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One Man in a Dockyard

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Authors Charles Dickens
Richard H. Horne
Genres Cross-genre i
Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Report i
Prose: Short Fiction i
Subjects Great Britain—Description and Travel
Ships; Boats; Shipwrecks; Salvage; Merchant Marine; Sailors; Sailing; Submarines (Ships)
Work; Work and Family; Occupations; Professions; Wages
Other Details
Printed : 6/9/1851
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume III
Magazine : No. 76
Office Book Notes
Views : 903

Dickens probably wrote the following portions of 'One Man in a Dockyard': from the opening to 'any individual' (p. 554); the concluding paragraph.
Dickens may also have contributed to the following passages: from 'I was now' (p. 554) to 'an ordinary occurrence' (p. 555); from 'But the power' to 'reason and utility' (p. 556).
In addition, Dickens seems to have gone over Horne's contribution with considerable care.
Concerning this essay, Dickens wrote to Wills, on 30 July 1851:

The notion I think of trying with Horne is a kind of adaptation of an old idea l once had (when I was making my name) of a fanciful and picturesque Beauties of England and Wales. For I never look at the grimgriffinhoof 'Beauties' without thinking what might be done. I have not told Horne what my general idea is - I have a notion that it might be made a tremendous card for us - but I have proposed to him to come down with me to Chatham after the next play (on my way back) and take certain bits of the Dockyard and fortifications. Don't you think a Series of Places, well chosen, and described well, with their peculiarities and popularities thoroughly seized, would be a very promising Series? And one that people would be particularly likely to identify with me? ...
If I found the Chatham paper come out well, I would cast about for a way of making a splash with it, as a new branch of the H. W. [Household Words] Tree.

The series, as outlined, was never developed, but many years later, in 'Chatham Dockyard' ('The Uncommercial Traveller' [xxv]All the Year Round, 29 August 1863), Dickens again took in 'bits of the Dockyard and fortifications,' now as the Uncommercial Traveller. 'Chatham Dockyard' (reprinted in The Uncommercial Traveller, Second Series [1868]), echoes and amplifies the tone, the detail, and even the strategy of Dickens' contribution to 'One Man in a Dockyard.'
The division of labor in 'One Man in a Dockyard' was quickly settled. In 'Portraits and Memoirs' (Macmillan's Magazine, XXII [1870], 371) Horne described how he and Dickens went down to Chatham early one morning in order to have an entire day to gather material for the dockyard article. On arriving in Chatham, they ordered their evening meal, and then discussed their plans:

'Now,' said Mr. Dickens, 'this article will naturally divide itself into two parts, which we can afterwards dovetail together, viz. the works of the dockyard, and the fortifications and country scenery round about. Which will you take?' I at once replied, that the works of the dockyard seemed to me the most promising. He smiled, and said, 'Then we'll meet here again [at the place in Chatham where they had ordered dinner] at a quarter to five. I'm glad you make that choice, for this is a sort of native place of mine. I was a school-boy here, and have juvenile memories and associations all round the country outskirts.' The kindness and good nature, even more than the readiness for any kind of work, need no comment, How few literary men - how very few - would have suppressed a strong personal feeling on such an occasion, before the choice was made.

Dickens lived in the Chatham-Rochester region for five and a half crucial childhood years (1817-1823). During this period his father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office attached to the Chatham Dockyard. Much later, after purchasing Gad's Hill Place in 1856, Dickens again made the Chatham-Rochester region his home.

Harry Stone; © Bloomington and Indiana University Press, 1968. DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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