[Gad’s Hill Place—Thursday, 3 June 1869]
Thursday the gentlemen started early and walked to the druid stone at Maidstone; we ladies started somewhat later, I in the large carriage alone with Miss Hogarth. We met the gentlemen by the stone where Mr. Dickens explained that he believed it to be simply like a kind of pulpit and sounding-board from which the priest addressed the multitude. The lay of the surrounding land certainly corroborates this. We saw Mr. Pickwick’s Ball-Inn in the village of Rochester, which now bears a signboard with a quotation from Pickwick upon it, also 2 old Elizabethan houses in the village and chief over all the old old castle upon the banks of the Medway. I do not wonder at Mr. Dickens’s love for this old place. It is wholly unrestored, standing just as it has stood and crumbled from year to year. Mr. Dickens restored it for us in fancy. It was built by the Normans originally & was called Hroff’s Siesta (Roff’s Castle) whence the corruption, Rochester. There is the same spring still running, with clear water too, which has been running since those days & we could see the place where the rope came down and drew the water up to the top of the castle, there was the kitchen and the dining-hall (they must all have been frightfuly dark in those days) the fire-places without chimneys, the galleries, 4 towers, the ruined staircase by which we mounted to the battlements. The exquisite beauty of the view seen from the small narrow windows which serve to frame the landscape into exquisite picturesqueness, cannot be told. The flowers too growing from the stone work were most lovely.
Dinner at half past six again and billiards afterward.
In vain we listen for the nightingales. Mr. Dickens hears them but we cannot.