and earnest, and, upon the least hitch, will do the same thing
twenty times over. The scenery, furniture, etc. are rapidly
advancing towards completion, and will be beautiful. The dresses
are a perfect blaze of colour, and there is not a pocket-flap or a
scrap of lace that has not been made according to Egg's drawings
to the quarter of an inch. Every wig has been made from an old
nnt or picture. From the Duke's snuff-box to Will's Coffee-
mse, you will find everything in perfect truth and keeping. I
have resolved that whenever we come to a weak place in the acting
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 247
it must, somehow or other, be made a strong one. The places
that I used to he most afraid of are among the best points now.
Will you come to the dress rehearsal on the Tuesday evening
before the Queen's night 1 There will be no one present but the
I write in the greatest haste, for the rehearsal time is close at
hand, and I have the master carpenter and gasman to see before
Miss Coutts is one of the most sensible of women, and if I had
not seen the Duke yesterday, I would have shown her the play
directly. But there can't be any room for anxiety on the head
that has troubled you so much. You may clear it from your mind
as completely as the Gunpowder Plot.
In great haste, ever cordially.
Saturday, Twenty-fourth May, 1851. Mr. W. c.
MY DEAR MACREADY,
We are getting in a good heap of money for the Guild.
The comedy has been very much improved, in many respects, since
you read it. The scene to which you refer is certainly one of the
most telling in the play. And there is a farce to be produced on
Tuesday next, wherein a distinguished amateur will sustain a
variety of assumption-parts, and in particular, Samuel Weller and
Mrs. Gamp, of which I say no more. I am pining for Broadstaire, *
where the children are at present. I lurk from the sun, during
the best part of the day, in a villainous compound of darkness,
canvas, sawdust, general dust, stale gas (involving a vague smell
of pepper), and disenchanted properties. But I hope to get down
on Wednesday or Thursday.
Ah ! you country gentlemen, who live at home at ease, how
little do you think of us among the London fleas ! But they tell
me you are coming in for Dorsetshire. You must be very careful,
when you come to town to attend to your parliamentary duties,
never to ask your way of people in the streets. They will mis-
direct you for what the vulgar call "a lark," meaning, in this
connection, a jest at your expense. Always go into some respect-
able shop or apply to a policeman. You will know him by his l<^.
being dressed in blue, with very dull silver buttons, and by the
top of his hat being made of sticking-plaster. You may perhaps *
see in some odd place an intelligent-looking man, with a curious
little wooden table before him and three thimbles on it. He will
want you to bet, but don't do it. He really desires to cheat you.
And don't buy at auctions where the best plated goods are being
knocked down for next to nothing. These, too, are delusions. If
248 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
you wish to go to the play to see real good acting (though a little
more subdued than perfect tragedy should be), I would recommend
you to see at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Anybody will
show it to you. It is near the Strand, and you may know it by
seeing no company whatever at any of the doors. Cab fares are
eighteen pence a mile. A mile London measure is half a Dorset-
shire mile, recollect. Porter is twopence per pint ; what is called
stout is fourpence. The Zoological Gardens are in the Regent's
Park, and the price of admission is one shilling. Of the streets, I
would recommend you to see Regent Street and the Quadrant,
Bond Street, Piccadilly, Oxford Street, and Cheapside. I think
these will please you after a time, though the tumult and bustle
will at first bewilder you. If I can serve you in any way, pray
command me. And with my best regards to your happy family,
so remote from this Babel,
Believe me, my dear Friend,
Ever affectionately yours.
P.S. I forgot to mention just now that the black equestrian
figure you will see at Charing Cross, as you go down to the House,
is a statue of King Charles the First.
BROADSTAIRS, Eighth July, 1851.
MY DEAR LORD CARLISLE,
We shall be delighted to see you, if you will come down on
Saturday. Mr. Lemon may perhaps be here, with his wife, but no
one else. And we can give you a bed that may be surpassed, with
a welcome that certainly cannot be.
The general character of Broadstairs as to size and accommoda-
tion was happily expressed by Miss Eden, when she wrote to the
Duke of Devonshire (as he told me), saying how grateful she felt
to a certain sailor, who asked leave to see her garden, for not
plucking it bodily up, and sticking it in his button-hole.
As we think of putting mignonette-boxes outside the windows,
for the younger children to sleep in by-and-by, I am afraid we
should give your servant the cramp if we hardily undertook to
lodge him. But in case you should decide to bring one, he is
easily disposable hard by.
Don't come by the boat It is rather tedious, and both departs
i arrives at inconvenient hours. There is a railway train from
terminus to Ramsgate, at half-past twelve in the day,
i will bring you in three hours. Another at half-past four in
rternoon. If you will tell me by which you come (I hope the
sr), I will await you at the terminus with my little brougham.
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 249
You will have for a night-light in the room we shall give you,
the North Foreland lighthouse. That and the sea and air are our
only lions. It is a very rough little place, but a very pleasant one,
and you will make it pleasanter than ever to me.
Faithfully yours always.
BROADSTAIRS, KENT, Eleventh July, 1851. The Hon.
MY DEAR MRS. WATSON, ^ rs -
I am so desperately indignant with you for writing me that
short apology for a note, and pretending to suppose that under any
circumstances I could fail to read with interest anything you wrote
to me, that I have more than half a mind to inflict a regular letter
upon you. If I were not the gentlest of men I should do it !
Poor dear Haldimand, I have thought of him so often. That
kind of decay is so inexpressibly affecting and piteous to me, that
I have no words to express my compassion and sorrow. When I
was at Abbotsford, I saw in a vile glass case the last clothes Scott
wore. Among them an old white hat, which seemed to be tumbled
and bent and broken by the uneasy, purposeless wandering, hither
and thither, of his heavy head. It so embodied Lockhart's pathetic
description of him when he tried to write, and laid down his pen
and cried, that it associated itself in my mind with broken powers
and mental weakness from that hour. I fancy Haldimand in such
another, going listlessly about that beautiful place, and remember-
ing the happy hours we have passed with him, and his goodness
and truth, I think what a dream we live in, until it seems for the
moment the saddest dream that ever was dreamed. Pray tell us
if you hear more of him. We really loved him.
To go to the opposite side of life, let me tell you that a week
or so ago I took Charley and three of his schoolfellows down the
river gipsying. I secured the services of Charley's godfather (an
old friend of mine,* and a noble fellow with boys), and went down
to Slough, accompanied by two immense hampers from Fortnum
and Mason, on (I believe) the wettest morning ever seen out of
It cleared before we got to Slough ; but the boys, who had got
up at four (we being due at eleven), had horrible misgivings that
we might not come, in consequence of which we saw them looking
into the carriages before us, all face. They seemed to have no
bodies whatever, but to be all face ; their countenances lengthened
to that surprising extent. When they saw us, the faces shut up-
as if they were upon strong springs, and their waistcoats developed
themselves in the usual places. When the first hamper came out
* Mr. Thomas Beard.
250 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
of the luggage-van, I was conscious of their dancing behind the
guard ; when the second came out with bottles in it, they all stood
wildly'on one leg. We then got a couple of flys to drive to the
boaHioiise. I put them in the first, but they couldn't sit still a
moment, and were perpetually flying up and down like the toy
figures in the sham snuff-boxes. In this order we went on to
"Tom Brown's, the tailor's," where they all dressed in aquatic
costume, and then to the boat-house, where they all cried in
shrill chorus for " Mahogany " a gentleman so called by reason
of his sunburnt complexion, a waterman by profession. (He was
likewise called during the day " Hog " and " Hogany," and seemed
to be unconscious of any proper name whatsoever.) We embarked,
the sun shining now, in a galley with a striped awning, which I
had ordered for the purpose, and all rowing hard, went down the
river. We dined in a field ; what I suffered for fear those boys
should get drunk, the struggles I underwent in a contest of feeling
between hospitality and prudence, must ever remain untold. I
feel, even now, old with the anxiety of that tremendous hour.
They were very good, however. The speech of one became thick,
and his eyes too like lobsters' to be comfortable, but only
temporarily. He recovered, and I suppose outlived the salad he
took. I have heard nothing to the contrary, and I imagine I
should have been implicated on the inquest if there had been one.
We had tea and rashers of bacon at a public-house, and came home,
the last five or six miles in a prodigious thunderstorm. This was
the great success of the day, which they certainly enjoyed more
than anything else. The dinner had been great, and Mahogany
had informed them, after a bottle of light champagne, that he
never would come up the river " with ginger company " any more.
But the getting so completely wet through was the culminating
part of the entertainment. You never in your life saw such
objects as they were; and their perfect unconsciousness that it
was at all advisable to go home and change, or that there was
anything to prevent their standing at the station two mortal hours
to see me off, was wonderful. As to getting them to their dames
with any sort of sense that they were damp, I abandoned the idea.
I thought it a success when they went down the street as civilly
as if they were just up and newly dressed, though they really
looked as if you could have rubbed them to rags with a touch, like
I am sorry you have not been able to see our play, which I
suppose you won't now, for I take it you are not going on Monday,
the twenty-first, our last night in town ? It is worth seeing, not
for the getting up (which modesty forbids me to approve), but for
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 251
the little bijou it is, in the scenery, dresses, and appointments.
They are such as never can be got together again, because such
men as Stanfield, Roberts, Grieve, Haghe, Egg, and others, never
can be again combined in such a work. Everything has been done
at its best from all sorts of authorities, and it is really very beautiful
to look at.
I find I am " used up " by the Exhibition. I don't say " there
is nothing in it " there's too much. I have only been twice ; so
many things bewildered me. I have a natural horror of sights,
and the fusion of so many sights in one has not decreased it. I
am not sure that I have seen anything but the fountain and per-
haps the Amazon. It is a dreadful thing to be obliged to be false,
but when anyone says, "Have you seen ?" I say, "Yes,"
because if I don't, I know he'll explain it, and I can't bear that.
took all the school one day. The school was composed of a
hundred "infants," who got among the horses' legs in crossing to
the main entrance from the Kensington Gate, and came reeling
out from between the wheels of coaches undisturbed in mind.
They were clinging to horses, I am told, all over the park.
When they were collected and added up by the frantic monitors,
they were all right. They were then regaled with cake, etc., and
went tottering and staring all over the place; the greater part
wetting their forefingers and drawing a wavy pattern on every
accessible object. One infant strayed. He was not missed.
Ninety and nine were taken home, supposed to be the whole col-
lection, but this particular infant went to Hammersmith. He
was found by the police at night, going round and round the
turnpike, which he still supposed to be a part of the Exhibition.
He had the same opinion of the police, also of Hammersmith
workhouse, where he passed the night. When his mother came
for him in the morning, he asked when it would be over ? It was
a great Exhibition, he said, but he thought it long.
As I begin to have a foreboding that you will think the same
of this act of vengeance of mine, this present letter, I shall make
an end of it, with my heartiest and most loving remembrances to
Watson. I should have liked him of all things to have been in
the Eton expedition, tell him, and to have heard a song (by-the-
bye, I have forgotten that) sung in the thunderstorm, solos by
Charley, chorus by the friends, describing the career of a booby
who was plucked at college, every verse ending :
T don't care a fig what the people may think,
But what WILL the governor say !
which was shouted with a deferential jollity towards myself, as a
252 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
governor who had that day done a creditable action, and proved
himself worthy of all confidence.
Ever, dear Mrs. Watson,
Most sincerely yours.
Mr. Frank "HOUSEHOLD WORDS," Sunday, Twentieth July, 1851.
MY DEAR STONE,
I have been considering the great house question since you
kindly called yesterday evening, and come to the conclusion that
I had better not let it go. I am convinced it is the prudent
thing for me to do, and that I am very unlikely to find the same
comforts for the rising generation elsewhere, for the same money.
Therefore, as Robins no doubt understands that you would come
to me yesterday passing his life as he does amidst every possible
phase of such negotiations I think it hardly worth while to wait
for the receipt of his coming letter. If you will take the trouble
to call on him in the morning, and offer the 1450, I shall be
very much obliged to you. If you will receive from me full
power to conclude the purchase (subject of course to my solicitor's
approval of the lease), pray do. I give you carte blanche to
1500, but I think the 1450 ought to win the day.
I don't make any apologies for thrusting this honour upon you,
knowing what a thorough-going old pump you are. Lemon and
his wife are coming here, after rehearsal, to a gipsy sort of cold
dinner. Time, half-past three. Viands, pickled salmon and cold
pigeon -pie. Occupation afterwards, lying on the carpet as a
preparation for histrionic strength. Will you come with us from
the Hanover Square Rooms ? Ever affectionately.
Mr. riiarles BROADSTAIRS, KENT,
Sunday, Twenty -seventh July, 1851.
MY DEAR KNIGHT,
A most excellent Shadow ! * I have sent it up to the
printer, and Wills is to send you a proof. Will you look carefully
at all the earlier part, where the use of the past tense instead of
the present a little hurts the picturesque effect? I understand
each phase of the thing to be always a thing present before the
mind's eye a, shadow passing before it. Whatever is done, must
be doing. Is it not so 1 For example, if I did the Shadow of
Robinson Crusoe, I should not say he was a boy at Hull when his
father lectured him about going to sea, and so forth ; but he is
a boy at Hull. There he is, in that particular Shadow, eternally
*, M ' ^ h * rles Knight was writing a series of papers in "Household
Words" called "Shadows."
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 253
a boy at Hull ; his life to me is a series of shadows, but there is
no " was " in the case. If I choose to go to his manhood, I can.
These shadows don't change as realities do. No phase of his
existence passes away, if I choose to bring it to this unsubstantial
and delightful life, the only death of which, to me, is my death,
and thus he is immortal to unnumbered thousands. If I am right,
will you look at the proof through the first third or half of the
papers, and see whether the Factor comes before us in that way 1
If not, it is merely the alteration of the verb here and there that
I cannot say that I derive a comfortable impression of -
from his note, or that I think him easy to be hopefully assisted ;
but I am almost ashamed of building up any opinion on such slight
premises. He writes about his books rather as if he saw his future
biography in his mind's eye, with this letter in it. Is it so ? or
am I a Beast whom Begging-Letter Writers have made out of a
You say you are coming down to look for a place next week.
Now, Jerrold says he is coming on Thursday, by the cheap express
at half-past twelve, to return with me for the play early on Monday
morning. Can't you make that a holiday too 1 ? I have promised him
our only spare bed, but we'll find you a bed hard by, and shall be
delighted " to eat and drink you," as an American once wrote to me.
We will make expeditions to Herne Bay, Canterbury, where not 1
and drink deep draughts of fresh air. Come ! They are beginning
to cut the corn. You will never see the country so pretty. If
you stay in town these days, you'll do nothing. Say you'll come !
BROABSTAIRS, KENT, Mr. Frank
Saturday, Twenty '-third August, 1851. stone -
MY DEAR STONE,
A " dim vision " occurs to me, arising out of your note ; also
presents itself to the brains of my other half.
Supposing you should find, on looking onward, a possibility of
your being houseless at Michaelmas, what do you say to using
Devonshire Terrace as a temporary encampment 1 It will not be
in its usual order, but we would take care that there should be as
much useful furniture of all sorts there, as to render it unnecessary
for you to move a stick. If you should think this a convenience,
then I should propose to you to pile your furniture in the middle of
the rooms at Tavistock House, and go out to Devonshire Terrace two
or three weeks before Michaelmas, to enable my workmen to com-
mence their operations. This might be to our mutual convenience,
254 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
and therefore I suggest it. Certainly the sooner I can begin on
Tavistock House the better. And possibly your going into
Devonshire Terrace might relieve you from a difficulty that would
otherwise be perplexing.
I make this suggestion (I need not say to you) solely on the
chance of its being useful to both of us. If it were merely con-
venient to me, you know I shouldn't dream of it. Such an arrange-
ment, while it would cost you nothing, would perhaps enable you to
get your new house into order comfortably, and do exactly the
aame thing for me. Ever affectionately<
nry BROADSTAIRS, Sunday, Seventh September, 1851.
MY DEAR HENRY,
I am in that state of mind which you may (once) have seen
described in the newspapers as " bordering on distraction ; " the
house given up to me, the fine weather going on (soon to break,
I daresay), the painting season oozing away, my new book waiting
to be born, and
NO WORKMEN ON THE PREMISES,
along of my not hearing from you ! ! I have torn all my hair off,
and constantly beat my unoffending family. Wild notions have
occurred to me of sending iu my own plumber to do the drains.
Then I remember that you have probably written to prepare your
man, and restrain my audacious hand. Then Stone presents him-
self, with a most exasperatingly mysterious visage, and says that a
, rat has appeared in the kitchen, and it's his opinion (Stone's, not
*"" 'the rat's) that the drains want " compo-ing ; " for the use of which
explicit language I could fell him without remorse. In my horrible
desire to "compo" everything, the very postman becomes my
enemy because he brings no letter from you ; and, in short, I don't
see what's to become of me unless I hear from you to-morrow
which I have not the least expectation of doing.
Going over the house again, I have materially altered the plans
abandoned conservatory and front balcony decided to make
Stone's painting-room the drawing-room (it is nearly six inches
higher than the room below), to carry the entrance passage right
AjA through the house to a back door leading to the garden, and to
reduce the once intended drawing-room now school-room to a
manageable size, making a door of communication between the new
drawing-room and the study. Curtains and carpets, on a scale of
awful splendour and magnitude, are already in preparation, and
; Still Still
NO WORKMEN ON THE PREMISES.
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 255
To pursue this theme is madness. Where are you 1 When are Q
you coming home ? Where is THE man who is to do the work ?
Does he know that an army of artificers must be turned in at
once, and the whole thing finished out of hand? rescue me
from my present condition. Come up to the scratch, I entreat and
implore you !
I send this to Laetitia to forward,
Being, as you well know why,
Completely floored by N. W. . I
I hope you may be able to read this. My state of mind does
not admit of coherence.
P.S. No WORKMEN ON THE PREMISES!
Ha ! ha ! ha ! (I am laughing demoniacally.)
EXTRACT FROM LETTER TO MR. STONE.
Eighth September, 1851. Mr. Frank
You never saw such a sight as the sands between this and
Margate presented yesterday. This day fortnight a steamer laden
with cattle going from Rotterdam to the London market, was ^
wrecked on the Goodwin on which occasion, by-the-bye, the
coming in at night of our Salvage Luggers laden with dead cattle,
which were hoisted up upon the pier, where they lay in heaps, was
a most picturesque and striking sight. The sea since Wednesday
has been very rough, blowing in straight upon the land. Yester-
day, the shore was strewn with hundreds of oxen, sheep, and pigs
(and with bushels upon bushels of apples,) in every state and stage
of decay burst open, rent asunder, lying with their stiff hoofs in
the air, or with their great ribs yawning like the wrecks of ships
tumbled and beaten out of shape, and yet with a horrible sort of
humanity about them. Hovering among these carcases was every
kind of water-side plunderer, pulling the horns out, getting the
hides off, chopping the hoofs with poleaxes, etc. etc., attended by
no end of donkey carts, and spectral horses with scraggjjiejcks,
gallophil: wildly up ami <ln\vn as it' there wen- snin.'tliinx lu.uMt ;i-
ing 'in tne stench. I never beheld such a demoniacal business !
Very faithfully yours.
266 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
Mr. Henry BROADSTAIRS, Monday, Eighth September, 1851.
Austin. My DEAR HENRY,
Your letter, received this morning, has considerably allayed
the anguish of my soul. Our letters crossed, of course, as letters
under such circumstances always do.
I am perpetually wandering (in fancy) up and down the house*
and tumbling over the workmen ; when I feel that they are gone
to dinner I become low, when I look forward to their total absti-
nence on Sundays, I am wretched. The gravy at dinner has a taste
of glue in it I smell paint in the sea. Phantom lime attends
me all the day long. I dream that I am a carpenter and can't parti-
tion off the hall. I frequently dance (with a distinguished company)
in the drawing-room, and fall in the kitchen for want of a pillar.
A great to-do here. A steamer lost on the Goodwins yesterday,
aud our men bringing in no end of dead cattle and sheep. I stood
a supper for them last night, to the unbounded gratification of
Broadstairs. They came in from the wreck very wet and tired,
and very much disconcerted by the nature of their prize which,
I suppose, after all, will have to be recommitted to the sea, when
the hides and tallow are secured. One lean-faced boatman mur-
mured, when they were all ruminative over the bodies as they lay
on the pier : " Couldn't sassages be made on it ? " but retired in
confusion shortly afterwards, overwhelmed by the execrations of
the bystanders. Ever affectionately.
P. S. Sometimes I think - 's bill will be too long to be
added up until Babbage's calculating-machine shall be improved
and finished. Sometimes that there is not paper enough ready
made, to carry it over and bring it forward upon.
I dream, also, of the workmen every night. They make faces