Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 14
Having the Misfortune to treat of none but Common People, is necessarily of a
Mean and Vulgar Character
In that quarter of London in which Golden Square is situated, there is a bygone,
faded, tumble-down street, with two irregular rows of tall meagre houses, which
seem to have stared each other out of countenance years ago. The very
chimneys appear to have grown dismal and melancholy, from having had nothing
better to look at than the chimneys over the way. Their tops are battered, and
broken, and blackened with smoke; and, here and there, some taller stack than
the rest, inclining heavily to one side, and toppling over the roof, seems to
mediate taking revenge for half a century's neglect, by crushing the inhabitants of
the garrets beneath.
The fowls who peck about the kennels, jerking their bodies hither and thither with
a gait which none but town fowls are ever seen to adopt, and which any country
cock or hen would be puzzled to understand, are perfectly in keeping with the
crazy habitations of their owners. Dingy, ill-plumed, drowsy flutterers, sent, like
many of the neighbouring children, to get a livelihood in the streets, they hop,
from stone to stone, in forlorn search of some hidden eatable in the mud, and
can scarcely raise a crow among them. The only one with anything approaching
to a voice, is an aged bantam at the baker's; and even he is hoarse, in
consequence of bad living in his last place.
To judge from the size of the houses, they have been, at one time, tenanted by
persons of better condition than their present occupants; but they are now let off,
by the week, in floors or rooms, and every door has almost as many plates or
bell-handles as there are apartments within. The windows are, for the same
reason, sufficiently diversified in appearance, being ornamented with every
variety of common blind and curtain that can easily be imagined; while every
doorway is blocked up, and rendered nearly impassable, by a motley collection of
children and porter pots of all sizes, from the baby in arms and the half-pint pot,
to the full-grown girl and half-gallon can.
In the parlour of one of these houses, which was perhaps a thought dirtier than
any of its neighbours; which exhibited more bell- handles, children, and porter
pots, and caught in all its freshness the first gust of the thick black smoke that
poured forth, night and day, from a large brewery hard by; hung a bill,
announcing that there was yet one room to let within its walls, though on what
story the vacant room could be--regard being had to the outward tokens of many
lodgers which the whole front displayed, from the mangle in the kitchen window
to the flower-pots on the parapet--it would have been beyond the power of a
calculating boy to discover.
The common stairs of this mansion were bare and carpetless; but a curious
visitor who had to climb his way to the top, might have observed that there were
not wanting indications of the progressive poverty of the inmates, although their
rooms were shut. Thus, the first-floor lodgers, being flush of furniture, kept an old
mahogany table--real mahogany--on the landing-place outside, which was only