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A Plated Article
PUTTING up for the night in one of the chiefest towns of Staffordshire, I find it to be by
no means a lively town. In fact, it is as dull and dead a town as any one could desire not
to see. It seems as if its whole population might be imprisoned in its Railway Station.
The Refreshment Room at that Station is a vortex of dissipation compared with the
extinct town-inn, the Dodo, in the dull High Street.
Why High Street? Why not rather Low Street, Flat Street, Low- Spirited Street, Used-up
Street? Where are the people who belong to the High Street? Can they all be dispersed
over the face of the country, seeking the unfortunate Strolling Manager who decamped
from the mouldy little Theatre last week, in the beginning of his season (as his play-bills
testify), repentantly resolved to bring him back, and feed him, and be entertained? Or,
can they all be gathered to their fathers in the two old churchyards near to the High
Street - retirement into which churchyards appears to be a mere ceremony, there is so
very little life outside their confines, and such small discernible difference between being
buried alive in the town, and buried dead in the town tombs? Over the way, opposite to
the staring blank bow windows of the Dodo, are a little ironmonger's shop, a little tailor's
shop (with a picture of the Fashions in the small window and a bandy-legged baby on
the pavement staring at it) - a watchmakers shop, where all the clocks and watches
must be stopped, I am sure, for they could never have the courage to go, with the town
in general, and the Dodo in particular, looking at them. Shade of Miss Linwood, erst of
Leicester Square, London, thou art welcome here, and thy retreat is fitly chosen! I
myself was one of the last visitors to that awful storehouse of thy life's work, where an
anchorite old man and woman took my shilling with a solemn wonder, and conducting
me to a gloomy sepulchre of needlework dropping to pieces with dust and age and
shrouded in twilight at high noon, left me there, chilled, frightened, and alone. And now,
in ghostly letters on all the dead walls of this dead town, I read thy honoured name, and
find that thy Last Supper, worked in Berlin Wool, invites inspection as a powerful
Where are the people who are bidden with so much cry to this feast of little wool?
Where are they? Who are they? They are not the bandy-legged baby studying the
fashions in the tailor's window. They are not the two earthy ploughmen lounging outside
the saddler's shop, in the stiff square where the Town Hall stands, like a brick and
mortar private on parade. They are not the landlady of the Dodo in the empty bar,
whose eye had trouble in it and no welcome, when I asked for dinner. They are not the
turnkeys of the Town Jail, looking out of the gateway in their uniforms, as if they had
locked up all the balance (as my American friends would say) of the inhabitants, and