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Please to Leave Your Umbrella

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Subjects Ethics; Morals; Moral Development; Moral Education; Philosophy; Values
Great Britain—Description and Travel
Great Britain—Politics and Government
Great Britain—Social Life and Customs
Museums; Palaces; Exhibitions; Libraries
Weather; Meteorology; Climate; Seasons
Other Details
Printed : 1/5/1858
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume XVII
Magazine : No. 423
Office Book Notes
Views : 1537

In Pictures from Italy (1846) Dickens had insisted on the importance of not allowing one's individual judgment of works of art to be stifled by the pronouncements of critical authorities no matter how revered.

'I cannot', he wrote, 'leave my natural perceptions of what is natural and true at a palace-door in Italy ... as I should leave my shoes if I were travelling in the East'. Hampton Court, opened to the public in 1838, 'had become a repository for pictures not hung on the walls of other Royal palaces' (Leonee Ormond, 'Dickens and Painting: the Old Masters', The Dickensian, Vol. 79 (1983), pp. 131-151). Writing to Forster about some 'absurd and ridiculous' pictures he had seen in Italian galleries, Dickens said, 'Hampton Court is a fool to 'em—and oh there are some rum 'uns there, my friend. Some werry rum 'uns' (Pilgrim, Vol. IV, p. 221). In this essay Dickens develops his conceit to enable him to tilt at some favourite satirical targets: law courts, Parliament and Puseyism in the Anglican Church—the last-named being closely associated wtih Gothic Revival architecture, hence the 'sham medieval porch' reference.

The 'little reason' passages in the following piece are doubtless, like the 'little lilac gloves' fantasy in 'A Lazy Tour', coded references to Ellen Ternan, who may well have accompanied Dickens on a jaunt to Hampton Court during the spring of 1858.

Literary allusions

  • 'the Sentimental Journeyer': Parson Yorick, the narrator of Sterne's Sentimental Journey (1768), who communes with himself a great deal;
  • 'the grisly phantom on the pale horse': in The Book of Revelation, Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, rides on a pale horse;
  • 'camels going ... through needles' eyes': Matthew 19:24;
  • 'the Musical Glasses': alludes to Goldsmith's mockery of genteel conversation in The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), Ch. 9;
  • 'the Barnacle family': the ubiquitous aristocratic family in Little Dorrit who monopolise all lucrative public appointments;
  • 'more bulgy than Mrs Gamp's': Mrs Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewit always carries a bulging umbrella or 'gamp';
  • 'a greater load ... than Christian': see Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678).

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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