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MY DEAR SIR EDWARD,

I have not written sooner to thank you for "King Arthur" because I felt
sure you would prefer my reading it before I should do so, and because I
wished to have an opportunity of reading it with the sincerity and
attention which such a composition demands.

This I have done. I do not write to express to you the measure of my
gratification and pleasure (for I should find that very difficult to be
accomplished to my own satisfaction), but simply to say that I have read
the poem, and dwelt upon it with the deepest interest, admiration, and
delight; and that I feel proud of it as a very good instance of the
genius of a great writer of my own time. I should feel it as a kind of
treason to what has been awakened in me by the book, if I were to try to
set off my thanks to you, or if I were tempted into being diffuse in its
praise. I am too earnest on the subject to have any misgiving but that I
shall convey something of my earnestness to you in the briefest and most
unaffected flow of expression.

Accept it for what a genuine word of homage is worth, and believe me,

Faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. C. Cowden Clarke.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _May 5th, 1849._

MY DEAR SIR,

I am very sorry to say that my Orphan Working School vote is promised in
behalf of an unfortunate young orphan, who, after being canvassed for,
polled for, written for, quarrelled for, fought for, called for, and
done all kind of things for, by ladies who wouldn't go away and wouldn't
be satisfied with anything anybody said or did for them, was floored at
the last election and comes up to the scratch next morning, for the next
election, fresher than ever. I devoutly hope he may get in, and be lost
sight of for evermore.

Pray give my kindest regards to my quondam Quickly, and believe me,

Faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. Joseph C. King.[43]]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _Saturday, December 1st, 1849._

MY DEAR SIR,

I hasten to let you know what took place at Eton to-day. I found that I
_did_ stand in some sort committed to Mr. Evans, though not so much so
but that I could with perfect ease have declined to place Charley in his
house if I had desired to do so. I must say, however, that after seeing
Mr. Cookesley (a most excellent man in his way) and seeing Mr. Evans,
and Mr. Evans's house, I think I should, under any circumstances, have
given the latter the preference as to the domestic part of Charley's
life. I would certainly prefer to try it. I therefore thought it best to
propose to have Mr. Cookesley for his tutor, and to place him as a
boarder with Mr. Evans. Both gentlemen seemed satisfied with this
arrangement, and Dr. Hawtrey expressed his approval of it also.

Mr. Cookesley, wishing to know what Charley could do, asked me if I
would object to leaving him there for half-an-hour or so. As Charley
appeared not at all afraid of this proposal, I left him then and there.
On my return, Mr. Cookesley said, in high and unqualified terms, that he
had been thoroughly well grounded and well taught - that he had examined
him in Virgil and Herodotus, and that he not only knew what he was about
perfectly well, but showed an intelligence in reference to those authors
which did his tutor great credit. He really appeared most interested and
pleased, and filled me with a grateful feeling towards you, to whom
Charley owes so much.

He said there were certain verses in imitation of Horace (I really
forget what sort of verses) to which Charley was unaccustomed, and which
were a little matter enough in themselves, but were made a great point
of at Eton, and could be got up well in a month "_from an Old Etonian_."
For this purpose he would desire Charley to be sent every day to a
certain Mr. Hardisty, in Store Street, Bedford Square, to whom he had
already (in my absence) prepared a note. Between ourselves, I must not
hesitate to tell you plainly that this appeared to me to be a
conventional way of bestowing a little patronage. But, of course, I had
nothing for it but to say it should be done; upon which, Mr. Cookesley
added that he was then certain that Charley, on coming after the
Christmas holidays, would be placed at once in "the remove," which
seemed to surprise Mr. Evans when I afterwards told him of it as a high
station.

I will take him to this gentleman on Monday, and arrange for his going
there every day; but, if you will not object, I should still like him to
remain with you, and to have the advantage of preparing these annoying
verses under your eye until the holidays. That Mr. Cookesley may have
his own way thoroughly, I will send Charley to Mr. Hardisty daily until
the school at Eton recommences.

Let me impress upon you in the strongest manner, not only that I was
inexpressibly delighted myself by the readiness with which Charley went
through this ordeal with a stranger, but that I also saw you would have
been well pleased and much gratified if you could have seen Mr.
Cookesley afterwards. He had evidently not expected such a result, and
took it as not at all an ordinary one.

My dear Sir, yours faithfully and obliged.


[Sidenote: Mr. Alexander Ireland.]

[Private.]
DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, LONDON, _24th December, 1849._

MY DEAR SIR,

You will not be offended by my saying that (in common with many other
men) I think "our London correspondent" one of the greatest nuisances of
this kind, inasmuch as our London correspondent, seldom knowing
anything, feels bound to know everything, and becomes in consequence a
very reckless gentleman in respect of the truthfulness of his
intelligence.

In your paper, sent to me this morning, I see the correspondent mentions
one - - , and records how I was wont to feast in the house of the said
- - . As I never was in the man's house in my life, or within five miles
of it that I know of, I beg you will do me the favour to contradict
this.

You will be the less surprised by my begging you to set this right, when
I tell you that, hearing of his book, and knowing his history, I wrote
to New York denouncing him as "a forger and a thief;" that he thereupon
put the gentleman who published my letter into prison, and that having
but one day before the sailing of the last steamer to collect the proofs
printed in the accompanying sheet (which are but a small part of the
villain's life), I got them together in short time, and sent them out to
justify the character I gave him. It is not agreeable to me to be
supposed to have sat at this amiable person's feasts.

Faithfully yours.

FOOTNOTE:

[43] Mr. Joseph Charles King, the friend of many artists and literary
men, conducted a private school, at which the sons of Mr. Macready and
of Charles Dickens were being educated at this time.




1850.


[Sidenote: Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.]

BROADSTAIRS, KENT, _Tuesday, 3rd September, 1850._

MY DEAR SIR EDWARD,

I have had the long-contemplated talk with Forster about the play, and
write to assure you that I shall be delighted to come down to Knebworth
and do Bobadil, or anything else, provided it would suit your
convenience to hold the great dramatic festival in the last week of
October. The concluding number of "Copperfield" will prevent me from
leaving here until Saturday, the 26th of that month. If I were at my own
disposal, I hope I need not say I should be at yours.

Forster will tell you with what men we must do the play, and what
laurels we would propose to leave for the gathering of new aspirants; of
whom I hope you have a reasonable stock in your part of the country.

Do you know Mary Boyle - daughter of the old Admiral? because she is the
very best actress I ever saw off the stage, and immeasurably better than
a great many I have seen on it. I have acted with her in a country house
in Northamptonshire, and am going to do so again next November. If you
know her, I think she would be more than pleased to play, and by giving
her something good in a farce we could get her to do Mrs. Kitely. In
that case my little sister-in-law would "go on" for the second lady,
and you could do without actresses, besides giving the thing a
particular grace and interest.

If we could get Mary Boyle, we would do "Used Up," which is a delightful
piece, as the farce. But maybe you know nothing about the said Mary, and
in that case I should like to know what you would think of doing.

You gratify me more than I can tell you by what you say about
"Copperfield," the more so as I hope myself that some heretofore-deficient
qualities are there. You are not likely to misunderstand me when I say
that I like it very much, and am deeply interested in it, and that I
have kept and am keeping my mind very steadily upon it.

Believe me always, very faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: The same.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _Sunday Night,
November 3rd, 1850._

MY DEAR BULWER LYTTON,

I should have waited at home to-day on the chance of your calling, but
that I went over to look after Lemon; and I went for this reason: the
surgeon opines that there is no possibility of Mrs. Dickens being able
to play, although she is going on "as well as possible," which I
sincerely believe.

Now, _when_ the accident happened, Mrs. Lemon told my little
sister-in-law that she would gladly undertake the part if it should
become necessary. Going after her to-day, I found that she and Lemon had
gone out of town, but will be back to-night. I have written to her,
earnestly urging her to the redemption of her offer. I have no doubt of
being able to see her well up in the characters; and I hope you approve
of this remedy. If she once screws her courage to the sticking place, I
have no fear of her whatever. This is what I would say to you. If I
don't see you here, I will write to you at Forster's, reporting
progress. Don't be discouraged, for I am full of confidence, and resolve
to do the utmost that is in me - and I well know they all will - to make
the nights at Knebworth _triumphant_. Once in a thing like this - once in
everything, to my thinking - it must be carried out like a mighty
enterprise, heart and soul.

Pray regard me as wholly at the disposal of the theatricals, until they
shall be gloriously achieved.

My unfortunate other half (lying in bed) is very anxious that I should
let you know that she means to break her heart if she should be
prevented from coming as one of the audience, and that she has been
devising means all day of being brought down in the brougham with her
foot upon a T.

Ever faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: The same.]

OFFICE OF "HOUSEHOLD WORDS," _Wednesday Evening,
November 13th, 1850._

MY DEAR BULWER LYTTON,

On the principle of postponing nothing connected with the great scheme,
I have been to Ollivier's, where I found our friend the choremusicon in
a very shattered state - his mouth wide open - the greater part of his
teeth out - his bowels disclosed to the public eye - and his whole system
frightfully disordered. In this condition he is speechless. I cannot,
therefore, report touching his eloquence, but I find he is a piano as
well as a choremusicon - that he requires to pass through no intermediate
stage between choremusicon and piano, and therefore that he can easily
and certainly accompany songs.

Now, will you have it? I am inclined to believe that on the whole, it is
the best thing.

I have not heard of anything else having happened to anybody.

If I should not find you gone to Australia or elsewhere, and should not
have occasion to advertise in the third column of _The Times_, I shall
hope not to add to your misfortunes - I dare not say to afford you
consolation - by shaking hands with you to-morrow night, and afterwards
keeping every man connected with the theatrical department to his duty.

Ever faithfully yours.




1851.


[Sidenote: The same.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _Sunday Night,
January 5th, 1851._

MY DEAR BULWER,

I am so sorry to have missed you! I had gone down to Forster, comedy in
hand.

I think it _most admirable_.[44] Full of character, strong in interest,
rich in capital situations, and _certain to go nobly_. You know how
highly I thought of "Money," but I sincerely think these three acts
finer. I did not think of the slight suggestions you make, but I said,
_en passant_, that perhaps the drunken scene might do better on the
stage a little concentrated. I don't believe it would require even that,
with the leading-up which you propose. I cannot say too much of the
comedy to express what I think and feel concerning it; and I look at it,
too, remember, with the yellow eye of an actor! I should have taken to
it (need I say so!) _con amore_ in any case, but I should have been
jealous of your reputation, exactly as I appreciate your generosity. If
I had a misgiving of ten lines I should have scrupulously mentioned it.

Stone will take the Duke capitally; and I will answer for his being got
into doing it _very well_. Looking down the perspective of a few winter
evenings here, I am confident about him. Forster will be thoroughly
sound and real. Lemon is so surprisingly sensible and trustworthy on
the stage, that I don't think any actor could touch his part as he will;
and I hope you will have opportunities of testing the accuracy of this
prediction. Egg ought to do the Author to absolute perfection. As to
Jerrold - there he stands in the play! I would propose Leech (well made
up) for Easy. He is a good name, and I see nothing else for him.

This brings me to my own part. If we had anyone, or could get anyone,
for Wilmot, I could do (I think) something so near your meaning in Sir
Gilbert, that I let him go with a pang. Assumption has charms for me - I
hardly know for how many wild reasons - so delightful, that I feel a loss
of, oh! I can't say what exquisite foolery, when I lose a chance of
being someone in voice, etc., not at all like myself. But - I speak quite
freely, knowing you will not mistake me - I know from experience that we
could find nobody to hold the play together in Wilmot if I didn't do it.
I think I could touch the gallant, generous, careless pretence, with the
real man at the bottom of it, so as to take the audience with him from
the first scene. I am quite sure I understand your meaning; and I am
absolutely certain that as Jerrold, Forster, and Stone came in, I could,
as a mere little bit of mechanics, present them better by doing that
part, and paying as much attention to their points as my own, than
another amateur actor could. Therefore I throw up my cap for Wilmot, and
hereby devote myself to him, heart and head!

I ought to tell you that in a play we once rehearsed and never played
(but rehearsed several times, and very carefully), I saw Lemon do a
piece of reality with a rugged pathos in it, which I felt, as I stood on
the stage with him to be extraordinarily good. In the serious part of
Sir Gilbert he will surprise you. And he has an intuitive discrimination
in such things which will just keep the suspicious part from being too
droll at the outset - which will just show a glimpse of something in the
depths of it.

The moment I come back to town (within a fortnight, please God!) I will
ascertain from Forster where you are. Then I will propose to you that we
call our company together, agree upon one general plan of action, and
that you and I immediately begin to see and book our Vice-Presidents,
etc. Further, I think we ought to see about the Queen. I would suggest
our playing first about three weeks before the opening of the
Exhibition, in order that it may be the town talk before the country
people and foreigners come. Macready thinks with me that a very large
sum of money may be got in London.

I propose (for cheapness and many other considerations) to make a
theatre expressly for the purpose, which we can put up and take
down - say in the Hanover Square Rooms - and move into the country. As
Watson wanted something of a theatre made for his forthcoming Little Go,
I have made it a sort of model of what I mean, and shall be able to test
its working powers before I see you. Many things that, for portability,
were to be avoided in Mr. Hewitt's theatre, I have replaced with less
expensive and weighty contrivances.

Now, my dear Bulwer, I have come to the small hours, and am writing
alone here, as if _I_ were writing something to do what your comedy
will. At such a time the temptation is strong upon me to say a great
deal more, but I will only say this - in mercy to you - that I do devoutly
believe that this plan carried, will entirely change the status of the
literary man in England, and make a revolution in his position, which no
Government, no power on earth but his own, could ever effect. I have
implicit confidence in the scheme - so splendidly begun - if we carry it
out with a steadfast energy. I have a strong conviction that we hold in
our hands the peace and honour of men of letters for centuries to come,
and that you are destined to be their best and most enduring benefactor.

Oh! what a procession of New Years might walk out of all this, after we
are very dusty!

Ever yours faithfully.

P.S. - I have forgotten something. I suggest this title: "Knowing the
World; or, Not So Bad As We Seem."


[Sidenote: The same.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _Tuesday Night, March 4th, 1851._

MY DEAR BULWER,

I know you will be glad to hear what I have to tell you.

I wrote to the Duke of Devonshire this morning, enclosing him the rough
proof of the scheme, and plainly telling him what we wanted, _i.e._, to
play for the first time at his house, to the Queen and Court. Within a
couple of hours he wrote me as follows:

"DEAR SIR,

"I have read with very great interest the
prospectus of the new endowment which you have
confided to my perusal.

"Your manner of doing so is a proof that I am
honoured by your goodwill and approbation.

"I'm truly happy to offer you my earnest and
sincere co-operation. My services, my house,
and my subscription will be at your orders. And
I beg you to let me see you before long, not
merely to converse upon this subject, but
because I have long had the greatest wish to
improve our acquaintance, which has, as yet,
been only one of crowded rooms."

This is quite princely, I think, and will push us along as brilliantly
as heart could desire. Don't you think so too?

Yesterday Lemon and I saw the Secretary of the National Provident
Institution (the best Office for the purpose, I am inclined to think)
and stated all our requirements. We appointed to meet the chairman and
directors next Tuesday; so on the day of our reading and dining I hope
we shall have that matter in good time.

The theatre is also under consultation; and directly after the reading
we shall go briskly to work in all departments.

I hear nothing but praises of your Macready speech - of its eloquence,
delicacy, and perfect taste, all of which it is good to hear, though I
know it all beforehand as well as most men can tell it me.

Ever cordially.


[Sidenote: The same.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _Tuesday Morning, 25th March, 1851._

MY DEAR BULWER,

Coming home at midnight last night after our first rehearsal, I find
your letter. I write to entreat you, if you make any change in the first
three acts, to let it be only of the slightest kind. Because we are now
fairly under way, everybody is already drilled into his place, and in
two or three rehearsals those acts will be in a tolerably presentable
state.

It is of vital importance that we should get the last two acts _soon_.
The Queen and Prince are coming - Phipps wrote me yesterday the most
earnest letter possible - the time is fearfully short, and we _must_ have
the comedy in such a state as that it will go like a machine. Whatever
you do, for heaven's sake don't be persuaded to endanger that!

Even at the risk of your falling into the pit with despair at beholding
anything of the comedy in its present state, if you can by any
possibility come down to Covent Garden Theatre to-night, do. I hope you
will see in Lemon the germ of a very fine presentation of Sir Geoffrey.
I think Topham, too, will do Easy admirably.

We really did wonders last night in the way of arrangement. I see the
ground-plan of the first three acts distinctly. The dressing and
furnishing and so forth, will be a perfect picture, and I will answer
for the men in three weeks' time.

In great haste, my dear Bulwer,
Ever faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mrs. Cowden Clarke.]

GREAT MALVERN, _29th March, 1851._

MY DEAR MRS. COWDEN CLARKE,

Ah, those were days indeed, when we were so fatigued at dinner that we
couldn't speak, and so revived at supper that we couldn't go to bed;
when wild in inns the noble savage ran; and all the world was a stage,
gas-lighted in a double sense - by the Young Gas and the old one! When
Emmeline Montague (now Compton, and the mother of two children) came to
rehearse in our new comedy[45] the other night, I nearly fainted. The
gush of recollection was so overpowering that I couldn't bear it.

I use the portfolio[46] for managerial papers still. That's something.

But all this does not thank you for your book.[47] I have not got it yet
(being here with Mrs. Dickens, who has been very unwell), but I shall be
in town early in the week, and shall bring it down to read quietly on
these hills, where the wind blows as freshly as if there were no Popes
and no Cardinals whatsoever - nothing the matter anywhere. I thank you a
thousand times, beforehand, for the pleasure you are going to give me. I
am full of faith. Your sister Emma, she is doing work of some sort on
the P.S. side of the boxes, in some dark theatre, _I know_, but where, I
wonder? W.[48] has not proposed to her yet, has he? I understood he was
going to offer his hand and heart, and lay his leg[49] at her feet.

Ever faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Mr. Mitton.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _19th April, 1851._

MY DEAR MITTON,

I have been in trouble, or I should have written to you sooner. My wife
has been, and is, far from well. My poor father's death caused me much
distress. I came to London last Monday to preside at a public
dinner - played with little Dora, my youngest child, before I went - and
was told when I left the chair that she had died in a moment. I am quite
happy again, but I have undergone a good deal.

I am not going back to Malvern, but have let this house until September,
and taken the "Fort," at Broadstairs.

Faithfully yours.


[Sidenote: Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.]

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, _Monday, 28th April, 1851._

MY DEAR BULWER,

I see you are so anxious, that I shall endeavour to send you this letter
by a special messenger. I think I can relieve your mind completely.

The Duke has read the play. He asked for it a week ago, and had it. He
has been at Brighton since. He called here before eleven on Saturday
morning, but I was out on the play business, so I went to him at
Devonshire House yesterday. He almost knows the play by heart. He is
supremely delighted with it, and critically understands it. In proof of
the latter part of this sentence I may mention that he had made two or
three memoranda of trivial doubtful points, _every one of which had
attracted our attention in rehearsal_, as I found when he showed them to
me. He thoroughly understands and appreciates the comedy of the
Duke - threw himself back in his chair and laughed, as I say of Walpole,
"till I thought he'd have choked," about his first Duchess, who was a
Percy. He suggested that he shouldn't say: "You know how to speak to the


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Online LibraryCharles DickensThe letters of Charles Dickens → online text (page 7 of 21)