Charles Dickens.

The letters of Charles Dickens online

. (page 2 of 21)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 2 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


not quarrel with me for being brief.

Have you seen Townshend's magnetic boy? You heard of him, no doubt, from
Count D'Orsay. If you get him to Gore House, don't, I entreat you, have
more than eight people - four is a better number - to see him. He fails in
a crowd, and is _marvellous_ before a few.

I am told that down in Devonshire there are young ladies innumerable,
who read crabbed manuscripts with the palms of their hands, and
newspapers with their ankles, and so forth; and who are, so to speak,
literary all over. I begin to understand what a blue-stocking means, and
have not the smallest doubt that Lady - - (for instance) could write
quite as entertaining a book with the sole of her foot as ever she did
with her head. I am a believer in earnest, and I am sure you would be if
you saw this boy, under moderately favourable circumstances, as I hope
you will, before he leaves England.

Believe me, dear Lady Blessington,
Faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. L. Gaylord Clark.]

_September 28th, 1841._

MY DEAR SIR,

I condole with you from my heart on the loss[14] you have sustained, and
I feel proud of your permitting me to sympathise with your affliction.
It is a great satisfaction to me to have been addressed, under similar
circumstances, by many of your countrymen since the "Curiosity Shop"
came to a close. Some simple and honest hearts in the remote wilds of
America have written me letters on the loss of children - so numbering my
little book, or rather heroine, with their household gods; and so
pouring out their trials and sources of comfort in them, before me as a
friend, that I have been inexpressibly moved, and am whenever I think of
them, I do assure you. You have already all the comfort, that I could
lay before you; all, I hope, that the affectionate spirit of your
brother, now in happiness, can shed into your soul.

On the 4th of next January, if it please God, I am coming with my wife
on a three or four months' visit to America. The British and North
American packet will bring me, I hope, to Boston, and enable me, in the
third week of the new year, to set my foot upon the soil I have trodden
in my day-dreams many times, and whose sons (and daughters) I yearn to
know and to be among.

I hope you are surprised, and I hope not unpleasantly.

Faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mrs. Hogarth.]

[15]DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _Sunday, October 24th, 1841._

MY DEAR MRS. HOGARTH,

For God's sake be comforted, and bear this well, for the love of your
remaining children.

I had always intended to keep poor Mary's grave for us and our dear
children, and for you. But if it will be any comfort to you to have poor
George buried there, I will cheerfully arrange to place the ground at
your entire disposal. Do not consider me in any way. Consult only your
own heart. Mine seems to tell me that as they both died so young and so
suddenly, they ought both to be buried together.

Try - do try - to think that they have but preceded you to happiness, and
will meet you with joy in heaven. There _is_ consolation in the
knowledge that you have treasure there, and that while you live on
earth, there are creatures among the angels, who owed their being to
you.

Always yours with true affection.


[Sidenote: Mr. Washington Irving.]

MY DEAR SIR,[16]

There is no man in the world who could have given me the heartfelt
pleasure you have, by your kind note of the 13th of last month. There is
no living writer, and there are very few among the dead, whose
approbation I should feel so proud to earn. And with everything you have
written upon my shelves, and in my thoughts, and in my heart of hearts,
I may honestly and truly say so. If you could know how earnestly I write
this, you would be glad to read it - as I hope you will be, faintly
guessing at the warmth of the hand I autobiographically hold out to you
over the broad Atlantic.

I wish I could find in your welcome letter some hint of an intention to
visit England. I can't. I have held it at arm's length, and taken a
bird's-eye view of it, after reading it a great many times, but there is
no greater encouragement in it this way than on a microscopic
inspection. I should love to go with you - as I have gone, God knows how
often - into Little Britain, and Eastcheap, and Green Arbour Court, and
Westminster Abbey. I should like to travel with you, outside the last of
the coaches down to Bracebridge Hall. It would make my heart glad to
compare notes with you about that shabby gentleman in the oilcloth hat
and red nose, who sat in the nine-cornered back-parlour of the Masons'
Arms; and about Robert Preston and the tallow-chandler's widow, whose
sitting-room is second nature to me; and about all those delightful
places and people that I used to walk about and dream of in the daytime,
when a very small and not over-particularly-taken-care-of boy. I have a
good deal to say, too, about that dashing Alonzo de Ojeda, that you
can't help being fonder of than you ought to be; and much to hear
concerning Moorish legend, and poor unhappy Boabdil. Diedrich
Knickerbocker I have worn to death in my pocket, and yet I should show
you his mutilated carcass with a joy past all expression.

I have been so accustomed to associate you with my pleasantest and
happiest thoughts, and with my leisure hours, that I rush at once into
full confidence with you, and fall, as it were naturally, and by the
very laws of gravity, into your open arms. Questions come thronging to
my pen as to the lips of people who meet after long hoping to do so. I
don't know what to say first or what to leave unsaid, and am constantly
disposed to break off and tell you again how glad I am this moment has
arrived.

My dear Washington Irving, I cannot thank you enough for your cordial
and generous praise, or tell you what deep and lasting gratification it
has given me. I hope to have many letters from you, and to exchange a
frequent correspondence. I send this to say so. After the first two or
three I shall settle down into a connected style, and become gradually
rational.

You know what the feeling is, after having written a letter, sealed it,
and sent it off. I shall picture your reading this, and answering it
before it has lain one night in the post-office. Ten to one that before
the fastest packet could reach New York I shall be writing again.

Do you suppose the post-office clerks care to receive letters? I have my
doubts. They get into a dreadful habit of indifference. A postman, I
imagine, is quite callous. Conceive his delivering one to himself,
without being startled by a preliminary double knock!

Always your faithful Friend.

FOOTNOTES:

[12] A Dissenting minister, once himself a workhouse boy, and writing on
the character of Oliver Twist. This letter was published in "Harper's
New Monthly Magazine," in 1862.

[13] This, and all other Letters addressed to the Countess of
Blessington, were printed in "Literary Life and Correspondence of the
Countess of Blessington."

[14] The death of his correspondent's twin-brother, Willis Gaylord
Clark.

[15] On the occasion of the sudden death of Mrs. Hogarth's son, George.

[16] This, and all other Letters addressed to Mr. Washington Irving,
were printed in "The Life and Letters of Washington Irving," edited by
his nephew, Pierre M. Irving.




1842.


[Sidenote: Professor Felton.]

FULLER'S HOTEL, WASHINGTON, _Monday, March 14th, 1842._

MY DEAR FELTON,[17]

I was more delighted than I can possibly tell you, to receive (last
Saturday night) your welcome letter. We and the oysters missed you
terribly in New York. You carried away with you more than half the
delight and pleasure of my New World; and I heartily wish you could
bring it back again.

There are very interesting men in this place - highly interesting, of
course - but it's not a comfortable place; is it? If spittle could wait
at table we should be nobly attended, but as that property has not been
imparted to it in the present state of mechanical science, we are rather
lonely and orphan-like, in respect of "being looked arter." A blithe
black was introduced on our arrival, as our peculiar and especial
attendant. He is the only gentleman in the town who has a peculiar
delicacy in intruding upon my valuable time. It usually takes seven
rings and a threatening message from - - to produce him; and when he
comes he goes to fetch something, and, forgetting it by the way, comes
back no more.

We have been in great distress, really in distress, at the non-arrival
of the _Caledonia_. You may conceive what our joy was, when, while we
were dining out yesterday, H. arrived with the joyful intelligence of
her safety. The very news of her having really arrived seemed to
diminish the distance between ourselves and home, by one half at least.

And this morning (though we have not yet received our heap of
despatches, for which we are looking eagerly forward to this night's
mail) - this morning there reached us unexpectedly, through the
Government bag (Heaven knows how they came there!), two of our many and
long-looked-for letters, wherein was a circumstantial account of the
whole conduct and behaviour of our pets; with marvellous narrations of
Charley's precocity at a Twelfth Night juvenile party at Macready's; and
tremendous predictions of the governess, dimly suggesting his having got
out of pot-hooks and hangers, and darkly insinuating the possibility of
his writing us a letter before long; and many other workings of the same
prophetic spirit, in reference to him and his sisters, very gladdening
to their mother's heart, and not at all depressing to their father's.
There was, also, the doctor's report, which was a clean bill; and the
nurse's report, which was perfectly electrifying; showing as it did how
Master Walter had been weaned, and had cut a double tooth, and done many
other extraordinary things, quite worthy of his high descent. In short,
we were made very happy and grateful; and felt as if the prodigal father
and mother had got home again.

What do you think of this incendiary card being left at my door last
night? "General G. sends compliments to Mr. Dickens, and called with two
literary ladies. As the two L. L.'s are ambitious of the honour of a
personal introduction to Mr. D., General G. requests the honour of an
appointment for to-morrow." I draw a veil over my sufferings. They are
sacred. We shall be in Buffalo, please Heaven, on the 30th of April. If
I don't find a letter from you in the care of the postmaster at that
place, I'll never write to you from England.

But if I _do_ find one, my right hand shall forget its cunning, before I
forget to be your truthful and constant correspondent; not, dear Felton,
because I promised it, nor because I have a natural tendency to
correspond (which is far from being the case), nor because I am truly
grateful to you for, and have been made truly proud by, that
affectionate and elegant tribute which - - sent me, but because you are
a man after my own heart, and I love you _well_. And for the love I bear
you, and the pleasure with which I shall always think of you, and the
glow I shall feel when I see your handwriting in my own home, I hereby
enter into a solemn league and covenant to write as many letters to you
as you write to me, at least. Amen.

Come to England! Come to England! Our oysters are small, I know; they
are said by Americans to be coppery; but our hearts are of the largest
size. We are thought to excel in shrimps, to be far from despicable in
point of lobsters, and in periwinkles are considered to challenge the
universe. Our oysters, small though they be, are not devoid of the
refreshing influence which that species of fish is supposed to exercise
in these latitudes. Try them and compare.

Affectionately yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. Washington Irving.]

WASHINGTON, _Monday Afternoon, March 21st, 1842._

MY DEAR IRVING,

We passed through - literally passed through - this place again to-day. I
did not come to see you, for I really have not the heart to say
"good-bye" again, and felt more than I can tell you when we shook hands
last Wednesday.

You will not be at Baltimore, I fear? I thought, at the time, that you
only said you might be there, to make our parting the gayer.

Wherever you go, God bless you! What pleasure I have had in seeing and
talking with you, I will not attempt to say. I shall never forget it as
long as I live. What would I give, if we could have but a quiet week
together! Spain is a lazy place, and its climate an indolent one. But if
you have ever leisure under its sunny skies to think of a man who loves
you, and holds communion with your spirit oftener, perhaps, than any
other person alive - leisure from listlessness, I mean - and will write to
me in London, you will give me an inexpressible amount of pleasure.

Your affectionate friend.


[Sidenote: Professor Felton.]

MONTREAL, _Saturday, 21st May, 1842._

MY DEAR FELTON,

I was delighted to receive your letter yesterday, and was well pleased
with its contents. I anticipated objection to Carlyle's[18] letter. I
called particular attention to it for three reasons. Firstly, because he
boldly _said_ what all the others _think_, and therefore deserved to be
manfully supported. Secondly, because it is my deliberate opinion that I
have been assailed on this subject in a manner in which no man with any
pretensions to public respect or with the remotest right to express an
opinion on a subject of universal literary interest would be assailed in
any other country. . . .

I really cannot sufficiently thank you, dear Felton, for your warm and
hearty interest in these proceedings. But it would be idle to pursue
that theme, so let it pass.

The wig and whiskers are in a state of the highest preservation. The
play comes off next Wednesday night, the 25th. What would I give to see
you in the front row of the centre box, your spectacles gleaming not
unlike those of my dear friend Pickwick, your face radiant with as broad
a grin as a staid professor may indulge in, and your very coat,
waistcoat, and shoulders expressive of what we should take together when
the performance was over! I would give something (not so much, but still
a good round sum) if you could only stumble into that very dark and
dusty theatre in the daytime (at any minute between twelve and three),
and see me with my coat off, the stage manager and universal director,
urging impracticable ladies and impossible gentlemen on to the very
confines of insanity, shouting and driving about, in my own person, to
an extent which would justify any philanthropic stranger in clapping me
into a strait-waistcoat without further inquiry, endeavouring to goad H.
into some dim and faint understanding of a prompter's duties, and
struggling in such a vortex of noise, dirt, bustle, confusion, and
inextricable entanglement of speech and action as you would grow giddy
in contemplating. We perform "A Roland for an Oliver," "A Good Night's
Rest," and "Deaf as a Post." This kind of voluntary hard labour used to
be my great delight. The _furor_ has come strong upon me again, and I
begin to be once more of opinion that nature intended me for the lessee
of a national theatre, and that pen, ink, and paper have spoiled a
manager.

Oh, how I look forward across that rolling water to home and its small
tenantry! How I busy myself in thinking how my books look, and where
the tables are, and in what positions the chairs stand relatively to the
other furniture; and whether we shall get there in the night, or in the
morning, or in the afternoon; and whether we shall be able to surprise
them, or whether they will be too sharply looking out for us; and what
our pets will say; and how they'll look, and who will be the first to
come and shake hands, and so forth! If I could but tell you how I have
set my heart on rushing into Forster's study (he is my great friend, and
writes at the bottom of all his letters: "My love to Felton"), and into
Maclise's painting-room, and into Macready's managerial ditto, without a
moment's warning, and how I picture every little trait and circumstance
of our arrival to myself, down to the very colour of the bow on the
cook's cap, you would almost think I had changed places with my eldest
son, and was still in pantaloons of the thinnest texture. I left all
these things - God only knows what a love I have for them - as coolly and
calmly as any animated cucumber; but when I come upon them again I shall
have lost all power of self-restraint, and shall as certainly make a
fool of myself (in the popular meaning of that expression) as ever
Grimaldi did in his way, or George the Third in his.

And not the less so, dear Felton, for having found some warm hearts, and
left some instalments of earnest and sincere affection, behind me on
this continent. And whenever I turn my mental telescope hitherward,
trust me that one of the first figures it will descry will wear
spectacles so like yours that the maker couldn't tell the difference,
and shall address a Greek class in such an exact imitation of your
voice, that the very students hearing it should cry, "That's he! Three
cheers. Hoo-ray-ay-ay-ay-ay!"

About those joints of yours, I think you are mistaken. They _can't_ be
stiff. At the worst they merely want the air of New York, which, being
impregnated with the flavour of last year's oysters, has a surprising
effect in rendering the human frame supple and flexible in all cases of
rust.

A terrible idea occurred to me as I wrote those words. The
oyster-cellars - what do they do when oysters are not in season? Is
pickled salmon vended there? Do they sell crabs, shrimps, winkles,
herrings? The oyster-openers - what do _they_ do? Do they commit suicide
in despair, or wrench open tight drawers and cupboards and
hermetically-sealed bottles for practice? Perhaps they are dentists out
of the oyster season. Who knows?

Affectionately yours.


[Sidenote: The same.]

1, DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, YORK GATE, REGENT'S PARK,
LONDON, _Sunday, July 31st, 1842._

MY DEAR FELTON,

Of all the monstrous and incalculable amount of occupation that ever
beset one unfortunate man, mine has been the most stupendous since I
came home. The dinners I have had to eat, the places I have had to go
to, the letters I have had to answer, the sea of business and of
pleasure in which I have been plunged, not even the genius of an - - or
the pen of a - - could describe.

Wherefore I indite a monstrously short and wildly uninteresting epistle
to the American Dando; but perhaps you don't know who Dando was. He was
an oyster-eater, my dear Felton. He used to go into oyster-shops,
without a farthing of money, and stand at the counter eating natives,
until the man who opened them grew pale, cast down his knife, staggered
backward, struck his white forehead with his open hand, and cried, "You
are Dando!!!" He has been known to eat twenty dozen at one sitting, and
would have eaten forty, if the truth had not flashed upon the
shopkeeper. For these offences he was constantly committed to the House
of Correction. During his last imprisonment he was taken ill, got worse
and worse, and at last began knocking violent double knocks at Death's
door. The doctor stood beside his bed, with his fingers on his pulse.
"He is going," says the doctor. "I see it in his eye. There is only one
thing that would keep life in him for another hour, and that
is - oysters." They were immediately brought. Dando swallowed eight, and
feebly took a ninth. He held it in his mouth and looked round the bed
strangely. "Not a bad one, is it?" says the doctor. The patient shook
his head, rubbed his trembling hand upon his stomach, bolted the oyster,
and fell back - dead. They buried him in the prison-yard, and paved his
grave with oyster-shells.

We are all well and hearty, and have already begun to wonder what time
next year you and Mrs. Felton and Dr. Howe will come across the briny
sea together. To-morrow we go to the seaside for two months. I am
looking out for news of Longfellow, and shall be delighted when I know
that he is on his way to London and this house.

I am bent upon striking at the piratical newspapers with the sharpest
edge I can put upon my small axe, and hope in the next session of
Parliament to stop their entrance into Canada. For the first time within
the memory of man, the professors of English literature seem disposed to
act together on this question. It is a good thing to aggravate a
scoundrel, if one can do nothing else, and I think we _can_ make them
smart a little in this way. . . .

I wish you had been at Greenwich the other day, where a party of friends
gave me a private dinner; public ones I have refused. C - - was
perfectly wild at the reunion, and, after singing all manner of marine
songs, wound up the entertainment by coming home (six miles) in a
little open phaeton of mine, _on his head_, to the mingled delight and
indignation of the metropolitan police. We were very jovial indeed; and
I assure you that I drank your health with fearful vigour and energy.

On board that ship coming home I established a club, called the United
Vagabonds, to the large amusement of the rest of the passengers. This
holy brotherhood committed all kinds of absurdities, and dined always,
with a variety of solemn forms, at one end of the table, below the mast,
away from all the rest. The captain being ill when we were three or four
days out, I produced my medicine-chest and recovered him. We had a few
more sick men after that, and I went round "the wards" every day in
great state, accompanied by two Vagabonds, habited as Ben Allen and Bob
Sawyer, bearing enormous rolls of plaster and huge pairs of scissors. We
were really very merry all the way, breakfasted in one party at
Liverpool, shook hands, and parted most cordially. . . .

Affectionately your faithful friend.

P.S. - I have looked over my journal, and have decided to produce my
American trip in two volumes. I have written about half the first since
I came home, and hope to be out in October. This is "exclusive news," to
be communicated to any friends to whom you may like to intrust it, my
dear F - - .


[Sidenote: The same.]

1, DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, YORK GATE, REGENT'S PARK,
LONDON, _September 1st, 1842._

MY DEAR FELTON,

Of course that letter in the papers was as foul a forgery as ever felon
swung for. . . . I have not contradicted it publicly, nor shall I. When
I tilt at such wringings out of the dirtiest mortality, I shall be another
man - indeed, almost the creature they would make me.

I gave your message to Forster, who sends a despatch-box full of kind
remembrances in return. He is in a great state of delight with the first
volume of my American book (which I have just finished), and swears
loudly by it. It is _True_ and Honourable I know, and I shall hope to
send it you, complete, by the first steamer in November.

Your description of the porter and the carpet-bags prepares me for a
first-rate facetious novel, brimful of the richest humour, on which I
have no doubt you are engaged. What is it called? Sometimes I imagine
the title-page thus:

OYSTERS

IN

EVERY STYLE

OR

OPENINGS

OF

LIFE

BY

YOUNG DANDO.

As to the man putting the luggage on his head, as a sort of sign, I
adopt it from this hour.

I date this from London, where I have come, as a good profligate,
graceless bachelor, for a day or two; leaving my wife and babbies at the
seaside. . . . Heavens! if you were but here at this minute! A piece of
salmon and a steak are cooking in the kitchen; it's a very wet day, and
I have had a fire lighted; the wine sparkles on a side table; the room
looks the more snug from being the only _un_dismantled one in the house;
plates are warming for Forster and Maclise, whose knock I am momentarily
expecting; that groom I told you of, who never comes into the house,


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 2 of 21)