Read 1857. of The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol. 2 (1857-1870), free online book, by Charles Dickens, on ReadCentral.com.

Narrative.

This was a very full year in many ways.  In February, Charles Dickens obtained possession of Gad’s Hill, and was able to turn workmen into it.  In April he stayed, with his wife and sister-in-law, for a week or two at Wate’s Hotel, Gravesend, to be at hand to superintend the beginning of his alterations of the house, and from thence we give a letter to Lord Carlisle.  He removed his family, for a summer residence in the house, in June; and he finished “Little Dorrit” there early in the summer.  One of his first visitors at Gad’s Hill was the famous writer, Hans Christian Andersen.  In January “The Frozen Deep” had been played at the Tavistock House theatre with such great success, that it was necessary to repeat it several times, and the theatre was finally demolished at the end of that month.  In June Charles Dickens heard, with great grief, of the death of his dear friend Douglas Jerrold; and as a testimony of admiration for his genius and affectionate regard for himself, it was decided to organise, under the management of Charles Dickens, a series of entertainments, “in memory of the late Douglas Jerrold,” the fund produced by them (a considerable sum) to be presented to Mr. Jerrold’s family.  The amateur company, including many of Mr. Jerrold’s colleagues on “Punch,” gave subscription performances of “The Frozen Deep;” the Gallery of Illustration, in Regent Street, being engaged for the purpose.  Charles Dickens gave two readings at St. Martin’s Hall of “The Christmas Carol” (to such immense audiences and with such success, that the idea of giving public readings for his own benefit first occurred to him at this time).  The professional actors, among them the famous veteran actor, Mr. T. P. Cooke, gave a performance of Mr. Jerrold’s plays of “The Rent Day” and “Black-eyed Susan,” in which Mr. T. P. Cooke sustained the character in which he had originally made such great success when the play was written.  A lecture was given by Mr. Thackeray, and another by Mr. W. H. Russell.  Finally, the Queen having expressed a desire to see the play, which had been much talked of during that season, there was another performance before her Majesty and the Prince Consort at the Gallery of Illustration in July, and at the end of that month Charles Dickens read his “Carol” in the Free Trade Hall, at Manchester.  And to wind up the “Memorial Fund” entertainments, “The Frozen Deep” was played again at Manchester, also in the great Free Trade Hall, at the end of August.  For the business of these entertainments he secured the assistance of Mr. Arthur Smith, of whom he writes to Mr. Forster, at this time:  “I have got hold of Arthur Smith, as the best man of business I know, and go to work with him to-morrow morning.”  And when he began his own public readings, both in town and country, he felt himself most fortunate in having the co-operation of this invaluable man of business, and also of his zealous friendship and pleasant companionship.

In July, his second son, Walter Landor, went to India as a cadet in the “Company’s service,” from which he was afterwards transferred to the 42nd Royal Highlanders.  His father and his elder brother went to see him off, to Southampton.  From this place Charles Dickens writes to Mr. Edmund Yates, a young man in whom he had been interested from his boyhood, both for the sake of his parents and for his own sake, and for whom he had always an affectionate regard.

In September he made a short tour in the North of England, with Mr. Wilkie Collins, out of which arose the “Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices,” written by them jointly, and published in “Household Words.”  Some letters to his sister-in-law during this expedition are given here, parts of which (as is the case with many letters to his eldest daughter and his sister-in-law) have been published in Mr. Forster’s book.

The letters which follow are almost all on the various subjects mentioned in our notes, and need little explanation.

His letter to Mr. Procter makes allusion to a legacy lately left to that friend.

The letters to Mr. Dilke, the original and much-respected editor of “The Athenaeum,” and to Mr. Forster, on the subject of the “Literary Fund,” refer, as the letters indicate, to a battle which they were carrying on together with that institution.

A letter to Mr. Frank Stone is an instance of his kind, patient, and judicious criticism of a young writer, and the letter which follows it shows how thoroughly it was understood and how perfectly appreciated by the authoress of the “Notes” referred to.  Another instance of the same kind criticism is given in a second letter this year to Mr. Edmund Yates.

Mr. B. W. Procter.

Tavistockhouse, January 2nd, 1857.

MY DEAR PROCTER,

I have to thank you for a delightful book, which has given me unusual pleasure.  My delight in it has been a little dashed by certain farewell verses, but I have made up my mind (and you have no idea of the obstinacy of my character) not to believe them.

Perhaps it is not taking a liberty ­perhaps it is ­to congratulate you on Kenyon’s remembrance.  Either way I can’t help doing it with all my heart, for I know no man in the world (myself excepted) to whom I would rather the money went.

Affectionately yours ever.

Sir James Emerson Tennent.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, January 9th, 1857.

MY DEAR TENNENT,

I must thank you for your earnest and affectionate letter.  It has given me the greatest pleasure, mixing the play in my mind confusedly and delightfully with Pisa, the Valetta, Naples, Herculanaeum ­God knows what not.

As to the play itself; when it is made as good as my care can make it, I derive a strange feeling out of it, like writing a book in company; a satisfaction of a most singular kind, which has no exact parallel in my life; a something that I suppose to belong to the life of a labourer in art alone, and which has to me a conviction of its being actual truth without its pain, that I never could adequately state if I were to try never so hard.

You touch so kindly and feelingly on the pleasure such little pains give, that I feel quite sorry you have never seen this drama in progress during the last ten weeks here.  Every Monday and Friday evening during that time we have been at work upon it.  I assure you it has been a remarkable lesson to my young people in patience, perseverance, punctuality, and order; and, best of all, in that kind of humility which is got from the earned knowledge that whatever the right hand finds to do must be done with the heart in it, and in a desperate earnest.

When I changed my dress last night (though I did it very quickly), I was vexed to find you gone.  I wanted to have secured you for our green-room supper, which was very pleasant.  If by any accident you should be free next Wednesday night (our last), pray come to that green-room supper.  It would give me cordial pleasure to have you there.

Ever, my dear Tennent, very heartily yours.

M. de Cerjat.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Monday Night, Jan, 17th, 1857.

MY DEAR CERJAT,

So wonderfully do good (epistolary) intentions become confounded with bad execution, that I assure you I laboured under a perfect and most comfortable conviction that I had answered your Christmas Eve letter of 1855.  More than that, in spite of your assertions to the contrary, I still strenuously believe that I did so!  I have more than half a mind ("Little Dorrit” and my other occupations notwithstanding) to charge you with having forgotten my reply!!  I have even a wild idea that Townshend reproached me, when the last old year was new, with writing to you instead of to him!!!  We will argue it out, as well as we can argue anything without poor dear Haldimand, when I come back to Elysee.  In any case, however, don’t discontinue your annual letter, because it has become an expected and a delightful part of the season to me.

With one of the prettiest houses in London, and every conceivable (and inconceivable) luxury in it, Townshend is voluntarily undergoing his own sentence of transportation in Nervi, a beastly little place near Genoa, where you would as soon find a herd of wild elephants in any villa as comfort.  He has a notion that he must be out of England in the winter, but I believe him to be altogether wrong (as I have just told him in a letter), unless he could just take his society with him.

Workmen are now battering and smashing down my theatre here, where we have just been acting a new play of great merit, done in what I may call (modestly speaking of the getting-up, and not of the acting) an unprecedented way.  I believe that anything so complete has never been seen.  We had an act at the North Pole, where the slightest and greatest thing the eye beheld were equally taken from the books of the Polar voyagers.  Out of thirty people, there were certainly not two who might not have gone straight to the North Pole itself, completely furnished for the winter!  It has been the talk of all London for these three weeks.  And now it is a mere chaos of scaffolding, ladders, beams, canvases, paint-pots, sawdust, artificial snow, gas-pipes, and ghastliness.  I have taken such pains with it for these ten weeks in all my leisure hours, that I feel now shipwrecked ­as if I had never been without a play on my hands before.  A third topic comes up as this ceases.

Down at Gad’s Hill, near Rochester, in Kent ­Shakespeare’s Gad’s Hill, where Falstaff engaged in the robbery ­is a quaint little country-house of Queen Anne’s time.  I happened to be walking past, a year and a half or so ago, with my sub-editor of “Household Words,” when I said to him:  “You see that house?  It has always a curious interest for me, because when I was a small boy down in these parts I thought it the most beautiful house (I suppose because of its famous old cedar-trees) ever seen.  And my poor father used to bring me to look at it, and used to say that if I ever grew up to be a clever man perhaps I might own that house, or such another house.  In remembrance of which, I have always in passing looked to see if it was to be sold or let, and it has never been to me like any other house, and it has never changed at all.”  We came back to town, and my friend went out to dinner.  Next morning he came to me in great excitement, and said:  “It is written that you were to have that house at Gad’s Hill.  The lady I had allotted to me to take down to dinner yesterday began to speak of that neighbourhood.  ‘You know it?’ I said; ‘I have been there to-day.’  ‘O yes,’ said she, ’I know it very well.  I was a child there, in the house they call Gad’s Hill Place.  My father was the rector, and lived there many years.  He has just died, has left it to me, and I want to sell it.’  ‘So,’ says the sub-editor, ’you must buy it.  Now or never!’” I did, and hope to pass next summer there, though I may, perhaps, let it afterwards, furnished, from time to time.

All about myself I find, and the little sheet nearly full!  But I know, my dear Cerjat, the subject will have its interest for you, so I give it its swing.  Mrs. Watson was to have been at the play, but most unfortunately had three children sick of gastric fever, and could not leave them.  She was here some three weeks before, looking extremely well in the face, but rather thin.  I have not heard of your friend Mr. Percival Skelton, but I much misdoubt an amateur artist’s success in this vast place.  I hope you detected a remembrance of our happy visit to the Great St. Bernard in a certain number of “Little Dorrit”?  Tell Mrs. Cerjat, with my love, that the opinions I have expressed to her on the subject of cows have become matured in my mind by experience and venerable age; and that I denounce the race as humbugs, who have been getting into poetry and all sorts of places without the smallest reason.  Haldimand’s housekeeper is an awful woman to consider.  Pray give him our kindest regards and remembrances, if you ever find him in a mood to take it.  “Our” means Mrs. Dickens’s, Georgie’s, and mine.  We often, often talk of our old days at Lausanne, and send loving regard to Mrs. Cerjat and all your house.

Adieu, my dear fellow; ever cordially yours.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, January 28th, 1857.

MY DEAREST MACREADY,

Your friend and servant is as calm as Pecksniff, saving for his knitted brows now turning into cordage over Little Dorrit.  The theatre has disappeared, the house is restored to its usual conditions of order, the family are tranquil and domestic, dove-eyed peace is enthroned in this study, fire-eyed radicalism in its master’s breast.

I am glad to hear that our poetess is at work again, and shall be very much pleased to have some more contributions from her.

Love from all to your dear sister, and to Katie, and to all the house.

We dined yesterday at Frederick Pollock’s.  I begged an amazing photograph of you, and brought it away.  It strikes me as one of the most ludicrous things I ever saw in my life.  I think of taking a public-house, and having it copied larger, for the size.  You may remember it?  Very square and big ­the Saracen’s Head with its hair cut, and in modern gear?  Staring very hard?  As your particular friend, I would not part with it on any consideration.  I will never get such a wooden head again.

Ever affectionately.

Miss Mary Boyle.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, February 7th, 1857.

MY DEAR MARY,

Half-a-dozen words on this, my birthday, to thank you for your kind and welcome remembrance, and to assure you that your Joseph is proud of it.

For about ten minutes after his death, on each occasion of that event occurring, Richard Wardour was in a floored condition.  And one night, to the great terror of Devonshire, the Arctic Regions, and Newfoundland (all of which localities were afraid to speak to him, as his ghost sat by the kitchen fire in its rags), he very nearly did what he never did, went and fainted off, dead, again.  But he always plucked up, on the turn of ten minutes, and became facetious.

Likewise he chipped great pieces out of all his limbs (solely, as I imagine, from moral earnestness and concussion of passion, for I never know him to hit himself in any way) and terrified Aldersley to that degree, by lunging at him to carry him into the cave, that the said Aldersley always shook like a mould of jelly, and muttered, “By G ­, this is an awful thing!”

Ever affectionately.

P.S. ­I shall never cease to regret Mrs. Watson’s not having been there.

Rev. James White.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Sunday, Feth, 1857.

MY DEAR WHITE,

I send these lines by Mary and Katey, to report my love to all.

Your note about the Golden Mary gave me great pleasure; though I don’t believe in one part of it; for I honestly believe that your story, as really belonging to the rest of the narrative, had been generally separated from the other stories, and greatly liked.  I had not that particular shipwreck that you mention in my mind (indeed I doubt if I know it), and John Steadiman merely came into my head as a staunch sort of name that suited the character.  The number has done “Household Words” great service, and has decidedly told upon its circulation.

You should have come to the play.  I much doubt if anything so complete will ever be seen again.  An incredible amount of pains and ingenuity was expended on it, and the result was most remarkable even to me.

When are you going to send something more to H. W.?  Are you lazy??  Low-spirited???  Pining for Paris????

Ever affectionately.

Mr. C. W. Dilke.

OFFICE OF “HOUSEHOLD WORDS,” Thursday, March 19th, 1857.

MY DEAR MR. DILKE,

Forster has another notion about the Literary Fund.  Will you name a day next week ­that day being neither Thursday nor Saturday ­when we shall hold solemn council there at half-past four?

For myself, I beg to report that I have my war-paint on, that I have buried the pipe of peace, and am whooping for committee scalps.

Ever faithfully yours.

The Earl of Carlisle.

GRAVESEND, KENT, Wednesday, April 15th, 1857.

MY DEAR LORD CARLISLE,

I am writing by the river-side for a few days, and at the end of last week ­ appeared here with your note of introduction.  I was not in the way; but as ­ had come express from London with it, Mrs. Dickens opened it, and gave her (in the limited sense which was of no use to her) an audience.  She did not quite seem to know what she wanted of me.  But she said she had understood at Stafford House that I had a theatre in which she could read; with a good deal of modesty and diffidence she at last got so far.  Now, my little theatre turns my house out of window, costs fifty pounds to put up, and is only two months taken down; therefore, is quite out of the question.  This Mrs. Dickens explained, and also my profound inability to do anything for ­ readings which they could not do for themselves.  She appeared fully to understand the explanation, and indeed to have anticipated for herself how powerless I must be in such a case.

She described herself as being consumptive, and as being subject to an effusion of blood from the lungs; about the last condition, one would think, poor woman, for the exercise of public elocution as an art.

Between ourselves, I think the whole idea a mistake, and have thought so from its first announcement.  It has a fatal appearance of trading upon Uncle Tom, and am I not a man and a brother? which you may be by all means, and still not have the smallest claim to my attention as a public reader.  The town is over-read from all the white squares on the draught-board; it has been considerably harried from all the black squares ­now with the aid of old banjoes, and now with the aid of Exeter Hall; and I have a very strong impression that it is by no means to be laid hold of from this point of address.  I myself, for example, am the meekest of men, and in abhorrence of slavery yield to no human creature, and yet I don’t admit the sequence that I want Uncle Tom (or Aunt Tomasina) to expound “King Lear” to me.  And I believe my case to be the case of thousands.

I trouble you with this much about it, because I am naturally desirous you should understand that if I could possibly have been of any service, or have suggested anything to this poor lady, I would not have lost the opportunity.  But I cannot help her, and I assure you that I cannot honestly encourage her to hope.  I fear her enterprise has no hope in it.

In your absence I have always followed you through the papers, and felt a personal interest and pleasure in the public affection in which you are held over there. At the same time I must confess that I should prefer to have you here, where good public men seem to me to be dismally wanted.  I have no sympathy with demagogues, but am a grievous Radical, and think the political signs of the times to be just about as bad as the spirit of the people will admit of their being.  In all other respects I am as healthy, sound, and happy as your kindness can wish.  So you will set down my political despondency as my only disease.

On the tip-top of Gad’s Hill, between this and Rochester, on the very spot where Falstaff ran away, I have a pretty little old-fashioned house, which I shall live in the hope of showing to you one day.  Also I have a little story respecting the manner in which it became mine, which I hope (on the same occasion in the clouds) to tell you.  Until then and always, I am, dear Lord Carlisle,

Yours very faithfully and obliged.

Mr. John Forster.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, May 13th, 1857.

MY DEAR FORSTER,

I have gone over Dilke’s memoranda, and I think it quite right and necessary that those points should be stated.  Nor do I see the least difficulty in the way of their introduction into the pamphlet.  But I do not deem it possible to get the pamphlet written and published before the dinner.  I have so many matters pressing on my attention, that I cannot turn to it immediately on my release from my book just finished.  It shall be done and distributed early next month.

As to anything being lost by its not being in the hands of the people who dine (as you seem to think), I have not the least misgiving on that score.  They would say, if it were issued, just what they will say without it.

Lord Granville is committed to taking the chair, and will make the best speech he can in it.  The pious ­ will cram him with as many distortions of the truth as his stomach may be strong enough to receive. ­, with Bardolphian eloquence, will cool his nose in the modest merits of the institution. ­ will make a neat and appropriate speech on both sides, round the corner and over the way.  And all this would be done exactly to the same purpose and in just the same strain, if twenty thousand copies of the pamphlet had been circulated.

Ever affectionately.

Rev. James White.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Friday, May 22nd, 1857.

MY DEAR WHITE,

My emancipation having been effected on Saturday, the ninth of this month, I take some shame to myself for not having sooner answered your note.  But the host of things to be done as soon as I was free, and the tremendous number of ingenuities to be wrought out at Gad’s Hill, have kept me in a whirl of their own ever since.

We purpose going to Gad’s Hill for the summer on the 1st of June; as, apart from the master’s eye being a necessary ornament to the spot, I clearly see that the workmen yet lingering in the yard must be squeezed out by bodily pressure, or they will never go.  How will this suit you and yours?  If you will come down, we can take you all in, on your way north; that is to say, we shall have that ample verge and room enough, until about the eighth; when Hans Christian Andersen (who has been “coming” for about three years) will come for a fortnight’s stay in England.  I shall like you to see the little old-fashioned place.  It strikes me as being comfortable.

So let me know your little game.  And with love to Mrs. White, Lotty, and Clara,

Believe me, ever affectionately yours.

Mr. Frank Stone‚ A.R.A.

OFFICE OF “HOUSEHOLD WORDS,” Monday, June 1st, 1857.

MY DEAR STONE,

I know that what I am going to say will not be agreeable; but I rely on the authoress’s good sense; and say it, knowing it to be the truth.

These “Notes” are destroyed by too much smartness.  It gives the appearance of perpetual effort, stabs to the heart the nature that is in them, and wearies by the manner and not by the matter.  It is the commonest fault in the world (as I have constant occasion to observe here), but it is a very great one.  Just as you couldn’t bear to have an epergne or a candlestick on your table, supported by a light figure always on tiptoe and evidently in an impossible attitude for the sustainment of its weight, so all readers would be more or less oppressed and worried by this presentation of everything in one smart point of view, when they know it must have other, and weightier, and more solid properties.  Airiness and good spirits are always delightful, and are inseparable from notes of a cheerful trip; but they should sympathise with many things as well as see them in a lively way.  It is but a word or a touch that expresses this humanity, but without that little embellishment of good nature there is no such thing as humour.  In this little MS. everything is too much patronised and condescended to, whereas the slightest touch of feeling for the rustic who is of the earth earthy, or of sisterhood with the homely servant who has made her face shine in her desire to please, would make a difference that the writer can scarcely imagine without trying it.  The only relief in the twenty-one slips is the little bit about the chimes.  It is a relief, simply because it is an indication of some kind of sentiment.  You don’t want any sentiment laboriously made out in such a thing.  You don’t want any maudlin show of it.  But you do want a pervading suggestion that it is there.  It makes all the difference between being playful and being cruel.  Again I must say, above all things ­especially to young people writing:  For the love of God don’t condescend!  Don’t assume the attitude of saying, “See how clever I am, and what fun everybody else is!” Take any shape but that.

I observe an excellent quality of observation throughout, and think the boy at the shop, and all about him, particularly good.  I have no doubt whatever that the rest of the journal will be much better if the writer chooses to make it so.  If she considers for a moment within herself, she will know that she derived pleasure from everything she saw, because she saw it with innumerable lights and shades upon it, and bound to humanity by innumerable fine links; she cannot possibly communicate anything of that pleasure to another by showing it from one little limited point only, and that point, observe, the one from which it is impossible to detach the exponent as the patroness of a whole universe of inferior souls.  This is what everybody would mean in objecting to these notes (supposing them to be published), that they are too smart and too flippant.

As I understand this matter to be altogether between us three, and as I think your confidence, and hers, imposes a duty of friendship on me, I discharge it to the best of my ability.  Perhaps I make more of it than you may have meant or expected; if so, it is because I am interested and wish to express it.  If there had been anything in my objection not perfectly easy of removal, I might, after all, have hesitated to state it; but that is not the case.  A very little indeed would make all this gaiety as sound and wholesome and good-natured in the reader’s mind as it is in the writer’s.

Affectionately always.

Anonymous.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM, Thursday, June 4th, 1857.

MY DEAR ­

Coming home here last night, from a day’s business in London, I found your most excellent note awaiting me, in which I have had a pleasure to be derived from none but good and natural things.  I can now honestly assure you that I believe you will write well, and that I have a lively hope that I may be the means of showing you yourself in print one day.  Your powers of graceful and light-hearted observation need nothing but the little touches on which we are both agreed.  And I am perfectly sure that they will be as pleasant to you as to anyone, for nobody can see so well as you do, without feeling kindly too.

To confess the truth to you, I was half sorry, yesterday, that I had been so unreserved; but not half as sorry, yesterday, as I am glad to-day.  You must not mind my adding that there is a noble candour and modesty in your note, which I shall never be able to separate from you henceforth.

Affectionately yours always.

Mr. Henry Austin.

GAD’S HILL, Saturday, June 6th, 1857.

MY DEAR HENRY,

Here is a very serious business on the great estate respecting the water supply.  Last night, they had pumped the well dry merely in raising the family supply for the day; and this morning (very little water having been got into the cisterns) it is dry again!  It is pretty clear to me that we must look the thing in the face, and at once bore deeper, dig, or do some beastly thing or other, to secure this necessary in abundance.  Meanwhile I am in a most plaintive and forlorn condition without your presence and counsel.  I raise my voice in the wilderness and implore the same!!!

Wild legends are in circulation among the servants how that Captain Goldsmith on the knoll above ­the skipper in that crow’s-nest of a house ­has millions of gallons of water always flowing for him.  Can he have damaged my well?  Can we imitate him, and have our millions of gallons?  Goldsmith or I must fall, so I conceive.

If you get this, send me a telegraph message informing me when I may expect comfort.  I am held by four of the family while I write this, in case I should do myself a mischief ­it certainly won’t be taking to drinking water.

Ever affectionately (most despairingly).

Mr. W. C. Macready.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Monday, July 13th, 1857.

MY DEAREST MACREADY,

Many thanks for your Indian information.  I shall act upon it in the most exact manner.  Walter sails next Monday.  Charley and I go down with him to Southampton next Sunday.  We are all delighted with the prospect of seeing you at Gad’s Hill.  These are my Jerrold engagements:  On Friday, the 24th, I have to repeat my reading at St. Martin’s Hall; on Saturday, the 25th, to repeat “The Frozen Deep” at the Gallery of Illustration for the last time.  On Thursday, the 30th, or Friday, the 31st, I shall probably read at Manchester.  Deane, the general manager of the Exhibition, is going down to-night, and will arrange all the preliminaries for me.  If you and I went down to Manchester together, and were there on a Sunday, he would give us the whole Exhibition to ourselves.  It is probable, I think (as he estimates the receipts of a night at about seven hundred pounds), that we may, in about a fortnight or so after the reading, play “The Frozen Deep” at Manchester.  But of this contingent engagement I at present know no more than you do.

Now, will you, upon this exposition of affairs, choose your own time for coming to us, and, when you have made your choice, write to me at Gad’s Hill?  I am going down this afternoon for rest (which means violent cricket with the boys) after last Saturday night; which was a teaser, but triumphant.  The St. Martin’s Hall audience was, I must confess, a very extraordinary thing.  The two thousand and odd people were like one, and their enthusiasm was something awful.

Yet I have seen that before, too.  Your young remembrance cannot recall the man; but he flourished in my day ­a great actor, sir ­a noble actor ­thorough artist!  I have seen him do wonders in that way.  He retired from the stage early in life (having a monomaniacal delusion that he was old), and is said to be still living in your county.

All join in kindest love to your dear sister and all the rest.

Ever, my dearest Macready,
Most affectionately yours.

Mr. Edmund Yates.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Sunday, July 19th, 1857.

MY DEAR YATES,

Although I date this ashore, I really write it from Southampton (don’t notice this fact in your reply, for I shall be in town on Wednesday).  I have come here on an errand which will grow familiar to you before you know that Time has flapped his wings over your head.  Like me, you will find those babies grow to be young men before you are quite sure they are born.  Like me, you will have great teeth drawn with a wrench, and will only then know that you ever cut them.  I am here to send Walter away over what they call, in Green Bush melodramas, “the Big Drink,” and I don’t at all know this day how he comes to be mine, or I his.

I don’t write to say this ­or to say how seeing Charley, and he going aboard the ship before me just now, I suddenly came into possession of a photograph of my own back at sixteen and twenty, and also into a suspicion that I had doubled the last age.  I merely write to mention that Telbin and his wife are going down to Gad’s Hill with us, about mid-day next Sunday, and that if you and Mrs. Yates will come too, we shall be delighted to have you.  We can give you a bed, and you can be in town (if you have such a savage necessity) by twenty minutes before ten on Monday morning.

I was very much pleased (as I had reason to be) with your account of the reading in The Daily News.  I thank you heartily.

Mr. T. P. Cooke.

IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE LATE MR. DOUGLAS JERROLD.

COMMITTEE’S OFFICE, GALLERY OF ILLUSTRATION,
REGENT STREET, Thursday, July 30th, 1857.

MY DEAR MR. COOKE,

I cannot rest satisfied this morning without writing to congratulate you on your admirable performance of last night.  It was so fresh and vigorous, so manly and gallant, that I felt as if it splashed against my theatre-heated face along with the spray of the breezy sea.  What I felt everybody felt; I should feel it quite an impertinence to take myself out of the crowd, therefore, if I could by any means help doing so.  But I can’t; so I hope you will feel that you bring me on yourself, and have only yourself to blame.

Always faithfully yours.

Mrs. Compton.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER,
Sunday Night, Aug 2nd, 1857.

MY DEAR MRS. COMPTON,

We are going to play “The Frozen Deep” (pursuant to requisition from town magnates, etc.) at Manchester, at the New Free Trade Hall, on the nights of Friday and Saturday, the 21st and 22nd August.

The place is out of the question for my girls.  Their action could not be seen, and their voices could not be heard.  You and I have played, there and elsewhere, so sociably and happily, that I am emboldened to ask you whether you would play my sister-in-law Georgina’s part (Compton and babies permitting).

We shall go down in the old pleasant way, and shall have the Art Treasures Exhibition to ourselves on the Sunday; when even “he” (as Rogers always called every pretty woman’s husband) might come and join us.

What do you say?  What does he say? and what does baby say?  When I use the term “baby,” I use it in two tenses ­present and future.

Answer me at this address, like the Juliet I saw at Drury Lane ­when was it? ­yesterday.  And whatever your answer is, if you will say that you and Compton will meet us at the North Kent Station, London Bridge, next Sunday at a quarter before one, and will come down here for a breath of sweet air and stay all night, you will give your old friends great pleasure.  Not least among them,

Yours faithfully.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER,
Monday, Aurd, 1857.

MY DEAREST MACREADY,

I write to you in reference to your last note, as soon as I positively know our final movements in the Jerrold matter.

We are going to wind up by acting at Manchester (on solemn requisition) on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, the 21st and 22nd (actresses substituted for the girls, of course).  We shall have to leave here on the morning of the 20th.  You thought of coming on the 16th; can’t you make it a day or two earlier, so as to be with us a whole week?  Decide and pronounce.  Again, cannot you bring Katey with you?  Decide and pronounce thereupon, also.

I read at Manchester last Friday.  As many thousand people were there as you like to name.  The collection of pictures in the Exhibition is wonderful.  And the power with which the modern English school asserts itself is a very gratifying and delightful thing to behold.  The care for the common people, in the provision made for their comfort and refreshment, is also admirable and worthy of all commendation.  But they want more amusement, and particularly (as it strikes me) something in motion, though it were only a twisting fountain.  The thing is too still after their lives of machinery, and art flies over their heads in consequence.

I hope you have seen my tussle with the “Edinburgh.”  I saw the chance last Friday week, as I was going down to read the “Carol” in St. Martin’s Hall.  Instantly turned to, then and there, and wrote half the article.  Flew out of bed early next morning, and finished it by noon.  Went down to Gallery of Illustration (we acted that night), did the day’s business, corrected the proofs in Polar costume in dressing-room, broke up two numbers of “Household Words” to get it out directly, played in “Frozen Deep” and “Uncle John,” presided at supper of company, made no end of speeches, went home and gave in completely for four hours, then got sound asleep, and next day was as fresh as you used to be in the far-off days of your lusty youth.

All here send kindest love to your dear good sister and all the house.

Ever and ever affectionately.

Mr. Frank Stone‚ A.R.A.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Sunday Afternoon, Auth, 1857.

MY DEAR STONE,

Now here, without any preface, is a good, confounding, stunning question for you ­would you like to play “Uncle John” on the two nights at Manchester?

It is not a long part.  You could have a full rehearsal on the Friday, and I could sit in the wing at night and pull you through all the business.  Perhaps you might not object to being in the thing in your own native place, and the relief to me would be enormous.

This is what has come into my head lying in bed to-day (I have been in bed all day), and this is just my plain reason for writing to you.

It’s a capital part, and you are a capital old man.  You know the play as we play it, and the Manchester people don’t.  Say the word, and I’ll send you my own book by return of post.

The agitation and exertion of Richard Wardour are so great to me, that I cannot rally my spirits in the short space of time I get.  The strain is so great to make a show of doing it, that I want to be helped out of “Uncle John” if I can.  Think of yourself far more than me; but if you half think you are up to the joke, and half doubt your being so, then give me the benefit of the doubt and play the part.

Answer me at Gad’s Hill.

Ever affectionately.

P.S. ­If you play, I shall immediately announce it to all concerned.  If you don’t, I shall go on as if nothing had happened, and shall say nothing to anyone.

Mr. Henry Austin.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, Saturday, Auth, 1857.

MY DEAR HENRY,

At last, I am happy to inform you, we have got at a famous spring!!  It rushed in this morning, ten foot deep.  And our friends talk of its supplying “a ton a minute for yourself and your family, sir, for nevermore.”

They ask leave to bore ten feet lower, to prevent the possibility of what they call “a choking with sullage.”  Likewise, they are going to insert “a rose-headed pipe;” at the mention of which implement, I am (secretly) well-nigh distracted, having no idea of what it means.  But I have said “Yes,” besides instantly standing a bottle of gin.  Can you come back, and can you get down on Monday morning, to advise and endeavour to decide on the mechanical force we shall use for raising the water?  I would return with you, as I shall have to be in town until Thursday, and then to go to Manchester until the following Tuesday.

I send this by hand to John, to bring to you.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. Frank Stone‚ A.R.A.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, Monday, Auth, 1857.

MY DEAR STONE,

I received your kind note this morning, and write this reply here to take to London with me and post in town, being bound for that village and three days’ drill of the professional ladies who are to succeed the Tavistock girls.

My book I enclose.  There is a slight alteration (which does not affect you) at the end of the first act, in order that the piece may be played through without having the drop curtain down.  You will not find the situations or business difficult, with me on the spot to put you right.

Now, as to the dress.  You will want a pair of pumps, and a pair of white silk socks; these you can get at Manchester.  The extravagantly and anciently-frilled shirts that I have had got up for the part, I will bring you down; large white waistcoat, I will bring you down; large white hat, I will bring you down; dressing-gown, I will bring you down; white gloves and ditto choker you can get at Manchester.  There then remain only a pair of common nankeen tights, to button below the calf, and blue wedding-coat.  The nankeen tights you had best get made at once; my “Uncle John” coat I will send you down in a parcel by to-morrow’s train, to have altered in Manchester to your shape and figure.  You will then be quite independent of Christian chance and Jewish Nathan, which latter potentate is now at Canterbury with the cricket amateurs, and might fail.

A Thursday’s rehearsal is (unfortunately) now impracticable, the passes for the railway being all made out, and the company’s sailing orders issued.  But, as I have already suggested, with a careful rehearsal on Friday morning, and with me at the wing at night to put you right, you will find yourself sliding through it easily.  There is nothing in the least complicated in the business.  As to the dance, you have only to knock yourself up for a twelvemonth and it will go nobly.

After all, too, if you should, through any unlucky breakdown, come to be afraid of it, I am no worse off than I was before, if I have to do it at last.  Keep your pecker up with that.

I am heartily obliged to you, my dear old boy, for your affectionate and considerate note, and I wouldn’t have you do it, really and sincerely ­immense as the relief will be to me ­unless you are quite comfortable in it, and able to enjoy it.

Ever affectionately.

OFFICE OF “HOUSEHOLD WORDS,” Tuesday, Auth, 1857.

MY DEAR STONE,

I sent you a telegraph message last night, in total contradiction of the letter you received from me this morning.

The reason was simply this:  Arthur Smith and the other business men, both in Manchester and here, urged upon me, in the strongest manner, that they were afraid of the change; that it was well known in Manchester that I had done the part in London; that there was a danger of its being considered disrespectful in me to give it up; also that there was a danger that it might be thought that I did so at the last minute, after an immense let, whereas I might have done it at first, etc. etc. etc.  Having no desire but for the success of our object, and a becoming recognition on my part of the kind Manchester public’s cordiality, I gave way, and thought it best to go on.

I do so against the grain, and against every inclination, and against the strongest feeling of gratitude to you.  My people at home will be miserable too when they hear I am going to do it.  If I could have heard from you sooner, and got the bill out sooner, I should have been firmer in considering my own necessity of relief.  As it is, I sneak under; and I hope you will feel the reasons, and approve.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. Henry Austin.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, Wednesday, Sepnd, 1857.

MY DEAR HENRY,

The second conspirator has been here this morning to ask whether you wish the windlass to be left in the yard, and whether you will want him and his mate any more, and, if so, when?  Of course he says (rolling something in the form of a fillet in at one broken tooth all the while, and rolling it out at another) that they could wish fur to have the windlass if it warn’t any ways a hill conwenience fur to fetch her away.  I have told him that if he will come back on Friday he shall have your reply.  Will you, therefore, send it me by return of post?  He says he’ll “look up” (as if he was an astronomer) “a Friday arterdinner.”

On Monday I am going away with Collins for ten days or a fortnight, on a “tour in search of an article” for “Household Words.”  We have not the least idea where we are going; but he says, “Let’s look at the Norfolk coast,” and I say, “Let’s look at the back of the Atlantic.”  I don’t quite know what I mean by that; but have a general impression that I mean something knowing.

I am horribly used up after the Jerrold business.  Low spirits, low pulse, low voice, intense reaction.  If I were not like Mr. Micawber, “falling back for a spring” on Monday, I think I should slink into a corner and cry.

Ever affectionately.

Miss Hogarth.

ALLONBY, CUMBERLAND, Wednesday Night, Septh, 1857.

MY DEAR GEORGY,

Think of Collins’s usual luck with me!  We went up a Cumberland mountain yesterday ­a huge black hill, fifteen hundred feet high.  We took for a guide a capital innkeeper hard by.  It rained in torrents ­as it only does rain in a hill country ­the whole time.  At the top, there were black mists and the darkness of night.  It then came out that the innkeeper had not been up for twenty years, and he lost his head and himself altogether; and we couldn’t get down again!  What wonders the Inimitable performed with his compass until it broke with the heat and wet of his pocket no matter; it did break, and then we wandered about, until it was clear to the Inimitable that the night must be passed there, and the enterprising travellers probably die of cold.  We took our own way about coming down, struck, and declared that the guide might wander where he would, but we would follow a watercourse we lighted upon, and which must come at last to the river.  This necessitated amazing gymnastics; in the course of which performances, Collins fell into the said watercourse with his ankle sprained, and the great ligament of the foot and leg swollen I don’t know how big.

How I enacted Wardour over again in carrying him down, and what a business it was to get him down; I may say in Gibbs’s words:  “Vi lascio a giudicare!” But he was got down somehow, and we got off the mountain somehow; and now I carry him to bed, and into and out of carriages, exactly like Wardour in private life.  I don’t believe he will stand for a month to come.  He has had a doctor, and can wear neither shoe nor stocking, and has his foot wrapped up in a flannel waistcoat, and has a breakfast saucer of liniment, and a horrible dabbling of lotion incessantly in progress.  We laugh at it all, but I doubt very much whether he can go on to Doncaster.  It will be a miserable blow to our H. W. scheme, and I say nothing about it as yet; but he is really so crippled that I doubt the getting him there.  We have resolved to fall to work to-morrow morning and begin our writing; and there, for the present, that point rests.

This is a little place with fifty houses, five bathing-machines, five girls in straw hats, five men in straw hats, and no other company.  The little houses are all in half-mourning ­yellow stone on white stone, and black; and it reminds me of what Broadstairs might have been if it had not inherited a cliff, and had been an Irishman.  But this is a capital little homely inn, looking out upon the sea; and we are really very comfortably lodged.  I can just stand upright in my bedroom.  Otherwise, it is a good deal like one of Ballard’s top-rooms.  We have a very obliging and comfortable landlady; and it is a clean nice place in a rough wild country.  We came here haphazard, but could not have done better.

We lay last night at a place called Wigton ­also in half-mourning ­with the wonderful peculiarity that it had no population, no business, no streets to speak of; but five linendrapers within range of our small windows, one linendraper’s next door, and five more linendrapers round the corner.  I ordered a night-light in my bedroom.  A queer little old woman brought me one of the common Child’s night-lights, and seeming to think that I looked at it with interest, said:  “It’s joost a vara keeyourious thing, sir, and joost new coom oop.  It’ll burn awt hoors a’ end, an no gootther, nor no waste, nor ony sike a thing, if you can creedit what I say, seein’ the airticle.”

Of course I shall go to Doncaster, whether or no (please God), and my postage directions to you remain unchanged.  Love to Mamey, Katey, Charley, Harry, and the darling Plorn.

Ever affectionately.

LANCASTER, Saturday Night, Septh, 1857.

MY DEAR GEORGY,

I received your letter at Allonby yesterday, and was delighted to get it.  We came back to Carlisle last night (to a capital inn, kept by Breach’s brother), and came on here to-day.  We are on our way to Doncaster; but Sabbath observance throws all the trains out; and although it is not a hundred miles from here, we shall have, as well as I can make out the complicated lists of trains, to sleep at Leeds ­which I particularly detest as an odious place ­to-morrow night.

Accustomed as you are to the homage which men delight to render to the Inimitable, you would be scarcely prepared for the proportions it assumes in this northern country.  Station-masters assist him to alight from carriages, deputations await him in hotel entries, innkeepers bow down before him and put him into regal rooms, the town goes down to the platform to see him off, and Collins’s ankle goes into the newspapers!!!

It is a great deal better than it was, and he can get into new hotels and up the stairs with two thick sticks, like an admiral in a farce.  His spirits have improved in a corresponding degree, and he contemplates cheerfully the keeping house at Doncaster.  I thought (as I told you) he would never have gone there, but he seems quite up to the mark now.  Of course he can never walk out, or see anything of any place.  We have done our first paper for H. W., and sent it up to the printer’s.

The landlady of the little inn at Allonby lived at Greta Bridge, in Yorkshire, when I went down there before “Nickleby,” and was smuggled into the room to see me, when I was secretly found out.  She is an immensely fat woman now.  “But I could tuck my arm round her waist then, Mr. Dickens,” the landlord said when she told me the story as I was going to bed the night before last.  “And can’t you do it now,” I said, “you insensible dog?  Look at me!  Here’s a picture!” Accordingly, I got round as much of her as I could; and this gallant action was the most successful I have ever performed, on the whole.  I think it was the dullest little place I ever entered; and what with the monotony of an idle sea, and what with the monotony of another sea in the room (occasioned by Collins’s perpetually holding his ankle over a pail of salt water, and laving it with a milk jug), I struck yesterday, and came away.

We are in a very remarkable old house here, with genuine old rooms and an uncommonly quaint staircase.  I have a state bedroom, with two enormous red four-posters in it, each as big as Charley’s room at Gad’s Hill.  Bellew is to preach here to-morrow.  “And we know he is a friend of yours, sir,” said the landlord, when he presided over the serving of the dinner (two little salmon trout; a sirloin steak; a brace of partridges; seven dishes of sweets; five dishes of dessert, led off by a bowl of peaches; and in the centre an enormous bride-cake ­“We always have it here, sir,” said the landlord, “custom of the house.”) (Collins turned pale, and estimated the dinner at half a guinea each.)

This is the stupidest of letters, but all description is gone, or going, into “The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices.”

Kiss the darling Plorn, who is often in my thoughts.  Best love to Charley, Mamey, and Katie.  I will write to you again from Doncaster, where I shall be rejoiced to find another letter from you.

Ever affectionately, my dearest Georgy.

ANGEL HOTEL, DONCASTER, Tuesday, Septh, 1857.

MY DEAR GEORGY,

I found your letter here on my arrival yesterday.  I had hoped that the wall would have been almost finished by this time, and the additions to the house almost finished too ­but patience, patience!

We have very good, clean, and quiet apartments here, on the second floor, looking down into the main street, which is full of horse jockeys, bettors, drunkards, and other blackguards, from morning to night ­and all night.  The races begin to-day and last till Friday, which is the Cup Day.  I am not going to the course this morning, but have engaged a carriage (open, and pair) for to-morrow and Friday.

“The Frozen Deep’s” author gets on as well as could be expected.  He can hobble up and down stairs when absolutely necessary, and limps to his bedroom on the same floor.  He talks of going to the theatre to-night in a cab, which will be the first occasion of his going out, except to travel, since the accident.  He sends his kind regards and thanks for enquiries and condolence.  I am perpetually tidying the rooms after him, and carrying all sorts of untidy things which belong to him into his bedroom, which is a picture of disorder.  You will please to imagine mine, airy and clean, little dressing-room attached, eight water-jugs (I never saw such a supply), capital sponge-bath, perfect arrangement, and exquisite neatness.  We breakfast at half-past eight, and fall to work for H. W. afterwards.  Then I go out, and ­hem! look for subjects.

The mayor called this morning to do the honours of the town, whom it pleased the Inimitable to receive with great courtesy and affability.  He propounded invitation to public dejeuner, which it did not please the Inimitable to receive, and which he graciously rejected.

That’s all the news.  Everything I can describe by hook or by crook, I describe for H. W. So there is nothing of that sort left for letters.

Best love to dear Mamey and Katey, and to Charley, and to Harry.  Any number of kisses to the noble Plorn.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. Arthur Ryland.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, Saturday Evening, Ocrd, 1857.

MY DEAR SIR,

I have had the honour and pleasure of receiving your letter of the 28th of last month, informing me of the distinction that has been conferred upon me by the Council of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

Allow me to assure you with much sincerity, that I am highly gratified by having been elected one of the first honorary members of that establishment.  Nothing could have enhanced my interest in so important an undertaking; but the compliment is all the more welcome to me on that account.

I accept it with a due sense of its worth, with many acknowledgments and with all good wishes.

I am ever, my dear Sir, very faithfully yours.

Mr. Edmund Yates.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Monday Night, Noth, 1857.

MY DEAR YATES,

I retain the story with pleasure; and I need not tell you that you are not mistaken in the last lines of your note.

Excuse me, on that ground, if I say a word or two as to what I think (I mention it with a view to the future) might be better in the paper.  The opening is excellent.  But it passes too completely into the Irishman’s narrative, does not light it up with the life about it, or the circumstances under which it is delivered, and does not carry through it, as I think it should with a certain indefinable subtleness, the thread with which you begin your weaving.  I will tell Wills to send me the proof, and will try to show you what I mean when I shall have gone over it carefully.

Faithfully yours always.

Mr. Frank Stone‚ A.R.A.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Wednesday, Deth, 1857.

MY DEAR STONE,

I find on enquiry that the “General Theatrical Fund” has relieved non-members in one or two instances; but that it is exceedingly unwilling to do so, and would certainly not do so again, saving on some very strong and exceptional case.  As its trustee, I could not represent to it that I think it ought to sail into those open waters, for I very much doubt the justice of such cruising, with a reference to the interests of the patient people who support it out of their small earnings.

Affectionately ever.