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this very sheet of paper. A half-sad, half-ludicrous story of Rogers is
all I will sully it with. You know, I daresay, that for a year or so
before his death he wandered, and lost himself like one of the Children
in the Wood, grown up there and grown down again. He had Mrs. Procter
and Mrs. Carlyle to breakfast with him one morning - only those two. Both
excessively talkative, very quick and clever, and bent on entertaining
him. When Mrs. Carlyle had flashed and shone before him for about
three-quarters of an hour on one subject, he turned his poor old eyes on
Mrs. Procter, and pointing to the brilliant discourser with his poor old
finger, said (indignantly), "Who is _she_?" Upon this, Mrs. Procter,
cutting in, delivered (it is her own story) a neat oration on the life
and writings of Carlyle, and enlightened him in her happiest and airiest
manner; all of which he heard, staring in the dreariest silence, and
then said (indignantly, as before), "And who are _you_?"

Ever, my dear Irving,
Most affectionately and truly yours.

[Sidenote: Mr. Frank Stone, A.R.A]

_Wednesday, 9th July, 1856._


I have got a capital part for you in the farce,[66] not a difficult one
to learn, as you never say anything but "Yes" and "No." You are called
in the _dramatis personæ_ an able-bodied British seaman, and you are
never seen by mortal eye to do anything (except inopportunely producing
a mop) but stand about the deck of the boat in everybody's way, with
your hair immensely touzled, one brace on, your hands in your pockets,
and the bottoms of your trousers tucked up. Yet you are inextricably
connected with the plot, and are the man whom everybody is inquiring
after. I think it is a very whimsical idea and extremely droll. It made
me laugh heartily when I jotted it all down yesterday.

Loves from all my house to all yours.

Ever affectionately.


[66] The farce alluded to, however, was never written. It had been
projected to be played at the Amateur Theatricals at Tavistock House.


[Sidenote: Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.]

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, _Wednesday, 28th January, 1857._


I thought Wills had told you as to the Guild (for I begged him to) that
he can do absolutely nothing until our charter is seven years old. It is
the stringent and express prohibition of the Act of Parliament - for
which things you members, thank God, are responsible and not I. When I
observed this clause (which was just as we were going to grant a
pension, if we could agree on a good subject), I caused our Counsel's
opinion to be taken on it, and there is not a doubt about it. I
immediately recommended that there should be no expenses - that the
interest on the capital should be all invested as it accrued - that the
chambers should be given up and the clerk discharged - and that the Guild
should have the use of the "Household Words" office rent free, and the
services of Wills on the same terms. All of which was done.

A letter is now copying, to be sent round to all the members,
explaining, with the New Year, the whole state of the thing. You will
receive this. It appears to me that it looks wholesome enough. But if a
strong idiot comes and binds your hands, or mine, or both, for seven
years, what is to be done against him?

As to greater matters than this, however - as to all matters on this
teeming Earth - it appears to me that the House of Commons and Parliament
altogether, is just the dreariest failure and nuisance that has bothered
this much-bothered world.

Ever yours.

[Sidenote: Miss Emily Jolly.]

GRAVESEND, KENT, _10th April, 1857._


As I am away from London for a few days, your letter has been forwarded
to me.

I can honestly encourage and assure you that I believe the depression
and want of confidence under which you describe yourself as labouring
to have no sufficient foundation.

First as to "Mr. Arle." I have constantly heard it spoken of with great
approval, and I think it a book of considerable merit. If I were to tell
you that I see no evidence of inexperience in it, that would not be
true. I think a little more stir and action to be desired also; but I am
surprised by your being despondent about it, for I assure you that I had
supposed it (always remembering that it is your first novel) to have met
with a very good reception.

I can bring to my memory - here, with no means of reference at hand - only
two papers of yours that have been unsuccessful at "Household Words." I
think the first was called "The Brook." It appeared to me to break down
upon a confusion that pervaded it, between a Coroner's Inquest and a
Trial. I have a general recollection of the mingling of the two, as to
facts and forms that should have been kept apart, in some inextricable
manner that was beyond my powers of disentanglement. The second was
about a wife's writing a Novel and keeping the secret from her husband
until it was done. I did not think the incident of sufficient force to
justify the length of the narrative. But there is nothing fatal in
either of these mischances.

Mr. Wills told me when I spoke to him of the latter paper that you had
it in contemplation to offer a longer story to "Household Words." If you
should do so, I assure you I shall be happy to read it myself, and that
I shall have a sincere desire to accept it, if possible.

I can give you no better counsel than to look into the life about you,
and to strive for what is noblest and true. As to further encouragement,
I do not, I can most strongly add, believe that you have any reason to
be downhearted.

Very faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: The same.]

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, _Saturday Morning, 30th May, 1857._


I read your story, with all possible attention, last night. I cannot
tell you with what reluctance I write to you respecting it, for my
opinion of it is _not_ favourable, although I perceive your heart in it,
and great strength.

Pray understand that I claim no infallibility. I merely express my own
honest opinion, formed against my earnest desire. I do not lay it down
as law for others, though, of course, I believe that many others would
come to the same conclusion. It appears to me that the story is one that
cannot possibly be told within the compass to which you have limited
yourself. The three principal people are, every one of them, in the
wrong with the reader, and you cannot put any of them right, without
making the story extend over a longer space of time, and without
anatomising the souls of the actors more slowly and carefully. Nothing
would justify the departure of Alice, but her having some strong reason
to believe that in taking that step, _she saved her lover_. In your
intentions as to that lover's transfer of his affections to Eleanor, I
descry a striking truth; but I think it confusedly wrought out, and all
but certain to fail in expressing itself. Eleanor, I regard as forced
and overstrained. The natural result is, that she carries a train of
anti-climax after her. I particularly notice this at the point when she
thinks she is going to be drowned.

The whole idea of the story is sufficiently difficult to require the
most exact truth and the greatest knowledge and skill in the colouring
throughout. In this respect I have no doubt of its being extremely
defective. The people do not talk as such people would; and the little
subtle touches of description which, by making the country house and the
general scene real, would give an air of reality to the people (much to
be desired) are altogether wanting. The more you set yourself to the
illustration of your heroine's passionate nature, the more indispensable
this attendant atmosphere of truth becomes. It would, in a manner,
oblige the reader to believe in her. Whereas, for ever exploding like a
great firework without any background, she glares and wheels and hisses,
and goes out, and has lighted nothing.

Lastly, I fear she is too convulsive from beginning to end. Pray
reconsider, from this point of view, her brow, and her eyes, and her
drawing herself up to her full height, and her being a perfumed
presence, and her floating into rooms, also her asking people how they
dare, and the like, on small provocation. When she hears her music being
played, I think she is particularly objectionable.

I have a strong belief that if you keep this story by you three or four
years, you will form an opinion of it not greatly differing from mine.
There is so much good in it, so much reflection, so much passion and
earnestness, that, if my judgment be right, I feel sure you will come
over to it. On the other hand, I do not think that its publication, as
it stands, would do you service, or be agreeable to you hereafter.

I have no means of knowing whether you are patient in the pursuit of
this art; but I am inclined to think that you are not, and that you do
not discipline yourself enough. When one is impelled to write this or
that, one has still to consider: "How much of this will tell for what I
mean? How much of it is my own wild emotion and superfluous energy - how
much remains that is truly belonging to this ideal character and these
ideal circumstances?" It is in the laborious struggle to make this
distinction, and in the determination to try for it, that the road to
the correction of faults lies. [Perhaps I may remark, in support of the
sincerity with which I write this, that I am an impatient and impulsive
person myself, but that it has been for many years the constant effort
of my life to practise at my desk what I preach to you.]

I should not have written so much, or so plainly, but for your last
letter to me. It seems to demand that I should be strictly true with
you, and I am so in this letter, without any reservation either way.

Very faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. Albert Smith.]

_Wednesday Night, 1st December, 1858._


I cannot tell you how grieved I am for poor dear Arthur (even you can
hardly love him better than I do), or with what anxiety I shall wait for
further news of him.

Pray let me know how he is to-morrow. Tell them at home that Olliffe is
the kindest and gentlest of men - a man of rare experience and
opportunity - perfect master of his profession, and to be confidently and
implicitly relied upon. There is no man alive, in whose hands I would
more thankfully trust myself.

I will write a cheery word to the dear fellow in the morning.

Ever faithfully.

[Sidenote: Mr. Arthur Smith.]

_Thursday, 2nd December, 1858._


I cannot tell you how surprised and grieved I was last night to hear
from Albert of your severe illness. It is not my present intention to
give you the trouble of reading anything like a letter, but I MUST send
you my loving word; and tell you how we all think of you.

And here am I going off to-morrow to that meeting at Manchester without
_you!_ the wildest and most impossible of moves as it seems to me. And
to think of my coming back by Coventry, on Saturday, to receive the
chronometer - also without you!

If you don't get perfectly well soon, my dear old fellow, I shall come
over to Paris to look after you, and to tell Olliffe (give him my love,
and the same for Lady Olliffe) what a Blessing he is.

With kindest regards to Mrs. Arthur and her sister,

Ever heartily and affectionately yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A.]

_Wednesday, 12th January, 1859._


At eleven on Monday morning next, the gifted individual whom you will
transmit to posterity,[67] will be at Watkins'. Table also shall be
there, and chair. Velvet coat likewise if the tailor should have sent it
home. But the garment is more to be doubted than the man whose signature
here follows.

Faithfully yours always.

[Sidenote: Mrs. Cowden Clark.]

_21st August, 1859._


I cannot tell you how much pleasure I have derived from the receipt of
your earnest letter. Do not suppose it possible that such praise can be
"less than nothing" to your old manager. It is more than all else.

Here in my little country house on the summit of the hill where Falstaff
did the robbery, your words have come to me in the most appropriate and
delightful manner. When the story can be read all at once, and my
meaning can be better seen, I will send it to you (sending it to Dean
Street, if you tell me of no better way), and it will be a hearty
gratification to think that you and your good husband are reading it
together. For you must both take notice, please, that I have a reminder
of you always before me. On my desk, here, stand two green leaves[68]
which I every morning station in their ever-green place at my elbow. The
leaves on the oak-trees outside the window are less constant than these,
for they are with me through the four seasons.

Lord! to think of the bygone day when you were stricken mute (was it not
at Glasgow?) and, being mounted on a tall ladder at a practicable
window, stared at Forster, and with a noble constancy refused to utter
word! Like the Monk among the pictures with Wilkie, I begin to think
_that_ the real world, and this the sham that goes out with the lights.

God bless you both.

Ever faithfully yours.


[67] The portrait by Mr. Frith is now in the Forster Collection, at the
South Kensington Museum.

[68] A porcelain paper-weight with two green leaves enamelled on it,
between which were placed the initials C. D. A present from Mrs. C.


[Sidenote: Mr. Henry F. Chorley.]

_Friday Night, Feb. 3, 1860._


I can most honestly assure you that I think "Roccabella" a very
remarkable book indeed. Apart - quite apart - from my interest in you, I
am certain that if I had taken it up under any ordinarily favourable
circumstances as a book of which I knew nothing whatever, I should
not - could not - have relinquished it until I had read it through. I had
turned but a few pages, and come to the shadow on the bright sofa at the
foot of the bed, when I knew myself to be in the hands of an artist.
That rare and delightful recognition I never lost for a moment until I
closed the second volume at the end. I am "a good audience" when I have
reason to be, and my girls would testify to you, if there were need,
that I cried over it heartily. Your story seems to me remarkably
ingenious. I had not the least idea of the purport of the sealed paper
until you chose to enlighten me; and then I felt it to be quite natural,
quite easy, thoroughly in keeping with the character and presentation of
the Liverpool man. The position of the Bell family in the story has a
special air of nature and truth; is quite new to me, and is so
dexterously and delicately done that I find the deaf daughter no less
real and distinct than the clergyman's wife. The turn of the story round
that damnable Princess I pursued with a pleasure with which I could
pursue nothing but a true interest; and I declare to you that if I were
put upon finding anything better than the scene of Roccabella's death, I
should stare round my bookshelves very much at a loss for a long time.
Similarly, your characters have really surprised me. From the lawyer to
the Princess, I swear to them as true; and in your fathoming of Rosamond
altogether, there is a profound wise knowledge that I admire and respect
with a heartiness not easily overstated in words.

I am not quite with you as to the Italians. Your knowledge of the
Italian character seems to me surprisingly subtle and penetrating;
but I think we owe it to those most unhappy men and their political
wretchedness to ask ourselves mercifully, whether their faults
are not essentially the faults of a people long oppressed and
priest-ridden; - whether their tendency to slink and conspire is not a
tendency that spies in every dress, from the triple crown to a lousy
head, have engendered in their ancestors through generations? Again,
like you, I shudder at the distresses that come of these unavailing
risings; my blood runs hotter, as yours does, at the thought of the
leaders safe, and the instruments perishing by hundreds; yet what is to
be done? Their wrongs are so great that they _will_ rise from time to
time somehow. It would be to doubt the eternal providence of God to
doubt that they will rise successfully at last. Unavailing struggles
against a dominant tyranny precede all successful turning against it.
And is it not a little hard in us Englishman, whose forefathers have
risen so often and striven against so much, to look on, in our own
security, through microscopes, and detect the motes in the brains of men
driven mad? Think, if you and I were Italians, and had grown from
boyhood to our present time, menaced in every day through all these
years by that infernal confessional, dungeons, and soldiers, could we be
better than these men? Should we be so good? I should not, I am afraid,
if I know myself. Such things would make of me a moody, bloodthirsty,
implacable man, who would do anything for revenge; and if I compromised
the truth - put it at the worst, habitually - where should I ever have had
it before me? In the old Jesuits' college at Genoa, on the Chiaja at
Naples, in the churches of Rome, at the University of Padua, on the
Piazzo San Marco at Venice, where? And the government is in all these
places, and in all Italian places. I have seen something of these men. I
have known Mazzini and Gallenga; Manin was tutor to my daughters in
Paris; I have had long talks about scores of them with poor Ary
Scheffer, who was their best friend. I have gone back to Italy after ten
years, and found the best men I had known there exiled or in jail. I
believe they have the faults you ascribe to them (nationally, not
individually), but I could not find it in my heart, remembering their
miseries, to exhibit those faults without referring them back to their
causes. You will forgive my writing this, because I write it exactly as
I write my cordial little tribute to the high merits of your book. If
it were not a living reality to me, I should care nothing about this
point of disagreement; but you are far too earnest a man, and far too
able a man, to be left unremonstrated with by an admiring reader. You
cannot write so well without influencing many people. If you could tell
me that your book had but twenty readers, I would reply, that so good a
book will influence more people's opinions, through those twenty, than a
worthless book would through twenty thousand; and I express this with
the perfect confidence of one in whose mind the book has taken, for good
and all, a separate and distinct place.

Accept my thanks for the pleasure you have given me. The poor
acknowledgment of testifying to that pleasure wherever I go will be my
pleasure in return. And so, my dear Chorley, good night, and God bless

Ever faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: Sir John Bowring.]

GAD'S HILL, _Wednesday, 31st October, 1860._


First let me congratulate you on your marriage and wish you all
happiness and prosperity.

Secondly, I must tell you that I was greatly vexed with the Chatham
people for not giving me early notice of your lecture. In that case I
should (of course) have presided, as President of the Institution, and I
should have asked you to honour my Falstaff house here. But when they
made your kind intention known to me, I had made some important business
engagements at the "All the Year Round" office for that evening, which I
could not possibly forego. I charged them to tell you so, and was going
to write to you when I found your kind letter.

Thanks for your paper, which I have sent to the Printer's with much

We heard of your accident here, and of your "making nothing of it." I
said that you didn't make much of disasters, and that you took poison
(from natives) as quite a matter of course in the way of business.

Faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: Mr. A. H. Layard.]

_Tuesday, 4th December, 1860._


I know you will readily believe that I would come if I could, and that I
am heartily sorry I cannot.

A new story of my writing, nine months long, is just begun in "All the
Year Round." A certain allotment of my time when I have that
story-demand upon me, has, all through my author life, been an essential
condition of my health and success. I have just returned here to work
so many hours every day for so many days. It is really impossible for me
to break my bond.

There is not a man in England who is more earnestly your friend and
admirer than I am. The conviction that you know it, helps me out through
this note. You are a man of so much mark to me, that I even regret your
going into the House of Commons - for which assembly I have but a scant
respect. But I would not mention it to the Southwark electors if I could
come to-morrow; though I should venture to tell them (and even that your
friends would consider very impolitic) that I think them very much
honoured by having such a candidate for their suffrages.

My daughter and sister-in-law want to know what you have done with your
"pledge" to come down here again. If they had votes for Southwark they
would threaten to oppose you - but would never do it. I was solemnly
sworn at breakfast to let you know that we should be delighted to see
you. Bear witness that I kept my oath.

Ever, my dear Layard,
Faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: Captain Morgan.]


I am heartily obliged to you for your seasonable and welcome
remembrance. It came to the office (while I was there) in the
pleasantest manner, brought by two seafaring men as if they had swum
across with it. I have already told - - what I am very well assured of
concerning you, but you are such a noble fellow that I must not pursue
that subject. But you will at least take my cordial and affectionate
thanks. . . . We have a touch of most beautiful weather here now, and
this country is most beautiful too. I wish I could carry you off to a
favourite spot of mine between this and Maidstone, where I often smoke
your cigars and think of you. We often take our lunch on a hillside
there in the summer, and then I lie down on the grass - a splendid
example of laziness - and say, "Now for my Morgan!"

My daughter and her aunt declare that they know the true scent of the
true article (which I don't in the least believe), and sometimes they
exclaim, "That's not a Morgan," and the worst of it is they were once
right by accident. . . . I hope you will have seen the Christmas number
of "All the Year Round."[71] Here and there, in the description of the
sea-going hero, I have given a touch or two of remembrance of Somebody
you know; very heartily desiring that thousands of people may have some
faint reflection of the pleasure I have for many years derived from the
contemplation of a most amiable nature and most remarkable man.

With kindest regards, believe me, dear Morgan,
Ever affectionately yours.


[69] This and all other Letters addressed to Mr. H. F. Chorley, were
printed in "Autobiography, Memoir, and Letters of Henry Fothergill

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Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 11 of 21)