We got to the hotel where we had engaged quarters, at eleven o'clock in the evening of Wednesday, the 12th of May. Everything was ready for us,--a bright fire blazing and supper waiting. When we came to look at the accommodations, we found they were not at all adapted to our needs. It was impossible to stay there another night. So early the next morning we sent out our courier-maid, a dove from the ark, to find us a place where we could rest the soles of our feet. London is a nation of something like four millions of inhabitants, and one does not feel easy without he has an assured place of shelter. The dove flew all over the habitable districts of the city,--inquired at as many as twenty houses. No roosting-place for our little flock of three. At last the good angel who followed us everywhere, in one shape or another, pointed the wanderer to a place which corresponded with all our requirements and wishes. This was at No. 17 Dover Street, Mackellar's Hotel, where we found ourselves comfortably lodged and well cared for during the whole time we were in London. It was close to Piccadilly and to Bond Street. Near us, in the same range, were Brown's Hotel and Batt's Hotel, both widely known to the temporary residents of London.
"Now, Mr. Quaritch," I said, after introducing myself, "I have ten minutes to pass with you. You must not open a book; if you do I am lost, for I shall have to look at every illuminated capital, from the first leaf to the colophon." Mr. Quaritch did not open a single book, but let me look round his establishment, and answered my questions very courteously. It so happened that while I was there a gentleman came in whom I had previously met,--my namesake, Mr. Holmes, the Queen's librarian at Windsor Castle. My ten minutes passed very rapidly in conversation with these two experts in books, the bibliopole and the bibliothecary. No place that I visited made me feel more thoroughly that I was in London, the great central mart of all that is most precious in the world.
--My thoughts had wandered far away,
Ingenuity is much better shown in contrivances for making our daily life more comfortable. I was on the lookout for everything that promised to be a convenience. I carried out two things which seemed to be new to the Londoners: the Star Razor, which I have praised so freely, and still find equal to all my commendations; and the mucilage pencil, which is a very handy implement to keep on the writer's desk or table. I found a contrivance for protecting the hand in drawing corks, which all who are their own butlers will appreciate, and luminous match-boxes which really shine brightly in the dark, and that after a year's usage; whereas one professing to shine by night, which I bought in Boston, is only visible by borrowed light. I wanted a very fine-grained hone, and inquired for it at a hardware store, where they kept everything in their line of the best quality. I brought away a very pretty but very small stone, for which I paid a large price. The stone was from Arkansas, and I need not have bought in London what would have been easily obtained at a dozen or more stores in Boston. It was a renewal of my experience with the seafoam biscuit. "Know thyself" and the things about thee, and "Take the good the gods provide thee," if thou wilt only keep thine eyes open, are two safe precepts.
One of my very agreeable experiences was a call from a gentleman with whom I had corresponded, but whom I had never met. This was Mr. John Bellows, of Gloucester, publisher, printer, man of letters, or rather of words; for he is the author of that truly remarkable little manual, "The Bona Fide Pocket Dictionary of the French and English Languages." To the review of this little book, which is dedicated to Prince Lucien Bonaparte, the "London Times" devoted a full column. I never heard any one who had used it speak of it except with admiration. The modest Friend may be surprised to find himself at full length in my pages, but those who know the little miracle of typography, its conciseness, completeness, arrangement, will not wonder that I was gratified to see the author, who sent it to me, and who has written me most interesting letters on the local antiquities of Gloucester and its neighborhood.