“Even Dickens […] cannot draw the dreams of the […] Glasgow boy beyond the purlieus of his own city”. (1)
This is a ghost story, a story of hard times. It’s a tale of two cities, one inhabited by the privileged, another by the poor. It’s an old story that touches on industrialization, urbanization, the French Revolution, prisons, slavery, literature, capital punishment, public executions, theatre, medicine, the Glasgow Athenæum, and the University of Glasgow. This is not so much a blog as a series of sketches, character sketches and scene-setting, work-in-progress for a future drama. It’s a long read for a winter’s night, but for anyone interested in Possilpark, Glasgow, or Charles Dickens who has a year to spare there will be something here to ponder.
Some time in the late 1960s when I was around eight or nine my mother gave me her adult ticket for Possilpark Library and asked me to get her Dombey and Son, by Charles Dickens. I was fascinated by the title. It sounded like mother and son. It made me think of Steptoe and Son, my favourite thing on the telly at the time, and of “Matthew and Son”, a song by Cat Stevens I’d heard on the radio. Years later I found out that Dickens had visited my housing estate in the north of Glasgow in December 1847, when it was the site of a mansion house a couple of hundred yards from the public library from which I borrowed Dombey and Son. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Possil was always a bit Dickensian. You were more likely to meet Bill Sikes than Eric Sykes.
Walking home with that book in my hands, I wondered what it was about. “Dealings with the firm of Dombey and Son, wholesale, retail and for exportation” didn’t sound like much fun. I didn’t know that Dombey and Son was the book that Dickens had been working on at the time of his visit to Possil, or that the mansion he had stayed in had given its name to Mansion Street, where Granny Watt, my mother’s mother lived, a street I’d passed a hundred times without thinking about its name. Nor did I know that Possil House was a House of Books as well as a House of Pain, a house with an extensive library that was owned by a man whose family made their money from slavery and the sugar trade, or that its occupant, Dickens’s host, was also a leading advocate of slavery, a man who supported slavery in the West Indies and went on to back the Confederacy in the American Civil War. This was all in the future, as well as far in the past.
Dombey and Son is a book about many things, full of rich pickings like all Dickens’s books, especially in terms of class and education, two issues that would preoccupy me in later life, when I would encounter more than a few patronising characters like Mr Dombey:
“‘I am far from being friendly,’ pursued Mr. Dombey, ‘to what is called by persons of levelling sentiments, general education. But it is necessary that the inferior classes should continue to be taught to know their position, and to conduct themselves properly. So far I approve of schools. Having the power of nominating a child on the foundation of an ancient establishment, called (from a worshipful company) the Charitable Grinders; where not only is a wholesome education bestowed upon the scholars, but where a dress and badge is likewise provided for them; I have […] nominated your eldest son to an existing vacancy; and he has this day, I am informed, assumed the habit. The number of her son, I believe,’ said Mr. Dombey, turning to his sister and speaking of the child as if he were a hackney-coach, ‘is one hundred and forty-seven’”. (2)
Possil House was the address of Sir Archibald Alison (1792-1867), Sheriff of Lanarkshire and historian of the French Revolution. Charles Dickens visited Possil House and stayed there for two days during a trip to Glasgow to preside over the opening of a new Workingmens’ College, the Glasgow Athenæum, on Tuesday 28 December 1847. Dickens had visited Scotland before, but his visit in 1847 would be his first public appearance as a famous writer. (3) Dickens was by this time the celebrated author of Pickwick Papers (1837), Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839). He had been in Glasgow before, and would be back again, both as a novelist giving public readings, and as an amateur playing his part in a Shakespeare play. In visiting Possil House, the country estate on which the housing scheme was later built, Dickens was a guest of Sheriff Alison, a notable expert on penal affairs, an outspoken advocate of slavery, a celebrated historian of the French Revolution, a champion of free trade, and later Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow (1850-52), after which he was made a Baronet. (4) Alison and Dickens had overlapping interests even if they disagreed on some fundamentals. Dickens had emerged as a writer under the pseudonym “Boz”, publishing Sketches by Boz in 1836, and using the name again for the serialisation of Pickwick Papers. Boz was not a name that would go down well in the Possil in later years. Alison was author of several works on the criminal justice system in Scotland, including Principles of the Criminal Law of Scotland (1832), and Practice of the Criminal Law of Scotland (1833), so Boz was in safe hands.
The actual owner of Possil House was Colonel Alexander Campbell of Possil, who had purchased the Possil estate in 1808, the year of his father’s death, and enlarged it with the neighbouring property of Keppoch in 1838. Campbell was the eldest son of slaveowner John Campbell, and inherited his father’s sugar estates. (5)
Archibald Alison had moved into the property on 12 February 1835, finding it ‘unoccupied and to let furnished in the middle of winter’. (6) Alison was renting Possil House from Campbell. Alison’s own description of the property in his autobiography suggest that it was a creative hub rich in literary resources:
“Situated in a park of thirty acres studded with noble trees, some of which are elms of huge dimensions two centuries old, it had the advantage of fine gardens and perfect retirement, and was yet at a distance of only three miles from Glasgow. To walk in and out of town daily, was, to a person of my strength and active habits, no more than agreeable and healthful exercise; and ere long I discovered that the hour and a half spent daily in this occupation was most valuable, because it afforded time for solitary thought. The house consisted of an old mansion of a hundred and fifty years’ standing, and a modern addition containing public rooms, forming together a commodious house. The principal drawing-room opened into Mrs Alison’s boudoir, which soon became the habitual home scene, and it again led to the library – the dining-room of the old part of the mansion – which was ere long overloaded with books, and where the last eight volumes of my History were written. The rapid increase of volumes, in consequence of the extensive purchases rendered necessary by the progress of my work, soon outgrew its ample shelves; the bookcases in the boudoir were soon filled; and before many years had elapsed, we found it necessary to fit up, in addition, the entrance-hall as a library, where the books least in immediate request, or most ornamental in their binding, were placed”. (7)
A description of Possil House from the point of view of a passer-by is provided by Hugh MacDonald in his Rambles Round Glasgow (1860):
“After a few minutes’ walk, we find ourselves passing Port-Dundas, ‘the harbour on the hill,’ and emerging to the northward from the urban labyrinth by the Possil Road. The morning air is clear and cool, but the cloudless sky above gives abundant indication that a melting day is before us. A gentle breeze, however, is playing over the spiky fields of wheat, and rustling with a whisper sweeter even than that of lovers on a moonlit bank, among the graceful pannicles of the oat and the silky awns of the bearded bere. The walk from the city in this direction is exceedingly pleasant. About a mile out we pass Possil House, the residence of our respected Sheriff, Sir Archibald Alison, Bart., the learned historian of Europe, and the accomplished essayist and critic of Blackwood. The house is a large and substantial but withal plain edifice, and is surrounded by finely timbered policies of considerable extent. The locality, although within such a short distance of the city, has a quiet and retired aspect, and seems peculiarly adapted for the indulgence of those literary tastes in which the worthy Baronet finds his principal solace during the intervals of professional business.” (8)
Dickens was thirty-five at the time of his visit to Possil, and about to embark on David Copperfield, his most autobiographical book, and his own personal favourite, young Copperfield’s initials mirroring his own. In the 1869 preface to that novel Dickens wrote: “Of all my books, I like this best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them. But like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is DAVID COPPERFIELD”.
How did Dickens, an abolitionist, get on with his slavery-supporting host in that book-lined mansion? Did their drawing-room discussions cover prisons, a topic which fascinated Dickens and about which Alison knew a great deal? Did they talk about the French Revolution, Alison’s area of expertise, which Dickens would treat ten years later in one of his finest novels, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)? (9) Thomas Carlyle said of Alison: “He is an Ultra Tory […] and therefore cannot understand the French Revolution”. (10) But reactionaries are often those afforded the time and space to write the version of history most acceptable to the ruling class. Dickens was not the only distinguished guest to be entertained at Possil House in 1847. As Alison recalled in his autobiography: “During the autumn of 1847 we had the honour of receiving at Possil Prince Waldemar of Prussia […] who remained with us two days, which were most delightfully spent”. (11)
For Dickens, Sheriff Archibald Alison offered access to prison visits that would help him with his research. Dickens paid a visit to the notorious North Prison in Duke Street with Sheriff Alison on December 29th, calling it “a truly damnable jail”. Dickens was fascinated by prisons. His life as a writer really began when his father was jailed as a debtor when Charles was twelve. The boy was sent to the workhouse, where he witnessed the tyranny of those in authority and the resourcefulness of the poor. The twin terrors of jail and debt loom large in his diction and fiction. His earliest piece on prisons, A Visit to Newgate (1836), one of the Sketches by Boz, looks inside Newgate Prison, and Dickens went on to explore prison life further in Little Dorrit (1857) and Great Expectations (1861). Dickens was also interested in the ways in which the shadow cast by the prison walls fell across other kinds of confinement and entrapment. In Dombey and Son he describes an apartment in a dilapidated mansion in terms that echo the captivity of inmates:
“The walls and ceilings were gilded and painted; the floors were waxed and polished; crimson drapery hung in festoons from window, door, and mirror; and candelabra, gnarled and intertwisted like the branches of trees, or horns of animals, stuck out from the panels of the wall. But in the day-time, when the lattice blinds (now closely shut) were opened, and the light let in, traces were discernible among this finery, of wear and tear and dust, of sun and damp and smoke, and lengthened intervals of want of use and habitation, when such shows and toys of life seem sensitive like life, and waste as men shut up in prison do.” (12)
Dickens wrote from Edinburgh on 30 December 1847: “We came over this afternoon, leaving Glasgow at one o’clock. Alison lives in style in a handsome country house out of Glasgow, and is a capital fellow, with an agreeable wife, nice little daughter, cheerful niece, all things pleasant in his household.” If Dickens was impressed with Glasgow then he was less taken by the monument to Sir Walter Scott recently erected in Edinburgh: “I am sorry to report the Scott monument a failure. It is like the spire of a Gothic church taken off and stuck in the ground.” (13)
At the time of his visit to Possil, there was, as Dickens put it, “tremendous distress at Glasgow”, which would later lead to riots in March 1848. Dickens wrote: “We lived with very hospitable people in a very splendid house near Glasgow, and were perfectly comfortable”. It’s ironic that Dickens found relief in Possil from general bleakness of Glasgow. Dicken’s conversations with the proprietor of Possil House would have been particularly timely given the fact that at the time of his visit Dickens was putting the final touches to his seventh novel, Dombey and Son. The novel was being serialized from 1846, and Dickens had just finished the sixteenth number on 23 December 1847. It would be published in book form the following April, with a preface dated 24 March 1848. Dombey and Son was influenced by Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave (1845). (14) As an advocate of slavery Alison would go on to back the South in the American Civil War. His support of slavery and his class prejudice make him a particularly unpleasant character:
“Archibald Alison (1792-1867), the lawyer and historian, was yet another enlisted in the West Indian cause. His 1832 introduction to ‘’he West India question’, employed by Gambles as further evidence of conservative historicism, is more striking for its condemnation of anti-slavery campaigning. ‘The great danger which has excited such extraordinary terror through all the West India Islands’, he wrote, ‘is the incessant efforts of Government, and ignorant individuals and societies, to interfere with the management of the slaves, with a view to their immediate or early emancipation.’ West Indian slavery, he argued, was ‘not only not an evil, but a positive advantage’ to the Africans in their civilizational progress. That Alison was pro-slavery in principle is clear.” (15)
Although Dicken’s own racial prejudices have been the subject of critical scrutiny he would have found Alison’s extreme opinions unpalatable. (16) In Dombey and Son, Dickens painted the city of London in its darkest shades, as a hungry beast that consumes its inhabitants: “Swallowed up in one phase or other of its immensity, towards which they seemed impelled by a desperate fascination, they never returned. Food for the hospitals, the churchyards, the prisons, the river, fever, madness, vice and death – they passed on to the monster, roaring in the distance, and were lost”. (17) Although “Dickensian” has become a byword for poverty of a particularly characterful and colourful kind, associated with the Victorian kitsch, in his attitudes to class, language and the city, Dickens is the father of modern urban fiction, the literary great-grandfather of writers like James Kelman, who are profoundly influenced by novels such as Hard Times.
If Dickens was about to give birth to a new novel, his wife had a more important conception to manage. Kate Dickens was pregnant on the long journey north to Possil on the incomplete East Coast Line. She miscarried between Edinburgh and Glasgow on 28 December 1847. Fiction and fact combined in a tragic fashion:
“Charles and Kate spent what remained of the night of December 27 at the Royal Hotel in Edinburgh and next day caught a train to Glasgow. Some of the most popular music hall jokes then in circulation suggested that females in an interesting condition might precipitate labour by being jolted about on the railway. Dickens himself had thought the idea funny enough to rough out a sketch featuring Mrs Gamp in a train, on the look out for business. Between Edinburgh and Glasgow it ceased to be funny: poor Kate started a miscarriage. Fortunately, their sympathetic Glasgow hosts lived in a warm and comfortable house and Kate was put to bed and cossetted. Dickens went off to be acclaimed at the Athenæum.” (18)
Kate was looked after at Possil House by the revered Scottish obstetrician Professor James Simpson, an advocate of pain-free childbirth, who argued for the use of chloroform for mothers, an argument he won when Queen Victoria had her eighth child on 7th April 1853 with the successful use of chloroform.
Reflecting on the adulation that Dickens received at the Glasgow Athenæum while his wife was recovering from a miscarriage in Possil House, Peter Ackroyd writes:
“Dickens went with Catherine to Scotland, the scene of his first public triumph, in order to attend a soirée for the Glasgow Athenæum. They travelled to Edinburgh, and then from Edinburgh to Glasgow; but on this later ride Catherine was suddenly taken ill and suffered a miscarriage on the train. She was put to bed and was compelled to remain there has her husband experienced ‘unbounded hospitality and enthoozymoozy”. He goes on, ‘… I have never been more heartily received anywhere, or enjoyed myself more completely’. Even though his wife was forced to remain in bed after her miscarriage. Is there not in the contrast between these two scenes of domestic life some warning for the future? They returned to London on the third day of the new year, 1848, a date which began the succession of what in his biography [John] Forster called Dickens’s ‘happiest years’. He was now wealthy enough no longer to need to worry about money, he was very famous and very well loved. The enthusiasm at Glasgow had been enormous”. (19)
Given the reason for his wife being unable to attend the opening of the Athenæum, Dickens’s letter to her sister, his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth (‘Georgy’), strikes an odd note, leaving aside the fact that Dickens liked to refer to himself in the third person as “the inimitable”:
“The meeting was the most stupendous thing as to numbers, and the most beautiful as to colours and decorations I ever saw. The inimitable did wonders. His grace, elegance, and eloquence, enchanted all beholders. Kate didn’t go! having been taken ill on the railroad between here and Glasgow.
It has been snowing, sleeting, thawing, and freezing, sometimes by turns and sometimes all together, since the night before last. Lord Jeffrey’s household are in town here, not at Craigcrook, and jogging on in a cosy, old-fashioned, comfortable sort of way. We have some idea of going to York on Sunday, passing that night at Alfreds, and coming home on Monday; but of this, Kate will advise you when she writes, which she will do to-morrow, after l shall have seen the list of railway trains. She sends her best love. She is a little poorly still, but nothing to speak of. She is frightfully anxious that her not having been to the great demonstration should be kept a secret. But I say that, like murder, it will out, and that to hope to veil such a tremendous disgrace from the general intelligence is out of the question. In one of the Glasgow papers she is elaborately described. I rather think Miss Alison, who is seventeen, was taken for her, and sat for the portrait.” (20)
One of those present when Dickens addressed the Glasgow audience at the Athenæum was the distinguished Scottish Physician John Brown, who, using Dickens’s nickname ‘Boz’, spoke patronisingly of him in a letter even as he praised his performance:
“‘Boz’ is doing no good – bodily & mentally he is going wrong – getting rotten. – & yet a fine, genial wonderful creature – but after all there is a want of reflectiveness of depth – of seriousness. He is a true cockney – an inspired cockney. A very different man from the one who made the best – the cleverest – the most telling speech at the Glasgow meeting.” (21)
Whatever his own physical or mental health, Dickens liked to keep the company of doctors, and not just to get from them descriptions of medical conditions for his characters:
“Dickens’ interest in social reform, children’s health and education, phrenology, water-cure, and mesmerism/ hypnotism, made him in close acquaintance with doctors and especially the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London. His own early adulthood had been miserable and impoverished, he was outraged at the conditions of the urban working classes, to which many of his readers were oblivious.” (22)
We get some insight into Dickens’s character and the event at the Athenæum in a later account by James Kilpatrick, published in 1898. Kilpatrick is citing The Life of Charles Dickens (1872) by John Forster, Dickens’s first biographer:
“Sir Archibald was then Sheriff of Lanarkshire, and his love of literature, art, and the drama made him an excellent host when celebrities in these spheres of action visited Glasgow. Miss Helen Faucit , the great actress, had been his frequent guest , and he was now delighted to show his unbounded hospitality to Charles Dickens. At Possil House, indeed, Dickens was banqueted right royally, and at the great social gathering in the City Hall in connection with the opening of the Athenæum, they sat together on the platform. Dickens, who presided, was in excellent spirits. He was delighted with the idea of the Ladies’ Bazaar, which was being got up, under the patronage of the Queen, for the purpose of augmenting the library of the
Athenæum, and the romantic associations which the books would always have with their fair donors suggested to him some sprightly remarks.
‘I can imagine’, he said, ‘how, in fact, from these fanciful associations, some fair Glasgow widow may be taken for the remoter one whom Sir Roger de Coverley could not forget: I can imagine how Sophia’s muff may be seen and loved, but not by Tom Jones, going down the High Street on any winter day; or I can imagine the student finding in every fair form the exact counterpart of the Glasgow Athenæum, and taking into consideration the history of Europe without the consent of Sheriff Alison.’
At this sly reference to the historian, Forster tells us, no one laughed so loudly and heartily as the Sheriff himself, and, as they drove out to Possil House that evening, they chuckled over the incident again and again. It was a pleasant time for Dickens, and the Sheriff’s cordiality and homeliness delighted him.
‘Alison lives in style,’ he wrote to Forster, ‘in a handsome country house out of Glasgow, and is a capital fellow, with an agreeable wife, nice little daughter, cheerful niece, all things pleasant in his household. I went over the prison and lunatic asylum with him yesterday [December 29]; at the Lord Provost’s had gorgeous State lunch with the Town Council; and was entertained at a great dinner-party at night. Unbounded hospitality and enthoozymoozy the order of the day, and I have never been more heartily received anywhere, or enjoyed myself more completely.’” (23)
A history of the Glasgow Athenaeum describes its transformation from the Assembly Rooms with its dances and games into a place of learning for “busy commercial men” that opened its doors to members in its new guise on 13 October 1847:
“Thus the beautiful Assembly Rooms, which had been the scene of many a gay gathering, and which had often been thronged with airy and sylph-like forms, had, by one of those strange freaks of fortune which sometimes occur in the history of places as well as of individuals, been converted into a place of learning and a resort of busy commercial men. The quadrille and the minuet had been banished to make room for the paths of learning. The supper-rooms had become a storehouse of literature, and the card-rooms were transformed into lecture theatres and academic halls.” (24)
A TALE OF TWO SOIRÉES
On Monday 27 December 1847 the Glasgow Herald carried two notices about the next day’s event at the Athenæum with Charles Dickens, which appeared among many other items of news and announcements, from reports on the Glasgow Sugar Trade to an advertisement for “Bear Grease”, a product for the hair that based its authenticity on the fact that the Ojibbeway Indians of Upper Canada had tested it and declared it genuine. The notices about the Dickens event offer fascinating glimpses into civic culture:
“Athenæum Soirée. – The preparations for this interesting literary meeting are proceeding rapidly towards completion. The new gallery was inspected on Saturday last, by Mr. Carrick, Superintendent of Buildings who addressed a letter to the Directors of the Athenæum, of which the following is a copy:-
‘Gentlemen – I beg to certify, that I have this day carefully examined the gallery erected in the City Hall, and I am of opinion that it is perfectly safe for the purposes intended. I am, &c. (Signed) JOHN CARRICK.’
Decorators of various kinds are busily engaged in embellishing the Hall; and the arrangements for the reception of the vast concourse of visitors expected, are judicious and complete. To meet the wishes of several ladies and friends from a distance, the Directors have ordered that the principal departments in the Athenæum should be thrown open from the close of the proceedings in the City Hall until twelve o’clock. The list of speakers will include Charles Dickens, Esq., the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir John Maxwell, Bart., Sir John M’Neill, the Lord Provost of Glasgow, the Lord Rector of the University, George Combe, Esq., Professor Aytoun, Professor Gregory, Sheriff Alison, &c., &c. Mrs. Charles Dickens, accompanied by several distinguished ladies, will also honour the meeting with their presence. We may inform our fair friends that ladies will not be specially required to appear in evening dress; they still be at full liberty to consult their own taste and the weather in the selection of their costume.
Bust of the Lord Provost. – On Saturday last, we had In the pleasure of inspecting the bust of our respected Provost and Representative in Parliament, which has just been placed in the hall of the Athenæum. Mr. Mossman, the sculptor, who modelled this bust, has, we believe, presented the Institution with this portrait of its president. The likeness is exceedingly happy; and, moreover, it is pronounced by good judges to be an excellent work of art. Through the kindness of a friend of the Institution, an original bust of Mr. Dickens, modelled by Mr. Park, is also about to be placed for a short time in the Athenæum. We understand that Mr. Park, and Mr. Ritchie have severally signified their intention of presenting the Institution with an original statue, so as to lay the foundation of a sculpture gallery.”
TO-MORROW (TUESDAY) 28TH DECEMBER, 1847.
THE DOORS of the CITY HALL will be OPENED at SIX O’CLOCK precisely. The Entrance to the Platform, Reserved Seats, Sections D and E, and the East Gallery, is from Albion Street. The Entrance to Sections A, B, and C, the New and West Galleries, from Candleriggs Street.
The Chair will be taken by CHARLES DICKENS, Esq., at Seven o’clock.
At the close of the proceedings Refreshments may be purchased in the Side Hall; and in order to allow Ladies and Strangers from a distance to see the ATHENÆUM, the principal Apartments, News Room, Reading Room, Coffee Room and Library, will be opened from 10 until 12 o’clock.
In reply to several inquiries, the Directors beg it to be distinctly understood that Gentlemen will not be admitted on presenting Ladies’ Tickets.
J. W. Hudson, Sec.”
A TALE OF TWO SUICIDES
The tail-end of the year is meant to be a time of celebration and joy, but for the poor it can be a time of debt and desolation. While Dickens was staying at Possil House and putting the finishing touches to his speech for the Athenæum a Christmas story of a different kind was being played out in another part of the city. Two reports under the heading “Suicide” in the Glasgow Herald on Monday 27 December 1847, on the same page as the announcements about Dickens’s visit, tell a tale of city life a far cry from the bright lights of the literary world and the big houses of the well-heeled. First, this account of a Gorbals woman who killed herself on Christmas Eve:
“On the evening of Friday last an elderly woman, named Burns, residing in Chapel Closs, Main Street, Gorbals, committed suicide in her own house, by hanging herself from a nail or spike in the wall, with several hanks of unwound yarn. She was first discovered by her husband, who is a weaver, on his going home at eight o’clock. He found her lying on the floor, upon which she had fallen, the yarn having broken with her weight, with part of the yarn round her neck and the corresponding part remaining on the nail. It was at first supposed that deceased had met with foul play; but, upon investigation, it appeared that the act was a premeditated one, the unfortunate woman having been heard to say that she would ‘make away with herself.’”
And in the same issue of the newspaper.
“On Saturday se’nnight, a young man residing at Howwood, attached to the Ayrshire Railway, committed suicide by drowning himself. He had been married on the Monday previous, and on the Saturday morning following word was brought to the house that something was wrong with the rails. He went out hurriedly, as if to ascertain what was wrong, but never returned. Search was made round the locality, and on Monday the body was found in Cartside Dam.”
A TALE OF TWO SPEECHES
Sheriff Alison recalled the scene when Dickens addressed the Athenæum audience in Glasgow:
“It was held in the City Hall of Glasgow, the largest room in Scotland, recently constructed by the magistrates for public meetings, and which, with the aid of a temporary cross gallery, erected for the occasion, held 4000 persons, all seated at tea-tables. The sight of so many human beings assembled together, and all animated with one common feeling of enthusiasm, was very striking.” (25)
Alison, who gave the vote of thanks after Dickens’s speech, was a dyed-in-the-wool right-wing historian. He was not a fan of fiction in general, nor was he familiar with Dickens’s work, which dwelt on the social classes that the Sheriff was used to rounding up or baton-charging, as he openly admitted in his autobiography. Alison preferred to write about kings and queens and emperors and aristocrats:
“I never had any taste for those novels the chief object of which is to paint the manners or foibles of middle or low life. We are unhappily too familiar with them : if you wish to see them you have only to go into the second class of a railway train, or the cabin of a steamboat. Romance, to be durably interesting or useful, must be probable but elevating; drawn from the observation of nature, but interspersed with traits of the ideal.” (26)
It’s amusing now to read Alison’s inflated account of his own life and poor judgment of Dickens’s strengths as a writer:
“Dickens, with his wife, had the kindness to be our guests for two days at Possil, on which occasion I had a large party to meet them, who were charmed with the suavity of his manners and the variety and brilliancy of his conversation. Indeed the flow of his ideas was so rapid, and his powers of observation and description were so great, that it appeared to me that his writings, celebrated as they were, gave no adequate idea of his talents ; and I could not help regretting that accident, or the necessities of his situation, had thrown him into a line of composition not altogether worthy of his powers, and for which I could not anticipate durable fame.” (27)
Sir Archibald liked the sound of his own voice in print and in person. Benjamin Disraeli dubbed him “Mr Wordy”. (28)
The Glasgow Athenæum in Ingram Street, later demolished to make way for an extension of the General Post Office, was a gathering point for the great and the expectant. It was there that Dickens met Edinburgh lawyer George Combe, an advocate of the controversial pseudo-science of craniology or phrenology, where the shape of the skull was used to judge character and mental capacity: “Combe’s first essay on phrenology was published in 1817 in The Scots Magazine; in 1828 he published The Constitution of Man, in which he popularized phrenology by making it applicable to personal philosophies as well as science.” (29)
Dickens’s speech was reprinted as part of the Athenaeum’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and given that his wife had just lost a child his choice of metaphor was interesting:
“Dickens addressed the company in a felicitous speech, in the course of which he said – ‘It is a great satisfaction to me to occupy the place I do in behalf of an infant Institution: a remarkable fine child enough, of a vigorous constitution, but an infant still. I esteem myself singularly fortunate in knowing it before its prime, in the hope that I may have the pleasure of remembering in its prime, and when it has attained to its lusty maturity, that I was a friend of its youth. It has already passed through some of the disorders to which children are liable; it succeeded to an elder brother of a very meritorious character, but of rather a weak constitution, and which expired when about twelve months old from, it is said, a destructive habit of getting up early in the morning; it succeeded this elder brother, and has fought manfully through a sea of troubles. Its friends have often been much concerned for it; its pulse has been exceedingly low, being only 1250 when it was expected to have been 10,000; several relations and friends have even gone so far as to walk off once or twice in the melancholy belief that it was dead. Through all that, assisted by the indomitable energy of one or two nurses, to whom it can never be sufficiently grateful, it came triumphantly; and now, of all the youthful members of its family I ever saw, it has the strongest attitude, the healthiest look, the brightest and most cheerful air. I find the Institution nobly lodged; I find it with a reading-room, a coffee-room, and a news-room; I find it with lectures given and in progress, in sound, useful, and well-selected subjects; I find it with morning and evening classes for Mathematics, Logic, Grammar, Music, French, German, Spanish, and Italian, attended by upwards of five hundred persons; but, best and first of all, and what is to me more satisfactory than anything else in the history of the Institution, I find that all this has been mainly achieved by the young men of Glasgow themselves, with very little assistance. And, ladies and gentlemen, as the axiom, ‘Heaven helps those who help themselves,’ is truer in no case than it is in this, I look to the young men of Glasgow, from such a past and such a present, to a noble future. Everything that has been done in any other Athenaeum, I confidently expect to see done here; and when that shall be the case, and when there shall be great cheap schools in connection with the Institution, and when it has bound together forever all its friends, and brought over to itself all those who look upon it as an objectionable Institution – then, and not till then, I hope the young men of Glasgow will rest from their labours and think their study done […] In this case the books will not only possess all the attractions of their own friendships and charms, but also the manifold – I had almost said the womanfold – associations connected with their donors. I can imagine how, in fact, from these fanciful associations, some fair Glasgow widow may be taken for the remoter one whom Sir Roger de Coverley could not forget; I can imagine how Sophia’s muff may be seen and loved, but not by “Tom Jones,” going down the High Street on any winter’s day; or I can imagine the student finding in every fair form the exact counterpart of the Glasgow Athenaeum, and taking into consideration the History of Europe without the consent of Sheriff Alison. I can imagine, in short, how, through all the facts and fictions of this library, these ladies will be always active, and that
‘Age will not wither them, nor custom stale
Their infinite variety.’
I am surrounded by gentlemen to whom I will soon give place, being at least as curious to hear them as you yourselves undoubtedly are; but before I sit down, allow me to observe that it seems to me a most delightful and happy chance that this meeting should be held at this genial season of the year, when a new time is, as it were, opening before us, and we celebrate the birth of that Divine Teacher who took the highest knowledge into the humblest places, and whose great system comprehended all mankind. I hail it as a most auspicious omen, at this time of the year, when many scattered friends and families are re-assembled together, that we should be called upon to meet here to promote a great purpose, with a view to the general good and a view to the general improvement. I believe that such designs are worthy of the faith we hold, and I do believe that they are practical remembrances of the sacred words, ‘On earth peace and goodwill toward men.’” (30)
After accepting Alison’s vote of thanks, Dickens declare: “I am no stranger – and I say it with the deepest gratitude – to the warmth of Scottish hearts”. (31) The day after his Athenæum speech, on 29 December 1847, Dickens visited the Glasgow Royal Lunatic Asylum at Gartnavel and Duke Street Prison in the company of Archibald Alison. Dickens then had lunch with the Lord Provost, Alexander Hastie, a noted opponent of slavery and a member of the Glasgow Emancipation Society.
A TALE OF TWO DRAMAS
In his memoir, Alison boasted of the fact that the troops he commanded as Sheriff of Lanarkshire kept striking miners in check. When Scotland faced a ‘universal strike’ in the West of Scotland in 1842-43, what Alison calls ‘The Great Strike’, he was determined to crush the workers:
“About 20,000 working men, involving with their families at least 70,000 souls, were engaged in this formidable conspiracy against property, which was the more to be dreaded that there was no police whatever in Lanarkshire, and the regiment of cavalry which usually lay at Glasgow happened at that very time to have been sent to Perthshire, to escort the Queen in going from Dundee to Blair Atholl for her autumn residence. Five dismounted invalids alone were left at the cavalry barracks, to guard the two guns which were stationed in Glasgow, and the chief depot of ammunition for the west of Scotland.”
Alison put in place a series of measures aimed at demoralising the strikers:
“I issued two proclamations – one to the miners, warning them of their illegal conduct, and the measures adopted to resist them; and another to the proprietors and justices of peace in the county, calling on them to raise the posse comitatus, or constabulary force of the county, for the support of the civil power and the maintenance of the public peace.” (32)
After six weeks of nocturnal rides along the Clyde while based at Airdrie and Hamilton, Alison came home to Possil to find all was well in the house that sugar and slaves built:
“The colliers around Possil, who were all out on the strike, not only, much to their credit, made no attempt on the house, but sent notice to Mrs Alison that she need be under no alarm; that they knew I was only doing my duty; and that she might rely upon it that I was the last man in the country to whom any violence would be offered. They were as good as their word; for although, during the six weeks I was out with the troops, I almost every day rode out in the forenoon, generally alone, and often passed through large bodies of the combined workmen, to whom I was well known, I not only never was exposed to any attack, but never once met with the slightest insult.” (33)
Smasher of strikes and supporter of slavery that he was, backer of the South in the American Civil War, not to mention writer of reactionary histories, inveterate gladhander and obdurate arse-licker, an anonymous review of Alison’s autobiography claimed for him the capacity to warm the cockles of the hearts of the downtrodden that he had trodden underfoot – “thank ‘e very kindly sir”, said his forelock-tugging underlings, apparently:
“He, the most uncompromising Tory, was followed everywhere with the applause of the Glasgow Radicals; and at his death the whole of the road between Possil House and Glasgow was lined with the poorest of the population, ‘all the mill-hands in the neighbourhood sacrificing half a day’s earnings to come and pay, with quiet respectful demeanour, the last tribute to the old Tory sheriff so well known to them for thirty-three years’.” (34)
The words quoted at the end of this passage are lifted from Jane Alison’s preface to her father-in-law’s autobiography. (35) Rose-tinted glasses may have been worn on that occasion. This same reviewer comments on Alison’s “efforts to ameliorate the artisans, who in those days spent some 70 per cent. of their wages in drink”. (36) The drinking habits of the poor were always a preoccupation of the ruling classes, often discussed over a good vintage from their wine cellars after a hearty meal.
The reviewer draws attention to a particular passage in Alison’s Autobiography: “the account […] of the execution of Doolan and Redding at Bishopbriggs is a grand piece of sustained description”. (37) This passage is of particular interest to me because I wrote a play called Gallowglass with my brother John in 1991 about the trial and execution of Irish railway workers Dennis Doolan and Patrick Redding in 1841, for the killing of English ganger John Green, the last scene-of-crime execution carried out in Scotland, and I did a podcast about it as part of Janice Forsyth’s ‘Unspeakable Scotland’ in January 2021. (38)
In his autobiography, Alison insists that Doolan and Redding, “sentenced to be executed on the spot where the murder was committed”, were “Ribbonmen” and that the murder they committed was racially aggravated by the fact that the “United Hibernian Labourers” objected to the appointment of an English overseer when they “insisted on one of their own countrymen holding the situation”. (39) In his account of the event Alison emphasizes the Catholicism and Irishness of the perpetrators. The public execution of Doolan and Redding on 14 May 1841 is worth dwelling on because it dovetails with Dickens’s later experience of another double hanging in London eight years later.
A TALE OF TWO SCAFFOLDS
“The sentence to be hung on the spot where the crime had been committed, was pronounced by the judges rather in conformity with the feelings of indignation excited by the details of a cold-blooded combination murder, as unfolded at the trial, than from a calm consideration of how such a sentence was to be carried into execution. The difficulties and risk attending it soon proved to be great. The united labourers on the railway line, ten thousand in number, made no secret of their intention to strike work the day before, and rescue the prisoners before they reached the place of execution; and the Irish Roman Catholics of Glasgow and its vicinity, above sixty thousand in number, strongly sympathised with these sentiments. On the other hand, the Scotchmen and Englishmen in the same neighbourhood were much excited against the murderers, and loudly called for an example which might check the lawless spirit spreading into Scotland from the sister isle. Under these circumstances there was little difficulty in finding a majority inclined to support the sentence; the great danger was that that majority would come to blows with the minority, who were not less resolute to prevent it. The national animosity of Great Britain and Ireland, of Catholic and Protestant, was here mixed up with the passions, already sufficiently fierce, of trades-unions against all who resisted their mandates. The great object was to carry the law into execution, and at the same time preserve the peace; and these ends could only be secured by an imposing display of military force. Government, now seriously alarmed, liberally placed the requisite means at my disposal. In addition to the regiments of infantry and cavalry stationed in Lanarkshire, with the artillery at Glasgow, the depot of another regiment was ordered up from Paisley, and six troops of horse were brought from Edinburgh. Altogether 1800 men were assembled in the neighbourhood – of whom 600 were horse – with two guns, in the evening preceding the execution, which was to take place at eight in the morning of the 14th May. The scaffold, an awful pile, was sent out overnight, under a strong guard, from Glasgow, amidst an immense crowd of spectators, and protected during the night by a company of infantry.
At seven on the following morning I went on horseback, with a troop of cavalry and two companies of infantry, to the jail of Glasgow to accompany the prisoners to the place of execution. The whole neighbourhood of the prison was filled by a sea of heads, awaiting in breathless expectation the appearance of the unhappy prisoners. So dense was the throng, that it was with difficulty even the cavalry could make its way through to reach the prison-gates. At half-past seven they were brought out, calm but deadly pale, and seated in the open carriage in which they were to be conveyed. By an involuntary impulse the whole multitude uncovered when they appeared, and the procession set out through the centre of the city for the place of execution. So deep was the feeling of all present, that, though at least 200,000 persons thronged the streets, windows, and roofs through which the procession passed, not a whisper was heard along their whole extent; and the only sound which met the ear amidst such a prodigious concourse of human beings, was the clang of the horses’ feet on the pavement. It reminded me of the descriptions of the French army entering Moscow. When we emerged from the city beyond the High Church, and began to defile through the fields, the scene was not less striking. The immense throng could not he contained on the road, which was in great part occupied by the carriages in the procession and the troops who accompanied it; and in consequence they spread over the fields to the distance of a quarter of a mile on either side, and advanced abreast of the carriages – an immense black close column, sweeping the ground like a huge rolling stone as it advanced.
At length we reached the fatal spot, where the ground was kept by the cavalry which had come up from Edinburgh and the infantry previously sent out. At least 150,000 persons were present, all in the highest state of excitement; but so strong was the military force that no attempt at a rescue was made. Doolan mounted with a firm step, though deadly pale; Redding with a little run, as if under the influence of nervous excitement. When the bolts were withdrawn, which they were with a loud noise, a universal shudder ran through the crowd: my horse, which was directly in front of the scaffold, started, as if conscious of the dreadful drama which was in the act of execution. Then, and not till then, I averted my eye from the terrible spectacle. My duty was done; all felt there was a Government in the country. Redding never moved – he had fainted, I think, before being thrown off; but Doolan struggled painfully for a minute or two. We returned with the dead bodies in the same imposing order in which we had gone out, and amidst the same prodigious concourse of people. But the din was now as loud as the silence had before been awful: emotion long pent up found vent, and so stunning was the roar, that in going down the High Street I could not by any exertion of my voice make the officer in command hear, who rode close at my right hand.
If the appearance and emotion of the people on this occasion demonstrated the vast effect of a public execution, when conducted with solemnity, and for a crime which had aroused the feelings of the community, in producing profound moral impressions on the people, the behaviour of the persons engaged with me in superintending it was not less characteristic of the weakness of human nature, amid the difficulties by which in critical times those intrusted with the administration of affairs are surrounded. The warrant for the execution was addressed to the Sheriff of Lanarkshire and Magistrates of Glasgow, the latter of whom, as magistrates of the city and ex officio justices of peace for the county, had jurisdiction both where the prisoners were detained and where they were to be executed. No sooner did the rumour spread as to the probability of a riot and attempt at rescue on the occasion, than they began on various pretences to excuse themselves from attending; and when I requested a meeting of them to concert measures for carrying the sentence into execution, I found that they had had a previous meeting by themselves, and they came prepared with a minute setting forth that, as magistrates of Glasgow, their duty was to preserve the peace of the burgh, and that they would best discharge this by taking post in the courtyard of the jail when the execution was going forward. There accordingly they were during the whole time, with the Lord Provost at their head: none of them could be prevailed on to accompany the procession even to the limits of the burgh, with the exception of one whom shame’ prevented from remaining back with his brethren. No sooner was the execution over, than the usual disputes began as to who was to bear its expense. The total cost was £250; of this the Crown would only pay one-half – alleging that the other half was a charge against, not the Government, but the county. This the latter resisted, maintaining that the Executive having ordered the execution, the whole expense should be borne by the Exchequer. In the meantime the persons employed on the occasion sent in their accounts to me, as the person who had given the orders. These I was obliged to pay; and I only got back the half from the county, after a considerable time and no small trouble, through the personal regard for myself of the committee to whom it was referred, at which the Commissioners of Supply expressed themselves most indignant at their next annual meeting. I made a narrow escape from losing £130 by being charged with the execution of a most disagreeable and responsible duty.
This painful event opened my eyes to the real cause which impels such multitudes to similar scenes, and the impossibility of hoping that in the most atrocious cases capital punishment can be completely dispensed with. It is terror of death which sends such multitudes in every age to see men die. As every one knows that he must depart this world himself, and every one has a secret awe, more or less strong, at its contemplation, all are desirous of seeing how in the last extremity the trial can be borne. Hence it is that two-thirds of the spectators at all executions are women; and that of men the most timid are most desirous to witness them. It is the same feeling which in former days led the Roman ladies in such crowds to the fights of gladiators, in the feudal ages to the tournaments of knights, and now impels the Spanish dames in anxious throngs to the excitement of bull-fights at Seville, or the English to Blondin’s perilous exhibition at the Crystal Palace. This passion does not diminish with the progress of civilisation and the humanising of manners; on the contrary it rather increases, because such changes render these exhibitions more rare, and excite the mind more powerfully, from its having become more open to vivid emotions, and from the thirst for passionate excitement being increased. If the laws would permit it, the same crowds in London or Paris would rush to see gladiators slaughter each other, as they ever did in imperial Rome; and the same disappointment would be evinced by the ladies, if the knights rung with the wooden end of the spear instead of the sharp, as was shown in the days of the Plantagenets or the Tudors.
As the mournful exhibition of death in its awful form approaching a human being is thus the most powerful of all spectacles to move the human mind, so it is one which can never to all appearance be dispensed with to check the great crimes which originate in as powerful desires. As revenge, jealousy, lust, the thirst for gain, are the strongest impulses which tend to the commission of great crimes, so it will always be found impossible to coerce them but by equally powerful restraining motives on the other side. Of these the terror of death is by much the most efficacious; secondary punishments are of service only by getting quit for a time, or in extreme cases permanently, of the criminal: as examples to deter others they have no effect whatever. No one either inquires or cares what comes of a robber or housebreaker after he has received sentence of penal servitude; and in most cases, from the impossibility of finding room for him in the crowded receptacles for criminals, he is soon found back in his old haunts and at his old practices, improved in skill and increased in audacity. Sentence of death should be confined to cases of the most serious crimes, and never carried into execution unless under circumstances in which the general opinion of mankind goes along with its infliction. When it is carried out, it should be with the utmost solemnity, and in the most public manner. Private execution in prison is pure judicial murder; for it is unattended with the only circumstance which can justify the taking away of life – the exhibition of an example which may deter others. I had already had experience of these truths: the cotton-spinners’ trial produced a prodigious sensation and stopped the dangerous conspiracy which it revealed; but the punishment inflicted, speedily remitted by Lord Normanby, had a directly opposite effect. But no words can describe the sensation and lasting effect which the execution of Dennis Doolan and his associate produced.” (40)
How would Dickens have viewed the public execution presided over by his host? Unlike Alison, Dickens was an opponent of public executions and we have evidence of his reaction to one that he witnessed in London a short time after his stay at Possil House. Dickens was present the execution of the Mannings, Frederick and Maria, husband and wife, on 13 November 1849. The Mannings were convicted for the so-called ‘Bermondsey Murder’, when the body of an Irishman, Patrick O’Connor, was discovered under the flagstones of their kitchen in a hole filled with quicklime. Dickens was so incensed by what he saw that he immediately wrote a letter to The Times urging Sir George Grey, the Home Secretary, to put an end to public executions. The letter was published in several other newspapers including The Scotsman, which reprinted it on 17 November, a few days after the event:
“Sir, – I was a witness of the execution at Horsemonger-lane this morning. I went there with the intention of observing the crowd gathered to behold it, and I had excellent opportunities of doing so, at intervals all through the night, and continuously from daybreak until after the spectacle was over.
I do not address you on the subject with any intention of discussing the abstract question of capital punishment, or any of the advocates of its opponents or advocates. I simply wish to turn this dreadful experience to some account for the general good, by taking the readiest and most public means of adverting to an intimation given by Sir G. Grey in the last session of Parliament that the Government might be induced to give its support to a measure making the infliction of capital punishment a private solemnity within the prison walls (with such guarantees for the last sentence of the law being inexorably and surely administered as should satisfy the public at large), and of most earnestly beseeching Sir G. Grey, as a solemn duty which he cannot ever put away, to originate such a legislative change himself.
I believe that a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun. The horrors of the gibbet and of the crime which brought the wretched murderers to it, faded in my mind before the atrocious bearing, looks, and language of the assembled spectators. When I came upon the scene at midnight, the shrillness of the cries and howls that were raised from time to time, denoting that they came from a concourse of boys and girls already assembled in the best places, made my blood run cold. As the night went on, screeching, and laughing, and yelling in strong chorus of parodies on negro melodies, with substitutions of ‘Mrs Manning’ for ‘Susannah,’ and the like, were added to these. When the day dawned, thieves, low prostitutes, ruffians, and vagabonds of every kind, flocked on to the ground with every variety of offensive and foul behaviour. Fightings, faintings, whistlings, imitations of Punch, brutal jokes, tumultuous demonstrations of indecent delight when swooning women were dragged out of the crowd by the police with their dresses disordered, gave a new zest to the general entertainment. When the sun rose brightly – as it did – it gilded thousands upon thousands of upturned faces, so inexpressibly odious in their brutal mirth or callousness, that a man had cause to feel ashamed of the shape he wore, and to shrink from himself, as fashioned in the image of the devil. When the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgment, no more restraint in any of the previous obscenities, than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world, and there were no belief among men but that they perished like the beasts.
I have seen, habitually, some of the worst sources of general contamination and corruption in this country, and I think there are not many phases of London life that could surprise me. I am solemnly convinced that nothing that ingenuity could devise to be done in this city, in the same compass of time, could work such ruin as one public execution, and I stand astounded and appalled by the wickedness it exhibits. I do not believe that any community can prosper where such a scene of horror and demoralisation as was enacted this morning outside Horsemonger Lane Jail is presented at the very doors of good citizens, and is passed by, unknown or forgotten. And when, in our prayers, and thanksgivings for the season, we are humbly expressing before God our desire to remove the moral evils of the land, I would ask your readers to consider whether is not a time to think of this one, and root it out.
I am, Sir, your faithful servant,
Devonshire Terrace, Tuesday Nov. 13.” (41)
A TALE OF TWO STAGES
Dickens was an actor as well as an author: “It has been admitted by many who were in a position to judge that Dickens was one of the best amateur actors that ever lived”. (42) He has been credited with the invention of the modern stage ghost, such dramatic apparitions being a feature of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. (43) It has also been noted that his experience as a stage performer and his knowledge of the theatre made him a brilliant public speaker and reader of his own work. (44) Dickens was a great admirer of Shakespeare to the point of obsession and was soon regarded by some critics as being as accomplished and engaging a writer as Shakespeare, as universally celebrated and as popular. (45) Dickens was back in Glasgow for a touring production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor from 18-20 July 1848. The Glasgow Herald of Monday 26 June 1848 announced the news of Dickens’s planned dramatic entrance:
“GRAND AMATEUR DISPLAY AT THE THEATE ROYAL
We feel the utmost pleasure in being able to state that everything is going swimmingly is forward for the Grand Amateur Performance at the Theatre Royal here, with Mr. Dickens and his friends, in aid of the fund for the endowment of our old, warm-hearted, and much esteemed friend, Mr Sheridan Knowles, as perpetual Curator of Shakespeare’s House.”
The two roles taken by Dickens were that of Slender, cousin to Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and the Doctor in Animal Magnetism, for which Dickens also acted as stage manager. As stage manager Dickens was very hands-on. He drew up a set of instructions for the 1848 summer tour that included the Glasgow dates:
“Remembering the very imperfect condition of all our plays at present, the general expectation in reference to them, the kind of audience before which they will be presented, and the near approach of the nights of performance, I hope everybody concerned will abide by the following regulations, and will aid in strictly carrying them out […] Silence, on the stage and in the theatre, to be faithfully observed, the lobbies, &c., being always available for conversation. No book to be referred to on the stage; but those who are imperfect to take their words from the prompter. Everyone to act, as nearly as possible, as on the night of performance; everyone to speak out, so as to be audible through the house . And every mistake of exit, entrance, or situation to be corrected three times successively […] All who were concerned in the first getting up of ‘Every Man in his Humour,’ and who remember how carefully the stage was always kept then, and who have been engaged in the late rehearsals of the ‘Merry Wives,’, and have experienced the difficulty of getting on or off, of being heard, or of hearing anybody else, will, I am sure, acknowledge the indispensable necessity of these regulations.” (46)
Dickens usually played Shallow, but for this particular tour he took the part Slender. On Friday 30 June 1848 the Glasgow Herald reported that Dickens was coming to the city to perform a role quite different from the one he had fulfilled in opening the Athenæum, and he was coming to another Glasgow institution, the Theatre Royal, to act in two plays, a familiar one by Shakespeare and a popular farce by Elizabeth Inchbald:
“On TUESDAY EVENING, July 18, 1848,
Will be presented Shakspere’s Comedy of
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
Dickens also played the part of Sir Charles Coldstream in Irish playwright Dion Boucicault’s 1844 farce. Used Up, at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow on 20 July 1848. (47)
After Dickens issued a statement to The Times in June 1858 on the end of his 22-year marriage to Kate, the Scottish press went to town on him in advance of his visit there in the autumn as part of public speaking tour. (48) Dickens was nominated for the Lord Rectorship of the University of Glasgow and on the 15th of November 1858 the election took place. Dickens got 69 votes, Lord Shaftesbury 204. Bulwer-Lytton is elected with 217. Dickens later said he had been put forward “against his express wish” and that “he did not seek election”. (49) Dickens gave readings in Glasgow from 6-9 October 1858 as part of a major tour, and again in 1861four readings from 3-6 December, and 17 and 19 December 1866, and 18 and 21 February 1867, and on the 9, and 15-18 December 1878, and 22 and 25 February 1869. Of Glasgow, Dickens remarked during a later visit in 1868:
“The atmosphere of this place, compounded of mists from the Highlands, and smoke from the town factories, is crushing my eyebrows as I write, and it rains as it never does rain anywhere else, and always does rain here. It is a dreadful place, though much improved and possessing a deal of public spirit.” (50)
In 1868 Dickens planned another reading trip to Edinburgh and Glasgow, where, against the advice of friends, he was determined to read the murder scene from Oliver Twist, and thought it would get a good audience in Scotland, where the atmosphere was just right, as he wrote from Edinburgh:
“As I have determined not to do the ‘Oliver’ murder until after the 5th of January, when I shall ascertain its effect on a great audience, it is curious to notice how the shadow of its coming affects the Scotch mind. It is a very, very bad day here, very dark and very wet. I am sitting at a side window, looking up the length of Princes Street, watching the mist change over the castle, and murdering Nancy by turns.” (51)
A TALE OF TWO ESTATES
The Mansion House of Possil House was certainly no Bleak House. Built by John Forbes, it was described as “a new house, well furnished, with good gardens and enclosures.” A short history of Possil House from construction to demolition was provided by David Small in By-gone Glasgow (1896):
“The estate of Possil has passed through the hands of several renowned Glasgow merchants during the past three centuries. The mansion was built about 1710, and was then reckoned one of the best country houses in the neighbourhood. In 1808 the estate was acquired by Colonel Alexander Campbell, one of the Peninsular heroes who fought under Sir John Moore at Corunna. He lived at Possil House for some time after the estate was bought by him, but subsequently he made his other estate of Torosay (now called Duart) in Argyllshire his chief residence. His death took place in 1849. Fifteen years before that date, Possil House had been let to Sir Archibald Alison, Bart., Sheriff of Lanarkshire, author of the History of Europe from the French Revolution till the Fall of Napoleon. Charles Dickens visited Sir Archibald at Possil […] The Sheriff resided there till his death in 1867. He was the last occupant of Possil House, having lived there for thirty-three years. Colonel Campbell had acquired the neighbouring estate of Keppoch-hill in 1838, and added it to Possil. His son and successor, John Campbell, feued a hundred acres on the Possil estate (including the mansion) to Walter Macfarlane of the Saracen Foundry. This foundry had been originally started in Saracen’s Lane, off Gallowgate, a small street beside the famed Saracen’s Head Inn. The business extended so much that it had to be removed to larger premises in Washington Street. In 1868 Mr Macfarlane decided to build an extensive work at Possil, and he acquired a portion of the estate, demolished the mansion, and erected the new Saracen Foundry. He laid out the ground near the works in streets, and before 1872 there were numerous tenements put up for the accommodation of his employees. At the present time Possilpark is a thriving suburb, built entirely on modern principles. Besides the Saracen Foundry there are three large iron works here, and also chemical works and white-lead works, while the Possilpark Station on the City and District section of the North British Railway makes the place of easy access from the centre of the city. The streets are so planned that Possilpark will ultimately be in direct connection with Ruchill on the west side and Springburn on the east.” (52)
Sir Archibald Alison died at Possil House on 23 May 1867. An obituary appeared in the North British Daily Mail, with an abridged version published in the Scottish Law Magazine:
“Sir Archibald was Provincial Grand Master of the Freemasons of Glasgow for about twenty years, and, as such, laid the foundation stone of many public buildings in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, and presided at nearly all the important masonic gatherings within that district – particularly at the funeral of the late Duke of Athole, at which he delivered an oration eminently befitting the occasion. But not only as a P.G.M., but as one far advanced in the degrees of masonry, was the late baronet held in honour by his brethren, and considering the great interest he manifested in all that concerned the craft, he was justly regarded as one of the foremost masons in Scotland.” (53)
The country estate Alison had lived in for thirty-two years, where he had written his controversial conservative histories of Europe, where he had forged friendships with various dignitaries and celebrities, was now a forge of a different kind. The imposing gates of Saracen Foundry opened at its new address at 73 Hawthorn Street and became world-renowned for its architectural and ornamental ironwork. Saracen Foundry went on to make, among many other things, the canopy at the entrance to Central Station. Dickens might have found some irony in the fact that the mansion house and grounds he had strolled around during those dismal December days in 1847 would become the site of an ironworks, the kind of dark satanic mill that figured in his books. More than iron was forged in the foundry. The character of a community was carved out. The ironworks are long gone now, but the iron age lives on.
When the demolition of Possil House turned rural mansion into an industrial hub it led to pollution which in turn led to demands for a park to be established at nearby Ruchill. The sensible thinking at the time was that parks provided both fresh air and recreation for workers who tended to live in overcrowded areas close to the factories and forges where they worked (this was long before the city planners of the 1950s and 1960s decided that motorways rammed through the city centre were much better than fresh air). But as Irene Maver points out, there was irony to be found in an ironworks that produced not just smoke but wrought-iron gates and other features:
“There was […] a profound twist of irony in the debate about the smoke nuisance in the north-west. Although the Saracen Foundry in Possil was one of the leading culprits, its proprietor (Walter Macfarlane) had built up a world-wide reputation for his extensive catalogue, which included wrought-iron bandstands and other park embellishments.” (54)
A description in The Gazetteer of Scotland of 1882 describes Possilpark as a thriving community with a population of four and a half thousand.
“POSSIL PARK, suburb, 1¾ mile north-north-west of Royal Exchange, Glasgow. It covers the site of Possil House, the seat of the late Sir Archibald Alison, Bart.; it is all quite recent; it consists chiefly of streets crossing one another at right angles; and it has a post office, with money order department, under Glasgow, and a chapel-of-ease. Pop. 4594.” (55)
Yet three years later a novel by William Black entitled White Heather portrayed Possilpark as district down on its luck:
“And indeed Ronald found it so strange to be going out without some companion of the kind that when he passed into the wide, dull thoroughfare, he looked up and down everywhere to see if he could not find some homeless wandering cur that he could induce to go with him. But there was no sign of dog-life visible; for the matter of that there was little sign of any other kind of life; there was nothing before him but the wide, empty, dull-hued street, apparently terminating in a great wilderness of india-rubber works and oil-works and the like, all of them busily engaged in pouring volumes of smoke through tall chimneys into the already sufficiently murky sky.
But when he got farther north, he found that there were lanes and alleys permeating this mass of public works; and eventually he reached a canal, and crossed that, deeming that if he kept straight on he must reach the open country somewhere. As yet he could make out no distance; blocks of melancholy soot-begrimed houses, timber-yards, and blank stone walls shut in the view on every hand; moreover there was a brisk north wind blowing that was sharply pungent with chemical fumes and also gritty with dust; so that he pushed on quickly, anxious to get some clean air into his lungs, and anxious, if that were possible, to get a glimpse of green fields and blue skies. For, of course, he could not always be at his books; and this, as he judged, must be the nearest way out into the country; and he could not do better than gain some knowledge of his surroundings, and perchance discover some more or less secluded sylvan retreat, where, in idle time, he might pass an hour or so with his pencil and his verses and his memories of the moors and hills.
But the farther out he got the more desolate and desolating became the scene around him. Here was neither town nor country; or rather, both were there; and both were dead. He came upon a bit of hawthorn-hedge; the stems were coal-black, the leaves begrimed out of all semblance to natural foliage. There were long straight roads, sometimes fronted by a stone wall and sometimes by a block of buildings – dwelling-houses, apparently, but of the most squalid and dingy description; the windows opaque with dirt; the ‘closes’ foul; the pavements in front unspeakable. But the most curious thing was the lifeless aspect of this dreary neighbourhood. Where were the people? Here or there two or three ragged children would be playing in the gutter; or perhaps, in a dismal little shop, an old woman might be seen, with some half-withered apples and potatoes on the counter. But where were the people who at one time or other must have inhabited these great, gaunt, gloomy tenements? He came to a dreadful place called Saracen Cross – a very picture of desolation and misery; the tall blue-black buildings showing hardly any sign of life in their upper flats; the shops below being for the most part tenantless, the windows rudely boarded over. It seemed as if some blight had fallen over the land, first obliterating the fields, and then laying its withering hand on the houses that had been built on them. And yet these melancholy-looking buildings were not wholly uninhabited; here or there a face was visible—but always of women or children; and perhaps the men-folk were away at work somewhere in a factory. Anyhow, under this dull gray sky, with a dull gray mist in the air, and with a strange silence everywhere around, the place seemed a City of the Dead; he could not understand how human beings could live in it at all.” (56)
How did Possil go from “Garden of the North”, as it was once styled, to “City of the Dead” in so short a space of time?
A TALE OF TWO UNIVERSITIES
Possil and the University of Glasgow have more in common than Sir Archibald Alison as former Rector or Dickens as unsuccessful Rectoral candidate. A procession of Glasgow Rectors paraded through Possil House. Sir James Graham, who succeeded Sir Robert Peel in the role of Rector, visited Sheriff Alison there in December 1838, where he met ‘the principal Professors’ of the University, as well as the Duke of Montrose and the Marquis of Douglas. (57)
Possil made a big impact on the city when a meteor landed there over 200 years ago:
“If you take the circular walk around Possil Loch, you will see a commemorative plaque marking the Possil High Meteorite, which fell nearby on the 5th April 1804. This was the earliest of only four known recorded meteorite falls in Scotland and the largest surviving fragment is held at the Hunterian Museum within the University of Glasgow.” (58)
When the University of Glasgow moved from the impoverished East End of the city at the end of the 1860s – taking flight from its medieval site – students on the new campus at Gilmorehill in the wealthy West End suburb that was to be its new home became involved in local charity work, and as Possil was a stone’s throw away and reminiscent of the old East End from which the University had fled, it became a place of interest:
“In 1889 the Glasgow University Students’ Settlement Society was formed with the stated object of carrying on social, educational and religious work. The Settlement consisted of a residence, club rooms and halls and was situated at 10 Possil Road, Garscube Cross. The work undertaken took various forms, including social clubs, Sunday meetings, a ‘Poor Man’s Lawyer’, medical dispensary and a savings bank. In the residence there was accommodation for fifteen students overlooked by a warden. The affairs of the Society were in the hands of a President, Warden, Sub-Warden, Secretary, a four-man General Committee and a five-man Finance Committee.” (59)
Possil has a more recent connection with the University. It is home to a major archive of scholarly resources:
“The Library Research Annexe contains important research material not in high demand. The collection holds runs of older journals and books as well as other materials including Parliamentary papers, microfilms and newspapers. The Library Research Annexe plays a vital role in storing valuable research material in a safe and secure environment. It has excellent on site consultation facilities and parking for visitors.” (60)
THE GHOST OF THE FUTURE?
What would Dickens make of Possil today, almost 175 years after his visit? As an actor and avid theatregoer, he might find intriguing the fact that the National Theatre of Scotland is now based close to Possil Road, near the site of the former Rockvilla Primary School. NTS is an institution Dickens would have embraced. (62) He would also be encouraged by community developments like Hawthorn Housing Association. (63) Dicken’s first publication was Sketches by Boz (1836), a pseudonym under which he observed London life. It was a nickname that served him well. The only sign of Dickens’s presence in Possil today is some graffiti at Saracen Cross that reads “Chasa Wiz Here”, and under that, “Big Boz is Pure Sketchy”.
(1) William Power, The World Unvisited: Essays and Sketches (Glasgow: Gowans & Gray Limited, 1922), 119.
(2) Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, with illustrations by H. K. Browne (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1846-48), 44.
(3) I wrote about Dickens’s Glasgow visits in ‘A ghost of Possil past…: Charles Dickens’ investigation of the social condition in Victorian Britain took him to Possilpark’, The Herald (Weekend Living, 29 September 2001), 1; ‘Moulin Scrooge [on Dickens and Scotland]’, The Sunday Herald (Seven Days: Scotland’s Current Affairs Magazine, 16 December 2001), 11.
(4) On Alison, see Archibald Alison, Some account of my life and writings: an autobiography, by the late Sir Archibald Alison, ed. by his daughter-in-law, Lady Alison (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and sons, 1883); Anon, ‘Sir Archibald Alison’, Scottish Law Magazine and Sheriff Court Reporter 6 (1867): 37-44; Anon, ‘Alison’s Autobiography’, London Quarterly Review 60, 119 (1883): 230-234; Michael Michie, Enlightenment Tory in Victorian Scotland: The Career of Sir Archibald Alison (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press, 1997). The first volume of Alison’s History of Europe was dated from ‘POSSIL HOUSE, LANARKSHIRE 8 October 1852’. Archibald Alison, History of Europe from the Fall of Napoleon in 1815 to the Accession of Louis Napoleon in 1852, vol. I (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1852), xiii. In a letter to his sister dated 18 January 1857 Sir Gerald Graham gave an account of a visit to Possil House and described Sir Archibald as “a man of striking appearance, massive nose, high forehead, and dignified, kind expression” who “speaks with a broad Scotch accent”. R. H. Vetch (ed.), Life, letters and diaries of Lieut.-General Sir Gerald Graham … with portraits, plans, and his principal despatches (Edinburgh, London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1901), 135-137. For his views on politics and economics see Archibald Alison, Free trade and Protection (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1844).
(5) On John Campbell senior of Morriston see T. M. Devine, ‘An Eighteenth-Century Business Élite: Glasgow-West India Merchants, c. 1750-1815’, The Scottish Historical Review 57, 163 (1978): 40-67; Anthony Cooke, ‘An Elite Revisited: Glasgow West India Merchants, 1783–1877’, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 32, 2 (2012): 127-165; and Stephen Mullen, ‘A Glasgow-West India Merchant House and the Imperial Dividend, 1779-1867’, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 33, 2 (2013): 196-233. For a brief biography of the son see ‘Alexander Campbell of Possil’, The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/10482. Colonel Alexander Campbell had his portrait painted by Sir Henry Raeburn, as did his wife, Mrs Campbell of Possil. William Raeburn Andrew, Life of Sir Henry Raeburn, R. A., 2nd ed. (London: W. H. Allen & Company, limited, 1894), 107.
(6) Archibald Alison, Some account of my life and writings: an autobiography, by the late Sir Archibald Alison, ed. by his daughter-in-law, Lady Alison , 2 vols. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and sons, 1883), Vol. I, 342.
(7) Archibald Alison, Some account of my life and writings: an autobiography, by the late Sir Archibald Alison, ed. by his daughter-in-law, Lady Alison , 2 vols. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and sons, 1883), Vol. I, 342-3.
(8) Hugh MacDonald, Rambles Round Glasgow: Descriptive, Historical, and Traditional, 3rd edition (Glasgow: John Cameron, 1860), 353.
(9) Alison was the author of the History of Europe During the French Revolution, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Blackwood; London: Cadell, 1833). Critics mention Archibald Alison in relation to Dickens without alluding to Dicken’s stay in Possil or dwelling on whether the conversations he had with Alison informed his fiction. See Mark Philp, ‘The New Philosophy: The Substance and the Shadow in A Tale of Two Cities’, in Colin Jones, Josephine McDonagh, and Jon Mee (eds), Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities and the French Revolution (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2009), 24-40, at 27; Gareth Stedman Jones, ‘The Redemptive Powers of Violence? Carlyle, Marx and Dickens’, in Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities and the French Revolution, 41-63, at 43; David R. Sorenson, ‘“The Unseen Heart of the Whole”: Carlyle, Dickens, and the Sources of The French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities’, Dickens Quarterly 30, 1 (2013): 5-25; and Kurt Tetzeli von Rosador, ‘Metaphorical Representations of the French Revolution in Victorian Fiction’, Nineteenth-Century Literature 43, 1 (1988): 1-23.
(10) Cited in Clare A. Simmons, ‘Disease and Dismemberment: Two Conservative Metaphors for the French Revolution’, Prose Studies 15, 2 (1992): 208-224, at 208.
(11) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, Vol. I, 564.
(12) Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, with illustrations by H. K. Browne (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1846-48), 537. The full title of his early essays on the London scene is Sketches by ‘Boz’, Illustrative of Every-Day Life, and Every-Day People, in two volumes, Vol. I (London: John Macrone, 1836).
(13) J. J. Stevenson, ‘Dickens in Edinburgh’, Dickensian 3, 10 (1907): 262-264, at 263. Dickens apparently declined to become an MP for Edinburgh in 1869. J. Stevenson, ‘Dickens in Edinburgh II’, Dickensian 3, 11 (1907): 293-295, at 294.
(14) Shannon Russell, ‘How a Slave Was Made a Woman: Dombey and Son and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’, Dickens Quarterly 38, 1 (2021): 29-53.
(15) Michael Taylor, ‘Conservative Political Economy and the Problem of Colonial Slavery, 1823-1833’, The Historical Journal 57, 4 (2014): 973-995, at 984.
(16) On Dickens and slavery see Arthur A. Adrian, ‘Dickens on American Slavery: A Carlylean Slant’, PMLA 67, 4 (1952): 315-329; Diana C. Archibald, ‘Many Kinds of Prison: Charles Dickens on American Incarceration and Slavery’, Iperstoria 14 (2019): 43-53; Brahma Chaudhuri, ‘Dickens and the Question of Slavery’, Dickens Quarterly 6, 1 (1989): 3-10; Andrew C. Hansen, ‘Rhetorical Indiscretions: Charles Dickens as Abolitionist’, Western Journal of Communication 65, 1 (2001): 26-44; Sean Purchase, ‘“Speaking of Them as a Body”: Dickens, Slavery and Martin Chuzzlewit’, Critical Survey 18, 1 (2006): 1-16’ Harry Stone, ‘Charles Dickens and Harriet Beecher Stowe’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction 12, 3 (1957): 188-202; and Jonathan Daniel Wells, ‘Charles Dickens, the American South, and the Transatlantic Debate over Slavery’, Slavery & Abolition 36, 1 (2015): 1-25.
(17) Dickens, Dombey and Son, 341.
(18) B. Duncum, ‘Chloroform for Mrs Dickens’, Proceedings of the History of Anaesthesia 5 (1989): 31-33, at 32. Dickens would complain 20 years later that a journey on the Flying Scotsman to Edinburgh from London had given him 30,000 jolts. J. J. Stevenson, ‘Dickens in Edinburgh II’, Dickensian 3, 11 (1907): 293-295, at 294.
(19) Peter Ackroyd, Dickens: A Memoir of Middle Age (London: Vintage, 2002), 298. See John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens (London: Chapman Hall, 1872).
(20) Mamie Dickens and Georgina Hogarth (eds.), The Letters of Charles Dickens: 1833 to 1856, Vol. 1 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1880), 184.
(21) Cited in Tom Johnstone, ‘Decidedly This Side Idolatry: Dr. John Brown and Dickens’, Dickensian 74, 385 (1978): 96-102, at 98.
(22) Avi Ohry, ‘“Shake me up, Judy!”: On Dickens, Medicine and Spinal Cord Disorders’, Ortop Traumatol Rehabil 14, 5 (2012): 483-91, at 484.
(23) James A. Kilpatrick, Literary Landmarks of Glasgow (Glasgow: Saint Mungo Press, 1898), 229-30. The whole speech is reproduced in Richard Herne Shepherd (ed.), The Speeches of Charles Dickens, 1841-1870 (London: Chatto and Windus, 1884), 109-115
(24) James Lauder, The Glasgow Athenaeum: A Sketch of Fifty Years’ Work (1847-1897) (Glasgow: Saint Mungo Press, 1897), 14.
(25) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 567.
(26) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 568.
(27) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 568.
(28) Cited in Maurice Milne, ‘Archibald Alison: Conservative Controversialist’, Albion 27, 3 (1995): 419-443, at 419.
(29) Ohry, ‘“Shake me up, Judy!”’, 486.
(30) Charles Dicken’s speech at the Glasgow Athenaeum, cited in James Lauder, The Glasgow Athenaeum: A Sketch of Fifty Years’ Work (1847-1897) (Glasgow: Saint Mungo Press, 1897), 19-22.
(31) Quoted in Shepherd (ed.), The Speeches of Charles Dickens, 1841-1870, 115.
(32) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 487, 488.
(33) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 495.
(34) Anon, ‘Alison’s Autobiography’, London Quarterly Review 60, 119 (1883): 230-234, at 231.
(35) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, vii.
(36) Anon, ‘Alison’s Autobiography’, 233-4.
(37) Anon, ‘Alison’s Autobiography’, 233-4.
(38) Willy Maley, ‘The Crosshill Railway Murder of 1840’, Unspeakable Scotland episode 5, https://www.thebiglight.com/unspeakablescotland, accessed 21 December 2021. See John Maley and Willy Maley, Gallowglass: The Story of the Glasgow-Edinburgh Railway Murder of 1840 (Glasgow: Clydeside Press, 1991)
(39) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 469-70.
(40) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 470-72.
(41) ‘Mr Charles Dickens on the Execution of the Mannings’, The Scotsman (November 17 1849), 4. See also The Bermondsey murder: a full report of the trial of Frederick George Manning and Maria Manning, for the murder of Patrick O’Connor, at Minver-place, Bermondsey, on the 9th of August, 1849. Including memoirs of Patrick O’Connor, Frederick George Manning, and Maria Manning. With their portraits, and several other engravings (London: W. M. Clark, 1849).
(42) Frederick G. Jackson, ‘Dickens as Actor’, Dickensian 3, 7 (1907): 173-178, at 173.
(43) Marvin Carlson, ‘Charles Dickens and the Invention of the Modern Stage Ghost’, in Mary Luckhurst and Emilie Morin (eds.), Theatre and Ghosts: Materiality, Performance and Modernity (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 27-45.
(44) Leigh Woods, ‘“As If I Had Been Another Man”: Dickens, Transformation, and an Alternative Theatre’, Theatre Journal 40, 1 (1988): 88-100.
(45) See Paul Schlicke, ‘Dickens and Shakespeare’, The Japan Branch Bulletin of the Dickens Fellowship 27 (2004): 84-98. See also Edward P. Vandiver, ‘Dickens’ Knowledge of Shakspere’, The Shakespeare Association Bulletin 21, 3 (1946): 124-128.
(46) Cited in T. Edgar Pemberton, Charles Dickens and the Stage: A Record of His Connection with the Drama as Playwright, Actor, and Critic (London: G. Redway, 1888), 104.
(47) Michael Stanton, ‘Charles Dickens: Used Up’, Dickensian 84, 416 (1988): 142-152, at 146.
(48) Paul Schlicke, ‘“A Sort of Spoiled Child of the Public”: Dickens’s Reception in Scotland in 1858’, The Dickensian 111, 495 (2015): 26-33.
(49) Norman Page, A Dickens Chronology (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1988), 102.
(50) J. J. Stevenson, ‘Dickens in Edinburgh II’, Dickensian 3, 11 (1907): 293-295, at 294.
(51) J. J. Stevenson, ‘Dickens in Edinburgh II’, Dickensian 3, 11 (1907): 293-295, at 294. Dickens apparently declined to become an MP for Edinburgh in 1869.
(52) David Small, By-gone Glasgow: Sketches of Vanished Corners in the City and Suburbs. Forty full-page drawings and twenty-three text illustrations by D. Small. With descriptive letterpress by A. H. Miller (Glasgow: Morison Bros, 1896), 173-4.
(53) Scottish Law Magazine and Sheriff Court Reporter 6 (1867): 37-42, at 40.
(54) Irene Maver, ‘Glasgow’s Public Parks and the Community, 1850-1914: A Case Study in Scottish Civic Interventionism’, Urban History 25, 3 (1998): 323-347, at 337.
(55) The Gazetteer of Scotland (Edinburgh: W. & A. K. Johnston, 1882), 377.
(56) William Black, White Heather, 3 vols., volume 2 (London: Macmillan & Co., 1885), pp. 124-126.
(57) Alison, Some account of my life and writings, 442-3.
(58) ‘Glasgow’s Canals Unlocked’, https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Unlocking-the-Story-Glasgows-Canals-Heritage.pdf, accessed 21 December 2021.
(59) Leslie Lawrence Forrester, ‘The University Of Glasgow 1910-1930 with emphasis upon its participation in the First World War’, MLitt Thesis, Department of Scottish History, University of Glasgow (May 1998), 14.
(60) University of Glasgow Library Research Annexe, https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/library/openinghoursandlocations/libraryresearchannexe/, accessed 21 December 2021.
(61) The National Theatre of Scotland, https://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com.
(62) For a fascinating account of recent efforts at regeneration in Possilpark see Joanne Sharp, ‘The Life and Death of Five Spaces: Public Art and Community Regeneration in Glasgow’, Cultural Geographies 14, 2 (2007): 274-292.
(63) Hawthorn Housing Association, http://www.hawthornhousing.org.uk, accessed 21 December 2021.