‘Twas the day before Christmas and the novelist, Charles Dickens, was waiting with great expectations for a 30-lb turkey that his tour manager, George Dolby, had promised to send him. But it didn’t arrive. Dickens dashed off a frantic note to Dolby; “WHERE IS THAT TURKEY? IT HAS NOT ARRIVED!!!!!!!!!!” What promised to be the best of times turned out to be the worst of times.
The bird did not arrive. Entrusted to the tender care of the railway companies it was making its way from Hereford to Dickens’ home in Kent when, somewhere on the Great Western Railway (GWR) line between Gloucester and Reading, the wooden horse box in which it was stored, a sort of goods carriage, caught fire, possibly caused by an errant spark from the engine.
Suffice it to say, Dickens’ turkey was well and truly cooked and GWR considered it to be too badly damaged to present to the novelist. Instead the meat was sold off to the needy at sixpence a portion.
Dickens did receive a letter of apology from GWR and an offer of compensation.
The incident, which has just come to light as a result of some correspondence unearthed at the National Railway Museum in York, happened in 1869. Dickens died in June the following year and so was deprived of turkey on what turned out to be his last Christmas. Hard times, indeed.
Quite what he ate instead is anybody’s guess.
Season’s greetings to you all. The next post is scheduled for Monday December 30th.