The nighttime journey on foot to Gad's Hill Place, driven by an acute sense of anguish and guilt, took Dickens little more than seven hours. He was a fast walker, who took pride in the fact that he could sustain a pace of at least four miles an hour across long distances. His friends, indeed, frequently complained of the speed and impatience with which he walked. "Sometimes his perspiring companions gave way to blisters and breathlessness," writes [Edgar Johnson,] one of his biographers. He himself was boastful of his feats as a pedestrian. "So much of my travelling is done on foot," he professed in 1860, "that if I cherished betting propensities, I should probably found be found registered in sporting newspapers under some such title as the Elastic Novice, challenging all eleven stone mankind to competition in walking."Dickens was a night walker--"The streets of London, to be beheld in the very height of their glory, should be seen on a dark, dull, murky winter's night," he once wrote--but I am a morning walker. And 'tis the season for morning walking: the sun is now, finally, my companion once again, and it makes all the difference.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
If I get myself organized--an "if" that this spring seems cacklingly determined to foil--this will be but the seed of a proper post down the line, but for now, here's a brief quote that represents a conjunction of interests. As my mile-long walk to the train shifts from winter drudgery to birdsong-charmed pleasure, it's the perfect time to read Matthew Beaumont's Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London--and, specifically, his account of Dickens's legendary night roaming: