Staple Inn

Staple Inn by F. Hopkinson Smith. C. 1916. Photographic reproduction of charcoal on paper from In Thackeray's London, p. 59. Scanned image, formatting and text by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you credit and link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

The Inn itself I had sketched the year before — that is the garden part of it, especially the row of time-blackened buildings holding the rooms where Mr. Grewgious in "Edwin Drood" had his office. I . . . Opposite Staple Inn stands, or did stand but a few years ago, the famous old Furnivals Inn, where Dickens had his quarters, and where he wrote the opening chapters of "Pickwick." Hither Thackeray betook himself one fine morning with a portfolio of sketches under his arm. He had read the first numbers of that immortal book, and as he was convinced he would never amount to anything as an author himself he had come to beg of Dickens the chance to earn an honest penny as an illustrator. Mr. Dickens was just entering into that great fame as a writer of fiction which has never dimmed from that time. The young artist had scarcely attempted literature, and had still to tread the paths of obscurity. . . . Some years later, when both men were famous, Thackeray told the story at a dinner, of the Royal Academy at which Mr. Dickens was present.

"I can remember when Mr. Dickens was a very young man, and had commenced delighting the world with some charming humorous works in covers, which were coloured light green and came out once a month, that this young man wanted an artist to illustrate his writings; and I recol- lect walking up to his chambers in Furnival's Inn, with two or three drawings in my hand, which, strange to say, he did not find suitable. But for the unfortunate blight which came over my artistical existence, it would have been my pride and my pleasure to have endeavoured one day to find a place on these walls for one of my performances."

It was not until a year had passed that Thackeray began seriously to devote himself to literary labour; and his articles, published over a nom de plume, contain the best evidences that he felt no shadow of ill-will for a rejection which he always referred to as Mr. Pickwick's lucky escape. [56-58]

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Smith, F. Hopkinson. & In Thackeray's London. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1916.

Last modified 9 July 2012