Read 1859. of The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol. 2 (1857-1870), free online book, by Charles Dickens, on ReadCentral.com.

NARRATIVE.

During the winter, Charles Dickens was living at Tavistock House, removing to Gad’s Hill for the summer early in June, and returning to London in November.  At this time a change was made in his weekly journal.  “Household Words” became absolutely his own ­Mr. Wills being his partner and editor, as before ­and was “incorporated with ’All the Year Round,’” under which title it was known thenceforth.  The office was still in Wellington Street, but in a different house.  The first number with the new name appeared on the 30th April, and it contained the opening of “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The first letter which follows shows that a proposal for a series of readings in America had already been made to him.  It was carefully considered and abandoned for the time.  But the proposal was constantly renewed, and the idea never wholly relinquished for many years before he actually decided on making so distant a “reading tour.”

Mr. Procter contributed to the early numbers of “All the Year Round” some very spirited “Songs of the Trades.”  We give notes from Charles Dickens to the veteran poet, both in the last year, and in this year, expressing his strong approval of them.

The letter and two notes to Mr. (afterwards Sir Antonio) Panizzi, for which we are indebted to Mr. Louis Fagan, one of Sir A. Panizzi’s executors, show the warm sympathy and interest which he always felt for the cause of Italian liberty, and for the sufferings of the State prisoners who at this time took refuge in England.

We give a little note to the dear friend and companion of Charles Dickens’s daughters, “Lotty” White, because it is a pretty specimen of his writing, and because the young girl, who is playfully “commanded” to get well and strong, died early in July of this year.  She was, at the time this note was written, first attacked with the illness which was fatal to all her sisters.  Mamie and Kate Dickens went from Gad’s Hill to Bonchurch to pay a last visit to their friend, and he writes to his eldest daughter there.  Also we give notes of loving sympathy and condolence to the bereaved father and mother.

In the course of this summer Charles Dickens was not well, and went for a week to his old favourite, Broadstairs ­where Mr. Wilkie Collins and his brother, Mr. Charles Allston Collins, were staying ­for sea-air and change, preparatory to another reading tour, in England only.  His letter from Peterborough to Mr. Frank Stone, giving him an account of a reading at Manchester (Mr. Stone’s native town), was one of the last ever addressed to that affectionate friend, who died very suddenly, to the great grief of Charles Dickens, in November.  The letter to Mr. Thomas Longman, which closes this year, was one of introduction to that gentleman of young Marcus Stone, then just beginning his career as an artist, and to whom the premature death of his father made it doubly desirable that he should have powerful helping hands.

Charles Dickens refers, in a letter to Mrs. Watson, to his portrait by Mr. Frith, which was finished at the end of 1858.  It was painted for Mr. Forster, and is now in the “Forster Collection” at South Kensington Museum.

The Christmas number of this year, again written by several hands as well as his own, was “The Haunted House.”  In November, his story of “A Tale of Two Cities” was finished in “All the Year Round,” and in December was published, complete, with dedication to Lord John Russell.

Mr. Arthur Smith.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Wednesday, Jath, 1859.

MY DEAR ARTHUR,

Will you first read the enclosed letters, having previously welcomed, with all possible cordiality, the bearer, Mr. Thomas C. Evans, from New York?

You having read them, let me explain that Mr. Fields is a highly respectable and influential man, one of the heads of the most classical and most respected publishing house in America; that Mr. Richard Grant White is a man of high reputation; and that Felton is the Greek Professor in their Cambridge University, perhaps the most distinguished scholar in the States.

The address to myself, referred to in one of the letters, being on its way, it is quite clear that I must give some decided and definite answer to the American proposal.  Now, will you carefully discuss it with Mr. Evans before I enter on it at all?  Then, will you dine here with him on Sunday ­which I will propose to him ­and arrange to meet at half-past four for an hour’s discussion?

The points are these: 

First.  I have a very grave question within myself whether I could go to
America at all.

Secondly.  If I did go, I could not possibly go before the autumn.

Thirdly.  If I did go, how long must I stay?

Fourthly.  If the stay were a short one, could you go?

Fifthly.  What is his project?  What could I make?  What occurs to you upon his proposal?

I have told him that the business arrangements of the readings have been from the first so entirely in your hands, that I enter upon nothing connected with them without previous reference to you.

Ever faithfully.

M. de Cerjat.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Tuesday, Fest, 1859.

MY DEAR CERJAT,

I received your always welcome annual with even more interest than usual this year, being (in common with my two girls and their aunt) much excited and pleased by your account of your daughter’s engagement.  Apart from the high sense I have of the affectionate confidence with which you tell me what lies so tenderly on your own heart, I have followed the little history with a lively sympathy and regard for her.  I hope, with you, that it is full of promise, and that you will all be happy in it.  The separation, even in the present condition of travel (and no man can say how much the discovery of a day may advance it), is nothing.  And so God bless her and all of you, and may the rosy summer bring her all the fulness of joy that we all wish her.

To pass from the altar to Townshend (which is a long way), let me report him severely treated by Bully, who rules him with a paw of iron; and complaining, moreover, of indigestion.  He drives here every Sunday, but at all other times is mostly shut up in his beautiful house, where I occasionally go and dine with him tete-a-tete, and where we always talk of you and drink to you.  That is a rule with us from which we never depart.  He is “seeing a volume of poems through the press;” rather an expensive amusement.  He has not been out at night (except to this house) save last Friday, when he went to hear me read “The Poor Traveller,” “Mrs. Gamp,” and “The Trial” from “Pickwick.”  He came into my room at St. Martin’s Hall, and I fortified him with weak brandy-and-water.  You will be glad to hear that the said readings are a greater furore than they ever have been, and that every night on which they now take place ­once a week ­hundreds go away, unable to get in, though the hall holds thirteen hundred people.  I dine with ­ to-day, by-the-bye, along with his agent; concerning whom I observe him to be always divided between an unbounded confidence and a little latent suspicion.  He always tells me that he is a gem of the first water; oh yes, the best of business men! and then says that he did not quite like his conduct respecting that farm-tenant and those hay-ricks.

There is a general impression here, among the best-informed, that war in Italy, to begin with, is inevitable, and will break out before April.  I know a gentleman at Genoa (Swiss by birth), deeply in with the authorities at Turin, who is already sending children home.

In England we are quiet enough.  There is a world of talk, as you know, about Reform bills; but I don’t believe there is any general strong feeling on the subject.  According to my perceptions, it is undeniable that the public has fallen into a state of indifference about public affairs, mainly referable, as I think, to the people who administer them ­and there I mean the people of all parties ­which is a very bad sign of the times.  The general mind seems weary of debates and honourable members, and to have taken laissez-aller for its motto.

My affairs domestic (which I know are not without their interest for you) flow peacefully.  My eldest daughter is a capital housekeeper, heads the table gracefully, delegates certain appropriate duties to her sister and her aunt, and they are all three devotedly attached.  Charley, my eldest boy, remains in Barings’ house.  Your present correspondent is more popular than he ever has been.  I rather think that the readings in the country have opened up a new public who were outside before; but however that may be, his books have a wider range than they ever had, and his public welcomes are prodigious.  Said correspondent is at present overwhelmed with proposals to go and read in America.  Will never go, unless a small fortune be first paid down in money on this side of the Atlantic.  Stated the figure of such payment, between ourselves, only yesterday.  Expects to hear no more of it, and assuredly will never go for less.  You don’t say, my dear Cerjat, when you are coming to England!  Somehow I feel that this marriage ought to bring you over, though I don’t know why.  You shall have a bed here and a bed at Gad’s Hill, and we will go and see strange sights together.  When I was in Ireland, I ordered the brightest jaunting-car that ever was seen.  It has just this minute arrived per steamer from Belfast.  Say you are coming, and you shall be the first man turned over by it; somebody must be (for my daughter Mary drives anything that can be harnessed, and I know of no English horse that would understand a jaunting-car coming down a Kentish hill), and you shall be that somebody if you will.  They turned the basket-phaeton over, last summer, in a bye-road ­Mary and the other two ­and had to get it up again; which they did, and came home as if nothing had happened.  They send their loves to Mrs. Cerjat, and to you, and to all, and particularly to the dear fiancee.  So do I, with all my heart, and am ever your attached and affectionate friend.

Mr. Antonio Panizzi.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Monday Night, March 14th, 1859.

MY DEAR PANIZZI,

If you should feel no delicacy in mentioning, or should see no objection to mentioning, to Signor Poerio, or any of the wronged Neapolitan gentlemen to whom it is your happiness and honour to be a friend on their arrival in this country, an idea that has occurred to me, I should regard it as a great kindness in you if you would be my exponent.  I think you will have no difficulty in believing that I would not, on any consideration, obtrude my name or projects upon any one of those noble souls, if there were any reason of the slightest kind against it.  And if you see any such reason, I pray you instantly to banish my letter from your thoughts.

It seems to me probable that some narrative of their ten years’ suffering will, somehow or other, sooner or later, be by some of them laid before the English people.  The just interest and indignation alive here, will (I suppose) elicit it.  False narratives and garbled stories will, in any case, of a certainty get about.  If the true history of the matter is to be told, I have that sympathy with them and respect for them which would, all other considerations apart, render it unspeakably gratifying to me to be the means of its diffusion.  What I desire to lay before them is simply this.  If for my new successor to “Household Words” a narrative of their ten years’ trial could be written, I would take any conceivable pains to have it rendered into English, and presented in the sincerest and best way to a very large and comprehensive audience.  It should be published exactly as you might think best for them, and remunerated in any way that you might think generous and right.  They want no mouthpiece and no introducer, but perhaps they might have no objection to be associated with an English writer, who is possibly not unknown to them by some general reputation, and who certainly would be animated by a strong public and private respect for their honour, spirit, and unmerited misfortunes.  This is the whole matter; assuming that such a thing is to be done, I long for the privilege of helping to do it.  These gentlemen might consider it an independent means of making money, and I should be delighted to pay the money.

In my absence from town, my friend and sub-editor, Mr. Wills (to whom I had expressed my feeling on the subject), has seen, I think, three of the gentlemen together.  But as I hear, returning home to-night, that they are in your good hands, and as nobody can be a better judge than you of anything that concerns them, I at once decide to write to you and to take no other step whatever.  Forgive me for the trouble I have occasioned you in the reading of this letter, and never think of it again if you think that by pursuing it you would cause them an instant’s uneasiness.

Believe me, very faithfully yours.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Tuesday, March 15th, 1859.

MY DEAR PANIZZI,

Let me thank you heartily for your kind and prompt letter.  I am really and truly sensible of your friendliness.

I have not heard from Higgins, but of course I am ready to serve on the Committee.

Always faithfully yours.

Mr. B. W. Procter.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Saturday, March 19th, 1859.

MY DEAR PROCTER,

I think the songs are simply ADMIRABLE! and I have no doubt of this being a popular feature in “All the Year Round.”  I would not omit the sexton, and I would not omit the spinners and weavers; and I would omit the hack-writers, and (I think) the alderman; but I am not so clear about the chorister.  The pastoral I a little doubt finding audience for; but I am not at all sure yet that my doubt is well founded.

Had I not better send them all to the printer, and let you have proofs kept by you for publishing?  I shall not have to make up the first number of “All the Year Round” until early in April.  I don’t like to send the manuscript back, and I never do like to do so when I get anything that I know to be thoroughly, soundly, and unquestionably good.  I am hard at work upon my story, and expect a magnificent start.  With hearty thanks,

Ever yours affectionately.

Mr. Edmund Yates.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Tuesday, March 29th, 1859.

MY DEAR EDMUND,

1.  I think that no one seeing the place can well doubt that my house at Gad’s Hill is the place for the letter-box.  The wall is accessible by all sorts and conditions of men, on the bold high road, and the house altogether is the great landmark of the whole neighbourhood.  Captain Goldsmith’s house is up a lane considerably off the high road; but he has a garden wall abutting on the road itself.

2.  “The Pic-Nic Papers” were originally sold to Colburn, for the benefit of the widow of Mr. Macrone, of St. James’s Square, publisher, deceased.  Two volumes were contributed ­of course gratuitously ­by writers who had had transactions with Macrone.  Mr. Colburn, wanting three volumes in all for trade purposes, added a third, consisting of an American reprint.  Of that volume I didn’t know, and don’t know, anything.  The other two I edited, gratuitously as aforesaid, and wrote the Lamplighter’s story in.  It was all done many years ago.  There was a preface originally, delicately setting forth how the book came to be.

3.  I suppose ­ to be, as Mr. Samuel Weller expresses it somewhere in “Pickwick,” “ravin’ mad with the consciousness o’ willany.”  Under their advertisement in The Times to-day, you will see, without a word of comment, the shorthand writer’s verbatim report of the judgment.

Ever faithfully.

Mr. Antonio Panizzi

“ALL THE YEAR ROUND” OFFICE, Thursday, April 7th, 1859.

MY DEAR PANIZZI,

If you don’t know, I think you should know that a number of letters are passing through the post-office, purporting to be addressed to the charitable by “Italian Exiles in London,” asking for aid to raise a fund for a tribute to “London’s Lord Mayor,” in grateful recognition of the reception of the Neapolitan exiles.  I know this to be the case, and have no doubt in my own mind that the whole thing is an imposture and a “do.”  The letters are signed “Gratitudine Italiana.”

Ever faithfully yours.

Miss White

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Monday, April 18th, 1859.

MY DEAR LOTTY,

This is merely a notice to you that I must positively insist on your getting well, strong, and into good spirits, with the least possible delay.  Also, that I look forward to seeing you at Gad’s Hill sometime in the summer, staying with the girls, and heartlessly putting down the Plorn You know that there is no appeal from the Plorn’s inimitable father.  What he says must be done.  Therefore I send you my love (which please take care of), and my commands (which please obey).

Ever your affectionate.

The Hon. Mrs. Watson

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Tuesday, May 31st, 1859.

MY DEAR MRS. WATSON,

You surprise me by supposing that there is ever latent a defiant and roused expression in the undersigned lamb!  Apart from this singular delusion of yours, and wholly unaccountable departure from your usual accuracy in all things, your satisfaction with the portrait is a great pleasure to me.  It has received every conceivable pains at Frith’s hands, and ought on his account to be good.  It is a little too much (to my thinking) as if my next-door neighbour were my deadly foe, uninsured, and I had just received tidings of his house being afire; otherwise very good.

I cannot tell you how delighted we shall be if you would come to Gad’s Hill.  You should see some charming woods and a rare old castle, and you should have such a snug room looking over a Kentish prospect, with every facility in it for pondering on the beauties of its master’s beard! Do come, but you positively must not come and go on the same day.

We retreat there on Monday, and shall be there all the summer.

My small boy is perfectly happy at Southsea, and likes the school very much.  I had the finest letter two or three days ago, from another of my boys ­Frank Jeffrey ­at Hamburg.  In this wonderful epistle he says:  “Dear papa, I write to tell you that I have given up all thoughts of being a doctor.  My conviction that I shall never get over my stammering is the cause; all professions are barred against me.  The only thing I should like to be is a gentleman farmer, either at the Cape, in Canada, or Australia.  With my passage paid, fifteen pounds, a horse, and a rifle, I could go two or three hundred miles up country, sow grain, buy cattle, and in time be very comfortable.”

Considering the consequences of executing the little commission by the next steamer, I perceived that the first consequence of the fifteen pounds would be that he would be robbed of it ­of the horse, that it would throw him ­and of the rifle, that it would blow his head off; which probabilities I took the liberty of mentioning, as being against the scheme.  With best love from all,

Ever believe me, my dear Mrs. Watson,
Your faithful and affectionate.

Mrs. White.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Sunday, June 5th, 1859.

MY DEAR MRS. WHITE,

I do not write to you this morning because I have anything to say ­I well know where your consolation is set, and to what beneficent figure your thoughts are raised ­but simply because you are so much in my mind that it is a relief to send you and dear White my love.  You are always in our hearts and on our lips.  May the great God comfort you!  You know that Mary and Katie are coming on Thursday.  They will bring dear Lotty what she little needs with you by her side ­love; and I hope their company will interest and please her.  There is nothing that they, or any of us, would not do for her.  She is a part of us all, and has belonged to us, as well as to you, these many years.

Ever your affectionate and faithful.

Miss Dickens.

GAD’S HILL, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Monday, June 11th, 1859.

MY DEAREST MAMIE,

On Saturday night I found, very much to my surprise and pleasure, the photograph on my table at Tavistock House.  It is not a very pleasant or cheerful presentation of my daughters; but it is wonderfully like for all that, and in some details remarkably good.  When I came home here yesterday I tried it in the large Townshend stereoscope, in which it shows to great advantage.  It is in the little stereoscope at present on the drawing-room table.  One of the balustrades of the destroyed old Rochester bridge has been (very nicely) presented to me by the contractor for the works, and has been duly stonemasoned and set up on the lawn behind the house.  I have ordered a sun-dial for the top of it, and it will be a very good object indeed.  The Plorn is highly excited to-day by reason of an institution which he tells me (after questioning George) is called the “Cobb, or Bodderin,” holding a festival at The Falstaff.  He is possessed of some vague information that they go to Higham Church, in pursuance of some old usage, and attend service there, and afterwards march round the village.  It so far looks probable that they certainly started off at eleven very spare in numbers, and came back considerably recruited, which looks to me like the difference between going to church and coming to dinner.  They bore no end of bright banners and broad sashes, and had a band with a terrific drum, and are now (at half-past two) dining at The Falstaff, partly in the side room on the ground-floor, and partly in a tent improvised this morning.  The drum is hung up to a tree in The Falstaff garden, and looks like a tropical sort of gourd.  I have presented the band with five shillings, which munificence has been highly appreciated.  Ices don’t seem to be provided for the ladies in the gallery ­I mean the garden; they are prowling about there, endeavouring to peep in at the beef and mutton through the holes in the tent, on the whole, in a debased and degraded manner.

Turk somehow cut his foot in Cobham Lanes yesterday, and Linda hers.  They are both lame, and looking at each other.  Fancy Mr. Townshend not intending to go for another three weeks, and designing to come down here for a few days ­with Henri and Bully ­on Wednesday!  I wish you could have seen him alone with me on Saturday; he was so extraordinarily earnest and affectionate on my belongings and affairs in general, and not least of all on you and Katie, that he cried in a most pathetic manner, and was so affected that I was obliged to leave him among the flowerpots in the long passage at the end of the dining-room.  It was a very good piece of truthfulness and sincerity, especially in one of his years, able to take life so easily.

Mr. and Mrs. Wills are here now (but I daresay you know it from your aunt), and return to town with me to-morrow morning.  We are now going on to the castle.  Mrs. Wills was very droll last night, and told me some good stories.  My dear, I wish particularly to impress upon you and dear Katie (to whom I send my other best love) that I hope your stay will not be very long.  I don’t think it very good for either of you, though of course I know that Lotty will be, and must be, and should be the first consideration with you both.  I am very anxious to know how you found her and how you are yourself.

Best love to dear Lotty and Mrs. White.  The same to Mr. White and Clara.  We are always talking about you all.

Ever, dearest Mamie, your affectionate Father.

Rev. James White.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Thursday, July 7th, 1859.

MY DEAR WHITE,

I send my heartiest and most affectionate love to Mrs. White and you, and to Clara.  You know all that I could add; you have felt it all; let it be unspoken and unwritten ­it is expressed within us.

Do you not think that you could all three come here, and stay with us?  You and Mrs. White should have your own large room and your own ways, and should be among us when you felt disposed, and never otherwise.  I do hope you would find peace here.  Can it not be done?

We have talked very much about it among ourselves, and the girls are strong upon it.  Think of it ­do!

Ever your affectionate.

Mr. John Forster.

GAD’S HILL, Thursday Night, Auth, 1859.

MY DEAR FORSTER,

Heartily glad to get your letter this morning.

I cannot easily tell you how much interested I am by what you tell me of our brave and excellent friend the Chief Baron, in connection with that ruffian.  I followed the case with so much interest, and have followed the miserable knaves and asses who have perverted it since, with so much indignation, that I have often had more than half a mind to write and thank the upright judge who tried him.  I declare to God that I believe such a service one of the greatest that a man of intellect and courage can render to society.  Of course I saw the beast of a prisoner (with my mind’s eye) delivering his cut-and-dried speech, and read in every word of it that no one but the murderer could have delivered or conceived it.  Of course I have been driving the girls out of their wits here, by incessantly proclaiming that there needed no medical evidence either way, and that the case was plain without it.  Lastly, of course (though a merciful man ­because a merciful man I mean), I would hang any Home Secretary (Whig, Tory, Radical, or otherwise) who should step in between that black scoundrel and the gallows.  I can_not_ believe ­and my belief in all wrong as to public matters is enormous ­that such a thing will be done.

I am reminded of Tennyson, by thinking that King Arthur would have made short work of the amiable ­, whom the newspapers strangely delight to make a sort of gentleman of.  How fine the “Idylls” are!  Lord! what a blessed thing it is to read a man who can write!  I thought nothing could be grander than the first poem till I came to the third; but when I had read the last, it seemed to be absolutely unapproached and unapproachable.

To come to myself.  I have written and begged the “All the Year Round” publisher to send you directly four weeks’ proofs beyond the current number, that are in type.  I hope you will like them.  Nothing but the interest of the subject, and the pleasure of striving with the difficulty of the forms of treatment, nothing in the mere way of money, I mean, could also repay the time and trouble of the incessant condensation.  But I set myself the little task of making a picturesque story, rising in every chapter with characters true to nature, but whom the story itself should express, more than they should express themselves, by dialogue.  I mean, in other words, that I fancied a story of incident might be written, in place of the bestiality that is written under that pretence, pounding the characters out in its own mortar, and beating their own interests out of them.  If you could have read the story all at once, I hope you wouldn’t have stopped halfway.

As to coming to your retreat, my dear Forster, think how helpless I am.  I am not well yet.  I have an instinctive feeling that nothing but the sea will restore me, and I am planning to go and work at Ballard’s, at Broadstairs, from next Wednesday to Monday.  I generally go to town on Monday afternoon.  All Tuesday I am at the office, on Wednesday I come back here, and go to work again.  I don’t leave off till Monday comes round once more.  I am fighting to get my story done by the first week in October.  On the 10th of October I am going away to read for a fortnight at Ipswich, Norwich, Oxford, Cambridge, and a few other places.  Judge what my spare time is just now!

I am very much surprised and very sorry to find from the enclosed that Elliotson has been ill.  I never heard a word of it.

Georgy sends best love to you and to Mrs. Forster, so do I, so does Plorn, so does Frank.  The girls are, for five days, with the Whites at Ramsgate.  It is raining, intensely hot, and stormy.  Eighteen creatures, like little tortoises, have dashed in at the window and fallen on the paper since I began this paragraph (that was one!).  I am a wretched sort of creature in my way, but it is a way that gets on somehow.  And all ways have the same fingerpost at the head of them, and at every turning in them.

Ever affectionately.

Miss Dickens and Miss Katie Dickens.

ALBION, BROADSTAIRS, Friday, Sepnd, 1859.

MY DEAREST MAMIE AND KATIE,

I have been “moved” here, and am now (Ballard having added to the hotel a house we lived in three years) in our old dining-room and sitting-room, and our old drawing-room as a bedroom.  My cold is so bad, both in my throat and in my chest, that I can’t bathe in the sea; Tom Collin dissuaded me ­thought it “bad” ­but I get a heavy shower-bath at Mrs. Crampton’s every morning.  The baths are still hers and her husband’s, but they have retired and live in “Nuckells” ­are going to give a stained-glass window, value three hundred pounds, to St. Peter’s Church.  Tom Collin is of opinion that the Miss Dickenses has growed two fine young women ­leastwise, asking pardon, ladies.  An evangelical family of most disagreeable girls prowl about here and trip people up with tracts, which they put in the paths with stones upon them to keep them from blowing away.  Charles Collins and I having seen a bill yesterday ­about a mesmeric young lady who did feats, one of which was set forth in the bill, in a line by itself, as

THE RIGID LEGS,

­were overpowered with curiosity, and resolved to go.  It came off in the Assembly Room, now more exquisitely desolate than words can describe.  Eighteen shillings was the “take.”  Behind a screen among the company, we heard mysterious gurglings of water before the entertainment began, and then a slippery sound which occasioned me to whisper C. C. (who laughed in the most ridiculous manner), “Soap.”  It proved to be the young lady washing herself.  She must have been wonderfully dirty, for she took a world of trouble, and didn’t come out clean after all ­in a wretched dirty muslin frock, with blue ribbons.  She was the alleged mesmeriser, and a boy who distributed bills the alleged mesmerised.  It was a most preposterous imposition, but more ludicrous than any poor sight I ever saw.  The boy is clearly out of pantomime, and when he pretended to be in the mesmeric state, made the company back by going in among them head over heels, backwards, half-a-dozen times, in a most insupportable way.  The pianist had struck; and the manner in which the lecturer implored “some lady” to play a “polker,” and the manner in which no lady would; and in which the few ladies who were there sat with their hats on, and the elastic under their chins, as if it were going to blow, is never to be forgotten.  I have been writing all the morning, and am going for a walk to Ramsgate.  This is a beast of a letter, but I am not well, and have been addling my head.

Ever, dear Girls, your affectionate Father.

Mr. W. Wilkie Collins.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Friday Night, Septh, 1859.

MY DEAR WILKIE,

Just a word to say that I have received yours, and that I look forward to the reunion on Thursday, when I hope to have the satisfaction of recounting to you the plot of a play that has been laid before me for commending advice.

Ditto to what you say respecting the Great Eastern.  I went right up to London Bridge by the boat that day, on purpose that I might pass her.  I thought her the ugliest and most unshiplike thing these eyes ever beheld.  I wouldn’t go to sea in her, shiver my ould timbers and rouse me up with a monkey’s tail (man-of-war metaphor), not to chuck a biscuit into Davy Jones’s weather eye, and see double with my own old toplights.

Turk has been so good as to produce from his mouth, for the wholesome consternation of the family, eighteen feet of worm.  When he had brought it up, he seemed to think it might be turned to account in the housekeeping and was proud.  Pony has kicked a shaft off the cart, and is to be sold.  Why don’t you buy her? she’d never kick with you.

Barber’s opinion is, that them fruit-trees, one and all, is touchwood, and not fit for burning at any gentleman’s fire; also that the stocking of this here garden is worth less than nothing, because you wouldn’t have to grub up nothing, and something takes a man to do it at three-and-sixpence a day.  Was “left desponding” by your reporter.

I have had immense difficulty to find a man for the stable-yard here.  Barber having at last engaged one this morning, I enquired if he had a decent hat for driving in, to which Barber returned this answer: 

“Why, sir, not to deceive you, that man flatly say that he never have wore that article since man he was!”

I am consequently fortified into my room, and am afraid to go out to look at him.  Love from all.

Ever affectionately.

Monsieur Regnier.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Saturday, Octh, 1859.

MY DEAR REGNIER,

You will receive by railway parcel the proof-sheets of a story of mine, that has been for some time in progress in my weekly journal, and that will be published in a complete volume about the middle of November.  Nobody but Forster has yet seen the latter portions of it, or will see them until they are published.  I want you to read it for two reasons.  Firstly, because I hope it is the best story I have written.  Secondly, because it treats of a very remarkable time in France; and I should very much like to know what you think of its being dramatised for a French theatre.  If you should think it likely to be done, I should be glad to take some steps towards having it well done.  The story is an extraordinary success here, and I think the end of it is certain to make a still greater sensation.

Don’t trouble yourself to write to me, mon ami, until you shall have had time to read the proofs.  Remember, they are proofs, and private; the latter chapters will not be before the public for five or six weeks to come.

With kind regards to Madame Regnier, in which my daughters and their aunt unite,

Believe me, ever faithfully yours.

P.S. ­The story (I daresay you have not seen any of it yet) is called “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Mr. Frank Stone‚ A.R.A.

PETERBOROUGH, Wednesday Evening, Octh, 1859.

MY DEAR STONE,

We had a splendid rush last night ­exactly as we supposed, with the pressure on the two shillings, of whom we turned a crowd away.  They were a far finer audience than on the previous night; I think the finest I have ever read to.  They took every word of the “Dombey” in quite an amazing manner, and after the child’s death, paused a little, and then set up a shout that it did one good to hear.  Mrs. Gamp then set in with a roar, which lasted until I had done.  I think everybody for the time forgot everything but the matter in hand.  It was as fine an instance of thorough absorption in a fiction as any of us are likely to see ever again.

­ (in an exquisite red mantle), accompanied by her sister (in another exquisite red mantle) and by the deaf lady, (who leaned a black head-dress, exactly like an old-fashioned tea-urn without the top, against the wall), was charming.  HE couldn’t get at her on account of the pressure.  HE tried to peep at her from the side door, but she (ha, ha, ha!) was unconscious of his presence.  I read to her, and goaded him to madness.  He is just sane enough to send his kindest regards.

This is a place which ­except the cathedral, with the loveliest front I ever saw ­is like the back door to some other place.  It is, I should hope, the deadest and most utterly inert little town in the British dominions.  The magnates have taken places, and the bookseller is of opinion that “such is the determination to do honour to Mr. Dickens, that the doors must be opened half an hour before the appointed time.”  You will picture to yourself Arthur’s quiet indignation at this, and the manner in which he remarked to me at dinner, “that he turned away twice Peterborough last night.”

A very pretty room ­though a Corn Exchange ­and a room we should have been glad of at Cambridge, as it is large, bright, and cheerful, and wonderfully well lighted.

The difficulty of getting to Bradford from here to-morrow, at any time convenient to us, turned out to be so great, that we are all going in for Leeds (only three-quarters of an hour from Bradford) to-night after the reading, at a quarter-past eleven.  We are due at Leeds a quarter before three.

So no more at present from,

Yours affectionately.

Mr. W. R. Sculthorpe.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Thursday, Noth, 1859.

DEAR SIR,

Judgment must go by default.  I have not a word to plead against Dodson and Fogg.  I am without any defence to the action; and therefore, as law goes, ought to win it.

Seriously, the date of your hospitable note disturbs my soul.  But I have been incessantly writing in Kent and reading in all sorts of places, and have done nothing in my own personal character these many months; and now I come to town and our friend is away!  Let me take that defaulting miscreant into council when he comes back.

Faithfully yours.

Monsieur Regnier.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Wednesday, Noth, 1859.

MY DEAR REGNIER,

I send you ten thousand thanks for your kind and explicit letter.  What I particularly wished to ascertain from you was, whether it is likely the Censor would allow such a piece to be played in Paris.  In the case of its being likely, then I wished to have the piece as well done as possible, and would even have proposed to come to Paris to see it rehearsed.  But I very much doubted whether the general subject would not be objectionable to the Government, and what you write with so much sagacity and with such care convinces me at once that its representation would be prohibited.  Therefore I altogether abandon and relinquish the idea.  But I am just as heartily and cordially obliged to you for your interest and friendship, as if the book had been turned into a play five hundred times.  I again thank you ten thousand times, and am quite sure that you are right.  I only hope you will forgive my causing you so much trouble, after your hard work.

My girls and Georgina send their kindest regards to Madame Regnier and to you.  My Gad’s Hill house (I think I omitted to tell you, in reply to your enquiry) is on the very scene of Falstaff’s robbery.  There is a little cabaret at the roadside, still called The Sir John Falstaff.  And the country, in all its general features, is, at this time, what it was in Shakespeare’s.  I hope you will see the house before long.  It is really a pretty place, and a good residence for an English writer, is it not?

Macready, we are all happy to hear from himself, is going to leave the dreary tomb in which he lives, at Sherborne, and to remove to Cheltenham, a large and handsome place, about four or five hours’ railway journey from London, where his poor girls will at least see and hear some life.  Madame Celeste was with me yesterday, wishing to dramatise “A Tale of Two Cities” for the Lyceum, after bringing out the Christmas pantomime.  I gave her my permission and the book; but I fear that her company (troupe) is a very poor one.

This is all the news I have, except (which is no news at all) that I feel as if I had not seen you for fifty years, and that

I am ever your attached and faithful Friend.

Mr. T. Longman.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Monday, Noth, 1859.

MY DEAR LONGMAN,

I am very anxious to present to you, with the earnest hope that you will hold him in your remembrance, young Mr. Marcus Stone, son of poor Frank Stone, who died suddenly but a little week ago.  You know, I daresay, what a start this young man made in the last exhibition, and what a favourable notice his picture attracted.  He wishes to make an additional opening for himself in the illustration of books.  He is an admirable draughtsman, has a most dexterous hand, a charming sense of grace and beauty, and a capital power of observation.  These qualities in him I know well of my own knowledge.  He is in all things modest, punctual, and right; and I would answer for him, if it were needful, with my head.

If you will put anything in his way, you will do it a second time, I am certain.

Faithfully yours always.