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From A Parent to a Child



To recount with what trouble I have brought you up--with what an
anxious eye I have regarded your progress,--how late and how often
I have sat up at night working for you,--and how many thousand
letters I have received from, and written to your various relations
and friends, many of whom have been of a querulous and irritable
turn,--to dwell on the anxiety and tenderness with which I have (as
far as I possessed the power) inspected and chosen your food;
rejecting the indigestible and heavy matter which some injudicious
but well-meaning old ladies would have had you swallow, and
retaining only those light and pleasant articles which I deemed
calculated to keep you free from all gross humours, and to render
you an agreeable child, and one who might be popular with society
in general,--to dilate on the steadiness with which I have
prevented your annoying any company by talking politics--always
assuring you that you would thank me for it yourself some day when
you grew older,--to expatiate, in short, upon my own assiduity as a
parent, is beside my present purpose, though I cannot but
contemplate your fair appearance--your robust health, and unimpeded
circulation (which I take to be the great secret of your good
looks) without the liveliest satisfaction and delight.

It is a trite observation, and one which, young as you are, I have
no doubt you have often heard repeated, that we have fallen upon
strange times, and live in days of constant shiftings and changes.
I had a melancholy instance of this only a week or two since. I
was returning from Manchester to London by the Mail Train, when I
suddenly fell into another train--a mixed train--of reflection,
occasioned by the dejected and disconsolate demeanour of the Post-
Office Guard. We were stopping at some station where they take in
water, when he dismounted slowly from the little box in which he
sits in ghastly mockery of his old condition with pistol and
blunderbuss beside him, ready to shoot the first highwayman (or
railwayman) who shall attempt to stop the horses, which now travel
(when they travel at all) INSIDE and in a portable stable invented
for the purpose,--he dismounted, I say, slowly and sadly, from his
post, and looking mournfully about him as if in dismal recollection
of the old roadside public-house the blazing fire--the glass of
foaming ale--the buxom handmaid and admiring hangers-on of tap-room
and stable, all honoured by his notice; and, retiring a little
apart, stood leaning against a signal-post, surveying the engine
with a look of combined affliction and disgust which no words can
describe. His scarlet coat and golden lace were tarnished with
ignoble smoke; flakes of soot had fallen on his bright green shawl-
-his pride in days of yore--the steam condensed in the tunnel from
which we had just emerged, shone upon his hat like rain. His eye
betokened that he was thinking of the coachman; and as it wandered
to his own seat and his own fast-fading garb, it was plain to see
that he felt his office and himself had alike no business there,
and were nothing but an elaborate practical joke.

As we whirled away, I was led insensibly into an anticipation of
those days to come, when mail-coach guards shall no longer be
judges of horse-flesh--when a mail-coach guard shall never even
have seen a horse--when stations shall have superseded stables, and
corn shall have given place to coke. 'In those dawning times,'
thought I, 'exhibition-rooms shall teem with portraits of Her
Majesty's favourite engine, with boilers after Nature by future
Landseers. Some Amburgh, yet unborn, shall break wild horses by
his magic power; and in the dress of a mail-coach guard exhibit his
TRAINED ANIMALS in a mock mail-coach. Then, shall wondering crowds
observe how that, with the exception of his whip, it is all his
eye; and crowned heads shall see them fed on oats, and stand alone
unmoved and undismayed, while counters flee affrighted when the
coursers neigh!'

Such, my child, were the reflections from which I was only awakened
then, as I am now, by the necessity of attending to matters of
present though minor importance. I offer no apology to you for the
digression, for it brings me very naturally to the subject of
change, which is the very subject of which I desire to treat.

In fact, my child, you have changed hands. Henceforth I resign you
to the guardianship and protection of one of my most intimate and
valued friends, Mr. Ainsworth, with whom, and with you, my best
wishes and warmest feelings will ever remain. I reap no gain or
profit by parting from you, nor will any conveyance of your
property be required, for, in this respect, you have always been
literally 'Bentley's' Miscellany, and never mine.

Unlike the driver of the old Manchester mail, I regard this altered
state of things with feelings of unmingled pleasure and

Unlike the guard of the new Manchester mail, YOUR guard is at home
in his new place, and has roystering highwaymen and gallant
desperadoes ever within call. And if I might compare you, my
child, to an engine; (not a Tory engine, nor a Whig engine, but a
brisk and rapid locomotive;) your friends and patrons to
passengers; and he who now stands towards you in loco parentis as
the skilful engineer and supervisor of the whole, I would humbly
crave leave to postpone the departure of the train on its new and
auspicious course for one brief instant, while, with hat in hand, I
approach side by side with the friend who travelled with me on the
old road, and presume to solicit favour and kindness in behalf of
him and his new charge, both for their sakes and that of the old


Charles Dickens

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