Friday, July 2, 2010

The Dirty Old Man

I know this poet, but I had never come across this wonderful little poem before.

William Allingham
illustrated by Erik Blegvad 1965

A precursor to Miss Havisham, the dirty old man lives in absolute squalor and filth though he is a kind gentleman of breeding. Upstairs is a room that has sat undisturbed for 40 years and represents the tragedy that started his undoing.

William Allingham notes:  A singular man, named Nathaniel Bentley, for many years kept a large hardware shop in Leadenhall Street, London.  He was best known as 'Dirty Dick.'  ...He died about the year 1809.  The verses accord with the accounts respecting himself and his house...
"The Dirty Old Man" ... (was) first published in Mr. Dickens's "Household Words", and I believe had the honour of suggesting to the great novelist something in "Great Expectations"...

The old man has played out his parts in the scene.
        Wherever he now is, I hope he's more clean.
Yet give we a  thought free of scoffing or ban
        To that Dirty Old House and that Dirty Old Man.

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