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Charles Dickens - The Uncommercial Traveller (1860-69)

‘The Uncommercial Traveller’ started life as a series of articles  Dickens wrote between 1860 and 1869 for the journal ‘All the  Year Round'. The first edition in volume form was published in  December 1860, comprising 17 pieces. A subsequent edition.  In 1865, added eleven more essays, and the posthumous  edition of 1875 was enlarged by eight more.   In the extract below from Chapter XVIII ‘The Calais Night Mail’,  Dickens is drawing on his own experiences of cross-Channel  travel from Dover:   “Not but what I have my animosities towards Dover. I  particularly detest Dover for the self-complacency with which  it goes to bed. It always goes to bed (when I am going to  Calais) with a more brilliant display of lamp and candle than  any other town. Mr. and Mrs. Birmingham, host and hostess of the Lord Warden Hotel, are my much esteemed friends, but  they are too conceited about the comforts of that  establishment when the Night Mail is starting. I know it is a  good house to stay at, and I don't want the fact insisted upon  in all its warm bright windows at such an hour. I know the  Warden is a stationary edifice that never rolls or pitches, and I object to its big outline seeming to insist upon that  circumstance, and, as it were, to come over me with it, when I am reeling on the deck of the boat. Beshrew the Warden  likewise, for obstructing that corner, and making the wind so  angry as it rushes round. Shall I not know that it blows quite  soon enough, without the officious Warden's interference?
The Lord Warden Hotel, about the time of its opening in 1853. The Admiralty Pier in a storm, 1860. An engraving showing how exposed passengers were before the building of the Marine Station.
As I wait here on board the night packet, for the South-Eastern Train to come down with the Mail, Dover appears to me to be  illuminated for some intensely aggravating festivity in my personal dishonour. All its noises smack of taunting praises of the land, and  dispraises of the gloomy sea, and of me for going on it. The drums upon the heights have gone to bed, or I know they would rattle  taunts against me for having my unsteady footing on this slippery deck. The many gas eyes of the Marine Parade twinkle in an  offensive manner, as if with derision. The distant dogs of Dover bark at me in my misshapen wrappers, as if I were Richard the Third. A screech, a bell, and two red eyes come gliding down the Admiralty Pier with a smoothness of motion rendered more smooth by the  heaving of the boat. The sea makes noises against the pier, as if several hippopotami were lapping at it, and were prevented by  circumstances over which they had no control from drinking peaceably. We, the boat, become violently agitated - rumble, hum,  scream, roar, and establish an immense family washing-day at each paddle-box. Bright patches break out in the train as the doors of  the post-office vans are opened, and instantly stooping figures with sacks upon their backs begin to be beheld among the piles,  descending as it would seem in ghostly procession to Davy Jones's Locker. The passengers come on board; a few shadowy Frenchmen, with hatboxes shaped like the stoppers of gigantic case-bottles; a few shadowy Germans in immense fur coats and boots; a few  shadowy Englishmen prepared for the worst and pretending not to expect it. I cannot disguise from my uncommercial mind the  miserable fact that we are a body of outcasts; that the attendants on us are as scant in number as may serve to get rid of us with the least possible delay; that there are no night-loungers interested in us; that the unwilling lamps shiver and shudder at us; that the sole  object is to commit us to the deep and abandon us. Lo, the two red eyes glaring in increasing distance, and then the very train itself  has gone to bed before we are off!”
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