Fog creeping into the cabooses

In this snippet, Dickens breaks from his polar axis pattern, with which he has been describing places, and instead focuses on things.

Specifically, he focuses on one category of thing, which is 'boats':

Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats.

19th century London was a shipping city and boats were a central feature of daily life. All three parts of this snippet are about how the fog interacts with these things.

The axis of size

In the previous two snippets, we saw how Dickens didn't just choose random details for this lists. He choose details that illustrated a sense of 'all-encompassing': natural up-river to industrial down-river; northern low marshes to southern heights.

In this snippet, the boats are organised by size: mid-sized collier-brig, great ship, small barge. 

"What are these weird boat words?"

  • Collier-brig: a two-masted coal boat
  • Caboose: the small galley/kitchen
  • Rigging: all the ropes and nets to work the sails
  • Gunwale: pronounced "gunnel", it's the fence-rim around the deck (the original Old English phrase was "gonne wall" which meant literally "gun wall").

The snippet is broken into three almost-identical clauses. Each clause uses the same elements:

  • The intrusion: Again, the fog is the subject of each clause.
  • Action: Unlike the earlier fragments, which have no verb, here the fog is active—and the verbs are all vividly expressive: creeping, lying, hovering, drooping.
  • Thing: Notice how the action connects to the thing via a preposition (using into, out on, in the, on the). This is because the fog can't actually do anything to anything; so the things are treated grammatically like places, using prepositional phrases.
  • Connector: Because these are longer clauses, Dickens joins them with a semicolon—and he uses an 'and' to create a subordinate clause in the middle of the snippet.


The important thing here is to show how your intrusion interacts with a variety of things.


Ideally, choose things that belong to a single class. 

Dickens followed his fog through all different types of boats. What could you do?

(In our Brisbane example, we'll follow the sweat around different types of dwelling (timber houses, apartment buildings, and tents). In our Tampa example, we'll follow the gators around different types of water source.)

Advanced: Axis

If you can, try to choose things that mark different points along an imaginary axis. Dickens chose boats of different sizes. What could you do?


Try find some vivid verbs to express the action of your intrusion.

Sweat trickling down the walls of timber houses; sweat misting on windows and coating the interiors of apartment buildings; sweat pooling on tents by the river.

Gators chomping on floaties in backyard pools; gators gliding out of changing rooms and slipping into jet-powered spas; gators snoozing in private bathtubs and public toilets.

Write your variation here.

Again, notice how carefully he is constructing this musical effect with repetition and rhythmic variation, while also being adding varations with each clause (in this case medium, large, and small boats).