Charles Dickens

As it was a raw evening and I was cold, I thought I would comfort

myself with dinner at once; and as I had hours of dejection and

solitude before me if I went home to the Temple, I thought I would

afterwards go to the play. The theatre where Mr. Wopsle had achieved

his questionable triumph, was in that waterside neighbourhood (it

is nowhere now), and to that theatre I resolved to go. I was aware

that Mr. Wopsle had not succeeded in reviving the Drama, but, on the

contrary, had rather partaken of its decline. He had been ominously

heard of, through the playbills, as a faithful Black, in connexion

with a little girl of noble birth, and a monkey. And Herbert had

seen him as a predatory Tartar of comic propensities, with a face

like a red brick, and an outrageous hat all over bells.

I dined at what Herbert and I used to call a Geographical

chop-house - where there were maps of the world in porter-pot rims

on every half-yard of the table-cloths, and charts of gravy on

every one of the knives - to this day there is scarcely a single

chop-house within the Lord Mayor's dominions which is not

Geographical - and wore out the time in dozing over crumbs, staring

at gas, and baking in a hot blast of dinners. By-and-by, I roused

myself and went to the play.

There, I found a virtuous boatswain in his Majesty's service - a

most excellent man, though I could have wished his trousers not

quite so tight in some places and not quite so loose in others -

who knocked all the little men's hats over their eyes, though he

was very generous and brave, and who wouldn't hear of anybody's

paying taxes, though he was very patriotic. He had a bag of money

in his pocket, like a pudding in the cloth, and on that property

married a young person in bed-furniture, with great rejoicings; the

whole population of Portsmouth (nine in number at the last Census)

turning out on the beach, to rub their own hands and shake

everybody else's, and sing "Fill, fill!" A certain

dark-complexioned Swab, however, who wouldn't fill, or do anything

else that was proposed to him, and whose heart was openly stated

(by the boatswain) to be as black as his figure-head, proposed to

two other Swabs to get all mankind into difficulties; which was so

effectually done (the Swab family having considerable political

influence) that it took half the evening to set things right, and

then it was only brought about through an honest little grocer with

a white hat, black gaiters, and red nose, getting into a clock,

with a gridiron, and listening, and coming out, and knocking

everybody down from behind with the gridiron whom he couldn't

confute with what he had overheard. This led to Mr. Wopsle's (who

had never been heard of before) coming in with a star and garter

on, as a plenipotentiary of great power direct from the Admiralty,

to say that the Swabs were all to go to prison on the spot, and

that he had brought the boatswain down the Union Jack, as a slight

acknowledgment of his public services. The boatswain, unmanned for

the first time, respectfully dried his eyes on the Jack, and then

cheering up and addressing Mr. Wopsle as Your Honour, solicited

permission to take him by the fin. Mr. Wopsle conceding his fin with

a gracious dignity, was immediately shoved into a dusty corner

while everybody danced a hornpipe; and from that corner, surveying

the public with a discontented eye, became aware of me.

The second piece was the last new grand comic Christmas pantomime,

in the first scene of which, it pained me to suspect that I

detected Mr. Wopsle with red worsted legs under a highly magnified

phosphoric countenance and a shock of red curtain-fringe for his

hair, engaged in the manufacture of thunderbolts in a mine, and

displaying great cowardice when his gigantic master came home (very

hoarse) to dinner. But he presently presented himself under

worthier circumstances; for, the Genius of Youthful Love being in

want of assistance - on account of the parental brutality of an

ignorant farmer who opposed the choice of his daughter's heart, by

purposely falling upon the object, in a flour sack, out of the

firstfloor window - summoned a sententious Enchanter; and he,

coming up from the antipodes rather unsteadily, after an apparently

violent journey, proved to be Mr.