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Railway Dreaming

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Travel-writing i
Subjects Dreams; Visions; Sleep
France—Description and Travel
France—Politics and Government
France—Social Life and Customs
Other Details
Printed : 10/5/1856
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume XIII
Magazine : No. 320
Office Book Notes
Views : 1169

Dickens had not intended writing anything else for HW quite so soon after the previous article but he was, he wrote to Wills from Paris on 24 April, 'so very much disheartened' by the 26 April number of the journal ('a mere hash-up of most indifferent magazine papers at chance-medley [i.e. collected together in a random fashion]') that he determined to 'go to work again' and write another article for the issue to follow the one in which 'proposals' appeared (see Pilgrim, Vol. VIII, p. 98).

He had already written to Forster about the speculation mania gripping Paris and his description needed only minimal recycling to work it into his article.

If you were to see the steps of the Bourse at about 4 in the afternoon, and the crowd of blouses and patches [i.e. working-class folk] among the speculators there assembled, all howling and haggard with speculation, you would stand aghast at the consideration of what must be going on. Concierges and people like that perpetually blow their brains out, or fly into the Seine, 'a cause des pertes sur la Bourse'. I hardly ever take up a French paper without lighting on such a paragraph. On the other hand, thoroughbred horses without end, and red velvet carriages with white kid harness on jet black horses, go by here all day long; and the pedestrians who turn to look at them, laugh, and say, 'C'est la Bourse!' ... [Forster, Book 7, Ch. 5].

In the paragraph following the one about the Bourse Dickens comments on apparent public indifference towards the Emperor, Napoleon III.  He was to mock the English dread of centralisation in the figure of Podsnap in Our Mutual Friend. 'Circumlocation' he had already identified as the bane of good government in England in the 'Circumlocution Office' satire in Little Dorrit.

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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