris by the South Eastern Railway's new 'Double Special Express Service' in 1850, travelling overnight from London Bridge Station on 22/23 June and arriving in Paris at 8.45 a.m. He wrote to Forster: 'The twelve hours' journey here is astounding – marvellously done, except in the means of refreshment, which are absolutely none' (Pilgrim, Vol. VI, p. 118). He went again (also overnight) on 10/11 February 1851 on HW business. He draws on memories of these journeys to convey what he later called, still in relation to this particular train service, 'that queer sensation born of quick travelling' (Pilgrim, Vol. VII, p. 464), but also, it seems, on those 'Paris-trip notes' of Will's (Wills had made a lightning visit to Paris on 28/30 July) that he said he was waiting for on 10 August.

Evidently, the refreshment situation had improved by the time Wills took the trip. The South Eastern Railway Company's advertisement in Bradshaw (August 1851, p. 142) reads:

London to Paris in 11 hours by Special express Train and Steam Ship in correspondence via Folkestone and Boulogne and Dover Calais alternately, changing the time of departure to suit the tide and prevent all delay. There are also special trains and steamers between London and Paris by the same route every evening.

On 28 July the train left London Bridge station at 7.20 a.m. and passengers travelling via Boulogne were scheduled to reach Paris at 6.25 p.m.
      At the beginning of his essay Dickens glances back to an earlier, bureaucrat-baiting piece, 'A Poor Man's Tale of a Patent' (HW, Vol. II, 19 October, 1850; see Vol. 2 of [the Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens' Journalism], pp. 284–90), and in his description of the 'waterfall of luggage' at Folkestone he anticipates the more elaborate description to appear in his later essay on that town ['Out of Town', HW, Vol. XII, 29 September 1855] (see [Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens' Journalism, Vol. III]pp. 32430). 

Literary allusions
  • 'curse him...in the Persian manner': James Morier, The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Isphahan in England (1824);
  • 'every man's hand is against him': Genesis 16:12. 

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851–59 (1998). DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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