Charles Dickens.

The letters of Charles Dickens online

. (page 3 of 21)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 3 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


except when we are all out of town, is walking about in his
shirt-sleeves without the smallest consciousness of impropriety; a great
mound of proofs are waiting to be read aloud, after dinner. With what a
shout I would clap you down into the easiest chair, my genial Felton, if
you could but appear, and order you a pair of slippers instantly!

Since I have written this, the aforesaid groom - a very small man (as the
fashion is), with fiery red hair (as the fashion is _not_) - has looked
very hard at me and fluttered about me at the same time, like a giant
butterfly. After a pause, he says, in a Sam Wellerish kind of way: "I
vent to the club this mornin', sir. There vorn't no letters, sir." "Very
good, Topping." "How's missis, sir?" "Pretty well, Topping." "Glad to
hear it, sir. _My_ missis ain't wery well, sir." "No!" "No, sir, she's
a goin', sir, to have a hincrease wery soon, and it makes her rather
nervous, sir; and ven a young voman gets at all down at sich a time,
sir, she goes down wery deep, sir." To this sentiment I replied
affirmatively, and then he adds, as he stirs the fire (as if he were
thinking out loud): "Wot a mystery it is! Wot a go is natur'!" With
which scrap of philosophy, he gradually gets nearer to the door, and so
fades out of the room.

This same man asked me one day, soon after I came home, what Sir John
Wilson was. This is a friend of mine, who took our house and servants,
and everything as it stood, during our absence in America. I told him an
officer. "A wot, sir?" "An officer." And then, for fear he should think
I meant a police-officer, I added, "An officer in the army." "I beg your
pardon, sir," he said, touching his hat, "but the club as I always drove
him to wos the United Servants."

The real name of this club is the United Service, but I have no doubt he
thought it was a high-life-below-stairs kind of resort, and that this
gentleman was a retired butler or superannuated footman.

There's the knock, and the Great Western sails, or steams rather,
to-morrow. Write soon again, dear Felton, and ever believe me. . . .

Your affectionate friend.

P.S. - All good angels prosper Dr. Howe! He, at least, will not like me
the less, I hope, for what I shall say of Laura.


[Sidenote: The same.]

1, DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, YORK GATE, REGENT'S PARK,
LONDON, _31st December, 1842._

MY DEAR FELTON,

Many and many happy New Years to you and yours! As many happy children
as may be quite convenient (no more!), and as many happy meetings
between them and our children, and between you and us, as the kind fates
in their utmost kindness shall favourably decree!

The American book (to begin with that) has been a most complete and
thorough-going success. Four large editions have now been sold _and paid
for_, and it has won golden opinions from all sorts of men, except our
friend in F - - , who is a miserable creature; a disappointed man in
great poverty, to whom I have ever been most kind and considerate (I
need scarcely say that); and another friend in B - - , no less a person
than an illustrious gentleman named - - , who wrote a story called - - .
They have done no harm, and have fallen short of their mark, which, of
course, was to annoy me. Now I am perfectly free from any diseased
curiosity in such respects, and whenever I hear of a notice of this
kind, I never read it; whereby I always conceive (don't you?) that I get
the victory. With regard to your slave-owners, they may cry, till they
are as black in the face as their own slaves, that Dickens lies. Dickens
does not write for their satisfaction, and Dickens will not explain for
their comfort. Dickens has the name and date of every newspaper in
which every one of those advertisements appeared, as they know perfectly
well; but Dickens does not choose to give them, and will not at any time
between this and the day of judgment. . . .

I have been hard at work on my new book, of which the first number has
just appeared. The Paul Joneses who pursue happiness and profit at other
men's cost will no doubt enable you to read it, almost as soon as you
receive this. I hope you will like it. And I particularly commend, my
dear Felton, one Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters to your tender regards.
I have a kind of liking for them myself.

Blessed star of morning, such a trip as we had into Cornwall, just after
Longfellow went away! The "we" means Forster, Maclise, Stanfield (the
renowned marine painter), and the Inimitable Boz. We went down into
Devonshire by the railroad, and there we hired an open carriage from an
innkeeper, patriotic in all Pickwick matters, and went on with
post-horses. Sometimes we travelled all night, sometimes all day,
sometimes both. I kept the joint-stock purse, ordered all the dinners,
paid all the turnpikes, conducted facetious conversations with the
post-boys, and regulated the pace at which we travelled. Stanfield (an
old sailor) consulted an enormous map on all disputed points of
wayfaring; and referred, moreover, to a pocket-compass and other
scientific instruments. The luggage was in Forster's department; and
Maclise, having nothing particular to do, sang songs. Heavens! If you
could have seen the necks of bottles - distracting in their immense
varieties of shape - peering out of the carriage pockets! If you could
have witnessed the deep devotion of the post-boys, the wild attachment
of the hostlers, the maniac glee of the waiters! If you could have
followed us into the earthy old churches we visited, and into the
strange caverns on the gloomy sea-shore, and down into the depths of
mines, and up to the tops of giddy heights where the unspeakably green
water was roaring, I don't know how many hundred feet below! If you
could have seen but one gleam of the bright fires by which we sat in the
big rooms of ancient inns at night, until long after the small hours had
come and gone, or smelt but one steam of the hot punch (not white, dear
Felton, like that amazing compound I sent you a taste of, but a rich,
genial, glowing brown) which came in every evening in a huge broad china
bowl! I never laughed in my life as I did on this journey. It would have
done you good to hear me. I was choking and gasping and bursting the
buckle off the back of my stock, all the way. And Stanfield (who is very
much of your figure and temperament, but fifteen years older) got into
such apoplectic entanglements that we were often obliged to beat him on
the back with portmanteaus before we could recover him. Seriously, I do
believe there never was such a trip. And they made such sketches, those
two men, in the most romantic of our halting-places, that you would
have sworn we had the Spirit of Beauty with us, as well as the Spirit of
Fun. But stop till you come to England - I say no more.

The actuary of the national debt couldn't calculate the number of
children who are coming here on Twelfth Night, in honour of Charley's
birthday, for which occasion I have provided a magic lantern and divers
other tremendous engines of that nature. But the best of it is that
Forster and I have purchased between us the entire stock-in-trade of a
conjurer, the practice and display whereof is intrusted to me. And O my
dear eyes, Felton, if you could see me conjuring the company's watches
into impossible tea-caddies, and causing pieces of money to fly, and
burning pocket-handkerchiefs without hurting 'em, and practising in my
own room, without anybody to admire, you would never forget it as long
as you live. In those tricks which require a confederate, I am assisted
(by reason of his imperturbable good humour) by Stanfield, who always
does his part exactly the wrong way, to the unspeakable delight of all
beholders. We come out on a small scale, to-night, at Forster's, where
we see the old year out and the new one in. Particulars shall be
forwarded in my next.

I have quite made up my mind that F - - really believes he _does_ know
you personally, and has all his life. He talks to me about you with such
gravity that I am afraid to grin, and feel it necessary to look quite
serious. Sometimes he _tells_ me things about you, doesn't ask me, you
know, so that I am occasionally perplexed beyond all telling, and begin
to think it was he, and not I, who went to America. It's the queerest
thing in the world.

The book I was to have given Longfellow for you is not worth sending by
itself, being only a Barnaby. But I will look up some manuscript for you
(I think I have that of the American Notes complete), and will try to
make the parcel better worth its long conveyance. With regard to
Maclise's pictures, you certainly are quite right in your impression of
them; but he is "such a discursive devil" (as he says about himself) and
flies off at such odd tangents, that I feel it difficult to convey to
you any general notion of his purpose. I will try to do so when I write
again. I want very much to know about - - and that charming girl. . . .
Give me full particulars. Will you remember me cordially to Sumner, and
say I thank him for his welcome letter? The like to Hillard, with many
regards to himself and his wife, with whom I had one night a little
conversation which I shall not readily forget. The like to Washington
Allston, and all friends who care for me and have outlived my book. . . .
Always, my dear Felton,

With true regard and affection, yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. Tom Hood.]

MY DEAR HOOD,

I can't state in figures (not very well remembering how to get beyond a
million) the number of candidates for the Sanatorium matronship, but if
you will ask your little boy to trace figures in the beds of your
garden, beginning at the front wall, going down to the cricket-ground,
coming back to the wall again, and "carrying over" to the next door, and
will then set a skilful accountant to add up the whole, the product, as
the Tutor's Assistants say, will give you the amount required. I have
pledged myself (being assured of her capability) to support a near
relation of Miss E - - 's; otherwise, I need not say how glad I should
have been to forward any wish of yours.

Very faithfully yours.

FOOTNOTES:

[17] This, and all other Letters addressed to Professor Felton, were
printed in Mr. Field's "Yesterdays with Authors," originally published
in _The Atlantic Monthly Magazine_.

[18] On the subject of International Copyright.




1843.


[Sidenote: Mr. Macvey Napier.]

[19]DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, LONDON, _January 21st, 1843._

MY DEAR SIR,

Let me hasten to say, in the fullest and most explicit manner, that you
have acted a most honourable, open, fair and manly part in the matter of
my complaint,[20] for which I beg you to accept my best thanks, and the
assurance of my friendship and regard. I would on no account publish the
letter you have sent me for that purpose, as I conceive that by doing
so, I should not reciprocate the spirit in which you have written to me
privately. But if you should, upon consideration, think it not
inexpedient to set the _Review_ right in regard to this point of fact,
by a note in the next number, I should be glad to see it there.

In reference to the article itself, it did, by repeating this statement,
hurt my feelings excessively; and is, in this respect, I still conceive,
most unworthy of its author. I am at a loss to divine who its author is.
I _know_ he read in some cut-throat American paper, this and other
monstrous statements, which I could at any time have converted into
sickening praise by the payment of some fifty dollars. I know that he is
perfectly aware that his statement in the _Review_ in corroboration of
these lies, would be disseminated through the whole of the United
States; and that my contradiction will never be heard of. And though I
care very little for the opinion of any person who will set the
statement of an American editor (almost invariably an atrocious
scoundrel) against my character and conduct, such as they may be; still,
my sense of justice does revolt from this most cavalier and careless
exhibition of me to a whole people, as a traveller under false
pretences, and a disappointed intriguer. The better the acquaintance
with America, the more defenceless and more inexcusable such conduct is.
For, I solemnly declare (and appeal to any man but the writer of this
paper, who has travelled in that country, for confirmation of my
statement) that the source from which he drew the "information" so
recklessly put forth again in England, is infinitely more obscene,
disgusting, and brutal than the very worst Sunday newspaper that has
ever been printed in Great Britain. Conceive _The Edinburgh Review_
quoting _The Satirist_, or _The Man about Town_, as an authority against
a man with one grain of honour, or feather-weight of reputation.

With regard to yourself, let me say again that I thank you with all
sincerity and heartiness, and fully acquit you of anything but kind and
generous intentions towards me. In proof of which, I do assure you that
I am even more desirous than before to write for the _Review_, and to
find some topic which would at once please me and you.

Always faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Professor Felton.]

1, DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, YORK GATE, REGENT'S PARK,
LONDON, _March 2nd, 1843._

MY DEAR FELTON,

I don't know where to begin, but plunge headlong with a terrible splash
into this letter, on the chance of turning up somewhere.

Hurrah! Up like a cork again, with _The North American Review_ in my
hand. Like you, my dear - - , and I can say no more in praise of it,
though I go on to the end of the sheet. You cannot think how much notice
it has attracted here. Brougham called the other day, with the number
(thinking I might not have seen it), and I being out at the time, he
left a note, speaking of it, and of the writer, in terms that warmed my
heart. Lord Ashburton (one of whose people wrote a notice in the
_Edinburgh_ which they have since publicly contradicted) also wrote to
me about it in just the same strain. And many others have done the like.

I am in great health and spirits and powdering away at Chuzzlewit, with
all manner of facetiousness rising up before me as I go on. As to news,
I have really none, saving that - - (who never took any exercise in his
life) has been laid up with rheumatism for weeks past, but is now, I
hope, getting better. My little captain, as I call him - he who took me
out, I mean, and with whom I had that adventure of the cork soles - has
been in London too, and seeing all the lions under my escort. Good
heavens! I wish you could have seen certain other mahogany-faced men
(also captains) who used to call here for him in the morning, and bear
him off to docks and rivers and all sorts of queer places, whence he
always returned late at night, with rum-and-water tear-drops in his
eyes, and a complication of punchy smells in his mouth! He was better
than a comedy to us, having marvellous ways of tying his
pocket-handkerchief round his neck at dinner-time in a kind of jolly
embarrassment, and then forgetting what he had done with it; also of
singing songs to wrong tunes, and calling land objects by sea names, and
never knowing what o'clock it was, but taking midnight for seven in the
evening; with many other sailor oddities, all full of honesty,
manliness, and good temper. We took him to Drury Lane Theatre to see
"Much Ado About Nothing." But I never could find out what he meant by
turning round, after he had watched the first two scenes with great
attention, and inquiring "whether it was a Polish piece." . . .

On the 4th of April I am going to preside at a public dinner for the
benefit of the printers; and if you were a guest at that table, wouldn't
I smite you on the shoulder, harder than ever I rapped the well-beloved
back of Washington Irving at the City Hotel in New York!

You were asking me - I love to say asking, as if we could talk
together - about Maclise. He is such a discursive fellow, and so
eccentric in his might, that on a mental review of his pictures I can
hardly tell you of them as leading to any one strong purpose. But the
annual Exhibition of the Royal Academy comes off in May, and then I will
endeavour to give you some notion of him. He is a tremendous creature,
and might do anything. But, like all tremendous creatures, he takes his
own way, and flies off at unexpected breaches in the conventional wall.

You know H - - 's Book, I daresay. Ah! I saw a scene of mingled
comicality and seriousness at his funeral some weeks ago, which has
choked me at dinner-time ever since. C - - and I went as mourners; and
as he lived, poor fellow, five miles out of town, I drove C - - down. It
was such a day as I hope, for the credit of nature, is seldom seen in
any parts but these - muddy, foggy, wet, dark, cold, and unutterably
wretched in every possible respect. Now, C - - has enormous whiskers,
which straggle all down his throat in such weather, and stick out in
front of him, like a partially unravelled bird's-nest; so that he looks
queer enough at the best, but when he is very wet, and in a state
between jollity (he is always very jolly with me) and the deepest
gravity (going to a funeral, you know), it is utterly impossible to
resist him; especially as he makes the strangest remarks the mind of man
can conceive, without any intention of being funny, but rather meaning
to be philosophical. I really cried with an irresistible sense of his
comicality all the way; but when he was dressed out in a black cloak
and a very long black hat-band by an undertaker (who, as he whispered me
with tears in his eyes - for he had known H - - many years - was a
"character, and he would like to sketch him"), I thought I should have
been obliged to go away. However, we went into a little parlour where
the funeral party was, and God knows it was miserable enough, for the
widow and children were crying bitterly in one corner, and the other
mourners - mere people of ceremony, who cared no more for the dead man
than the hearse did - were talking quite coolly and carelessly together
in another; and the contrast was as painful and distressing as anything
I ever saw. There was an Independent clergyman present, with his bands
on and a bible under his arm, who, as soon as we were seated, addressed
- - thus, in a loud emphatic voice: "Mr. C - - , have you seen a
paragraph respecting our departed friend, which has gone the round of
the morning papers?" "Yes, sir," says C - - , "I have," looking very hard
at me the while, for he had told me with some pride coming down that it
was his composition. "Oh!" said the clergyman. "Then you will agree with
me, Mr. C - - , that it is not only an insult to me, who am the servant
of the Almighty, but an insult to the Almighty, whose servant I am."
"How is that, sir?" said C - - . "It is stated, Mr. C - - , in that
paragraph," says the minister, "that when Mr. H - - failed in business
as a bookseller, he was persuaded by _me_ to try the pulpit; which is
false, incorrect, unchristian, in a manner blasphemous, and in all
respects contemptible. Let us pray." With which, my dear Felton, and in
the same breath, I give you my word, he knelt down, as we all did, and
began a very miserable jumble of an extemporary prayer. I was really
penetrated with sorrow for the family, but when C - - (upon his knees,
and sobbing for the loss of an old friend) whispered me, "that if that
wasn't a clergyman, and it wasn't a funeral, he'd have punched his
head," I felt as if nothing but convulsions could possibly relieve
me. . . .

Faithfully always, my dear Felton.


[Sidenote: Mrs. Hogarth.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _8th May, 1843._

MY DEAR MRS. HOGARTH,

I was dressing to go to church yesterday morning - thinking, very sadly,
of that time six years - when your kind note and its accompanying packet
were brought to me. The best portrait that was ever painted would be of
little value to you and me, in comparison with that unfading picture we
have within us; and of the worst (which - - 's really is) I can only
say, that it has no interest in my eyes, beyond being something which
she sat near in its progress, full of life and beauty. In that light, I
set some store by the copy you have sent me; and as a mark of your
affection, I need not say I value it very much. As any record of that
dear face, it is utterly worthless.

I trace in many respects a strong resemblance between her mental
features and Georgina's - so strange a one, at times, that when she and
Kate and I are sitting together, I seem to think that what has happened
is a melancholy dream from which I am just awakening. The perfect like
of what she was, will never be again, but so much of her spirit shines
out in this sister, that the old time comes back again at some seasons,
and I can hardly separate it from the present.

After she died, I dreamed of her every night for many months - I think
for the better part of a year - sometimes as a spirit, sometimes as a
living creature, never with any of the bitterness of my real sorrow, but
always with a kind of quiet happiness, which became so pleasant to me
that I never lay down at night without a hope of the vision coming back
in one shape or other. And so it did. I went down into Yorkshire, and
finding it still present to me, in a strange scene and a strange bed, I
could not help mentioning the circumstance in a note I wrote home to
Kate. From that moment I have never dreamed of her once, though she is
so much in my thoughts at all times (especially when I am successful,
and have prospered in anything) that the recollection of her is an
essential part of my being, and is as inseparable from my existence as
the beating of my heart is.

Always affectionately.


[Sidenote: Professor Felton.]

BROADSTAIRS, KENT, _September 1st, 1843._

MY DEAR FELTON,

If I thought it in the nature of things that you and I could ever agree
on paper, touching a certain Chuzzlewitian question whereupon F - -
tells me you have remarks to make, I should immediately walk into the
same, tooth and nail. But as I don't, I won't. Contenting myself with
this prediction, that one of these years and days, you will write or say
to me: "My dear Dickens, you were right, though rough, and did a world
of good, though you got most thoroughly hated for it." To which I shall
reply: "My dear Felton, I looked a long way off and not immediately
under my nose." . . . At which sentiment you will laugh, and I shall
laugh; and then (for I foresee this will all happen in my land) we shall
call for another pot of porter and two or three dozen of oysters.

Now, don't you in your own heart and soul quarrel with me for this long
silence? Not half so much as I quarrel with myself, I know; but if you
could read half the letters I write to you in imagination, you would
swear by me for the best of correspondents. The truth is, that when I
have done my morning's work, down goes my pen, and from that minute I
feel it a positive impossibility to take it up again, until imaginary
butchers and bakers wave me to my desk. I walk about brimful of letters,
facetious descriptions, touching morsels, and pathetic friendships, but
can't for the soul of me uncork myself. The post-office is my rock
ahead. My average number of letters that _must_ be written every day is,
at the least, a dozen. And you could no more know what I was writing to
you spiritually, from the perusal of the bodily thirteenth, than you
could tell from my hat what was going on in my head, or could read my
heart on the surface of my flannel waistcoat.

This is a little fishing-place; intensely quiet; built on a cliff,
whereon - in the centre of a tiny semicircular bay - our house stands; the
sea rolling and dashing under the windows. Seven miles out are the
Goodwin Sands (you've heard of the Goodwin Sands?) whence floating
lights perpetually wink after dark, as if they were carrying on
intrigues with the servants. Also there is a big lighthouse called the
North Foreland on a hill behind the village, a severe parsonic light,
which reproves the young and giddy floaters, and stares grimly out upon
the sea. Under the cliff are rare good sands, where all the children
assemble every morning and throw up impossible fortifications, which the


1 3 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 3 of 21)