[E10] "'Boz' in Philadelphia—The Fuss, the Excitement," March 9, 1842

"Boz" in Philadelphia—The Fuss, The Excitement, A Correct Picture of the Farcical Scene

The wonderful man, Dickens, arrived in our city, (as every body knows by this time,) on Saturday night last. He came in company with Maffit, the great pulpit orator, and as nice a man as ever wiped nose with a cambric pocket handkerchief, and "used the number four collection."

Mr. Dickens had been provided for at the United States Hotel. Of course he slept, or tried to sleep, there until next morning. Imagine breakfast over—weather dull—clouds heavy—rain incessant—and a walk to the Water-Works therefore, anything but agreeable.

The day wore on, when an unusual knock at the door of Mr. Dickens' chamber disturbed him. The next moment the door opened, and the aperture was filled by two individuals of rather singular appearance. One was a medium-sized, rather stout person, dressed in a black suit, with hair starting out in every direction as if frightened at something; eyes moist, dim, and glassy like par-boiled pigeon's eggs; and cheeks that looked as if puffed out by some much more stimulating agents than simple bread and butter. His companion was taller, slimmer, and rejoiced in a suit that had doubtless once been denominated black. He had thin lips, large nose, small eyes, and a countenance of no particular expression. Both gentlemen had evidently been unwell for some time, and had not yet recovered their natural strength; for notwithstanding their laudable efforts to assist each other, it was with the greatest difficulty they maintained an erect position.

Mr. Dickens bowed. His visitors bowed in reply. Mr. D. bowed again. They bowed, and stuttered something inarticulate.

"Whom have I the pleasure of seeing?" said Boz.

"I have sir the honor"—hiccup—"that is to say I am—ain't I Billy?" stammered the shorter one of the two visitors, turning round to his companion.

"To be sure you is," replied he, catching hold of the door for support as a fit of weakness came over him.

"Yes I am—I am the Reporter—the first and oldest reporter con (hic) con (cup)-nected with the press of Philadelphia—ain't I Billy?

"In course you is," responded the individual thus addressed.

A distressing affection of the muscles of the throat, vulgarly called hiccups, here put an end to the colloquy. Mr. D. politely bowed them out, and promising to call next day, the "two visitors with the bad breath," as the Secretary called them, retired.

Monday passed, and on Tuesday, all the town in pursuance of a call in the newspapers, prepared to "go to the Dickens." About half past ten A.M. we approached the United States Hotel. The street was crowded. The pavement was crowded. The Hotel was crowded. In fact, "crowd" is no word to express the mass of coated and breeched humanity that strove to get a sight of "Boz."

We entered the hotel, making the best of our way through the crowd to the apartment on the second floor. We looked in and took a survey of the scene. At the door stood a host of persons mostly clerks, and Chestnut street dandies and "men about town," with here and there a respectable, substantial person, all eagerly waiting to be introduced to the "Lion" of the day.

At an acute angle from the main door of the apartment, at one end of the latter, and beside a small table stood a middle sized person, apparently about 30 years of age, dressed in a brown dress coat, red vest, spotted, black fashionable pants, and fancy scarf cravat tied in a large fold, and exhibiting a double pin and guard-chain.

Reader it was "Boz"-the 'DICKENS.'

His hair was not very thick, but long and dark, and had a "rowdyish" appearance. It looked as if it had not been combed for a day or two, or had been considerably disturbed since it had last undergone that operation. There was nothing unusual about his eyes. His nose was somewhat aquiline. His mouth of tolerable dimensions, exhibiting a row of rather yellow teeth, as though he had never made the acquaintance of the "Teaberry Tooth Wash," or "Hafeland's Dentifrice," the remarkable qualities of both of which singular preparations may be found daily described in the columns of our extensively circulated newspaper.

Altogether, Mr. Dickens looked to us like a number of those showy, long-haired young men we meet nightly at the several places of public amusement, and who take a peculiar delight generally in kicking up a noise to pass themselves off as men of spirit. Not that Mr. D. is such a character; we only speak of those whom in personal appearance he resembles. We should judge, therefore, that he draws his exquisite characters and incidents less from imagination than from memory—depending for its resources less upon reflection and study, than upon observation.—His writings bear slight evidence of reading, and he seldom, if ever, quotes from books. His wonderful perceptions, his acute sensibility, and his graphic fancy, have been the means by which his fame has been created.

On either side of Mr. Dickens, who bore up against the fatigue of lionizing like a martyr, stood two quaint individuals. The one on the left was tall, slim, and iron-featured; with coarse, dry, dusty hair, the rough entanglements of which put us in mind of the impenetrable hammocks of Florida. From each side of his mouth issued a thin picturesque stream of tobacco juice, while his bold, confident air, his awkward hauteur, and his cold, grey eye, told to what extent his bump of self-esteem was altitudinized by his present position. On the right of Mr. D. stood a smaller and stouter specimen of humanity, with eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth of no particular description, but impressing one with a sense of the ardent and spirited character of its proprietor.

Acting as gentleman-usher, exceedingly polite, and exceedingly affable, we beheld a dark, curly haired, nicely-whiskered, smiling-faced, and altogether good-looking and gentlemanly-looking person, who introduced individuals who desired it, to Mr. Dickens. He had as much as he could do, but he certainly went about it with considerable grace. He stirred up the "Lion" with a long pole, and illustrated his natural history in a very familiar way, and about as pleasantly as it could possibly have been accomplished—the "introduced" retiring at another door as soon as they had shaken hands with Mr. Dickens.

We were about to withdraw, unfortunately not having our "heart in our hand" at the time—that essential part of our physical system being out of repair, and left at home to get mended: when the animated dialogue that struck our ears at the door arrested our attention.

"Oh! cracker!" exclaimed one, "them's the reporters, aint they, a-standin' at the table beside o' Mr. Boz!"

"Yes; and this gentleman who introduces them is—"

"Col. Florence! How d'ye do. Will you introduce?"

"With pleasure. Walk up." "Mr. Dickens—Mr. Wigglewaggle—Mr. Wigglewaggle—Mr. Dickens."

"Who is that chap," whispered another, "who looks so big alongside of 'Boz,' and seems so kind—a too almighty large for his pants? Is that Samivel Veller?"

"No, sir, that is the Reporter vat is, and that other is the reporter vat vas, of the Philadelphia press. He's my friend, sir—my friend—understand me—and so's t'other."

"I'm surprised," remarked a third "to see such a singular congregation here. Where are the literary gentlemen of our city?"

"There are the Reporters—or rather two or three who fancy themselves attached to the press in that capacity. The editors of our city newspapers I do not perceive about here, and the other literary men I suppose will call by-and-bye."

"Where is the 'small potatoe' clique which first invited him?"

"Oh! his refusal offended them. They intend to eat him however, I believe, before he goes."

"Humph!" and here we retired. As we went down a great many expressions of mortification fell on our ears; and the manner in which Mr. Dickens was being served up on a plate to the public by his waiters, was severely censured. For our part we were highly amused, and as we elbowed our way through the crowd which still pressed upward with unabated eagerness, we indulged in a hearty laugh at the absurd idolatry of our countrymen, and the pictures which Mr. Dickens was evidently storing away in his common-place book of American eccentricities, weaknesses, follies, and ridiculous extremes.