“In the autumn month of September, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, wherein these presents bear date, two idle apprentices, exhausted by the long, hot summer and the long, hot work it had brought with it, ran away from their employer..”
Now doesn’t that sound wonderful?
And doesn’t it become even more wonderful when you know that the employer was literature, and that the two escaping apprentices were a certain Mr Collins and a certain Mr Dickens?
Friends and collaborators who set out on a walking tour, and together wrote a picaresque account of their travels that was published, in five installments, in Dickens’s weekly periodical, Household Words.
There is much to enjoy.
The two apprentices both wanted to be idle, but there ideas of just what that meant were rather different.
Mr Francis Goodchild saw idleness as doing nothing useful, wheras Mr Thomas Idle saw idleness as doing nothing whatsover.
And so the natures of the two idle apprentices were wonderful reflections of their creators.
I loved following the ups and down of their relationship as they travelled through northern England. I never doubted that both authors were having a wonderful time, gently caricaturing themselves and their relationship.
And for all that the apprentices may have been idle, they were wonderfully observant, reporting all of the pertinent facts about the journey, the places they visited, the conditions that they saw and the people that they met.
There was beauty, there was drama, and there was concern at the poverty in which many lived in the industrial towns.
And there were ghost stories. The kind of stories that I am quite sure had been told aloud time after time, that I am sure sent a shiver down the spine of anyone who listened.
The two authors brought everything together beautifully.
All too soon the trip was over.
But it was a lovely interlude between bigger books.