Charles Dickens.

The letters of Charles Dickens online

. (page 12 of 21)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 12 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Chorley," compiled by Mr. H. G. Hewlett.

[70] Sir John Bowring, formerly Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary in China,
and Governor of Hong Kong.

[71] "A Message from the Sea."


[Sidenote: Mrs. Malleson.]

_Monday, 14th January, 1861._


I am truly sorry that I cannot have the pleasure of dining with you on
Thursday. Although I consider myself quite well, and although my doctor
almost admits the fact when I indignantly tax him with it, I am not
discharged. His treatment renders him very fearful that I should take
cold in going to and fro; and he makes excuses, therefore (as I darkly
suspect), for keeping me here until said treatment is done with. This
morning he tells me he must see me "once more, on Wednesday." As he has
said the like for a whole week, my confidence is not blooming enough at
this present writing to justify me in leaving a possibility of Banquo's
place at your table. Hence this note. It is screwed out of me.

With kind regards to Mr. Malleson, believe me,

Ever faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.]

_Wednesday, 23rd January, 1861._


I am delighted to receive your letter, and to look forward with
confidence to having such a successor in August. I can honestly assure
you that I never have been so pleased at heart in all my literary life,
as I am in the proud thought of standing side by side with you before
this great audience.

In regard of the story,[72] I have perfect faith in such a master-hand as
yours; and I know that what such an artist feels to be terrible and
original, is unquestionably so. You whet my interest by what you write
of it to the utmost extent.

Believe me ever affectionately yours.

[Sidenote: The same.]

_Sunday, 28th April, 1861._


My story will finish in the first week in August. Yours ought to begin
in the last week of July, or the last week but one. Wilkie Collins will
be at work to follow you. The publication has made a very great success
with "Great Expectations," and could not present a finer time for you.

The question of length may be easily adjusted.

Of the misgiving you entertain I cannot of course judge until you give
me leave to rush to the perusal. I swear that I never thought I had half
so much self-denial as I have shown in this case! I think I shall come
out at Exeter Hall as a choice vessel on the strength of it. In the
meanwhile I have quickened the printer and told him to get on fast.

You cannot think how happy you make me by what you write of "Great
Expectations." There is nothing like the pride of making such an effect
on such a writer as you.

Ever faithfully.

[Sidenote: The same.]

_Wednesday, 8th May, 1861._


I am anxious to let you know that Mr. Frederic Lehmann, who is coming
down to Knebworth to see you (with his sister Mrs. Benzon) is a
particular friend of mine, for whom I have a very high and warm regard.
Although he will sufficiently enlist your sympathy on his own behalf, I
am sure that you will not be the less interested in him because I am.

Ever faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: The same.]

3, HANOVER TERRACE, _Sunday, 12th May, 1861._


I received your revised proofs only yesterday, and I sat down to read
them last night. And before I say anything further I may tell you that I
COULD NOT lay them aside, but was obliged to go on with them in my
bedroom until I got into a very ghostly state indeed. This morning I
have taken them again and have gone through them with the utmost

Of the beauty and power of the writing I say not a word, or of its
originality and boldness, or of its quite extraordinary constructive
skill. I confine myself solely to your misgiving, and to the question
whether there is any sufficient foundation for it.

On the last head I say, without the faintest hesitation, most decidedly
there is NOT sufficient foundation for it. I do not share it in the
least. I believe that the readers who have here given their minds (or
perhaps had any to give) to those strange psychological mysteries in
ourselves, of which we are all more or less conscious, will accept your
wonders as curious weapons in the armoury of fiction, and will submit
themselves to the Art with which said weapons are used. Even to that
class of intelligence the marvellous addresses itself from a very strong
position; and that class of intelligence is not accustomed to find the
marvellous in such very powerful hands as yours. On more imaginative
readers the tale will fall (or I am greatly mistaken) like a spell. By
readers who combine some imagination, some scepticism, and some
knowledge and learning, I hope it will be regarded as full of strange
fancy and curious study, startling reflections of their own thoughts and
speculations at odd times, and wonder which a master has a right to
evoke. In the last point lies, to my thinking, the whole case. If you
were the Magician's servant instead of the Magician, these potent
spirits would get the better of you; but you _are_ the Magician, and
they don't, and you make them serve your purpose.

Occasionally in the dialogue I see an expression here and there which
might - always solely with a reference to your misgiving - be better away;
and I think that the vision, to use the word for want of a better - in
the museum, should be made a little less abstruse. I should not say
that, if the sale of the journal was below the sale of _The Times_
newspaper; but as it is probably several thousands higher, I do. I would
also suggest that after the title we put the two words - A ROMANCE. It is
an absurdly easy device for getting over your misgiving with the
blockheads, but I think it would be an effective one. I don't, on
looking at it, like the title. Here are a few that have occurred to me.

"The Steel Casket."

"The Lost Manuscript."

"Derval Court."

"Perpetual Youth."


"Dr. Fenwick."

"Life and Death."

The four last I think the best. There is an objection to "Dr. Fenwick"
because there has been "Dr. Antonio," and there is a book of Dumas'
which repeats the objection. I don't think "Fenwick" startling enough.
It appears to me that a more startling title would take the (John) Bull
by the horns, and would be a serviceable concession to your misgiving,
as suggesting a story off the stones of the gas-lighted Brentford Road.

The title is the first thing to be settled, and cannot be settled too

For the purposes of the weekly publication the divisions of the story
will often have to be greatly changed, though afterwards, in the
complete book, you can, of course, divide it into chapters, free from
that reference. For example: I would end the first chapter on the third
slip at "and through the ghostly streets, under the ghostly moon, went
back to my solitary room." The rest of what is now your first chapter
might be made Chapter II., and would end the first weekly part.

I think I have become, by dint of necessity and practice, rather cunning
in this regard; and perhaps you would not mind my looking closely to
such points from week to week. It so happens that if you had written the
opening of this story expressly for the occasion its striking incidents
could not possibly have followed one another better. One other merely
mechanical change I suggest now. I would not have an initial letter for
the town, but would state in the beginning that I gave the town a
fictitious name. I suppose a blank or a dash rather fends a good many
people off - because it always has that effect upon me.

Be sure that I am perfectly frank and open in all I have said in this
note, and that I have not a grain of reservation in my mind. I think the
story a very fine one, one that no other man could write, and that there
is no strength in your misgiving for the two reasons: firstly, that the
work is professedly a work of Fancy and Fiction, in which the reader is
not required against his will to take everything for Fact; secondly,
that it is written by the man who can write it. The Magician's servant
does not know what to do with the ghost, and has, consequently, no
business with him. The Magician does know what to do with him, and has
all the business with him that he can transact.

I am quite at ease on the points that you have expressed yourself as not
at ease upon. Quite. I cannot too often say that if they were carried on
weak shoulders they would break the bearer down. But in your mastering
of them lies the mastery over the reader.

This will reach you at Knebworth, I hope, to-morrow afternoon. Pray give
your doubts to the winds of that high spot, and believe that if I had
them I would swarm up the flag-staff quite as nimbly as Margrave and
nail the Fenwick colours to the top.

Ever affectionately yours.

[Sidenote: The same.]

_Monday, Twentieth May, 1861._


I did not read from Australia till the end, because I was obliged to be
hard at work that day, and thought it best that the MS. should come back
to you rather than that I should detain it. Of course, I _can_ read it,
whenever it suits you. As to Isabel's dying and Fenwick's growing old, I
would say that, beyond question, whatever the meaning of the story tends
to, is the proper end.

All the alterations you mention in your last, are excellent.

As to title, "Margrave, a Tale of Mystery," would be sufficiently
striking. I prefer "Wonder" to "Mystery," because I think it suggests
something higher and more apart from ordinary complications of plot, or
the like, which "Mystery" might seem to mean. Will you kindly remark
that the title PRESSES, and that it will be a great relief to have it as
soon as possible. The last two months of my story are our best time for
announcement and preparation. Of course, it is most desirable that your
story should have the full benefit of them.

Ever faithfully.

[Sidenote: Lady Olliffe.]

_Sunday, Twenty-sixth May, 1861._


I have run away to this sea-beach to get rid of my neuralgic face.

Touching the kind invitations received from you this morning, I feel
that the only course I can take - without being a Humbug - is to decline
them. After the middle of June I shall be mostly at Gad's Hill - I know
that I cannot do better than keep out of the way of hot rooms and late
dinners, and what would you think of me, or call me, if I were to accept
and not come!

No, no, no. Be still my soul. Be virtuous, eminent author. Do _not_
accept, my Dickens. She is to come to Gad's Hill with her spouse. Await
her _there_, my child. (Thus the voice of wisdom.)

My dear Lady Olliffe,
Ever affectionately yours.

[Sidenote: Mrs. Milner Gibson.]

GAD'S HILL, _Monday, Eighth July, 1861._


I want very affectionately and earnestly to congratulate you on your
eldest daughter's approaching marriage. Up to the moment when Mary told
me of it, I had foolishly thought of her always as the pretty little
girl with the frank loving face whom I saw last on the sands at
Broadstairs. I rubbed my eyes and woke at the words "going to be
married," and found I had been walking in my sleep some years.

I want to thank you also for thinking of me on the occasion, but I feel
that I am better away from it. I should really have a misgiving that I
was a sort of shadow on a young marriage, and you will understand me
when I say so, and no more.

But I shall be with you in the best part of myself, in the warmth of
sympathy and friendship - and I send my love to the dear girl, and
devoutly hope and believe that she will be happy. The face that I
remember with perfect accuracy, and could draw here, if I could draw at
all, was made to be happy and to make a husband so.

I wonder whether you ever travel by railroad in these times! I wish Mary
could tempt you to come by any road to this little place.

With kind regard to Milner Gibson, believe me ever,
Affectionately and faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.]

_Tuesday, Seventeenth September, 1861._


I am delighted with your letter of yesterday - delighted with the
addition to the length of the story - delighted with your account of it,
and your interest in it - and even more than delighted by what you say of
our working in company.

Not one dissentient voice has reached me respecting it. Through the
dullest time of the year we held our circulation most gallantly. And it
could not have taken a better hold. I saw Forster on Friday (newly
returned from thousands of provincial lunatics), and he really was more
impressed than I can tell you by what he had seen of it. Just what you
say you think it will turn out to be, _he_ was saying, almost in the
same words.

I am burning to get at the whole story; - and you inflame me in the
maddest manner by your references to what I don't know. The exquisite
art with which you have changed it, and have overcome the difficulties
of the mode of publication, has fairly staggered me. I know pretty well
what the difficulties are; and there is no other man who could have done
it, I ween.

Ever affectionately.

[Sidenote: Mr. H. G. Adams.]

_Sunday, Sixth October, 1861._


My readings are a sad subject to me just now, for I am going away on the
28th to read fifty times, and I have lost Mr. Arthur Smith - a friend
whom I can never replace - who always went with me, and transacted, as no
other man ever can, all the business connected with them, and without
whom, I fear, they will be dreary and weary to me. But this is not to
the purpose of your letter.

I desire to be useful to the Institution of the place with which my
childhood is inseparably associated, and I will serve it this next
Christmas if I can. Will you tell me when I could do you most good by
reading for you?

Faithfully yours.

[Sidenote: Mr. B. W. Procter.]

_Tuesday, Twelfth November, 1861._


I grieve to reply to your note, that I am obliged to read at Newcastle
on the 21st. Poor Arthur Smith had pledged me to do so before I knew
that my annual engagement with you was being encroached on. I am
heartily sorry for this, and shall miss my usual place at your table,
quite as much (to say the least) as my place can possibly miss me. You
may be sure that I shall drink to my dear old friend in a bumper that
day, with love and best wishes. Don't leave me out next year for having
been carried away north this time.

Ever yours affectionately.

[Sidenote: Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.]

_Wednesday Night, Twentieth November, 1861._


I have read here, this evening, very attentively, Nos. 19 and 20. I have
not the least doubt of the introduced matter; whether considered for its
policy, its beauty, or its wise bearing on the story, it is decidedly a
great improvement. It is at once very suggestive and very new to have
these various points of view presented to the reader's mind.

That the audience is good enough for anything that is well presented to
it, I am quite sure.

When you can avoid _notes_, however, and get their substance into the
text, it is highly desirable in the case of so large an audience, simply
because, as so large an audience necessarily reads the story in small
portions, it is of the greater importance that they should retain as
much of its argument as possible. Whereas the difficulty of getting
numbers of people to read notes (which they invariably regard as
interruptions of the text, not as strengtheners or elucidators of it) is

Ever affectionately.

[Sidenote: The same.]

_Eighteenth December_, 1861.


I have not had a moment in which to write to you. Even now I write with
the greatest press upon me, meaning to write in detail in a day or two.

But I have _read_, at all events, though not written. And I say, Most
masterly and most admirable! It is impossible to lay the sheets down
without finishing them. I showed them to Georgina and Mary, and they
read and read and never stirred until they had read all. There cannot be
a doubt of the beauty, power, and artistic excellence of the whole.

I counsel you most strongly NOT to append the proposed dialogue between
Fenwick and Faber, and NOT to enter upon any explanation beyond the
title-page and the motto, unless it be in some very brief preface.
Decidedly I would not help the reader, if it were only for the reason
that that anticipates his being in need of help, and his feeling
objections and difficulties that require solution. Let the book explain
itself. It speaks _for_ itself with a noble eloquence.

Ever affectionately.


[72] "A Strange Story."


[Sidenote: The same.]

_Friday, Twenty-fourth January, 1862._


I have considered your questions, and here follow my replies.

1. I think you undoubtedly _have_ the right to forbid the turning of
your play into an opera.

2. I do _not_ think the production of such an opera in the slightest
degree likely to injure the play or to render it a less valuable
property than it is now. If it could have any effect on so standard and
popular a work as "The Lady of Lyons," the effect would, in my judgment,
be beneficial. But I believe the play to be high above any such

3. Assuming you do consent to the adaptation, in a desire to oblige
Oxenford, I would not recommend your asking any pecuniary compensation.
This for two reasons: firstly, because the compensation could only be
small at the best; secondly, because your taking it would associate you
(unreasonably, but not the less assuredly) with the opera.

The only objection I descry is purely one of feeling. Pauline trotting
about in front of the float, invoking the orchestra with a limp
pocket-handkerchief, is a notion that makes goose-flesh of my back. Also
a yelping tenor going away to the wars in a scene a half-an-hour long is
painful to contemplate. Damas, too, as a bass, with a grizzled bald
head, blatently bellowing about

Years long ago,
When the sound of the drum
First made his blood glow
With a rum ti tum tum -

rather sticks in my throat; but there really seems to me to be no other
objection, if you can get over this.

Ever affectionately.

[Sidenote: Mr. Baylis.]

_Saturday, First February, 1862._


I have just come home. Finding your note, I write to you at once, or you
might do me the wrong of supposing me unmindful of it and you.

I agree with you about Smith himself, and I don't think it necessary to
pursue the painful subject. Such things are at an end, I think, for the
time being; - fell to the ground with the poor man at Cremorne. If they
should be resumed, then they must be attacked; but I hope the fashion
(far too much encouraged in its Blondin-beginning by those who should
know much better) is over.

It always appears to me that the common people have an excuse in their
patronage of such exhibitions which people above them in condition have
not. Their lives are full of physical difficulties, and they like to see
such difficulties overcome. They go to see them overcome. If I am in
danger of falling off a scaffold or a ladder any day, the man who claims
that he can't fall from anything is a very wonderful and agreeable
person to me.

Faithfully yours always.

[Sidenote: Mr. Henry F. Chorley.]

_Saturday, 1st March, 1862._


I was at your lecture[73] this afternoon, and I hope I may venture to
tell you that I was extremely pleased and interested. Both the matter of
the materials and the manner of their arrangement were quite admirable,
and a modesty and complete absence of any kind of affectation pervaded
the whole discourse, which was quite an example to the many whom it
concerns. If you could be a very little louder, and would never let a
sentence go for the thousandth part of an instant until the last word
is out, you would find the audience more responsive.

A spoken sentence will never run alone in all its life, and is never to
be trusted to itself in its most insignificant member. See it _well
out_ - with the voice - and the part of the audience is made surprisingly
easier. In that excellent description of the Spanish mendicant and his
guitar, as well as the very happy touches about the dance and the
castanets, the people were really desirous to express very hearty
appreciation; but by giving them rather too much to do in watching and
listening for latter words, you stopped them. I take the liberty of
making the remark, as one who has fought with beasts (oratorically) in
divers arenas. For the rest nothing could be better. Knowledge,
ingenuity, neatness, condensation, good sense, and good taste in
delightful combination.

Affectionately always.

[Sidenote: Mrs. Austin.]

_Friday, Seventh November, 1862._


I should have written to you from here sooner, but for having been
constantly occupied.

Your improved account of yourself is very cheering and hopeful. Through
determined occupation and action, lies the way. Be sure of it.

I came over to France before Georgina and Mary, and went to Boulogne to
meet them coming in by the steamer on the great Sunday - the day of the
storm. I stood (holding on with both hands) on the pier at Boulogne,
five hours. The Sub-Marine Telegraph had telegraphed their boat as
having come out of Folkestone - though the companion boat from Boulogne
didn't try it - and at nine o'clock at night, she being due at six, there
were no signs of her. My principal dread was, that she would try to get
into Boulogne; which she could not possibly have done without carrying
away everything on deck. The tide at nine o'clock being too low for any
such desperate attempt, I thought it likely that they had run for the
Downs and would knock about there all night. So I went to the Inn to dry
my pea-jacket and get some dinner anxiously enough, when, at about ten,
came a telegram from them at Calais to say they had run in there. To
Calais I went, post, next morning, expecting to find them half-dead (of
course, they had arrived half-drowned), but I found them elaborately got
up to come on to Paris by the next Train, and the most wonderful thing
of all was, that they hardly seem to have been frightened! Of course,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 12 of 21)