Read 1858. of The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol. 2 (1857-1870), free online book, by Charles Dickens, on


All through this year, Charles Dickens was constantly moving about from place to place.  After much and careful consideration, he had come to the determination of, for the future, giving readings for his own benefit.  And although in the spring of this year he gave one reading of his “Christmas Carol” for a charity, all the other readings, beginning from the 29th April, and ever after, were for himself.  In the autumn of this year he made reading tours in England, Scotland, and Ireland, always accompanied by his friend and secretary, Mr. Arthur Smith.  At Newcastle, Charles Dickens was joined by his daughters, who accompanied him in his Scotch tour.  The letters to his sister-in-law, and to his eldest daughter, are all given here, and will be given in all future reading tours, as they form a complete diary of his life and movements at these times.  To avoid the constant repetition of the two names, the beginning of the letters will be dispensed with in all cases where they follow each other in unbroken succession.  The Mr. Frederick Lehmann mentioned in the letter written from Sheffield, had married a daughter of Mr. Robert Chambers, and niece of Mrs. Wills.  Coming to settle in London a short time after this date, Mr. and Mrs. Lehmann became intimately known to Charles Dickens and his family ­more especially to his eldest daughter, to whom they have been, and are, the kindest and truest of friends.  The “pretty little boy” mentioned as being under Mrs. Wills’s care, was their eldest son.

We give the letter to Mr. Thackeray, not because it is one of very great interest, but because, being the only one we have, we are glad to have the two names associated together in this work.

The “little speech” alluded to in this first letter to Mr. Macready was one made by Charles Dickens at a public dinner, which was given in aid of the Hospital for Sick Children, in Great Ormond Street.  He afterwards (early in April) gave a reading from his “Christmas Carol” for this same charity.

The Christmas number of “Household Words,” mentioned in a letter to Mr. Wilkie Collins, was called “A House to Let,” and contained stories written by Charles Dickens, Mr. Wilkie Collins, and other contributors to “Household Words.”

Mr. W. Wilkie Collins.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Sunday, Jath, 1858.


I am very sorry to receive so bad an account of the foot.  But I hope it is all in the past tense now.

I met with an incident the other day, which I think is a good deal in your way, for introduction either into a long or short story.  Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Monro went over St. Luke’s with me (only last Friday), to show me some distinctly and remarkably developed types of insanity.  Among other patients, we passed a deaf and dumb man, now afflicted with incurable madness too, of whom they said that it was only when his madness began to develop itself in strongly-marked mad actions, that it began to be suspected.  “Though it had been there, no doubt, some time.”  This led me to consider, suspiciously, what employment he had been in, and so to ask the question.  “Aye,” says Dr. Sutherland, “that is the most remarkable thing of all, Mr. Dickens.  He was employed in the transmission of electric-telegraph messages; and it is impossible to conceive what delirious despatches that man may have been sending about all over the world!”

Rejoiced to hear such good report of the play.

Ever faithfully.

Mr. Edmund Yates.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Tuesday, Fend, 1858.


Your quotation is, as I supposed, all wrong.  The text is not “which his ’owls was organs.”  When Mr. Harris went into an empty dog-kennel, to spare his sensitive nature the anguish of overhearing Mrs. Harris’s exclamations on the occasion of the birth of her first child (the Princess Royal of the Harris family), “he never took his hands away from his ears, or came out once, till he was showed the baby.”  On encountering that spectacle, he was (being of a weakly constitution) “took with fits.”  For this distressing complaint he was medically treated; the doctor “collared him, and laid him on his back upon the airy stones” ­please to observe what follows ­“and she was told, to ease her mind, his ’owls was organs.”

That is to say, Mrs. Harris, lying exhausted on her bed, in the first sweet relief of freedom from pain, merely covered with the counterpane, and not yet “put comfortable,” hears a noise apparently proceeding from the back-yard, and says, in a flushed and hysterical manner:  “What ’owls are those?  Who is a-’owling?  Not my ugebond?” Upon which the doctor, looking round one of the bottom posts of the bed, and taking Mrs. Harris’s pulse in a reassuring manner, says, with much admirable presence of mind:  “Howls, my dear madam? ­no, no, no!  What are we thinking of?  Howls, my dear Mrs. Harris?  Ha, ha, ha!  Organs, ma’am, organs.  Organs in the streets, Mrs. Harris; no howls.”

Yours faithfully.

Mr. W. M. Thackeray.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Tuesday, Fend, 1858.


The wisdom of Parliament, in that expensive act of its greatness which constitutes the Guild, prohibits that corporation from doing anything until it shall have existed in a perfectly useless condition for seven years.  This clause (introduced by some private-bill magnate of official might) seemed so ridiculous, that nobody could believe it to have this meaning; but as I felt clear about it when we were on the very verge of granting an excellent literary annuity, I referred the point to counsel, and my construction was confirmed without a doubt.

It is therefore needless to enquire whether an association in the nature of a provident society could address itself to such a case as you confide to me.  The prohibition has still two or three years of life in it.

But, assuming the gentleman’s title to be considered as an “author” as established, there is no question that it comes within the scope of the Literary Fund.  They would habitually “lend” money if they did what I consider to be their duty; as it is they only give money, but they give it in such instances.

I have forwarded the envelope to the Society of Arts, with a request that they will present it to Prince Albert, approaching H.R.H. in the Siamese manner.

Ever faithfully.

Mr. John Forster.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Wednesday Night, Ferd, 1858.


I beg to report two phenomena: 

1.  An excellent little play in one act, by Marston, at the Lyceum; title, “A Hard Struggle;” as good as “La Joie fait Peur,” though not at all like it.

2.  Capital acting in the same play, by Mr. Dillon.  Real good acting, in imitation of nobody, and honestly made out by himself!!

I went (at Marston’s request) last night, and cried till I sobbed again.  I have not seen a word about it from Oxenford.  But it is as wholesome and manly a thing altogether as I have seen for many a day. (I would have given a hundred pounds to have played Mr. Dillon’s part).

Love to Mrs. Forster.

Ever affectionately.

Dr. Westland Marston.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Wednesday, Ferd, 1858.


I most heartily and honestly congratulate you on your charming little piece.  It moved me more than I could easily tell you, if I were to try.  Except “La Joie fait Peur,” I have seen nothing nearly so good, and there is a subtlety in the comfortable presentation of the child who is to become a devoted woman for Reuben’s sake, which goes a long way beyond Madame de Girardin.  I am at a loss to let you know how much I admired it last night, or how heartily I cried over it.  A touching idea, most delicately conceived and wrought out by a true artist and poet, in a spirit of noble, manly generosity, that no one should be able to study without great emotion.

It is extremely well acted by all concerned; but Mr. Dillon’s performance is really admirable, and deserving of the highest commendation.  It is good in these days to see an actor taking such pains, and expressing such natural and vigorous sentiment.  There is only one thing I should have liked him to change.  I am much mistaken if any man ­least of all any such man ­would crush a letter written by the hand of the woman he loved.  Hold it to his heart unconsciously and look about for it the while, he might; or he might do any other thing with it that expressed a habit of tenderness and affection in association with the idea of her; but he would never crush it under any circumstances.  He would as soon crush her heart.

You will see how closely I went with him, by my minding so slight an incident in so fine a performance.  There is no one who could approach him in it; and I am bound to add that he surprised me as much as he pleased me.

I think it might be worth while to try the people at the Francais with the piece.  They are very good in one-act plays; such plays take well there, and this seems to me well suited to them.  If you would like Samson or Regnier to read the play (in English), I know them well, and would be very glad indeed to tell them that I sent it with your sanction because I had been so much struck by it.

Faithfully yours always.

Monsieur Regnier.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, LONDON, W.C., Thursday, Feth, 1858.


I want you to read the enclosed little play.  You will see that it is in one act ­about the length of “La Joie fait Pour.”  It is now acting at the Lyceum Theatre here, with very great success.  The author is Mr. Westland Marston, a dramatic writer of reputation, who wrote a very well-known tragedy called “The Patrician’s Daughter,” in which Macready and Miss Faucit acted (under Macready’s management at Drury Lane) some years ago.

This little piece is so very powerful on the stage, its interest is so simple and natural, and the part of Reuben is such a very fine one, that I cannot help thinking you might make one grand coup with it, if with your skilful hand you arranged it for the Francais.  I have communicated this idea of mine to the author, “et la-dessus je vous écris.”  I am anxious to know your opinion, and shall expect with much interest to receive a little letter from you at your convenience.

Mrs. Dickens, Miss Hogarth, and all the house send a thousand kind loves and regards to Madame Regnier and the dear little boys.  You will bring them to London when you come, with all the force of the Francais ­will you not?

Ever, my dear Regnier, faithfully your Friend.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Saturday, Feth, 1858.


Let me thank you with all my heart for your most patient and kind letter.  I made its contents known to Mr. Marston, and I enclose you his reply.  You will see that he cheerfully leaves the matter in your hands, and abides by your opinion and discretion.

You need not return his letter, my friend.  There is great excitement here this morning, in consequence of the failure of the Ministry last night to carry the bill they brought in to please your Emperor and his troops. I, for one, am extremely glad of their defeat.

Le vieux P ­,” I have no doubt, will go staggering down the Rue de la Paix to-day, with his stick in his hand and his hat on one side, predicting the downfall of everything, in consequence of this event.  His handwriting shakes more and more every quarter, and I think he mixes a great deal of cognac with his ink.  He always gives me some astonishing piece of news (which is never true), or some suspicious public prophecy (which is never verified), and he always tells me he is dying (which he never is).

Adieu, my dear Regnier, accept a thousand thanks from me, and believe me, now and always,

Your affectionate and faithful Friend.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, March 15th, 1858.


I have safely received your cheque this morning, and will hand it over forthwith to the honorary secretary of the hospital.  I hope you have read the little speech in the hospital’s publication of it.  They had it taken by their own shorthand-writer, and it is done verbatim.

You may be sure that it is a good and kind charity.  It is amazing to me that it is not at this day ten times as large and rich as it is.  But I hope and trust that I have happily been able to give it a good thrust onward into a great course.  We all send our most affectionate love to all the house.  I am devising all sorts of things in my mind, and am in a state of energetic restlessness incomprehensible to the calm philosophers of Dorsetshire.  What a dream it is, this work and strife, and how little we do in the dream after all!  Only last night, in my sleep, I was bent upon getting over a perspective of barriers, with my hands and feet bound.  Pretty much what we are all about, waking, I think?

But, Lord! (as I said before) you smile pityingly, not bitterly, at this hubbub, and moralise upon it, in the calm evenings when there is no school at Sherborne.

Ever affectionately and truly.

Mrs Hogge.

                                        Wednesday, April 14th, 1858.


After the profoundest cogitation, I come reluctantly to the conclusion that I do not know that orphan.  If you were the lady in want of him, I should certainly offer myself.  But as you are not, I will not hear of the situation.

It is wonderful to think how many charming little people there must be, to whom this proposal would be like a revelation from Heaven.  Why don’t I know one, and come to Kensington, boy in hand, as if I had walked (I wish to God I had) out of a fairy tale!  But no, I do not know that orphan.  He is crying somewhere, by himself, at this moment.  I can’t dry his eyes.  He is being neglected by some ogress of a nurse.  I can’t rescue him.

I will make a point of going to the Athenaeum on Monday night; and if I had five hundred votes to give, Mr. Macdonald should have them all, for your sake.

I grieve to hear that you have been ill, but I hope that the spring, when it comes, will find you blooming with the rest of the flowers.

Very faithfully yours.

Mr. Edmund Yates.

                                        Wednesday, April 28th, 1858.


For a good many years I have suffered a great deal from charities, but never anything like what I suffer now.  The amount of correspondence they inflict upon me is really incredible.  But this is nothing.  Benevolent men get behind the piers of the gates, lying in wait for my going out; and when I peep shrinkingly from my study-windows, I see their pot-bellied shadows projected on the gravel.  Benevolent bullies drive up in hansom cabs (with engraved portraits of their benevolent institutions hanging over the aprons, like banners on their outward walls), and stay long at the door.  Benevolent area-sneaks get lost in the kitchens and are found to impede the circulation of the knife-cleaning machine.  My man has been heard to say (at The Burton Arms) “that if it was a wicious place, well and good ­that an’t door work; but that wen all the Christian wirtues is always a-shoulderin’ and a-helberin’ on you in the ‘all, a-tryin’ to git past you and cut upstairs into master’s room, why no wages as you couldn’t name wouldn’t make it up to you.”

Persecuted ever.

Mrs Yates.


Saturday Evening, May 15th, 1858.


Pray believe that I was sorry with all my heart to miss you last Thursday, and to learn the occasion of your absence; also that, whenever you can come, your presence will give me a new interest in that evening.  No one alive can have more delightful associations with the lightest sound of your voice than I have; and to give you a minute’s interest and pleasure, in acknowledgment of the uncountable hours of happiness you gave me when you were a mysterious angel to me, would honestly gratify my heart.

Very faithfully and gratefully yours.

M. de Cerjat.

GAD’S HILL, Wednesday, July 7th, 1858.


I should vainly try to tell you ­so I won’t try ­how affected I have been by your warm-hearted letter, or how thoroughly well convinced I always am of the truth and earnestness of your friendship.  I thank you, my dear, dear fellow, with my whole soul.  I fervently return that friendship and I highly cherish it.

You want to know all about me?  I am still reading in London every Thursday, and the audiences are very great, and the success immense.  On the 2nd of August I am going away on a tour of some four months in England, Ireland, and Scotland.  I shall read, during that time, not fewer than four or five times a week.  It will be sharp work; but probably a certain musical clinking will come of it, which will mitigate the hardship.

At this present moment I am on my little Kentish freehold (not in top-boots, and not particularly prejudiced that I know of), looking on as pretty a view out of my study window as you will find in a long day’s English ride.  My little place is a grave red brick house (time of George the First, I suppose), which I have added to and stuck bits upon in all manner of ways, so that it is as pleasantly irregular, and as violently opposed to all architectural ideas, as the most hopeful man could possibly desire.  It is on the summit of Gad’s Hill.  The robbery was committed before the door, on the man with the treasure, and Falstaff ran away from the identical spot of ground now covered by the room in which I write.  A little rustic alehouse, called The Sir John Falstaff, is over the way ­has been over the way, ever since, in honour of the event.  Cobham Woods and Park are behind the house; the distant Thames in front; the Medway, with Rochester, and its old castle and cathedral, on one side.  The whole stupendous property is on the old Dover Road, so when you come, come by the North Kent Railway (not the South-Eastern) to Strood or Higham, and I’ll drive over to fetch you.

The blessed woods and fields have done me a world of good, and I am quite myself again.  The children are all as happy as children can be.  My eldest daughter, Mary, keeps house, with a state and gravity becoming that high position; wherein she is assisted by her sister Katie, and by her aunt Georgina, who is, and always has been, like another sister.  Two big dogs, a bloodhound and a St. Bernard, direct from a convent of that name, where I think you once were, are their principal attendants in the green lanes.  These latter instantly untie the neckerchiefs of all tramps and prowlers who approach their presence, so that they wander about without any escort, and drive big horses in basket-phaetons through murderous bye-ways, and never come to grief.  They are very curious about your daughters, and send all kinds of loves to them and to Mrs. Cerjat, in which I heartily join.

You will have read in the papers that the Thames in London is most horrible.  I have to cross Waterloo or London Bridge to get to the railroad when I come down here, and I can certify that the offensive smells, even in that short whiff, have been of a most head-and-stomach-distending nature.  Nobody knows what is to be done; at least everybody knows a plan, and everybody else knows it won’t do; in the meantime cartloads of chloride of lime are shot into the filthy stream, and do something I hope.  You will know, before you get this, that the American telegraph line has parted again, at which most men are sorry, but very few surprised.  This is all the news, except that there is an Italian Opera at Drury Lane, price eighteenpence to the pit, where Viardot, by far the greatest artist of them all, sings, and which is full when the dear opera can’t let a box; and except that the weather has been exceptionally hot, but is now quite cool.  On the top of this hill it has been cold, actually cold at night, for more than a week past.

I am going over to Rochester to post this letter, and must write another to Townshend before I go.  My dear Cerjat, I have written lightly enough, because I want you to know that I am becoming cheerful and hearty.  God bless you!  I love you, and I know that you love me.

Ever your attached and affectionate.

Miss Hogarth.

WEST HOE, PLYMOUTH, Thursday, Auth, 1858.


I received your letter this morning with the greatest pleasure, and read it with the utmost interest in all its domestic details.

We had a most wonderful night at Exeter.  It is to be regretted that we cannot take the place again on our way back.  It was a prodigious cram, and we turned away no end of people.  But not only that, I think they were the finest audience I have ever read to.  I don’t think I ever read, in some respects, so well; and I never beheld anything like the personal affection which they poured out upon me at the end.  It was really a very remarkable sight, and I shall always look back upon it with pleasure.

Last night here was not so bright.  There are quarrels of the strangest kind between the Plymouth people and the Stonehouse people.  The room is at Stonehouse (Tracy says the wrong room; there being a Plymouth room in this hotel, and he being a Plymouthite).  We had a fair house, but not at all a great one.  All the notabilities come this morning to “Little Dombey,” for which we have let one hundred and thirty stalls, which local admiration of local greatness considers very large.  For “Mrs. Gamp and the Boots,” to-night, we have also a very promising let.  But the races are on, and there are two public balls to-night, and the yacht squadron are all at Cherbourg to boot.  Arthur is of opinion that “Two Sixties” will do very well for us.  I doubt the “Two Sixties” myself. Mais nous verróns.

The room is a very handsome one, but it is on the top of a windy and muddy hill, leading (literally) to nowhere; and it looks (except that it is new and mortary) as if the subsidence of the waters after the Deluge might have left it where it is.  I have to go right through the company to get to the platform.  Big doors slam and resound when anybody comes in; and all the company seem afraid of one another.  Nevertheless they were a sensible audience last night, and much impressed and pleased.

Tracy is in the room (wandering about, and never finishing a sentence), and sends all manner of sea-loves to you and the dear girls.  I send all manner of land-loves to you from myself, out of my heart of hearts, and also to my dear Plorn and the boys.

Arthur sends his kindest love.  He knows only two characters.  He is either always corresponding, like a Secretary of State, or he is transformed into a rout-furniture dealer of Rathbone Place, and drags forms about with the greatest violence, without his coat.

I have no time to add another word.

Ever, dearest Georgy, your most affectionate.

Miss Dickens.

LONDON, Saturday, Auth, 1858.


The closing night at Plymouth was a very great scene, and the morning there was exceedingly good too.  You will be glad to hear that at Clifton last night, a torrent of five hundred shillings bore Arthur away, pounded him against the wall, flowed on to the seats over his body, scratched him, and damaged his best dress suit.  All to his unspeakable joy.

This is a very short letter, but I am going to the Burlington Arcade, desperately resolved to have all those wonderful instruments put into operation on my head, with a view to refreshing it.

Kindest love to Georgy and to all.

Ever your affectionate.

SHREWSBURY, Thursday, Auth, 1858.

A wonderful audience last night at Wolverhampton.  If such a thing can be, they were even quicker and more intelligent than the audience I had in Edinburgh.  They were so wonderfully good and were so much on the alert this morning by nine o’clock for another reading, that we are going back there at about our Bradford time.  I never saw such people.  And the local agent would take no money, and charge no expenses of his own.

This place looks what Plorn would call “ortily” dull.  Local agent predicts, however, “great satisfaction to Mr. Dickens, and excellent attendance.”  I have just been to look at the hall, where everything was wrong, and where I have left Arthur making a platform for me out of dining-tables.

If he comes back in time, I am not quite sure but that he is himself going to write to Gad’s Hill.  We talk of coming up from Chester in the night to-morrow, after the reading; and of showing our precious selves at an apparently impossibly early hour in the Gad’s Hill breakfast-room on Saturday morning.

I have not felt the fatigue to any extent worth mentioning; though I get, every night, into the most violent heats.  We are going to dine at three o’clock (it wants a quarter now) and have not been here two hours, so I have seen nothing of Clement.

Tell Georgy with my love, that I read in the same room in which we acted, but at the end opposite to that where our stage was.  We are not at the inn where the amateur company put up, but at The Lion, where the fair Miss Mitchell was lodged alone.  We have the strangest little rooms (sitting-room and two bed-rooms all together), the ceilings of which I can touch with my hand.  The windows bulge out over the street, as if they were little stern-windows in a ship.  And a door opens out of the sitting-room on to a little open gallery with plants in it, where one leans over a queer old rail, and looks all downhill and slant-wise at the crookedest black and yellow old houses, all manner of shapes except straight shapes.  To get into this room we come through a china closet; and the man in laying the cloth has actually knocked down, in that repository, two geraniums and Napoleon Bonaparte.

I think that’s all I have to say, except that at the Wolverhampton theatre they played “Oliver Twist” last night (Mr. Toole the Artful Dodger), “in consequence of the illustrious author honouring the town with his presence.”  We heard that the device succeeded very well, and that they got a good many people.

John’s spirits have been equable and good since we rejoined him.  Berry has always got something the matter with his digestion ­seems to me the male gender of Maria Jolly, and ought to take nothing but Revalenta Arabica.  Bottled ale is not to be got in these parts, and Arthur is thrown upon draught.

My dearest love to Georgy and to Katey, also to Marguerite.  Also to all the boys and the noble Plorn.

Ever your affectionate Father.

Miss Hogarth.

Wednesday Morning, Auth, 1858.

I write this hurried line before starting, to report that my cold is decidedly better, thank God (though still bad), and that I hope to be able to stagger through to-night.  After dinner yesterday I began to recover my voice, and I think I sang half the Irish Melodies to myself, as I walked about to test it.  I got home at half-past ten, and mustard-poulticed and barley-watered myself tremendously.

Love to the dear girls, and to all.

Ever affectionately.

ADELPHI HOTEL, LIVERPOOL, Friday Night, Auth, 1858.

I received your welcome and interesting letter to-day, and I write you a very hurried and bad reply; but it is after the reading, and you will take the will for the deed under these trying circumstances, I know.

We have had a tremendous night; the largest house I have ever had since I first began ­two thousand three hundred people.  To-morrow afternoon, at three, I read again.

My cold has been oppressive, and is not yet gone.  I have been very hard to sleep too, and last night I was all but sleepless.  This morning I was very dull and seedy; but I got a good walk, and picked up again.  It has been blowing all day, and I fear we shall have a sick passage over to Dublin to-morrow night.

Tell Mamie (with my dear love to her and Katie) that I will write to her from Dublin ­probably on Sunday.  Tell her too that the stories she told me in her letter were not only capital stories in themselves, but excellently told too.

What Arthur’s state has been to-night ­he, John, Berry, and Boylett, all taking money and going mad together ­you cannot imagine.  They turned away hundreds, sold all the books, rolled on the ground of my room knee-deep in checks, and made a perfect pantomime of the whole thing.  He has kept quite well, I am happy to say, and sends a hundred loves.

In great haste and fatigue.

Ever affectionately.

Miss Dickens.

MORRISON’S HOTEL, DUBLIN, Monday, Aurd, 1858.

We had a nasty crossing here.  We left Holyhead at one in the morning, and got here at six.  Arthur was incessantly sick the whole way.  I was not sick at all, but was in as healthy a condition otherwise as humanity need be.  We are in a beautiful hotel.  Our sitting-room is exactly like the drawing-room at the Peschiere in all its dimensions.  I never saw two rooms so exactly resembling one another in their proportions.  Our bedrooms too are excellent, and there are baths and all sorts of comforts.

The Lord Lieutenant is away, and the place looks to me as if its professional life were away too.  Nevertheless, there are numbers of people in the streets.  Somehow, I hardly seem to think we are going to do enormously here; but I have scarcely any reason for supposing so (except that a good many houses are shut up); and I know nothing about it, for Arthur is now gone to the agent and to the room.  The men came by boat direct from Liverpool.  They had a rough passage, were all ill, and did not get here till noon yesterday.  Donnybrook Fair, or what remains of it, is going on, within two or three miles of Dublin.  They went out there yesterday in a jaunting-car, and John described it to us at dinner-time (with his eyebrows lifted up, and his legs well asunder), as “Johnny Brooks’s Fair;” at which Arthur, who was drinking bitter ale, nearly laughed himself to death.  Berry is always unfortunate, and when I asked what had happened to Berry on board the steamboat, it appeared that “an Irish gentleman which was drunk, and fancied himself the captain, wanted to knock Berry down.”

I am surprised by finding this place very much larger than I had supposed it to be.  Its bye-parts are bad enough, but cleaner, too, than I had supposed them to be, and certainly very much cleaner than the old town of Edinburgh.  The man who drove our jaunting-car yesterday hadn’t a piece in his coat as big as a penny roll, and had had his hat on (apparently without brushing it) ever since he was grown up.  But he was remarkably intelligent and agreeable, with something to say about everything.  For instance, when I asked him what a certain building was, he didn’t say “courts of law” and nothing else, but:  “Av you plase, sir, it’s the foor coorts o’ looyers, where Misther O’Connell stood his trial wunst, ye’ll remimber, sir, afore I tell ye of it.”  When we got into the Phoenix Park, he looked round him as if it were his own, and said:  “THAT’S a park, sir, av yer plase.”  I complimented it, and he said:  “Gintlemen tills me as they’r bin, sir, over Europe, and never see a park aqualling ov it.  ’Tis eight mile roond, sir, ten mile and a half long, and in the month of May the hawthorn trees are as beautiful as brides with their white jewels on.  Yonder’s the vice-regal lodge, sir; in them two corners lives the two sicretirries, wishing I was them, sir.  There’s air here, sir, av yer plase!  There’s scenery here, sir!  There’s mountains ­thim, sir!  Yer coonsider it a park, sir?  It is that, sir!”

You should have heard John in my bedroom this morning endeavouring to imitate a bath-man, who had resented his interference, and had said as to the shower-bath:  “Yer’ll not be touching that, young man.  Divil a touch yer’ll touch o’ that insthrument, young man!” It was more ridiculously unlike the reality than I can express to you, yet he was so delighted with his powers that he went off in the absurdest little gingerbeery giggle, backing into my portmanteau all the time.

My dear love to Katie and to Georgy, also to the noble Plorn and all the boys.  I shall write to Katie next, and then to Aunty.  My cold, I am happy to report, is very much better.  I lay in the wet all night on deck, on board the boat, but am not as yet any the worse for it.  Arthur was quite insensible when we got to Dublin, and stared at our luggage without in the least offering to claim it.  He left his kindest love for all before he went out.  I will keep the envelope open until he comes in.

                             Ever, my dearest Mamie,
                                        Your most affectionate Father.

Miss Hogarth.

MORRISON’S HOTEL, DUBLIN, Wednesday, Auth, 1858.

I begin my letter to you to-day, though I don’t know when I may send it off.  We had a very good house last night, after all, that is to say, a great rush of shillings and good half-crowns, though the stalls were comparatively few.  For “Little Dombey,” this morning, we have an immense stall let ­already more than two hundred ­and people are now fighting in the agent’s shop to take more.  Through some mistake of our printer’s, the evening reading for this present Wednesday was dropped, in a great part of the announcements, and the agent opened no plan for it.  I have therefore resolved not to have it at all.  Arthur Smith has waylaid me in all manner of ways, but I remain obdurate.  I am frightfully tired, and really relieved by the prospect of an evening ­overjoyed.

They were a highly excitable audience last night, but they certainly did not comprehend ­internally and intellectually comprehend ­“The Chimes” as a London audience do.  I am quite sure of it.  I very much doubt the Irish capacity of receiving the pathetic; but of their quickness as to the humorous there can be no doubt.  I shall see how they go along with Little Paul, in his death, presently.

While I was at breakfast this morning, a general officer was announced with great state ­having a staff at the door ­and came in, booted and plumed, and covered with Crimean decorations.  It was Cunninghame, whom we knew in Genoa ­then a captain.  He was very hearty indeed, and came to ask me to dinner.  Of course I couldn’t go.  Olliffe has a brother at Cork, who has just now (noon) written to me, proposing dinners and excursions in that neighbourhood which would fill about a week; I being there a day and a half, and reading three times.  The work will be very severe here, and I begin to feel depressed by it. (By “here,” I mean Ireland generally, please to observe.)

We meant, as I said in a letter to Katie, to go to Queenstown yesterday and bask on the seashore.  But there is always so much to do that we couldn’t manage it after all.  We expect a tremendous house to-morrow night as well as to-day; and Arthur is at the present instant up to his eyes in business (and seats), and, between his regret at losing to-night, and his desire to make the room hold twice as many as it will hold, is half distracted.  I have become a wonderful Irishman ­must play an Irish part some day ­and his only relaxation is when I enact “John and the Boots,” which I consequently do enact all day long.  The papers are full of remarks upon my white tie, and describe it as being of enormous size, which is a wonderful delusion, because, as you very well know, it is a small tie.  Generally, I am happy to report, the Emerald press is in favour of my appearance, and likes my eyes.  But one gentleman comes out with a letter at Cork, wherein he says that although only forty-six I look like an old man. He is a rum customer, I think.

The Rutherfords are living here, and wanted me to dine with them, which, I needn’t say, could not be done; all manner of people have called, but I have seen only two.  John has given it up altogether as to rivalry with the Boots, and did not come into my room this morning at all.  Boots appeared triumphant and alone.  He was waiting for me at the hotel-door last night.  “Whaa’t sart of a hoose, sur?” he asked me.  “Capital.”  “The Lard be praised fur the ‘onor o’ Dooblin!”

Arthur buys bad apples in the streets and brings them home and doesn’t eat them, and then I am obliged to put them in the balcony because they make the room smell faint.  Also he meets countrymen with honeycomb on their heads, and leads them (by the buttonhole when they have one) to this gorgeous establishment and requests the bar to buy honeycomb for his breakfast; then it stands upon the sideboard uncovered and the flies fall into it.  He buys owls, too, and castles, and other horrible objects, made in bog-oak (that material which is not appreciated at Gad’s Hill); and he is perpetually snipping pieces out of newspapers and sending them all over the world.  While I am reading he conducts the correspondence, and his great delight is to show me seventeen or eighteen letters when I come, exhausted, into the retiring-place.  Berry has not got into any particular trouble for forty-eight hours, except that he is all over boils.  I have prescribed the yeast, but ineffectually.  It is indeed a sight to see him and John sitting in pay-boxes, and surveying Ireland out of pigeon-holes.

Same Evening before Bed-time.

Everybody was at “Little Dombey” to-day, and although I had some little difficulty to work them up in consequence of the excessive crowding of the place, and the difficulty of shaking the people into their seats, the effect was unmistakable and profound.  The crying was universal, and they were extraordinarily affected.  There is no doubt we could stay here a week with that one reading, and fill the place every night.  Hundreds of people have been there to-night, under the impression that it would come off again.  It was a most decided and complete success.

Arthur has been imploring me to stop here on the Friday after Limerick, and read “Little Dombey” again.  But I have positively said “No.”  The work is too hard.  It is not like doing it in one easy room, and always the same room.  With a different place every night, and a different audience with its own peculiarity every night, it is a tremendous strain.  I was sick of it to-day before I began, then got myself into wonderful train.

Here follows a dialogue (but it requires imitation), which I had yesterday morning with a little boy of the house ­landlord’s son, I suppose ­about Plorn’s age.  I am sitting on the sofa writing, and find him sitting beside me.

        INIMITABLE.  Holloa, old chap.

        YOUNG IRELAND.  Hal-loo!

        INIMITABLE (in his delightful way).  What a
        nice old fellow you are.  I am very fond of
        little boys.

        YOUNG IRELAND.  Air yer?  Ye’r right.

        INIMITABLE.  What do you learn, old fellow?

YOUNG IRELAND (very intent on Inimitable, and always childish, except in his brogue).  I lairn wureds of three sillibils, and wureds of two sillibils, and wureds of one sillibil.

        INIMITABLE (gaily).  Get out, you humbug!  You
        learn only words of one syllable.

        YOUNG IRELAND (laughs heartily).  You may say
        that it is mostly wureds of one sillibil.

        INIMITABLE.  Can you write?

        YOUNG IRELAND.  Not yet.  Things comes by

        INIMITABLE.  Can you cipher?

        YOUNG IRELAND (very quickly).  Wha’at’s that?

        INIMITABLE.  Can you make figures?

        YOUNG IRELAND.  I can make a nought, which is
        not asy, being roond.

        INIMITABLE.  I say, old boy, wasn’t it you I saw
        on Sunday morning in the hall, in a soldier’s
        cap?  You know ­in a soldier’s cap?

        YOUNG IRELAND (cogitating deeply).  Was it a
        very good cap?

        INIMITABLE.  Yes.

        YOUNG IRELAND.  Did it fit unkommon?

        INIMITABLE.  Yes.

        YOUNG IRELAND.  Dat was me!

There are two stupid old louts at the room, to show people into their places, whom John calls “them two old Paddies,” and of whom he says, that he “never see nothing like them (snigger) hold idiots” (snigger).  They bow and walk backwards before the grandees, and our men hustle them while they are doing it.

We walked out last night, with the intention of going to the theatre; but the Piccolomini establishment (they were doing the “Lucia”) looked so horribly like a very bad jail, and the Queen’s looked so blackguardly, that we came back again, and went to bed.  I seem to be always either in a railway carriage, or reading, or going to bed.  I get so knocked up, whenever I have a minute to remember it, that then I go to bed as a matter of course.

I send my love to the noble Plorn, and to all the boys.  To dear Mamie and Katie, and to yourself of course, in the first degree.  I am looking forward to the last Irish reading on Thursday, with great impatience.  But when we shall have turned this week, once knocked off Belfast, I shall see land, and shall (like poor Timber in the days of old) “keep up a good heart.”  I get so wonderfully hot every night in my dress clothes, that they positively won’t dry in the short interval they get, and I have been obliged to write to Doudney’s to make me another suit, that I may have a constant change.

Ever, my dearest Georgy, most affectionately.

Miss Dickens.

BELFAST, Saturday, Auth, 1858.

When I went down to the Rotunda at Dublin on Thursday night, I said to Arthur, who came rushing at me:  “You needn’t tell me.  I know all about it.”  The moment I had come out of the door of the hotel (a mile off), I had come against the stream of people turned away.  I had struggled against it to the room.  There, the crowd in all the lobbies and passages was so great, that I had a difficulty in getting in.  They had broken all the glass in the pay-boxes.  They had offered frantic prices for stalls.  Eleven bank-notes were thrust into that pay-box (Arthur saw them) at one time, for eleven stalls.  Our men were flattened against walls, and squeezed against beams.  Ladies stood all night with their chins against my platform.  Other ladies sat all night upon my steps.  You never saw such a sight.  And the reading went tremendously!  It is much to be regretted that we troubled ourselves to go anywhere else in Ireland.  We turned away people enough to make immense houses for a week.

We arrived here yesterday at two.  The room will not hold more than from eighty to ninety pounds.  The same scene was repeated with the additional feature, that the people are much rougher here than in Dublin, and that there was a very great uproar at the opening of the doors, which, the police in attendance being quite inefficient and only looking on, it was impossible to check.  Arthur was in the deepest misery because shillings got into stalls, and half-crowns got into shillings, and stalls got nowhere, and there was immense confusion.  It ceased, however, the moment I showed myself; and all went most brilliantly, in spite of a great piece of the cornice of the ceiling falling with a great crash within four or five inches of the head of a young lady on my platform (I was obliged to have people there), and in spite of my gas suddenly going out at the time of the game of forfeits at Scrooge’s nephew’s, through some Belfastian gentleman accidentally treading on the flexible pipe, and needing to be relighted.

We shall not get to Cork before mid-day on Monday; it being difficult to get from here on a Sunday.  We hope to be able to start away to-morrow morning to see the Giant’s Causeway (some sixteen miles off), and in that case we shall sleep at Dublin to-morrow night, leaving here by the train at half-past three in the afternoon.  Dublin, you must understand, is on the way to Cork.  This is a fine place, surrounded by lofty hills.  The streets are very wide, and the place is very prosperous.  The whole ride from Dublin here is through a very picturesque and various country; and the amazing thing is, that it is all particularly neat and orderly, and that the houses (outside at all events) are all brightly whitewashed and remarkably clean.  I want to climb one of the neighbouring hills before this morning’s “Dombey.”  I am now waiting for Arthur, who has gone to the bank to remit his last accumulation of treasure to London.

Our men are rather indignant with the Irish crowds, because in the struggle they don’t sell books, and because, in the pressure, they can’t force a way into the room afterwards to sell them.  They are deeply interested in the success, however, and are as zealous and ardent as possible.  I shall write to Katie next.  Give her my best love, and kiss the darling Plorn for me, and give my love to all the boys.

Ever, my dearest Mamie,
Your most affectionate Father.

Miss Hogarth.

MORRISON’S HOTEL, DUBLIN, Sunday Night, Auth, 1858.

I am so delighted to find your letter here to-night (eleven o’clock), and so afraid that, in the wear and tear of this strange life, I have written to Gad’s Hill in the wrong order, and have not written to you, as I should, that I resolve to write this before going to bed.  You will find it a wretchedly stupid letter; but you may imagine, my dearest girl, that I am tired.

The success at Belfast has been equal to the success here.  Enormous!  We turned away half the town.  I think them a better audience, on the whole, than Dublin; and the personal affection there was something overwhelming.  I wish you and the dear girls could have seen the people look at me in the street; or heard them ask me, as I hurried to the hotel after reading last night, to “do me the honour to shake hands, Misther Dickens, and God bless you, sir; not ounly for the light you’ve been to me this night, but for the light you’ve been in mee house, sir (and God love your face), this many a year.”  Every night, by-the-bye, since I have been in Ireland, the ladies have beguiled John out of the bouquet from my coat.  And yesterday morning, as I had showered the leaves from my geranium in reading “Little Dombey,” they mounted the platform, after I was gone, and picked them all up as keepsakes!

I have never seen men go in to cry so undisguisedly as they did at that reading yesterday afternoon.  They made no attempt whatever to hide it, and certainly cried more than the women.  As to the “Boots” at night, and “Mrs. Gamp” too, it was just one roar with me and them; for they made me laugh so that sometimes I could not compose my face to go on.

You must not let the new idea of poor dear Landor efface the former image of the fine old man.  I wouldn’t blot him out, in his tender gallantry, as he sat upon that bed at Forster’s that night, for a million of wild mistakes at eighty years of age.

I hope to be at Tavistock House before five o’clock next Saturday morning, and to lie in bed half the day, and come home by the 10.50 on Sunday.

Tell the girls that Arthur and I have each ordered at Belfast a trim, sparkling, slap-up Irish jaunting-car!!!  I flatter myself we shall astonish the Kentish people.  It is the oddest carriage in the world, and you are always falling off.  But it is gay and bright in the highest degree.  Wonderfully Neapolitan.

What with a sixteen mile ride before we left Belfast, and a sea-beach walk, and a two o’clock dinner, and a seven hours’ railway ride since, I am ­as we say here ­“a thrifle weary.”  But I really am in wonderful force, considering the work.  For which I am, as I ought to be, very thankful.

Arthur was exceedingly unwell last night ­could not cheer up at all.  He was so very unwell that he left the hall(!) and became invisible after my five minutes’ rest.  I found him at the hotel in a jacket and slippers, and with a hot bath just ready.  He was in the last stage of prostration.  The local agent was with me, and proposed that he (the wretched Arthur) should go to his office and balance the accounts then and there.  He went, in the jacket and slippers, and came back in twenty minutes, perfectly well, in consequence of the admirable balance.  He is now sitting opposite to me ON THE BAG OF SILVER, forty pounds (it must be dreadfully hard), writing to Boulogne.

I suppose it is clear that the next letter I write is Katie’s.  Either from Cork or from Limerick, it shall report further.  At Limerick I read in the theatre, there being no other place.

Best love to Mamie and Katie, and dear Plorn, and all the boys left when this comes to Gad’s Hill; also to my dear good Anne, and her little woman.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. W. Wilkie Collins.

Monday, Septh, 1858.


First, let me report myself here for something less than eight-and-forty hours.  I come last (and direct ­a pretty hard journey) from Limerick.  The success in Ireland has been immense.

The work is very hard, sometimes overpowering; but I am none the worse for it, and arrived here quite fresh.

Secondly, will you let me recommend the enclosed letter from Wigan, as the groundwork of a capital article, in your way, for H. W.?  There is not the least objection to a plain reference to him, or to Phelps, to whom the same thing happened a year or two ago, near Islington, in the case of a clever and capital little daughter of his.  I think it a capital opportunity for a discourse on gentility, with a glance at those other schools which advertise that the “sons of gentlemen only” are admitted, and a just recognition of the greater liberality of our public schools.  There are tradesmen’s sons at Eton, and Charles Kean was at Eton, and Macready (also an actor’s son) was at Rugby.  Some such title as “Scholastic Flunkeydom,” or anything infinitely contemptuous, would help out the meaning.  Surely such a schoolmaster must swallow all the silver forks that the pupils are expected to take when they come, and are not expected to take away with them when they go.  And of course he could not exist, unless he had flunkey customers by the dozen.

Secondly ­no, this is thirdly now ­about the Christmas number.  I have arranged so to stop my readings, as to be available for it on the 15th of November, which will leave me time to write a good article, if I clear my way to one.  Do you see your way to our making a Christmas number of this idea that I am going very briefly to hint?  Some disappointed person, man or woman, prematurely disgusted with the world, for some reason or no reason (the person should be young, I think) retires to an old lonely house, or an old lonely mill, or anything you like, with one attendant, resolved to shut out the world, and hold no communion with it.  The one attendant sees the absurdity of the idea, pretends to humour it, but really thus to slaughter it.  Everything that happens, everybody that comes near, every breath of human interest that floats into the old place from the village, or the heath, or the four cross-roads near which it stands, and from which belated travellers stray into it, shows beyond mistake that you can’t shut out the world; that you are in it, to be of it; that you get into a false position the moment you try to sever yourself from it; and that you must mingle with it, and make the best of it, and make the best of yourself into the bargain.

If we could plot out a way of doing this together, I would not be afraid to take my part.  If we could not, could we plot out a way of doing it, and taking in stories by other hands?  If we could not do either (but I think we could), shall we fall back upon a round of stories again?  That I would rather not do, if possible.  Will you think about it?

And can you come and dine at Tavistock House on Monday, the 20th September, at half-past five?  I purpose being at home there with the girls that day.

Answer this, according to my printed list for the week.  I am off to Huddersfield on Wednesday morning.

I think I will now leave off; merely adding that I have got a splendid brogue (it really is exactly like the people), and that I think of coming out as the only legitimate successor of poor Power.

Ever, my dear Wilkie, affectionately yours.

Miss Mary Boyle.

STATION HOTEL, YORK, Friday, Septh, 1858.


First let me tell you that all the magicians and spirits in your employ have fulfilled the instructions of their wondrous mistress to admiration.  Flowers have fallen in my path wherever I have trod; and when they rained upon me at Cork I was more amazed than you ever saw me.

Secondly, receive my hearty and loving thanks for that same. (Excuse a little Irish in the turn of that sentence, but I can’t help it).

Thirdly, I have written direct to Mr. Boddington, explaining that I am bound to be in Edinburgh on the day when he courteously proposes to do me honour.

I really cannot tell you how truly and tenderly I feel your letter, and how gratified I am by its contents.  Your truth and attachment are always so precious to me that I can_not_ get my heart out on my sleeve to show it you.  It is like a child, and, at the sound of some familiar voices, “goes and hides.”

You know what an affection I have for Mrs. Watson, and how happy it made me to see her again ­younger, much, than when I first knew her in Switzerland.

God bless you always!

Ever affectionately yours.

Miss Hogarth.

ROYAL HOTEL, SCARBOROUGH, Sunday, Septh, 1858.


We had a very fine house indeed at York.  All kinds of applications have been made for another reading there, and no doubt it would be exceedingly productive; but it cannot be done.  At Harrogate yesterday; the queerest place, with the strangest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading, and tables d’hote.  The piety of York obliging us to leave that place for this at six this morning, and there being no night train from Harrogate, we had to engage a special engine.  We got to bed at one, and were up again before five; which, after yesterday’s fatigues, leaves me a little worn out at this present.

I have no accounts of this place as yet, nor have I received any letter here.  But the post of this morning is not yet delivered, I believe.  We have a charming room, overlooking the sea.  Leech is here (living within a few doors), with the partner of his bosom, and his young family.  I write at ten in the morning, having been here two hours; and you will readily suppose that I have not seen him.

Of news, I have not the faintest breath.  I seem to have been doing nothing all my life but riding in railway-carriages and reading.  The railway of the morning brought us through Castle Howard, and under the woods of Easthorpe, and then just below Malton Abbey, where I went to poor Smithson’s funeral.  It was a most lovely morning, and, tired as I was, I couldn’t sleep for looking out of window.

Yesterday, at Harrogate, two circumstances occurred which gave Arthur great delight.  Firstly, he chafed his legs sore with his black bag of silver.  Secondly, the landlord asked him as a favour, “If he could oblige him with a little silver.”  He obliged him directly with some forty pounds’ worth; and I suspect the landlord to have repented of having approached the subject.  After the reading last night we walked over the moor to the railway, three miles, leaving our men to follow with the luggage in a light cart.  They passed us just short of the railway, and John was making the night hideous and terrifying the sleeping country, by playing the horn in prodigiously horrible and unmusical blasts.

My dearest love, of course, to the dear girls, and to the noble Plorn.  Apropos of children, there was one gentleman at the “Little Dombey” yesterday morning, who exhibited, or rather concealed, the profoundest grief.  After crying a good deal without hiding it, he covered his face with both his hands, and laid it down on the back of the seat before him, and really shook with emotion.  He was not in mourning, but I supposed him to have lost some child in old time.  There was a remarkably good fellow of thirty or so, too, who found something so very ludicrous in “Toots,” that he could not compose himself at all, but laughed until he sat wiping his eyes with his handkerchief.  And whenever he felt “Toots” coming again he began to laugh and wipe his eyes afresh, and when he came he gave a kind of cry, as if it were too much for him.  It was uncommonly droll, and made me laugh heartily.

Ever, dear Georgy, your most affectionate.

Miss Dickens.

SCARBOROUGH ARMS, LEEDS, Wednesday, Septh, 1858.


I have added a pound to the cheque.  I would recommend your seeing the poor railway man again and giving him ten shillings, and telling him to let you see him again in about a week.  If he be then still unable to lift weights and handle heavy things, I would then give him another ten shillings, and so on.

Since I wrote to Georgy from Scarborough, we have had, thank God, nothing but success.  The Hull people (not generally considered excitable, even on their own showing) were so enthusiastic, that we were obliged to promise to go back there for two readings.  I have positively resolved not to lengthen out the time of my tour, so we are now arranging to drop some small places, and substitute Hull again and York again.  But you will perhaps have heard this in the main from Arthur.  I know he wrote to you after the reading last night.  This place I have always doubted, knowing that we should come here when it was recovering from the double excitement of the festival and the Queen.  But there is a very large hall let indeed, and the prospect of to-night consequently looks bright.

Arthur told you, I suppose, that he had his shirt-front and waistcoat torn off last night?  He was perfectly enraptured in consequence.  Our men got so knocked about that he gave them five shillings apiece on the spot.  John passed several minutes upside down against a wall, with his head amongst the people’s boots.  He came out of the difficulty in an exceedingly touzled condition, and with his face much flushed.  For all this, and their being packed as you may conceive they would be packed, they settled down the instant I went in, and never wavered in the closest attention for an instant.  It was a very high room, and required a great effort.

Oddly enough, I slept in this house three days last year with Wilkie.  Arthur has the bedroom I occupied then, and I have one two doors from it, and Gordon has the one between.  Not only is he still with us, but he has talked of going on to Manchester, going on to London, and coming back with us to Darlington next Tuesday!!!

These streets look like a great circus with the season just finished.  All sorts of garish triumphal arches were put up for the Queen, and they have got smoky, and have been looked out of countenance by the sun, and are blistered and patchy, and half up and half down, and are hideous to behold.  Spiritless men (evidently drunk for some time in the royal honour) are slowly removing them, and on the whole it is more like the clearing away of “The Frozen Deep” at Tavistock House than anything within your knowledge ­with the exception that we are not in the least sorry, as we were then.  Vague ideas are in Arthur’s head that when we come back to Hull, we are to come here, and are to have the Town Hall (a beautiful building), and read to the million.  I can’t say yet.  That depends.  I remember that when I was here before (I came from Rockingham to make a speech), I thought them a dull and slow audience.  I hope I may have been mistaken.  I never saw better audiences than the Yorkshire audiences generally.

I am so perpetually at work or asleep, that I have not a scrap of news.  I saw the Leech family at Scarboro’, both in my own house (that is to say, hotel) and in theirs.  They were not at either reading.  Scarboro’ is gay and pretty, and I think Gordon had an idea that we were always at some such place.

Kiss the darling Plorn for me, and give him my love; dear Katie too, giving her the same.  I feel sorry that I cannot get down to Gad’s Hill this next time, but I shall look forward to our being there with Georgy, after Scotland.  Tell the servants that I remember them, and hope they will live with us many years.

Ever, my dearest Mamie,
Your most affectionate Father.

Miss Hogarth.

KING’S HEAD, SHEFFIELD, Friday, Septh, 1858.

I write you a few lines to Tavistock House, thinking you may not be sorry to find a note from me there on your arrival from Gad’s Hill.

Halifax was too small for us.  I never saw such an audience though.  They were really worth reading to for nothing, though I didn’t do exactly that.  It is as horrible a place as I ever saw, I think.

The run upon the tickets here is so immense that Arthur is obliged to get great bills out, signifying that no more can be sold.  It will be by no means easy to get into the place the numbers who have already paid.  It is the hall we acted in.  Crammed to the roof and the passages.  We must come back here towards the end of October, and are again altering the list and striking out small places.

The trains are so strange and unintelligible in this part of the country that we were obliged to leave Halifax at eight this morning, and breakfast on the road ­at Huddersfield again, where we had an hour’s wait.  Wills was in attendance on the platform, and took me (here at Sheffield, I mean) out to Frederick Lehmann’s house to see Mrs. Wills.  She looked pretty much the same as ever, I thought, and was taking care of a very pretty little boy.  The house and grounds are as nice as anything can be in this smoke.  A heavy thunderstorm is passing over the town, and it is raining hard too.

This is a stupid letter, my dearest Georgy, but I write in a hurry, and in the thunder and lightning, and with the crowd of to-night before me.

Ever most affectionately.

Sunday, Septh, 1858.


The girls (as I have no doubt they have already told you for themselves) arrived here in good time yesterday, and in very fresh condition.  They persisted in going to the room last night, though I had arranged for their remaining quiet.

We have done a vast deal here.  I suppose you know that we are going to Berwick, and that we mean to sleep there and go on to Edinburgh on Monday morning, arriving there before noon?  If it be as fine to-morrow as it is to-day, the girls will see the coast piece of railway between Berwick and Edinburgh to great advantage.  I was anxious that they should, because that kind of pleasure is really almost the only one they are likely to have in their present trip.

Stanfield and Roberts are in Edinburgh, and the Scottish Royal Academy gave them a dinner on Wednesday, to which I was very pressingly invited.  But, of course, my going was impossible.  I read twice that day.

Remembering what you do of Sunderland, you will be surprised that our profit there was very considerable.  I read in a beautiful new theatre, and (I thought to myself) quite wonderfully.  Such an audience I never beheld for rapidity and enthusiasm.  The room in which we acted (converted into a theatre afterwards) was burnt to the ground a year or two ago.  We found the hotel, so bad in our time, really good.  I walked from Durham to Sunderland, and from Sunderland to Newcastle.

Don’t you think, as we shall be at home at eleven in the forenoon this day fortnight, that it will be best for you and Plornish to come to Tavistock House for that Sunday, and for us all to go down to Gad’s Hill next day?  My best love to the noble Plornish.  If he is quite reconciled to the postponement of his trousers, I should like to behold his first appearance in them.  But, if not, as he is such a good fellow, I think it would be a pity to disappoint and try him.

And now, my dearest Georgy, I think I have said all I have to say before I go out for a little air.  I had a very hard day yesterday, and am tired.

Ever your most affectionate.

Mr. John Forster.

Sunday, Octh, 1858.


As to the truth of the readings, I cannot tell you what the demonstrations of personal regard and respect are.  How the densest and most uncomfortably-packed crowd will be hushed in an instant when I show my face.  How the youth of colleges, and the old men of business in the town, seem equally unable to get near enough to me when they cheer me away at night.  How common people and gentlefolks will stop me in the streets and say:  “Mr. Dickens, will you let me touch the hand that has filled my home with so many friends?” And if you saw the mothers, and fathers, and sisters, and brothers in mourning, who invariably come to “Little Dombey,” and if you studied the wonderful expression of comfort and reliance with which they hang about me, as if I had been with them, all kindness and delicacy, at their own little death-bed, you would think it one of the strangest things in the world.

As to the mere effect, of course I don’t go on doing the thing so often without carefully observing myself and the people too in every little thing, and without (in consequence) greatly improving in it.

At Aberdeen, we were crammed to the street twice in one day.  At Perth (where I thought when I arrived there literally could be nobody to come), the nobility came posting in from thirty miles round, and the whole town came and filled an immense hall.  As to the effect, if you had seen them after Lilian died, in “The Chimes,” or when Scrooge woke and talked to the boy outside the window, I doubt if you would ever have forgotten it.  And at the end of “Dombey” yesterday afternoon, in the cold light of day, they all got up, after a short pause, gentle and simple, and thundered and waved their hats with that astonishing heartiness and fondness for me, that for the first time in all my public career they took me completely off my legs, and I saw the whole eighteen hundred of them reel on one side as if a shock from without had shaken the hall.

The dear girls have enjoyed themselves immensely, and their trip has been a great success.  I hope I told you (but I forget whether I did or no) how splendidly Newcastle came out.  I am reminded of Newcastle at the moment because they joined me there.

I am anxious to get to the end of my readings, and to be at home again, and able to sit down and think in my own study.  But the fatigue, though sometimes very great indeed, hardly tells upon me at all.  And although all our people, from Smith downwards, have given in, more or less, at times, I have never been in the least unequal to the work, though sometimes sufficiently disinclined for it.  My kindest and best love to Mrs. Forster.

Ever affectionately.

Miss Dickens.

ROYAL HOTEL, DERBY, Friday, Ocnd, 1858.


I am writing in a very poor condition; I have a bad cold all over me, pains in my back and limbs, and a very sensitive and uncomfortable throat.  There was a great draught up some stone steps near me last night, and I daresay that caused it.

The weather on my first two nights at Birmingham was so intolerably bad ­it blew hard, and never left off raining for one single moment ­that the houses were not what they otherwise would have been.  On the last night the weather cleared, and we had a grand house.

Last night at Nottingham was almost, if not quite, the most amazing we have had.  It is not a very large place, and the room is by no means a very large one, but three hundred and twenty stalls were let, and all the other tickets were sold.

Here we have two hundred and twenty stalls let for to-night, and the other tickets are gone in proportion.  It is a pretty room, but not large.

I have just been saying to Arthur that if there is not a large let for York, I would rather give it up, and get Monday at Gad’s Hill.  We have telegraphed to know.  If the answer comes (as I suppose it will) before post time, I will tell you in a postscript what we decide to do.  Coming to London in the night of to-morrow (Saturday), and having to see Mr. Ouvry on Sunday, and having to start for York early on Monday, I fear I should not be able to get to Gad’s Hill at all.  You won’t expect me till you see me.

Arthur and I have considered Plornish’s joke in all the immense number of aspects in which it presents itself to reflective minds.  We have come to the conclusion that it is the best joke ever made.  Give the dear boy my love, and the same to Georgy, and the same to Katey, and take the same yourself.  Arthur (excessively low and inarticulate) mutters that he “unites.”

[We knocked up Boylett, Berry, and John so frightfully yesterday, by tearing the room to pieces and altogether reversing it, as late as four o’clock, that we gave them a supper last night.  They shine all over to-day, as if it had been entirely composed of grease.]

Ever, my dearest Mamie,
Your most affectionate Father.

Miss Hogarth.

WOLVERHAMPTON, Wednesday, Nord, 1858.

Little Leamington came out in the most amazing manner yesterday ­turned away hundreds upon hundreds of people.  They are represented as the dullest and worst of audiences.  I found them very good indeed, even in the morning.

There awaited me at the hotel, a letter from the Rev. Mr. Young, Wentworth Watson’s tutor, saying that Mrs. Watson wished her boy to shake hands with me, and that he would bring him in the evening.  I expected him at the hotel before the readings.  But he did not come.  He spoke to John about it in the room at night.  The crowd and confusion, however, were very great, and I saw nothing of him.  In his letter he said that Mrs. Watson was at Paris on her way home, and would be at Brighton at the end of this week.  I suppose I shall see her there at the end of next week.

We find a let of two hundred stalls here, which is very large for this place.  The evening being fine too, and blue being to be seen in the sky beyond the smoke, we expect to have a very full hall.  Tell Mamey and Katey that if they had been with us on the railway to-day between Leamington and this place, they would have seen (though it is only an hour and ten minutes by the express) fires and smoke indeed.  We came through a part of the Black Country that you know, and it looked at its blackest.  All the furnaces seemed in full blast, and all the coal-pits to be working.

It is market-day here, and the ironmasters are standing out in the street (where they always hold high change), making such an iron hum and buzz, that they confuse me horribly.  In addition, there is a bellman announcing something ­not the readings, I beg to say ­and there is an excavation being made in the centre of the open place, for a statue, or a pump, or a lamp-post, or something or other, round which all the Wolverhampton boys are yelling and struggling.

And here is Arthur, begging to have dinner at half-past three instead of four, because he foresees “a wiry evening” in store for him.  Under which complication of distractions, to which a waitress with a tray at this moment adds herself, I sink, and leave off.

My best love to the dear girls, and to the noble Plorn, and to you.  Marguerite and Ellen Stone not forgotten.  All yesterday and to-day I have been doing everything to the tune of: 

And the day is dark and dreary.

Ever, dearest Georgy,
Your most affectionate and faithful.

P.S. ­I hope the brazier is intolerably hot, and half stifles all the family.  Then, and not otherwise, I shall think it in satisfactory work.

Rev. James White.

Friday, Noth, 1858.


May I entreat you to thank Mr. Carter very earnestly and kindly in my name, for his proffered hospitality; and, further, to explain to him that since my readings began, I have known them to be incompatible with all social enjoyments, and have neither set foot in a friend’s house nor sat down to a friend’s table in any one of all the many places I have been to, but have rigidly kept myself to my hotels.  To this resolution I must hold until the last.  There is not the least virtue in it.  It is a matter of stern necessity, and I submit with the worst grace possible.

Will you let me know, either at Southampton or Portsmouth, whether any of you, and how many of you, if any, are coming over, so that Arthur Smith may reserve good seats?  Tell Lotty I hope she does not contemplate coming to the morning reading; I always hate it so myself.

Mary and Katey are down at Gad’s Hill with Georgy and Plornish, and they have Marguerite Power and Ellen Stone staying there.  I am sorry to say that even my benevolence descries no prospect of their being able to come to my native place.

On Saturday week, the 13th, my tour, please God, ends.

My best love to Mrs. White, and to Lotty, and to Clara.

Ever, my dear White, affectionately yours.

Mr. Frank Stone‚ A.R.A.

Monday, Deth, 1858.


Many thanks for these discourses.  They are very good, I think, as expressing what many men have felt and thought; otherwise not specially remarkable.  They have one fatal mistake, which is a canker at the foot of their ever being widely useful.  Half the misery and hypocrisy of the Christian world arises (as I take it) from a stubborn determination to refuse the New Testament as a sufficient guide in itself, and to force the Old Testament into alliance with it ­whereof comes all manner of camel-swallowing and of gnat-straining.  But so to resent this miserable error, or to (by any implication) depreciate the divine goodness and beauty of the New Testament, is to commit even a worse error.  And to class Jesus Christ with Mahomet is simply audacity and folly.  I might as well hoist myself on to a high platform, to inform my disciples that the lives of King George the Fourth and of King Alfred the Great belonged to one and the same category.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. B. W. Procter.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Sunday, Deth, 1858.


A thousand thanks for the little song.  I am charmed with it, and shall be delighted to brighten “Household Words” with such a wise and genial light.  I no more believe that your poetical faculty has gone by, than I believe that you have yourself passed to the better land.  You and it will travel thither in company, rely upon it.  So I still hope to hear more of the trade-songs, and to learn that the blacksmith has hammered out no end of iron into good fashion of verse, like a cunning workman, as I know him of old to be.

Very faithfully yours, my dear Procter.