by Charles Dickens
The Lamplighter by Charles Dickens
Scanned and proofed by David Price, firstname.lastname@example.org
'If you talk of Murphy and Francis Moore, gentlemen,' said the
lamplighter who was in the chair, 'I mean to say that neither of
'em ever had any more to do with the stars than Tom Grig had.'
'And what had HE to do with 'em?' asked the lamplighter who
officiated as vice.
'Nothing at all,' replied the other; 'just exactly nothing at all.'
'Do you mean to say you don't believe in Murphy, then?' demanded
the lamplighter who had opened the discussion.
'I mean to say I believe in Tom Grig,' replied the chairman.
'Whether I believe in Murphy, or not, is a matter between me and my
conscience; and whether Murphy believes in himself, or not, is a
matter between him and his conscience. Gentlemen, I drink your
The lamplighter who did the company this honour, was seated in the
chimney-corner of a certain tavern, which has been, time out of
mind, the Lamplighters' House of Call. He sat in the midst of a
circle of lamplighters, and was the cacique, or chief of the tribe.
If any of our readers have had the good fortune to behold a
lamplighter's funeral, they will not be surprised to learn that
lamplighters are a strange and primitive people; that they rigidly
adhere to old ceremonies and customs which have been handed down
among them from father to son since the first public lamp was
lighted out of doors; that they intermarry, and betroth their
children in infancy; that they enter into no plots or conspiracies
(for who ever heard of a traitorous lamplighter?); that they commit
no crimes against the laws of their country (there being no
instance of a murderous or burglarious lamplighter); that they are,
in short, notwithstanding their apparently volatile and restless
character, a highly moral and reflective people: having among
themselves as many traditional observances as the Jews, and being,
as a body, if not as old as the hills, at least as old as the
streets. It is an article of their creed that the first faint
glimmering of true civilisation shone in the first street-light
maintained at the public expense. They trace their existence and
high position in the public esteem, in a direct line to the heathen
mythology; and hold that the history of Prometheus himself is but a
pleasant fable, whereof the true hero is a lamplighter.
'Gentlemen,' said the lamplighter in the chair, 'I drink your
'And perhaps, Sir,' said the vice, holding up his glass, and rising
a little way off his seat and sitting down again, in token that he
recognised and returned the compliment, 'perhaps you will add to
that condescension by telling us who Tom Grig was, and how he came
to be connected in your mind with Francis Moore, Physician.'
'Hear, hear, hear!' cried the lamplighters generally.
'Tom Grig, gentlemen,' said the chairman, 'was one of us; and it
happened to him, as it don't often happen to a public character in
our line, that he had his what-you-may-call-it cast.'
'His head?' said the vice.
'No,' replied the chairman, 'not his head.'
'His face, perhaps?' said the vice. 'No, not his face.' 'His
legs?' 'No, not his legs.' Nor yet his arms, nor his hands, nor
his feet, nor his chest, all of which were severally suggested.