Charles Dickens.

The letters of Charles Dickens online

. (page 14 of 21)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 14 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


I cannot thank you enough for your invaluable help to Dolby. He writes
that at every turn and moment the sense and knowledge and tact of Mr.
Osgood are inestimable to him.

Ever, my dear Fields, faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Lord Lytton.]

"ALL THE YEAR ROUND" OFFICE,
_Tuesday, 17th September, 1867._

MY DEAR LYTTON,

I am happy to tell you that the play was admirably done last night, and
made a marked impression. Pauline is weak, but so carefully trained and
fitted into the picture as to be never disagreeable, and sometimes (as
in the last scene) very pathetic. Fechter has played nothing nearly so
well as Claude since he played in Paris in the "Dame aux Camélias," or
in London as Ruy Blas. He played the fourth act as finely as Macready,
and the first much better. The dress and bearing in the fifth act are
quite new, and quite excellent.

Of the Scenic arrangements, the most noticeable are: - the picturesque
struggle of the cottage between the taste of an artist, and the domestic
means of poverty (expressed to the eye with infinite tact); - the view of
Lyons (Act v. Scene 1), with a foreground of quay wall which the
officers are leaning on, waiting for the general; - and the last scene - a
suite of rooms giving on a conservatory at the back, through which the
moon is shining. You are to understand that all these scenic appliances
are subdued to the Piece, instead of the Piece being sacrificed to them;
and that every group and situation has to be considered, not only with a
reference to each by itself, but to the whole story.

Beauséant's speaking the original contents of the letter was a decided
point, and the immense house was quite breathless when the Tempter and
the Tempted stood confronted as he made the proposal.

There was obviously a great interest in seeing a Frenchman play the
part. The scene between Claude and Gaspar (the small part very well
done) was very closely watched for the same reason, and was loudly
applauded. I cannot say too much of the brightness, intelligence,
picturesqueness, and care of Fechter's impersonation throughout. There
was a remarkable delicacy in his gradually drooping down on his way home
with his bride, until he fell upon the table, a crushed heap of shame
and remorse, while his mother told Pauline the story. His gradual
recovery of himself as he formed better resolutions was equally well
expressed; and his being at last upright again and rushing
enthusiastically to join the army, brought the house down.

I wish you could have been there. He never spoke English half so well as
he spoke your English; and the audience heard it with the finest
sympathy and respect. I felt that I should have been very proud indeed
to have been the writer of the Play.

Ever affectionately.


[Sidenote: Mr. James T. Fields.]

[86]_October, 1867._

MY DEAR FIELDS,

I hope the telegraph clerks did not mutilate out of recognition or
reasonable guess the words I added to Dolby's last telegram to Boston.
"_Tribune_ London correspondent totally false." Not only is there not a
word of truth in the pretended conversation, but it is so absurdly
unlike me that I cannot suppose it to be even invented by anyone who
ever heard me exchange a word with mortal creature. For twenty years I
am perfectly certain that I have never made any other allusion to the
republication of my books in America than the good-humoured remark,
"that if there had been international copyright between England and the
States, I should have been a man of very large fortune, instead of a
man of moderate savings, always supporting a very expensive public
position." Nor have I ever been such a fool as to charge the absence of
international copyright upon individuals. Nor have I ever been so
ungenerous as to disguise or suppress the fact that I have received
handsome sums for advance sheets. When I was in the States, I said what
I had to say on the question, and there an end. I am absolutely certain
that I have never since expressed myself, even with soreness, on the
subject. Reverting to the preposterous fabrication of the London
correspondent, the statement that I ever talked about "these fellows"
who republished my books or pretended to know (what I don't know at this
instant) who made how much out of them, or ever talked of their sending
me "conscience money," is as grossly and completely false as the
statement that I ever said anything to the effect that I could not be
expected to have an interest in the American people. And nothing can by
any possibility be falser than that. Again and again in these pages
("All the Year Round") I have expressed my interest in them. You will
see it in the "Child's History of England." You will see it in the last
preface to "American Notes." Every American who has ever spoken with me
in London, Paris, or where not, knows whether I have frankly said, "You
could have no better introduction to me than your country." And for
years and years when I have been asked about reading in America, my
invariable reply has been, "I have so many friends there, and
constantly receive so many earnest letters from personally unknown
readers there, that, but for domestic reasons, I would go to-morrow." I
think I must, in the confidential intercourse between you and me, have
written you to this effect more than once.

The statement of the London correspondent from beginning to end is
false. It is false in the letter and false in the spirit. He may have
been misinformed, and the statement may not have originated with him.
With whomsoever it originated, it never originated with me, and
consequently is false. More than enough about it.

As I hope to see you so soon, my dear Fields, and as I am busily at work
on the Christmas number, I will not make this a longer letter than I can
help. I thank you most heartily for your proffered hospitality, and need
not tell you that if I went to any friend's house in America, I would go
to yours. But the readings are very hard work, and I think I cannot do
better than observe the rule on that side of the Atlantic which I
observe on this, of never, under such circumstances, going to a friend's
house, but always staying at a hotel. I am able to observe it here, by
being consistent and never breaking it. If I am equally consistent
there, I can (I hope) offend no one.

Dolby sends his love to you and all his friends (as I do), and is
girding up his loins vigorously.

Ever, my dear Fields,
Heartily and affectionately yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. Thornbury.]

GAD'S HILL, _Saturday, 5th October, 1867._

MY DEAR THORNBURY,

Behold the best of my judgment on your questions.[87]

Susan Hopley and Jonathan Bradford? No. Too well known.

London Strikes and Spitalfields Cutters? Yes.

Fighting FitzGerald? Never mind him.

Duel of Lord Mohun and Duke of Hamilton? Ye-e-es.

Irish Abductions? I think not.

Brunswick Theatre? More Yes than No.

Theatrical Farewells? Yes.

Bow Street Runners (as compared with Modern Detectives)? Yes.

Vauxhall and Ranelagh in the Last Century? Most decidedly. Don't forget
Miss Burney.

Smugglers? No. Overdone.

Lacenaire? No. Ditto.

Madame Laffarge? No. Ditto.

Fashionable Life Last Century? Most decidedly yes.

Debates on the Slave Trade? Yes, generally. But beware of the Pirates,
as we did them in the beginning of "Household Words."

Certainly I acquit you of all blame in the Bedford case. But one cannot
do otherwise than sympathise with a son who is reasonably tender of his
father's memory. And no amount of private correspondence, we must
remember, reaches the readers of a printed and published statement.

I told you some time ago that I believed the arsenic in Eliza Fenning's
case to have been administered by the apprentice. I never was more
convinced of anything in my life than of the girl's innocence, and I
want words in which to express my indignation at the muddle-headed story
of that parsonic blunderer whose audacity and conceit distorted some
words that fell from her in the last days of her baiting.

Ever faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Lord Lytton.]

GAD'S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
_Monday, 14th October, 1867._

MY DEAR LYTTON,

I am truly delighted to find that you are so well pleased with Fechter
in "The Lady of Lyons." It was a labour of love with him, and I hold him
in very high regard.

_Don't_ give way to laziness, and _do_ proceed with that play. There
never was a time when a good new play was more wanted, or had a better
opening for itself. Fechter is a thorough artist, and what he may
sometimes want in personal force is compensated by the admirable whole
he can make of a play, and his perfect understanding of its
presentation as a picture to the eye and mind.

I leave London on the 8th of November early, and sail from Liverpool on
the 9th.

Ever affectionately yours.


[Sidenote: The same.]

"ALL THE YEAR ROUND" OFFICE,
_Friday, 25th October, 1867._

MY DEAR LYTTON,

I have read the Play[88] with great attention, interest, and admiration;
and I need not say to _you_ that the art of it - the fine
construction - the exquisite nicety of the touches - with which it is
wrought out - have been a study to me in the pursuit of which I have had
extraordinary relish.

Taking the Play as it stands, I have nothing whatever to add to your
notes and memoranda of the points to be touched again, except that I
have a little uneasiness in that burst of anger and inflexibility
consequent on having been deceived, coming out of Hegio. I see the kind
of actor who _must_ play Hegio, and I see that the audience will not
believe in his doing anything so serious. (I suppose it would be
impossible to get this effect out of the mother - or through the
mother's influence, instead of out of the godfather of Hegiopolis?)

Now, as to the classical ground and manners of the Play. I suppose the
objection to the Greek dress to be already - as Defoe would write it,
"gotten over" by your suggestion. I suppose the dress not to be
conventionally associated with stilts and boredom, but to be new to the
public eye and very picturesque. Grant all that; - the names remain. Now,
not only used such names to be inseparable in the public mind from
stately weariness, but of late days they have become inseparable in the
same public mind from silly puns upon the names, and from Burlesque. You
do not know (I hope, at least, for my friend's sake) what the Strand
Theatre is. A Greek name and a break-down nigger dance, have become
inseparable there. I do not mean to say that your genius may not be too
powerful for such associations; but I do most positively mean to say
that you would lose half the play in overcoming them. At the best you
would have to contend against them through the first three acts. The old
tendency to become frozen on classical ground would be in the best part
of the audience; the new tendency to titter on such ground would be in
the worst part. And instead of starting fair with the audience, it is my
conviction that you would start with them against you and would have to
win them over.

Furthermore, with reference to your note to me on this head, you take up
a position with reference to poor dear Talfourd's "Ion" which I
altogether dispute. It never was a popular play, I say. It derived a
certain amount of out-of-door's popularity from the circumstances under
which, and the man by whom, it was written. But I say that it never was
a popular play on the Stage, and never made out a case of attraction
there.

As to changing the ground to Russia, let me ask you, did you ever see
the "Nouvelles Russes" of Nicolas Gogol, translated into French by Louis
Viardot? There is a story among them called "Tarass Boulla," in which,
as it seems to me, all the conditions you want for such transplantation
are to be found. So changed, you would have the popular sympathy with
the Slave or Serf, or Prisoner of War, from the first. But I do not
think it is to be got, save at great hazard, and with lamentable waste
of force on the ground the Play now occupies.

I shall keep this note until to-morrow to correct my conviction if I can
see the least reason for correcting it; but I feel very confident indeed
that I cannot be shaken in it.

* * * * *


_Saturday._

I have thought it over again, and have gone over the play again with an
imaginary stage and actors before me, and I am still of the same mind.
Shall I keep the MS. till you come to town?

Believe me, ever affectionately yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. Fechter.]

PARKER HOUSE, BOSTON, _3rd December, 1867._

MY DEAR FECHTER,

I have been very uneasy about you, seeing in the paper that you were
taken ill on the stage. But a letter from Georgy this morning reassures
me by giving me a splendid account of your triumphant last night at the
Lyceum.

I hope to bring out our Play[89] with Wallack in New York, and to have it
played in many other parts of the States. I have sent to Wilkie for
models, etc. If I waited for time to do more than write you my love, I
should miss the mail to-morrow. Take my love, then, my dear fellow, and
believe me ever

Your affectionate.

FOOTNOTES:

[82] The Hon. Robert Lytton - now the Earl of Lytton - in literature well
known as "Owen Meredith."

[83] Mr. Henry W. Phillips, at this time secretary of the Artists'
General Benevolent Society. He was eager to establish some educational
system in connection with that institution.

[84] The remainder has been cut off for the signature.

[85] This and all other Letters to Mr. J. T. Fields were printed in Mr.
Fields' "In and Out of Doors with Charles Dickens."

[86] A ridiculous paragraph in the papers following close on the public
announcement that Charles Dickens was coming to America in November,
drew from him this letter to Mr. Fields, dated early in October.

[87] As to subjects for articles in "All the Year Round."

[88] The Play referred to is founded on the "Captives" of Plautus, and
is entitled "The Captives." It has never been acted or published.

[89] "No Thoroughfare."




1868.


_3rd February, 1868._

[90]Articles of Agreement entered into at Baltimore, in the United States
of America, this third day of February in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight, between - - - - , British
subject, _alias_ the man of Ross, and - - - - - - , American citizen,
_alias_ the Boston Bantam.

Whereas, some Bounce having arisen between the above men in reference to
feats of pedestrianism and agility, they have agreed to settle their
differences and prove who is the better man, by means of a walking-match
for two hats a side and the glory of their respective countries; and
whereas they agree that the said match shall come off, whatsoever the
weather, on the Mill Dam Road outside Boston, on Saturday, the
twenty-ninth day of this present month; and whereas they agree that the
personal attendants on themselves during the whole walk, and also the
umpires and starters and declarers of victory in the match shall be - -
- - of Boston, known in sporting circles as Massachusetts Jemmy, and
Charles Dickens of Falstaff's Gad's Hill, whose surprising performances
(without the least variation) on that truly national instrument, the
American catarrh, have won for him the well-merited title of the Gad's
Hill Gasper:

1. The men are to be started, on the day appointed, by Massachusetts
Jemmy and The Gasper.

2. Jemmy and The Gasper are, on some previous day, to walk out at the
rate of not less than four miles an hour by The Gasper's watch, for one
hour and a half. At the expiration of that one hour and a half they are
to carefully note the place at which they halt. On the match's coming
off they are to station themselves in the middle of the road, at that
precise point, and the men (keeping clear of them and of each other) are
to turn round them, right shoulder inward, and walk back to the
starting-point. The man declared by them to pass the starting-point
first is to be the victor and the winner of the match.

3. No jostling or fouling allowed.

4. All cautions or orders issued to the men by the umpires, starters,
and declarers of victory to be considered final and admitting of no
appeal.

A sporting narrative of the match to be written by The Gasper within one
week after its coming off, and the same to be duly printed (at the
expense of the subscribers to these articles) on a broadside. The said
broadside to be framed and glazed, and one copy of the same to be
carefully preserved by each of the subscribers to these articles.

6. The men to show on the evening of the day of walking at six o'clock
precisely, at the Parker House, Boston, when and where a dinner will be
given them by The Gasper. The Gasper to occupy the chair, faced by
Massachusetts Jemmy. The latter promptly and formally to invite, as soon
as may be after the date of these presents, the following guests to
honour the said dinner with their presence; that is to say [here follow
the names of a few of his friends, whom he wished to be invited].

Now, lastly. In token of their accepting the trusts and offices by these
articles conferred upon them, these articles are solemnly and formally
signed by Massachusetts Jemmy and by the Gad's Hill Gasper, as well as
by the men themselves.

Signed by the Man of Ross, otherwise - - .

Signed by the Boston Bantam, otherwise - - .

Signed by Massachusetts Jemmy, otherwise - - .

Signed by the Gad's Hill Gasper, otherwise Charles Dickens.

Witness to the signatures, - - .


[Sidenote: Mr. Charles Lanman.]

WASHINGTON, _February 5th, 1868._

MY DEAR SIR,

Allow me to thank you most cordially for your kind letter, and for its
accompanying books. I have a particular love for books of travel, and
shall wander into the "Wilds of America" with great interest. I have
also received your charming Sketch with great pleasure and admiration.
Let me thank you for it heartily. As a beautiful suggestion of nature
associated with this country, it shall have a quiet place on the walls
of my house as long as I live.

Your reference to my dear friend Washington Irving renews the vivid
impressions reawakened in my mind at Baltimore the other day. I saw his
fine face for the last time in that city. He came there from New York to
pass a day or two with me before I went westward, and they were made
among the most memorable of my life by his delightful fancy and genial
humour. Some unknown admirer of his books and mine sent to the hotel a
most enormous mint julep, wreathed with flowers. We sat, one on either
side of it, with great solemnity (it filled a respectable-sized paper),
but the solemnity was of very short duration. It was quite an enchanted
julep, and carried us among innumerable people and places that we both
knew. The julep held out far into the night, and my memory never saw him
afterward otherwise than as bending over it, with his straw, with an
attempted gravity (after some anecdote, involving some wonderfully droll
and delicate observation of character), and then, as his eyes caught
mine, melting into that captivating laugh of his which was the brightest
and best I have ever heard.

Dear Sir, with many thanks, faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mrs. Pease.]

BALTIMORE, _9th February, 1868._

DEAR MADAM,

Mr. Dolby has _not_ come between us, and I have received your letter. My
answer to it is, unfortunately, brief. I am not coming to Cleveland or
near it. Every evening on which I can possibly read during the remainder
of my stay in the States is arranged for, and the fates divide me from
"the big woman with two smaller ones in tow." So I send her my love (to
be shared in by the two smaller ones, if she approve - but not
otherwise), and seriously assure her that her pleasant letter has been
most welcome.

Dear madam, faithfully your friend.


[Sidenote: Mr. James T. Fields.]

ABOARD THE "RUSSIA," BOUND FOR LIVERPOOL,
_Sunday, 26th April, 1868._

MY DEAR FIELDS,

In order that you may have the earliest intelligence of me, I begin this
note to-day in my small cabin, purposing (if it should prove
practicable) to post it at Queenstown for the return steamer.

We are already past the Banks of Newfoundland, although our course was
seventy miles to the south, with the view of avoiding ice seen by
Judkins in the _Scotia_ on his passage out to New York. The _Russia_ is
a magnificent ship, and has dashed along bravely. We had made more than
thirteen hundred and odd miles at noon to-day. The wind, after being a
little capricious, rather threatens at the present time to turn against
us, but our run is already eighty miles ahead of the _Russia's_ last run
in this direction - a very fast one. . . . To all whom it may concern,
report the _Russia_ in the highest terms. She rolls more easily than
the other Cunard Screws, is kept in perfect order, and is most carefully
looked after in all departments. We have had nothing approaching to
heavy weather, still one can speak to the trim of the ship. Her captain,
a gentleman; bright, polite, good-natured, and vigilant. . . .

As to me, I am greatly better, I hope. I have got on my right boot
to-day for the first time; the "true American" seems to be turning
faithless at last; and I made a Gad's Hill breakfast this morning, as a
further advance on having otherwise eaten and drunk all day ever since
Wednesday.

You will see Anthony Trollope, I daresay. What was my amazement to see
him with these eyes come aboard in the mail tender just before we
started! He had come out in the _Scotia_ just in time to dash off again
in said tender to shake hands with me, knowing me to be aboard here. It
was most heartily done. He is on a special mission of convention with
the United States post-office.

We have been picturing your movements, and have duly checked off your
journey home, and have talked about you continually. But I have thought
about you both, even much, much more. You will never know how I love you
both; or what you have been to me in America, and will always be to me
everywhere; or how fervently I thank you.

All the working of the ship seems to be done on my forehead. It is
scrubbed and holystoned (my head - not the deck) at three every morning.
It is scraped and swabbed all day. Eight pairs of heavy boots are now
clattering on it, getting the ship under sail again. Legions of
ropes'-ends are flopped upon it as I write, and I must leave off with
Dolby's love.

* * * * *


_Thursday, 30th._

Soon after I left off as above we had a gale of wind which blew all
night. For a few hours on the evening side of midnight there was no
getting from this cabin of mine to the saloon, or _vice versâ_, so
heavily did the sea break over the decks. The ship, however, made
nothing of it, and we were all right again by Monday afternoon. Except
for a few hours yesterday (when we had a very light head-wind), the
weather has been constantly favourable, and we are now bowling away at a
great rate, with a fresh breeze filling all our sails. We expect to be
at Queenstown between midnight and three in the morning.

I hope, my dear Fields, you may find this legible, but I rather doubt
it, for there is motion enough on the ship to render writing to a
landsman, however accustomed to pen and ink, rather a difficult
achievement. Besides which, I slide away gracefully from the paper,
whenever I want to be particularly expressive. . . .

- - , sitting opposite to me at breakfast, always has the following
items: A large dish of porridge into which he casts slices of butter and
a quantity of sugar. Two cups of tea. A steak. Irish stew. Chutnee and


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 14 of 21)