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A Canterbury Pilgrimage   By: (1855-1936)

A Canterbury Pilgrimage by Elizabeth Robins Pennell

First Page:


This work is Copyright in England and America.


Ridden, written, and illustrated by



London: Published by Seeley and Company, xlvi. xlvii. xlviii. Essex Street. Mdccclxxxv.

TO Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson,

We, who are unknown to him, dedicate this record of one of our short journeys on a Tricycle, in gratitude for the happy hours we have spent travelling with him and his Donkey.

We do not think our book needs an apology, explanation, or preface; nor does it seem to us worth while to give our route form, since the road from London to Canterbury is almost as well known to cyclers as the Strand, or the Lancaster Pike; nor to record our time, since we were pilgrims and not scorchers. And as for non cyclers, who as yet know nothing of time and roads, we would rather show them how pleasant it is to go on pilgrimage than weary them with cycling facts.


36 BEDFORD PLACE, May 14th, 1885 .

First Day


Folk do go on Pilgrimage through Kent.




It was towards the end of August, when a hot sun was softening the asphalt in the dusty streets of London, and ripening the hops in the pleasant land of Kent, that we went on pilgrimage to Canterbury. Ours was no ordinary journey by rail, which is the way latter day pilgrims mostly travel. No. What we wanted was in all reverence to follow, as far as it was possible, the road taken by the famous company of bygone days, setting out from the hostelrie where these lordings lay one night and held counsel, making stations by the way at the few places they mention by name, and ending it, as they did, at the shrine of the 'holy, blissful martyr,' in the Canterbury Cathedral. How better could this be done than by riding over the ground made sacred by them on our tricycle?

[Illustration: Our only Race. ]

And so it came to pass that one close, foggy morning, we strapped our bags to our machine and wheeled out of Russell Square before any one was stirring but the policeman, making his last rounds and trying door after door. Down Holborn and past Staples' Inn, very grey and venerable in the pale light, and where the facetious driver of a donkey cart tried to race us; past the now silent and deserted cloisters of Christ's Hospital, and under Bow Bells in Cheapside; past the Monument of the famous fire, and over London Bridge, where the mist was heavy on the river and the barges showed spectre like through it, and where hucksters greeted us after their fashion, one crying, 'Go in, hind one! I bet on you. You'll catch up if you try hard enough!' and another, 'How are you there, up in the second story?' A short way up the Borough High Street, from which we had a glimpse of the old red roof and balustraded galleries of the 'White Hart;' and then we were at the corner where the 'Tabard' ought to be. This was to have been our starting point; but how, it suddenly occurred to us for the first time, could we start from nothing? If ours had no beginning, would it be a genuine pilgrimage? This was a serious difficulty at the very outset. But our enthusiasm was fresh. We looked up at the old sign of ' Ye Old Tabard ,' hanging from the third story of the tall brick building which has replaced Chaucer's Inn. Here, at least, was something substantial. And we rode on with what good cheer we could.


Then we went for some distance over the Old Kent Road, which is laid with Belgian paving invented, I think, for the confusion of cyclers, and where in one place a Hansom cab blocked the way. In endeavouring to pass around it our big wheel ran into the groove of the track, and we had to dismount and lift it out. The driver sat scowling as he looked on... Continue reading book >>

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