Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/157

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


archway, on one side of which I should find a sign (she would go and point it out if she hadn't so much to do that morning) saying that it was "Angel Place, leading to Bermondsey," which, if I cared to explore, would lead me through a damp, narrow alley, where printing-presses pounded away one called the Marshalsea Press, could easily be read on a big lantern (the same as shown in my sketch); but that there was nothing else anywhere except buildings, all erected since Mr. Dickens's time, and even before Little Dorrit's creation, as could be proved by Mr. Dickens's own testimony in his preface to the novel itself.

"Some of my readers," he says (1857), "may have an interest in being informed whether or no any portions of the Marshalsea Prison are yet standing. I did not know, myself, until the sixth of the present month, when I went to look. I found the outer front court-yard, often mentioned in this story, metamorphosed into a butter-shop; and then I almost gave up every brick of the jail for lost.… But whosoever goes into Marshalsea Place, turning out of Angel Court leading to Bermondsey, will find his feet on the very paving-stones of the extinct Marshalsea jail; will see its narrow yard to the right and to the left, very little altered, if at all, except that the walls were lowered when the place got free; will look upon the rooms in which the debtors lived; and will stand among the crowding ghosts of many miserable years."

In the novel itself, when describing the prison as he knew it, in the days when his own father was confined within its walls, he says:

"Thirty years ago there stood, a few doors short of the