am, as I ought to be, very thankful.
Arthur was exceedingly unwell last night could not cheer up
at all. He was so very unwell that he left the hall (!) and became
invisible after my five minutes' rest. I found him at the hotel in a
jacket and slippers, and with a hot bath just ready. He was in
the last stage of prostration. The local agent was with me, and
proposed that he (the wretched Arthur) should go to his office
and balance the accounts then and there. He went, in the jacket
and slippers, and came back in twenty minutes, perfectly well, in
consequence of the admirable balance. He is now sitting opposite
to me ON THE BAG OF SILVER (it must be dreadfully hard),
writing to Boulogne.
Best love to Mamie and Katie, and dear Plorn, and all the
boys left when this comes to Gad's Hill ; also to my dear good
Anne, and her little woman.
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 461
GAB'S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT, Mr. w.
Monday, Sixth September, 1858. Wiikie'
MY DEAR WlLKIE, Collins.
First, let me report myself here for something less than
eight -and -forty hours. I come last (and direct a pretty hard
journey) from Limerick.
The work is very hard, sometimes overpowering; but I am
none the worse for it, and arrived here quite fresh.
Secondly, will you let me recommend the enclosed letter from
Wigan, as the groundwork of a capital article, in your way, for
H. W. ? There is not the least objection to a plain reference to
him, or to Phelps, to whom the same thing happened a year or two
ago, near Islington, in the case of a clever and capital little daughter
of his. I think it a capital opportunity for a discourse on gentility,
with a glance at those other schools which advertise that the
"sons of gentlemen only" are admitted, and a just recognition
of the greater liberality of our public schools. There are trades-
men's sons at Eton, and Charles Kean was at Eton, and Macready
(also an actor's son) was at Rugby. Some such title as " Scholastic
Flunkeydom," or anything infinitely contemptuous, would help out
the meaning. Surely such a schoolmaster must swallow all the silver
forks that the pupils are expected to take when they come, and are
not expected to take away with them when they go. And of course
he could not exist, unless he had flunkey customers by the dozen.
Secondly no, this is thirdly now about the Christmas number.
I have arranged so to stop my readings, as to be available for it on
Fifteenth of November, which will leave me time to write a good
article, if I clear my way to one. Do you see your way to our
making a Christmas number of this idea that I am going very
briefly to hint 1 ? Some disappointed person, man or woman,
prematurely disgusted with the world, for some reason or no reason
(the person should be young, I think) retires to an old lonely house,
or an old lonely mill, or anything you like, with one attendant,
resolved to shut out the world, and hold no communion with it.
The one attendant sees the absurdity of the idea, pretends to
humour it, but really tries to slaughter it. Everything that happens,
everybody that comes near, every breath of human interest that
floats into the old place from the village, or the heath, or the four
cross-roads near which it stands, and from which belated travellers
stray into it, shows beyond mistake that you can't shut out the
world ; that you are in it, to be of it ; that you get into a false
position the moment you try to sever yourself from it ; and that
you must mingle with it, and make the best of it, and make the
best of yourself into the bargain.
462 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
If we could plot out a way of doing this together, I would not
be afraid to take my part. If we could not, could we plot out a
way of doing it, and taking in stories by other hands 1 If we could
not do either (but I think we could), shall we fall back upon a
round of stories again 1 That I would rather not do, if possible.
Will you think about it ?
Ever, my dear Wilkie, affectionately yours.
Miss Mary STATION HOTEL, YORK,
Boyle. Friday, Tenth September, 1858.
First let me tell you that all the magicians and spirits in
your* employ have fulfilled the instructions of their wondrous
mistress to admiration. Flowers have fallen in my path wherever
I have trod ; and when they rained upon me at Cork I was more
amazed than you ever saw me.
Secondly, receive my hearty and loving thanks for that same.
(Excuse a little Irish in the turn of that sentence, but I can't
I really cannot tell you how truly and tenderly I feel your
letter, and how gratified I am by its contents. Your truth and
attachment are always so precious to me that I cannot get my
heart out on my sleeve to show it you. It is like a child, and at
the sound of some familiar voices, "goes and hides."
You know what an affection I have for Mrs. Watson, and how
happy it made me to see her again younger, much, than when I
first knew her in Switzerland.
God bless you always ! Ever affectionately yours.
ROYAL HOTEL, SCARBOROUGH,
Sunday, Twelfth September, 1858.
MY DEAREST GEORGY,
We had a very fine house indeed at York. At Harrogate
yesterday; the queerest place, with the strangest people in it,
leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading, and tables
d'hote. The piety of York obliging us to leave that place for this
at six this morning, and there being no. night train from Harro-
gate, we had to engage a special engine. We got to bed at one,
and were up again before five ; which, after yesterday's fatigues,
leaves me a little worn out at this present.
We have a charming room, overlooking the sea. Leech is here
(living within a few doors), with the partner of his bosom, and
his young family. I write at ten in the morning, having been here
two hours ; and you will readily suppose that I have not seen him.
LETTEKS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 463
Of news, I have not the faintest breath. I seem to have been
doing nothing all my life but riding in rail way -carriages and
reading. The railway of the morning brought us through Castle
Howard, and under the woods of Easthorpe, and then just below
Malton Abbey. It was a most lovely morning, and, tired as I
was, I couldn't sleep for looking out of window.
Yesterday, at Harrogate, two circumstances occurred which
gave Arthur great delight. Firstly, he chafed his legs sore with
his black bag of silver. Secondly, the landlord asked him as a
favour, "If he could oblige him with a little silver." He obliged
him directly with some forty pounds' worth ; and I suspect the
landlord to have repented of having approached the subject. After
the reading last night we walked over the moor to the railway,
three miles, leaving our men to follow with the luggage in a light
cart. They passed us just short of the railway, and John was
making the night hideous and terrifying the sleeping country, by
playing the horn in prodigiously horrible and unmusical blasts.
My dearest love, of course, to the dear girls, and to the noble
Plorn. Apropos of children, there was one gentleman at the
" Little Dombey " yesterday morning, who exhibited, or rather
concealed, the profoundest grief. After crying a good deal without
hiding it, he covered his face with both his hands, and laid it down
on the back of the seat before him, and really shook with emotion.
He was not in mourning, but I supposed him to have lost some
child in old time. There was a remarkably good fellow of thirty
or so, too, who found something so very ludicrous in " Toots," that
he could not compose himself at all, but laughed until he sat wiping
his eyes with his handkerchief. And whenever he felt " Toots "
coming again he began to laugh and wipe his eyes afresh, and
when he came he gave a kind of cry, as if it were too much for him.
It was uncommonly droll, and made me laugh heartily.
Ever, dear Georgy, your most affectionate.
SCARBOROUGH ARMS, LEEDS, Miss
Wednesday, Fifteenth September, 1858.
MY DEAREST MAMIE,
I have added a pound to the cheque. I would recommend
your seeing the poor railway man again and giving him ten
shillings, and telling him to let you see him again in about a week.
If he be then still unable to lift weights and handle heavy things,
I would then give him another ten shillings, and so on.
Since I wrote to Georgy from Scarborough, we have had, thank
God, nothing but success. The Hull people (not generally con-
464 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
sidered excitable, even on their own showing) were so enthusiastic,
that we were obliged to promise to go back there for two readings.
Arthur told you, I suppose, that he had his shirt-front and
waistcoat torn off last night ? He was perfectly enraptured in con-
sequence. Our men got so knocked about that he gave them five
shillings apiece on the spot. John passed several minutes upside
down against a wall, with his head amongst the people's boots.
He came out of the difficulty in an exceedingly touzled condition,
and with his face much flushed. For all this, and their being
packed as you may conceive they would be packed, they settled
down the instant I went in, and never wavered in the closest
attention for an instant. It was a very high room, and required a
These streets look like a great circus with the season just
finished. All sorts of garish triumphal arches were put up for the
Queen, and they have got smoky, and have been looked out of
countenance by the sun, and are blistered and patchy, and half
up and half down, and are hideous to behold. Spiritless men
(evidently drunk for some time in the royal honour) are slowly
removing them, and on the whole it is more like the clearing away
of " The Frozen Deep " at Tavistock House than anything within
your knowledge with the exception that we are not in the least
sorry, as we were then. Vague ideas are in Arthur's head that when
we come back to Hull, we are to come here, and are to have the
Town Hall (a beautiful building), and read to the million. I can't
say yet. That depends. I remember that when I was here before
(I came from Rockingham to make a speech), I thought them a
dull and slow audience. I hope I may have been mistaken. I
never saw better audiences than the Yorkshire audiences generally.
I am so perpetually at work or asleep, that I have not a scrap
Tell the servants that I remember them, and hope they will live
with us many years.
Ever, my dearest Mamie,
Your most affectionate Father.
KING'S HEAD, SHEFFIELD,
Friday, Seventeenth September, 1858.
I write you a few lines to Tavistock House, thinking you
may not be sorry to find a note from me there on your arrival
from Gad's Hill.
Halifax was too small for us. I never saw such an audience
though. They were really worth reading to for nothing, though I
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 45
didn't do exactly that. It is as horrible a place as I ever saw, I
The trains are so strange and unintelligible in this part of the
country that we were obliged to leave Halifax at eight this morning,
and breakfast on the road at Huddersfield again, where we had an
hour's wait. Wills was in attendance on the platform, and took me
(here at Sheffield, I mean) out to Frederick Lehmann's house to see
Mrs. Wills. She looked pretty much the same as ever, I thought,
and was taking care of a very pretty little boy. The house and
grounds are as nice as anything can be in this smoke. A heavy
thunderstorm is passing over the town, and it is raining hard too.
This is a stupid letter, my dearest Georgy, but I write in a
hurry, and in the thunder and lightning, and with the crowd of
to-night before me.
Ever most affectionately.
STATION HOTEL, NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE, Miss
Sunday, Twenty -sixth September, 1858. Hogarth.
The girls (as I have no doubt they have already told you for
themselves) arrived here in good time yesterday, and in very fresh
condition. They persisted in going to the room last night, though
I had arranged for their remaining quiet.
We have done a vast deal here. I suppose you know that we
are going to Berwick, and that we mean to sleep there and go on
to Edinburgh on Monday morning, arriving there before noon 1
If it be as fine to-morrow as it is to-day, the girls will see the coast
piece of railway between Berwick and Edinburgh to great ad-
vantage. I was anxious that they should, because that kind of
pleasure is really almost the only one they are likely to have in
their present trip.
Stanfield and Roberts are in Edinburgh, and the Scottish
Royal Academy gave them a dinner on Wednesday, to which I
was very pressingly invited. But, of course, my going was
impossible. I read twice that day.
I read at Sunderland in a beautiful new theatre, and (I thought
to myself) quite wonderfully. Such an audience I never beheld
for rapidity and enthusiasm. The room in which we acted (con-
verted into a theatre afterwards) was burnt to the ground a year
or two ago. We found the hotel, so bad in our time, really good.
I walked from Durham to Sunderland, and from Sunderland to
My best love to the noble Plornish. If he is quite reconciled to
466 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
the postponement of his trousers, I should like to behold his first
appearance in 'them. But, if not, as he is such a good fellow, I
think it would be a pity to disappoint and try him.
And now, my dearest Georgy, I think I have said all I have to
say before I go out for a little air. I had a very hard day
yesterday, and am tired.
Ever your most affectionate.
Mr. John TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON,
Sunday, Tenth October, 1858.
MY DEAR FORSTEE,
As to the truth of the readings, I cannot tell you what the
demonstrations of personal regard and respect are. How the
densest and most uncomfortably-packed crowd will be hushed in an
instant when I show my face. How the youth of colleges, and
the old men of business in the town, seem equally unable to get
near enough to me when they cheer me away at night. How
common people and gentlefolks will stop me in the streets and say :
" Mr. Dickens, will you let me touch the hand that has filled my
home with so many friends?" And if you saw the mothers, and
fathers, and sisters, and brothers in mourning, who invariably
come to "Little Dombey," and if you studied the wonderful
expression of comfort and reliance with which they hang about me,
as if I had been with them, all kindness and delicacy, at their own
little death-bed, you would think it one of the strangest things in
As to the mere effect, of course I don't go on doing the thing so
often without carefully observing myself and the people too in every
little thing, and without (in consequence) greatly improving in it.
At Aberdeen, we were crammed to the street twice in one day.
At Perth (where I thought when I arrived there literally could be
nobody to come), the nobility came posting in from thirty miles
round, and the whole town came and filled an immense hall. As
to the effect, if you had seen them after Lilian died, in " The
Chimes," or when Scrooge woke and talked to the boy outside the
window, I doubt if you would ever have forgotten it. And at the
end of " Dombey " yesterday afternoon, in the cold light of day,
they all got up, after a short pause, gentle and simple, and
thundered and waved their hats with that astonishing heartiness
and fondness for me, that for the first time in all my public career
they took me completely off my legs, and I saw the whole eighteen
hundred of them reel on one side as if a shock from without had
shaken the halL
The dear girls have enjoyed themselves immensely, and their
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKEXS. 467
trip has been a great success. I hope I told you (but I forget
whether I did or no) how splendidly Newcastle* came out. I am
reminded of Newcastle at the moment because they joined me
I am anxious to get to the end of my readings, and to be at
home again, and able to sit down and think in my own study. But
the fatigue, though sometimes very great indeed, hardly tells upon
me at all. And although all our people, from Smith downwards,
have given in, more or less, at times, I have never been in the
least unequal to the work, though sometimes sufficiently disinclined
for it. My kindest and best love to Mrs. Forster.
ROYAL HOTEL, DERBY, Miss
r t Friday, Twenty-second October, 1858. Wakens.
MY DEAREST MAMIE,
I am writing in a very poor condition ; I have a bad cold
all over me, pains in my back and limbs, and a very sensitive
and uncomfortable throat. There was a great draught up some
stone steps near me last night, and I daresay that caused it.
The weather on my first two nights at Birmingham was so in-
tolerably bad it blew hard, and never left off raining for one
single moment that the houses were not what they otherwise would
have been. On the last night the weather cleared, and we had a
Last night at Nottingham was almost, if not quite, the most
amazing we have had. It is not a very large place, and the room is
by no means a very large one. Here, it is a pretty room, but not
Arthur and I have considered Plornish's joke in all the immense
number of aspects in which it presents itself to reflective minds.
We have come to the conclusion that it is the best joke ever made.
Give the dear boy my love, and the same to Georgy, and the
same to Katey, and take the same yourself. Arthur (excessively
low and inarticulate) mutters that he " unites."
[We knocked up Boylett, Berry, and John so frightfully yester-
day, by tearing the room to pieces and altogether reversing it, as
late as four o'clock, that we gave them a supper last night. They
shine all over to-day, as if it had been entirely composed of grease.]
Ever, my dearest Mamie,
Your mast affectionate Father.
* The birthplace of Mr. Forster.
468 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
Mi gg WOLVERHAMPTON,
Hogarth. Wednesday, Third November, 1854.
Little Leamington is represented as the dullest and worst
of audiences. I found it very good indeed, even in the morning.
The evening being fine, and blue being to be seen in the sky
beyond the smoke, we expect to have a very full hall. Tell
Mamey and Katey that if they had been with us on the railway
to-day between Leamington and this place, they would have seen
(though it is only an hour and ten minutes by the express)
fires and sinoke indeed. We came through a part of the Black
Country that you know, and it looked at its blackest. All the
furnaces seemed in full blast, and all the coal-pits to be working.
It is market-day here, and the ironmasters are standing out in
the street (where they always hold high change), making such an
iron hum and buzz, that they confuse me horribly. In addition
there is a bellman announcing something not the readings, I beg
to say and there is an excavation being made in the centre of
the open place, for a statue, or a pump, or a lamp-post, or some-
thing or other, round which all the Wolverhampton boys are
yelling and struggling.
My best love to the dear girls, and to Plorn, and to you,
Marguerite and Ellen Stone not forgotten. All yesterday and
to-day I have been doing everything to the tune of:
And the day is dark and dreary.
Ever, dearest Georgy,
Your most affectionate and faithful.
P.S. I hope the brazier is intolerably hot, and half stifles all
the family. Then, and not otherwise, I shall think it in satisfactory
R. v. James TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Whit< - Friday, Fifth November, 1858.
MY DEAR WHITE,
May I entreat you to thank Mr. Carter very earnestly and
kindly in my name, for his proffered hospitality ; and, further, to
explain to him that since my readings began, I have known them
to be incompatible with all social enjoyments, and have neither set
foot in a friend's house nor sat down to a friend's table in any one
of all the many places I have been to, but have rigidly kept my-
self to my hotels. To this resolution I must hold until the last.
There is not the least virtue in it. It is a matter of stern necessity,
and I submit with the worst grace possible.
Will you let me know, either at Southampton or Portsmouth,
LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS. 469
whether any of you, and how many of you, if any, are coming
over, so that Arthur Smith may reserve good seats ? Tell Lotty I
hope she does not contemplate coming to the morning reading ; I
always hate it so myself.
Ever, my dear White, affectionately yours.
* TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Twenty-sixth November, 1858. Mr.
It has been a gloomy task, and has made my heart heavy. It is Je
not likely that I can furnish you with any new particulars of interest
concerning your lamented father. Such details of his life and struggles
as I have often heard from himself are better known to you than to
me ; and my praises of him can make no new sound in your ears.
But as you wish me to note down for you my last remembrance
and experience of him, I proceed to do so. It is natural that my
thoughts should first rush back (as they instantly do) to the days
when he began to be known to me, and to the many happy hours
I afterwards passed in his society.
Few of his friends, I think, can have had more favourable
opportunities of knowing him, in his gentlest and most affectionate
aspect, than I have had. He was one of the gentlest and most
affectionate of men. I remember very well that when I first saw
him, in or about the year 1835 when I went into his sick room
in St. Michael's Grove, Brompton, and found him propped up in a
great chair, bright-eyed, and eager and quick in spirit, but very
lame in body he gave me an impression of tenderness. It never
became dissociated from him. There was nothing cynical or sour
in his heart as I knew it. In the company of children and young
people he was particularly happy, and showed to extraordinary
advantage. He never was so gay, so sweet-tempered, so pleasing,
and so pleased as then. Among my own children I had observed
this many and many a time. When they and I came home from
Italy in 1845, your father went to Brussels to meet us in company
with our friends, Mr. Forster and Mr. Maclise. We all travelled
together about Belgium for a little while, and all came home
together. He was the delight of the children all the time, and
they were his delight. He was in his most brilliant spirits, and I
doubt if he were ever more humorous in his life. But the most
enduring impression that he left upon us who were grown up and
we have all often spoken of it since was that Jerrold, in his
amiable capacity of being easily pleased, in his freshness, in his
good-nature, in his cordiality, and in the unrestrained openness of
his heart, had quite captivated us.
* Printed in "The Life of Douglas Jerrold," by Blanchard Jerrold.
470 LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS.
Of his generosity I had a proof, within these two or three
years, which it saddens me to think of now. There had been an
estrangement between us not on any personal subject, and not
involving an angry word and a good many months had passed
without my once seeing him in the street, when it fell out that we
dined, each with his own separate party, in the strangers' room of
a club. Our chairs were almost back to back, and I took mine
after he was seated at dinner. I said not a word (I am sorry to
remember) and did not look that way. Before we had sat so, long,
he openly wheeled his chair round, stretched out both his hands in
a most engaging manner, and said aloud, with a bright and loving
face that I can see as I write to you : " For God's sake, let us be
friends again ! Life's not long enough for this ! "
On Sunday, May 31st, 1857, I had an appointment to meet
him at the Gallery of Illustration, in Regent Street. We had
been advising our friend, Mr. Russell, in the condensation of his
lectures on the war in the Crimea, and we had engaged with him
to go over the last of the series there at one o'clock that day.
Arriving some minutes before the time, I found your father sitting
alone in the hall. " There must be some mistake," he said : no
one else was there ; the place was locked up ; he had tried all the
doors; and he had been waiting there a quarter of an hour by
himself. I sat down by him in a niche in the staircase, and he
told me that he had been very unwell for three or four days. A
window in his study had been newly painted, and the smell of the
paint (he thought it must be that) had filled him with nausea and
turned him sick, and he felt quite weak and giddy through not