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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Pickwick's Inn

Sunday, June 20th., Great White Horse Hotel, Ipswich.

With what reluctance one leaves the sea! Perhaps only a person born and raised in the middle of England can fully appreciate the pull which the sea can exert on an active imagination.

Ipswich is a closely-knit town, reminding one in its contours and large masses of the eighteenth-century parts of Bruges. Many of the streets were crudely decorated with the primary colours of flags, and the continual clashing of church bells indicated that this was the Day of Thanksgiving for the Queen's long reign.

Tonight we "lie" at the Great White Horse, Pickwick's inn, and by good fortune have been allotted the Pickwick bedroom, No. 36, an immense apartment, accommodating three, and labelled outside "Pickwick". On the walls an extremely bad oil painting of a Pickwick banquet. "A facsimile of this hotel was erected at the World's Fair, Chicago, as one of the celebrated old inns of this country." In many ways it has been modernised, but still keeps the air of the ancient hostelry.

‘… In the main street of Ipswich, on the left-hand side of the way, a short distance after you have passed through the open space fronting the Town Hall, stands an inn known far and wide by the appellation of the Great White Horse, rendered the more conspicuous by a stone statue of some rampacious animal with flowing mane and tail, distantly resembling an insane cart-horse, which is elevated above the principal door. The Great White Horse is famous in the neighbourhood, in the same degree as a prize ox, or a county-paper-chronicled turnip, or unwieldy pig-for its enormous size. Never was such labyrinths of uncarpeted passages, such clusters of mouldy, ill-lighted rooms, such huge numbers of small dens for eating or sleeping in, beneath any one roof, as are collected together between the four walls of the Great White Horse at Ipswich. 

It was at the door of this overgrown tavern that the London coach stopped, at the same hour every evening; and it was from this same London coach that Mr. Pickwick, Sam Weller, and Mr. Peter Magnus dismounted, on the particular evening to which this chapter of our history bears reference… ‘Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, Chapter 22.

1 comment:

  1. I actually feature the Great White Horse in my forthcoming novel Death and Mr Pickwick, which tells the story of the origins and subsequent history of The Pickwick Papers. I stayed in the inn as part of my research, and I heard recently that it has now closed. If that is so, it is rather sad, as so many people visited it because Mr Pickwick stayed there. I wonder whether I was the last person to go on a Pickwick-inspired trip to the inn? Further info about my novel, if you are interested, can be found at: www.deathandmrpickwick.com