Friday 8 April 2011

Dickens and the Crossing Sweeper

A brief anecdote on Dickens as a charitable Victorian gentleman:

MR. A. Tennyson Dickens contributes to Nash's for September a paper full of the most interesting memories of the great novelist, which are heightened by the fact that they come from his own son.


The writer recalls most of what happened during the stay of the family in Tavistock House, Tavistock Square:-

Shortly after my father had taken up his residence at Tavistock House there appeared upon the scene a crossing sweeper in the shape of a small boy. He was about fourteen years of age, and was, I firmly believe, the original of poor Joe in "Bleak House" which was written, as many of my readers may recollect, in 1852. The boy-sweep made these houses his headquarters, keeping the pavements and drive scrupulously clean. during the winter months, when the snow was upon the ground, he managed in some manner to collect little pieces of holly, mistletoe, etc., with which he decorated the barren flower-beds. After a time an intimacy sprang up between my father and the neglected lad, and Dickens finding the boy honest, industrious, and intelligent, saw to it that the little chap got his meals in the kitchen of Tavistock House, and sent him to school at night. The boy got on wonderfully well with his education, and when he came to be some seventeen years of age his benefactor procured for him a substantial outfit and sent him to the colony of New South Wales. It is satisfactory to know that the young man prospered well in his adopted country. After he had been in Australia some three years he wrote to his friend in England, thanking him for his kindness and telling him of his prosperity.

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