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An Unsettled Neighbourhood

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Subjects Railroads
Urbanization; Urban Life and Landscapes
Other Details
Printed : 11/11/1854
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume X
Magazine : No. 242
Office Book Notes
Views : 1072

This article to some extent recapitulates Dickens's description in Ch. 6 of Dombey and Son (published in 1846) of the devestating effect on the north-west London suburb of Camden Town of the building of the London to Birmingham railway.

Dickens was ten years old when his parents' standard of living dropped sharply as John Dickens's recall to London necessitated their removal from Chatham to a small house in Bayham Street, Camden Town; he is no doubt drawing on memories of that time in this piece.

The reference to the donkey 'going up' concerns a stunt performed by strong-men street entertainers who would hold up a donkey attached to a pole; for an illustration depicting this feat, see P. Schlicke, Dickens and Popular Entertainment (1985), p. 11. The reference to going to a public house to check the time refers to the time when few people had clocks in their own homes because they were liable to tax and public houses provided a clock (which was also, of course, an excuse to make frequent visits).

Literary allusions

  • 'Begone dull Care!': eighteenth-century song, apparently modelled on one popular in the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries, 'Care, away go thou from me'; made popular in the early nineteenth century by its revival in a Sadlers Wells pantomime, William Tell (1793).

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851-1859, 1998.

DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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