THE LAMPLIGHTER – Monologue (Tom)

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A monologue from the play by Charles Dickens

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays and Poems of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens. London: W. H. Allen, 1885.


He was an original. You should have known him! ‘Cod! He was a genius, if ever there was one. Gas was the death of him! When gas lamps was first talked of, my uncle draws himself up and says,

“I’ll not believe it, there’s no sich a thing,” he says. “You might as well talk of laying on an everlasting succession of glow worms!” But when they made the experiment of lighting a piece of Pall Mall,

and he had actually witnessed it with his own eyes, you should have seen my uncle then! Overcome, sir! He fell off his ladder, from weakness, fourteen times that very night!

And his last fall was into a wheelbarrow that was going his way and humanely took him home. “I foresee in this,” he says, “the breaking up of our profession; no more polishing of the tin reflectors,”

he says, “no more fancy-work in the way of clipping the cottons at two o’clock in the morning; no more going the rounds to trim by daylight and dribbling down the ile on the hats and bonnets of the ladies and gentlemen when one feels in good spirits.

Any low fellow can light a gas-lamp, and it’s all up!” So he petitioned the Government for–what do you call it that they give to people when it’s found out that they’ve never been of any use and have been paid too much for doing nothing?

Compensation! That’s the thing! They didn’t give him any though. And then he got very fond of his country all at once and went about saying how the bringing in of gas was a death-blow to his native land,

and how that its ile and cotton trade was gone forever, and the whales would go and kill themselves privately in spite and vexation at not being caught. After that, he was right-down cracked,

and called his ‘bacco pipe a gas pipe and thought his tears was lamp ile and all manner of nonsense. At last, he went and hung himself on a lamp iron in St. Martin’s Lane that he’d always been very fond of,

and as he was a remarkably good husband and had never had any secrets from his wife, he put a note in the twopenny post, as he went along, to tell the widder where the body was.

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