Read 1860. of The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol. 2 (1857-1870), free online book, by Charles Dickens, on ReadCentral.com.

NARRATIVE.

This winter was the last spent at Tavistock House.  Charles Dickens had for some time been inclining to the idea of making his home altogether at Gad’s Hill, giving up his London house, and taking a furnished house for the sake of his daughters for a few months of the London season.  And, as his daughter Kate was to be married this summer to Mr. Charles Collins, this intention was confirmed and carried out.  He made arrangements for the sale of Tavistock House to Mr. Davis, a Jewish gentleman, and he gave up possession of it in September.  Up to this time Gad’s Hill had been furnished merely as a temporary summer residence ­pictures, library, and all best furniture being left in the London house.  He now set about beautifying and making Gad’s Hill thoroughly comfortable and homelike.  And there was not a year afterwards, up to the year of his death, that he did not make some addition or improvement to it.  He also furnished, as a private residence, a sitting-room and some bedrooms at his office in Wellington Street, to be used, when there was no house in London, as occasional town quarters by himself, his daughter, and sister-in-law.

He began in this summer his occasional papers for “All the Year Round,” which he called “The Uncommercial Traveller,” and which were continued at intervals in his journal until 1869.

In the autumn of this year he began another story, to be published weekly in “All the Year Round.”  The letter to Mr. Forster, which we give, tells him of this beginning and gives him the name of the book.  The first number of “Great Expectations” appeared on the 1st December.  The Christmas number, this time, was written jointly by himself and Mr. Wilkie Collins.  The scene was laid at Clovelly, and they made a journey together into Devonshire and Cornwall, for the purpose of this story, in November.

The letter to Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton is, unfortunately, the only one we have as yet been able to procure.  The present Lord Lytton, the Viceroy of India, has kindly endeavoured to help us even during his absence from England.  But it was found to be impossible without his own assistance to make the necessary search among his father’s papers.  And he has promised us that, on his return, he will find and lend to us, many letters from Charles Dickens, which are certainly in existence, to his distinguished fellow-writer and great friend.  We hope, therefore, it may be possible for us at some future time to be able to publish these letters, as well as those addressed to the present Lord Lytton (when he was Mr. Robert Lytton, otherwise “Owen Meredith,” and frequent contributor to “Household Words” and “All the Year Round").  We have the same hope with regard to letters addressed to Sir Henry Layard, at present Ambassador at Constantinople, which, of course, for the same reason, cannot be lent to us at the present time.

We give a letter to Mr. Forster on one of his books on the Commonwealth, the “Impeachment of the Five Members;” which, as with other letters which we are glad to publish on the subject of Mr. Forster’s own works, was not used by himself for obvious reasons.

A letter to his daughter Mamie (who, after her sister’s marriage, paid a visit with her dear friends the White family to Scotland, where she had a serious illness) introduces a recent addition to the family, who became an important member of it, and one to whom Charles Dickens was very tenderly attached ­her little white Pomeranian dog “Mrs. Bouncer” (so called after the celebrated lady of that name in “Box and Cox").  It is quite necessary to make this formal introduction of the little pet animal (who lived to be a very old dog and died in 1874), because future letters to his daughter contain constant references and messages to “Mrs. Bouncer,” which would be quite unintelligible without this explanation.  “Boy,” also referred to in this letter, was his daughter’s horse.  The little dog and the horse were gifts to Mamie Dickens from her friends Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Smith, and the sister of the latter, Miss Craufurd.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Monday, Jand, 1860.

MY DEAREST MACREADY,

A happy New Year to you, and many happy years!  I cannot tell you how delighted I was to receive your Christmas letter, or with what pleasure I have received Forster’s emphatic accounts of your health and spirits.  But when was I ever wrong?  And when did I not tell you that you were an impostor in pretending to grow older as the rest of us do, and that you had a secret of your own for reversing the usual process!  It happened that I read at Cheltenham a couple of months ago, and that I have rarely seen a place that so attracted my fancy.  I had never seen it before.  Also I believe the character of its people to have greatly changed for the better.  All sorts of long-visaged prophets had told me that they were dull, stolid, slow, and I don’t know what more that is disagreeable.  I found them exactly the reverse in all respects; and I saw an amount of beauty there ­well ­that is not to be more specifically mentioned to you young fellows.

Katie dined with us yesterday, looking wonderfully well, and singing “Excelsior” with a certain dramatic fire in her, whereof I seem to remember having seen sparks afore now.  Etc. etc. etc.

With kindest love from all at home to all with you,
Ever, my dear Macready, your most affectionate.

Mr. W. Wilkie Collins.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.,
Saturday Night, Jath, 1860.

MY DEAR WILKIE,

I have read this book with great care and attention.  There cannot be a doubt that it is a very great advance on all your former writing, and most especially in respect of tenderness.  In character it is excellent.  Mr. Fairlie as good as the lawyer, and the lawyer as good as he.  Mr. Vesey and Miss Halcombe, in their different ways, equally meritorious.  Sir Percival, also, is most skilfully shown, though I doubt (you see what small points I come to) whether any man ever showed uneasiness by hand or foot without being forced by nature to show it in his face too.  The story is very interesting, and the writing of it admirable.

I seem to have noticed, here and there, that the great pains you take express themselves a trifle too much, and you know that I always contest your disposition to give an audience credit for nothing, which necessarily involves the forcing of points on their attention, and which I have always observed them to resent when they find it out ­as they always will and do.  But on turning to the book again, I find it difficult to take out an instance of this.  It rather belongs to your habit of thought and manner of going about the work.  Perhaps I express my meaning best when I say that the three people who write the narratives in these proofs have a DISSECTIVE property in common, which is essentially not theirs but yours; and that my own effort would be to strike more of what is got that way out of them by collision with one another, and by the working of the story.

You know what an interest I have felt in your powers from the beginning of our friendship, and how very high I rate them? I know that this is an admirable book, and that it grips the difficulties of the weekly portion and throws them in masterly style.  No one else could do it half so well.  I have stopped in every chapter to notice some instance of ingenuity, or some happy turn of writing; and I am absolutely certain that you never did half so well yourself.

So go on and prosper, and let me see some more, when you have enough (for your own satisfaction) to show me.  I think of coming in to back you up if I can get an idea for my series of gossiping papers.  One of those days, please God, we may do a story together; I have very odd half-formed notions, in a mist, of something that might be done that way.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. John Forster.

11, WELLINGTON STREET, NORTH STRAND, LONDON, W.C.,
Wednesday, May 2nd, 1860.

MY DEAR FORSTER,

It did not occur to me in reading your most excellent, interesting, and remarkable book, that it could with any reason be called one-sided.  If Clarendon had never written his “History of the Rebellion,” then I can understand that it might be.  But just as it would be impossible to answer an advocate who had misstated the merits of a case for his own purpose, without, in the interests of truth, and not of the other side merely, re-stating the merits and showing them in their real form, so I cannot see the practicability of telling what you had to tell without in some sort championing the misrepresented side, and I think that you don’t do that as an advocate, but as a judge.

The evidence has been suppressed and coloured, and the judge goes through it and puts it straight.  It is not his fault if it all goes one way and tends to one plain conclusion.  Nor is it his fault that it goes the further when it is laid out straight, or seems to do so, because it was so knotted and twisted up before.

I can understand any man’s, and particularly Carlyle’s, having a lingering respect that does not like to be disturbed for those (in the best sense of the word) loyal gentlemen of the country who went with the king and were so true to him.  But I don’t think Carlyle sufficiently considers that the great mass of those gentlemen didn’t know the truth, that it was a part of their loyalty to believe what they were told on the king’s behalf, and that it is reasonable to suppose that the king was too artful to make known to them (especially after failure) what were very acceptable designs to the desperate soldiers of fortune about Whitehall.  And it was to me a curious point of adventitious interest arising out of your book, to reflect on the probability of their having been as ignorant of the real scheme in Charles’s head, as their descendants and followers down to this time, and to think with pity and admiration that they believed the cause to be so much better than it was.  This is a notion I was anxious to have expressed in our account of the book in these pages.  For I don’t suppose Clarendon, or any other such man to sit down and tell posterity something that he has not “tried on” in his own time.  Do you?

In the whole narrative I saw nothing anywhere to which I demurred.  I admired it all, went with it all, and was proud of my friend’s having written it all.  I felt it to be all square and sound and right, and to be of enormous importance in these times.  Firstly, to the people who (like myself) are so sick of the shortcomings of representative government as to have no interest in it.  Secondly, to the humbugs at Westminster who have come down ­a long, long way ­from those men, as you know.  When the great remonstrance came out, I was in the thick of my story, and was always busy with it; but I am very glad I didn’t read it then, as I shall read it now to much better purpose.  All the time I was at work on the “Two Cities,” I read no books but such as had the air of the time in them.

To return for a final word to the Five Members.  I thought the marginal references overdone.  Here and there, they had a comical look to me for that reason, and reminded me of shows and plays where everything is in the bill.

Lastly, I should have written to you ­as I had a strong inclination to do, and ought to have done, immediately after reading the book ­but for a weak reason; of all things in the world I have lost heart in one ­I hope no other ­I cannot, times out of calculation, make up my mind to write a letter.

Ever, my dear Forster, affectionately yours.

M. de Cerjat.

TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Thursday, May 3rd, 1860.

MY DEAR CERJAT,

The date of this letter would make me horribly ashamed of myself, if I didn’t know that you know how difficult letter-writing is to one whose trade it is to write.

You asked me on Christmas Eve about my children.  My second daughter is going to be married in the course of the summer to Charles Collins, the brother of Wilkie Collins, the novelist.  The father was one of the most famous painters of English green lanes and coast pieces.  He was bred an artist; is a writer, too, and does “The Eye Witness,” in “All the Year Round.”  He is a gentleman, accomplished, and amiable.  My eldest daughter has not yet started any conveyance on the road to matrimony (that I know of); but it is likely enough that she will, as she is very agreeable and intelligent.  They are both very pretty.  My eldest boy, Charley, has been in Barings’ house for three or four years, and is now going to Hong Kong, strongly backed up by Barings, to buy tea on his own account, as a means of forming a connection and seeing more of the practical part of a merchant’s calling, before starting in London for himself.  His brother Frank (Jeffrey’s godson) I have just recalled from France and Germany, to come and learn business, and qualify himself to join his brother on his return from the Celestial Empire.  The next boy, Sydney Smith, is designed for the navy, and is in training at Portsmouth, awaiting his nomination.  He is about three foot high, with the biggest eyes ever seen, and is known in the Portsmouth parts as “Young Dickens, who can do everything.”

Another boy is at school in France; the youngest of all has a private tutor at home.  I have forgotten the second in order, who is in India.  He went out as ensign of a non-existent native regiment, got attached to the 42nd Highlanders, one of the finest regiments in the Queen’s service; has remained with them ever since, and got made a lieutenant by the chances of the rebellious campaign, before he was eighteen.  Miss Hogarth, always Miss Hogarth, is the guide, philosopher, and friend of all the party, and a very close affection exists between her and the girls.  I doubt if she will ever marry.  I don’t know whether to be glad of it or sorry for it.

I have laid down my pen and taken a long breath after writing this family history.  I have also considered whether there are any more children, and I don’t think there are.  If I should remember two or three others presently, I will mention them in a postscript.

We think Townshend looking a little the worse for the winter, and we perceive Bully to be decidedly old upon his legs, and of a most diabolical turn of mind.  When they first arrived the weather was very dark and cold, and kept them indoors.  It has since turned very warm and bright, but with a dusty and sharp east wind.  They are still kept indoors by this change, and I begin to wonder what change will let them out.  Townshend dines with us every Sunday.  You may be sure that we always talk of you and yours, and drink to you heartily.

Public matters here are thought to be rather improving; the deep mistrust of the gentleman in Paris being counteracted by the vigorous state of preparation into which the nation is getting.  You will have observed, of course, that we establish a new defaulter in respect of some great trust, about once a quarter.  The last one, the cashier of a City bank, is considered to have distinguished himself greatly, a quarter of a million of money being high game.

No, my friend, I have not shouldered my rifle yet, but I should do so on more pressing occasion.  Every other man in the row of men I know ­if they were all put in a row ­is a volunteer though.  There is a tendency rather to overdo the wearing of the uniform, but that is natural enough in the case of the youngest men.  The turn-out is generally very creditable indeed.  At the ball they had (in a perfectly unventilated building), their new leather belts and pouches smelt so fearfully that it was, as my eldest daughter said, like shoemaking in a great prison.  She, consequently, distinguished herself by fainting away in the most inaccessible place in the whole structure, and being brought out (horizontally) by a file of volunteers, like some slain daughter of Albion whom they were carrying into the street to rouse the indignant valour of the populace.

Lord, my dear Cerjat, when I turn to that page of your letter where you write like an ancient sage in whom the fire has paled into a meek-eyed state of coolness and virtue, I half laugh and half cry! You old! You a sort of hermit?  Boh!  Get out.

With this comes my love and all our loves, to you and Mrs. Cerjat, and your daughter.  I add my special and particular to the sweet “singing cousin.”  When shall you and I meet, and where?  Must I come to see Townshend?  I begin to think so.

Ever, my dear Cerjat, your affectionate and faithful.

Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.

GAD’S HILL, Tuesday, June 5th, 1860.

MY DEAR BULWER LYTTON,

I am very much interested and gratified by your letter concerning “A Tale of Two Cities.”  I do not quite agree with you on two points, but that is no deduction from my pleasure.

In the first place, although the surrender of the feudal privileges (on a motion seconded by a nobleman of great rank) was the occasion of a sentimental scene, I see no reason to doubt, but on the contrary, many reasons to believe, that some of these privileges had been used to the frightful oppression of the peasant, quite as near to the time of the Revolution as the doctor’s narrative, which, you will remember, dates long before the Terror.  And surely when the new philosophy was the talk of the salons and the slang of the hour, it is not unreasonable or unallowable to suppose a nobleman wedded to the old cruel ideas, and representing the time going out, as his nephew represents the time coming in; as to the condition of the peasant in France generally at that day, I take it that if anything be certain on earth it is certain that it was intolerable.  No ex post facto enquiries and provings by figures will hold water, surely, against the tremendous testimony of men living at the time.

There is a curious book printed at Amsterdam, written to make out no case whatever, and tiresome enough in its literal dictionary-like minuteness, scattered up and down the pages of which is full authority for my marquis.  This is “Mercier’s Tableau de Paris.”  Rousseau is the authority for the peasant’s shutting up his house when he had a bit of meat.  The tax-taker was the authority for the wretched creature’s impoverishment.

I am not clear, and I never have been clear, respecting that canon of fiction which forbids the interposition of accident in such a case as Madame Defarge’s death.  Where the accident is inseparable from the passion and emotion of the character, where it is strictly consistent with the whole design, and arises out of some culminating proceeding on the part of the character which the whole story has led up to, it seems to me to become, as it were, an act of divine justice.  And when I use Miss Pross (though this is quite another question) to bring about that catastrophe, I have the positive intention of making that half-comic intervention a part of the desperate woman’s failure, and of opposing that mean death ­instead of a desperate one in the streets, which she wouldn’t have minded ­to the dignity of Carton’s wrong or right; this was the design, and seemed to be in the fitness of things.

Now, as to the reading.  I am sorry to say that it is out of the question this season.  I have had an attack of rheumatism ­quite a stranger to me ­which remains hovering about my left side, after having doubled me up in the back, and which would disable me from standing for two hours.  I have given up all dinners and town engagements, and come to my little Falstaff House here, sensible of the necessity of country training all through the summer.  Smith would have proposed any appointment to see you on the subject, but he has been dreadfully ill with tic.  Whenever I read in London, I will gladly put a night aside for your purpose, and we will plot to connect your name with it, and give it some speciality.  But this could not be before Christmas time, as I should not be able to read sooner, for in the hot weather it would be useless.  Let me hear from you about this when you have considered it.  It would greatly diminish the expenses, remember.

Ever affectionately and faithfully.

The Lord John Russell.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Sunday, June 17th, 1860.

MY DEAR LORD JOHN RUSSELL,

I cannot thank you enough for your kind note and its most welcome enclosure.  My sailor-boy comes home from Portsmouth to-morrow, and will be overjoyed.  His masters have been as anxious for getting his nomination as though it were some distinction for themselves.

Ever your faithful and obliged.

The Earl of Carlisle.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Wednesday, Auth, 1860.

MY DEAR LORD CARLISLE,

Coming back here after an absence of three days in town, I find your kind and cordial letter lying on my table.  I heartily thank you for it, and highly esteem it.  I understand that the article on the spirits to which you refer was written by ­ (he played an Irish porter in one scene of Bulwer’s comedy at Devonshire House).  Between ourselves, I think it must be taken with a few grains of salt, imperial measure.  The experiences referred to “came off” at ­, where the spirit of ­ (among an extensive and miscellaneous bodiless circle) dines sometimes!  Mr. ­, the high priest of the mysteries, I have some considerable reason ­derived from two honourable men ­for mistrusting.  And that some of the disciples are very easy of belief I know.

This is Falstaff’s own Gad’s Hill, and I live on the top of it.  All goes well with me, thank God!  I should be thoroughly delighted to see you again, and to show you where the robbery was done.  My eldest daughter keeps my house, and it is one I was extraordinarily fond of when a child.

My dear Lord Carlisle, ever affectionately yours.

P.S. ­I am prowling about, meditating a new book.

Mr. W. H. Wills.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Tuesday, Septh, 1860.

MY DEAR WILLS,

Your description of your sea-castle makes your room here look uncommonly dusty.  Likewise the costermongers in the street outside, and the one customer (drunk, with his head on the table) in the Crown Coffee House over the way, in York Street, have an earthy, and, as I may say, a land-lubberly aspect.  Cape Horn, to the best of my belief, is a tremendous way off, and there are more bricks and cabbage-leaves between this office and that dismal point of land than you can possibly imagine.

Coming here from the station this morning, I met, coming from the execution of the Wentworth murderer, such a tide of ruffians as never could have flowed from any point but the gallows.  Without any figure of speech it turned one white and sick to behold them.

Tavistock House is cleared to-day, and possession delivered up.  I must say that in all things the purchaser has behaved thoroughly well, and that I cannot call to mind any occasion when I have had money dealings with a Christian that have been so satisfactory, considerate, and trusting.

I am ornamented at present with one of my most intensely preposterous and utterly indescribable colds.  If you were to make a voyage from Cape Horn to Wellington Street, you would scarcely recognise in the bowed form, weeping eyes, rasped nose, and snivelling wretch whom you would encounter here, the once gay and sparkling, etc. etc.

Everything else here is as quiet as possible.  Business reports you receive from Holsworth.  Wilkie looked in to-day, going to Gloucestershire for a week.  The office is full of discarded curtains and coverings from Tavistock House, which Georgina is coming up this evening to select from and banish.  Mary is in raptures with the beauties of Dunkeld, but is not very well in health.  The Admiral (Sydney) goes up for his examination to-morrow.  If he fails to pass with credit, I will never believe in anybody again, so in that case look out for your own reputation with me.

This is really all the news I have, except that I am lazy, and that Wilkie dines here next Tuesday, in order that we may have a talk about the Christmas number.

I beg to send my kind regard to Mrs. Wills, and to enquire how she likes wearing a hat, which of course she does.  I also want to know from her in confidence whether Crwllm festidiniog llymthll y wodd?

Yesterday I burnt, in the field at Gad’s Hill, the accumulated letters and papers of twenty years.  They sent up a smoke like the genie when he got out of the casket on the seashore; and as it was an exquisite day when I began, and rained very heavily when I finished, I suspect my correspondence of having overcast the face of the heavens.

Ever faithfully.

P.S. ­Kind regard to Mr. and Mrs. Novelli.

I have just sent out for The Globe.  No news.

Hullah’s daughter (an artist) tells me that certain female students have addressed the Royal Academy, entreating them to find a place for their education.  I think it a capital move, for which I can do something popular and telling in The Register.  Adelaide Procter is active in the business, and has a copy of their letter.  Will you write to her for that, and anything else she may have about it, telling her that I strongly approve, and want to help them myself?

The Hon. Mrs. Watson.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Friday Night, Septh, 1860.

MY DEAR MRS. WATSON,

I lose no time in answering your letter; and first as to business, the school in the High Town at Boulogne was excellent.  The boys all English, the two proprietors an old Eton master and one of the Protestant clergymen of the town.  The teaching unusually sound and good.  The manner and conduct developed in the boys quite admirable.  But I have never seen a gentleman so perfectly acquainted with boy-nature as the Eton master.  There was a perfect understanding between him and his charges; nothing pedantic on his part, nothing slavish on their parts.  The result was, that either with him or away from him, the boys combined an ease and frankness with a modesty and sense of responsibility that was really above all praise.  Alfred went from there to a great school at Wimbledon, where they train for India and the artillery and engineers.  Sydney went from there to Mr. Barrow, at Southsea.  In both instances the new masters wrote to me of their own accord, bearing quite unsolicited testimony to the merits of the old, and expressing their high recognition of what they had done.  These things speak for themselves.

Sydney has just passed his examination as a naval cadet and come home, all eyes and gold buttons.  He has twelve days’ leave before going on board the training-ship.  Katie and her husband are in France, and seem likely to remain there for an indefinite period.  Mary is on a month’s visit in Scotland; Georgina, Frank, and Plorn are at home here; and we all want Mary and her little dog back again.  I have sold Tavistock House, am making this rather complete in its way, and am on the restless eve of beginning a new big book; but mean to have a furnished house in town (in some accessible quarter) from February or so to June.  May we meet there.

Your handwriting is always so full of pleasant memories to me, that when I took it out of the post-office at Rochester this afternoon it quite stirred my heart.  But we must not think of old times as sad times, or regard them as anything but the fathers and mothers of the present.  We must all climb steadily up the mountain after the talking bird, the singing tree, and the yellow water, and must all bear in mind that the previous climbers who were scared into looking back got turned into black stone.

Mary Boyle was here a little while ago, as affectionate at heart as ever, as young, and as pleasant.  Of course we talked often of you.  So let me know when you are established in Halfmoon Street, and I shall be truly delighted to come and see you.

For my attachments are strong attachments and never weaken.  In right of bygones, I feel as if “all Northamptonshire” belonged to me, as all Northumberland did to Lord Bateman in the ballad.  In memory of your warming your feet at the fire in that waste of a waiting-room when I read at Brighton, I have ever since taken that watering-place to my bosom as I never did before.  And you and Switzerland are always one to me, and always inseparable.

Charley was heard of yesterday, from Shanghai, going to Japan, intending to meet his brother Walter at Calcutta, and having an idea of beguiling the time between whiles by asking to be taken as an amateur with the English Chinese forces.  Everybody caressed him and asked him everywhere, and he seemed to go.  With kind regards, my dear Mrs. Watson,

Ever affectionately yours.

Mr. Edmund Yates.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Sunday, Seprd, 1860.

ON THE DEATH OF HIS MOTHER.

MY DEAR E. Y.,

I did not write to you in your bereavement, because I knew that the girls had written to you, and because I instinctively shrunk from making a form of what was so real. You knew what a loving and faithful remembrance I always had of your mother as a part of my youth ­no more capable of restoration than my youth itself.  All the womanly goodness, grace, and beauty of my drama went out with her.  To the last I never could hear her voice without emotion.  I think of her as of a beautiful part of my own youth, and this dream that we are all dreaming seems to darken.

But it is not to say this that I write now.  It comes to the point of my pen in spite of me.

“Holding up the Mirror” is in next week’s number.  I have taken out all this funeral part of it.  Not because I disliked it (for, indeed, I thought it the best part of the paper), but because it rather grated on me, going over the proof at that time, as a remembrance that would be better reserved a little while.  Also because it made rather a mixture of yourself as an individual, with something that does not belong or attach to you as an individual.  You can have the MS.; and as a part of a paper describing your own juvenile remembrances of a theatre, there it is, needing no change or adaption.

Ever faithfully.

Miss Dickens.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Sunday, Seprd, 1860.

MY DEAREST MAMIE,

If you had been away from us and ill with anybody in the world but our dear Mrs. White, I should have been in a state of the greatest anxiety and uneasiness about you.  But as I know it to be impossible that you could be in kinder or better hands, I was not in the least restless about you, otherwise than as it grieved me to hear of my poor dear girl’s suffering such pain.  I hope it is over now for many a long day, and that you will come back to us a thousand times better in health than you left us.

Don’t come back too soon.  Take time and get well restored.  There is no hurry, the house is not near to-rights yet, and though we all want you, and though Boy wants you, we all (including Boy) deprecate a fatiguing journey being taken too soon.

As to the carpenters, they are absolutely maddening.  They are always at work, yet never seem to do anything.  Lillie was down on Friday, and said (his eye fixed on Maidstone, and rubbing his hand to conciliate his moody employer) that “he didn’t think there would be very much left to do after Saturday, the 29th.”

I didn’t throw him out of the window.  Your aunt tells you all the news, and leaves me no chance of distinguishing myself, I know.  You have been told all about my brackets in the drawing-room, all about the glass rescued from the famous stage-wreck of Tavistock House, all about everything here and at the office.  The office is really a success.  As comfortable, cheerful, and private as anything of the kind can possibly be.

I took the Admiral (but this you know too, no doubt) to Dollond’s, the mathematical instrument maker’s, last Monday, to buy that part of his outfit.  His sextant (which is about the size and shape of a cocked hat), on being applied to his eye, entirely concealed him.  Not the faintest vestige of the distinguished officer behind it was perceptible to the human vision.  All through the City, people turned round and stared at him with the sort of pleasure people take in a little model.  We went on to Chatham this day week, in search of some big man-of-war’s-man who should be under obligation to salute him ­unfortunately found none.  But this no doubt you know too, and all my news falls flat.

I am driven out of my room by paint, and am writing in the best spare room.  The whole prospect is excessively wet; it does not rain now, but yesterday it did tremendously, and it rained very heavily in the night.  We are even muddy; and that is saying a great deal in this dry country of chalk and sand.  Everywhere the corn is lying out and saturated with wet.  The hops (nearly everywhere) look as if they had been burnt.

In my mind’s eye I behold Mrs. Bouncer, still with some traces of her late anxiety on her faithful countenance, balancing herself a little unequally on her bow fore-legs, pricking up her ears, with her head on one side, and slightly opening her intellectual nostrils.  I send my loving and respectful duty to her.

To dear Mrs. White, and to White, and to Clara, say anything from me that is loving and grateful.

My dearest Mamie,
Ever and ever your most affectionate Father.

Miss Hogarth.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Monday Night, Septh, 1860.

MY DEAREST GEORGY,

At the Waterloo station we were saluted with “Hallo! here’s Dickens!” from divers naval cadets, and Sir Richard Bromley introduced himself to me, who had his cadet son with him, a friend of Sydney’s.  We went down together, and the boys were in the closest alliance.  Bromley being Accountant-General of the Navy, and having influence on board, got their hammocks changed so that they would be serving side by side, at which they were greatly pleased.  The moment we stepped on board, the “Hul-lo! here’s Dickens!” was repeated on all sides, and the Admiral (evidently highly popular) shook hands with about fifty of his messmates.  Taking Bromley for my model (with whom I fraternised in the most pathetic manner), I gave Sydney a sovereign before stepping over the side.  He was as little overcome as it was possible for a boy to be, and stood waving the gold-banded cap as we came ashore in a boat.

There is no denying that he looks very small aboard a great ship, and that a boy must have a strong and decided speciality for the sea to take to such a life.  Captain Harris was not on board, but the other chief officers were, and were highly obliging.  We went over the ship.  I should say that there can be little or no individuality of address to any particular boy, but that they all tumble through their education in a crowded way.  The Admiral’s servant (I mean our Admiral’s) had an idiotic appearance, but perhaps it did him injustice (a mahogany-faced marine by station).  The Admiral’s washing apparatus is about the size of a muffin-plate, and he could easily live in his chest.  The meeting with Bromley was a piece of great good fortune, and the dear old chap could not have been left more happily.

Ever, my dearest Georgy, your most affectionate.

Miss Power.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Tuesday, Septh, 1860.

MY DEAR MARGUERITE,

I like the article exceedingly, and think the translations admirable ­spirited, fresh, bold, and evidently faithful.  I will get the paper into the next number I make up, N.  I will send a proof to you for your correction, either next Monday or this day week.  Or would you like to come here next Monday and dine with us at five, and go over to Madame Celeste’s opening?  Then you could correct your paper on the premises, as they drink their beer at the beer-shops.

Some of the introductory remarks on French literature I propose to strike out, as a little too essayical for this purpose, and likely to throw out a large portion of the large audience at starting, as suggesting some very different kind of article.  My daring pen shall have imbued its murderous heart with ink before you see the proof.

With kind regards,
Ever affectionately.

Mr. John Forster.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Thursday, Octh, 1860.

MY DEAR FORSTER,

It would be a great pleasure to me to come to you, an immense pleasure, and to sniff the sea I love (from the shore); but I fear I must come down one morning and come back at night.  I will tell you why.

Last week, I got to work on a new story.  I called a council of war at the office on Tuesday.  It was perfectly clear that the one thing to be done was, for me to strike in.  I have therefore decided to begin a story, the length of the “Tale of Two Cities,” on the 1st of December ­begin publishing, that is.  I must make the most I can out of the book.  When I come down, I will bring you the first two or three weekly parts.  The name is, “GREAT EXPECTATIONS.”  I think a good name?

Now the preparations to get ahead, combined with the absolute necessity of my giving a good deal of time to the Christmas number, will tie me to the grindstone pretty tightly.  It will be just as much as I can hope to do.  Therefore, what I had hoped would be a few days at Eastbourne diminish to a few hours.

I took the Admiral down to Portsmouth.  Every maritime person in the town knew him.  He seemed to know every boy on board the Britannia, and was a tremendous favourite evidently.  It was very characteristic of him that they good-naturedly helped him, he being so very small, into his hammock at night.  But he couldn’t rest in it on these terms, and got out again to learn the right way of getting in independently.  Official report stated that “after a few spills, he succeeded perfectly, and went to sleep.”  He is perfectly happy on board, takes tea with the captain, leads choruses on Saturday nights, and has an immense marine for a servant.

I saw Edmund Yates at the office, and he told me that during all his mother’s wanderings of mind, which were almost incessant at last, she never once went back to the old Adelphi days until she was just dying, when he heard her say, in great perplexity:  “I can not get the words.”

Best love to Mrs. Forster.

Ever, my dear Forster, affectionately.

Mr. W. Wilkie Collins.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Wednesday, Octh, 1860.

MY DEAR WILKIE,

I have been down to Brighton to see Forster, and found your letter there on arriving by express this morning.  I also found a letter from Georgina, describing that Mary’s horse went down suddenly on a stone, and how Mary was thrown, and had her riding-habit torn to pieces, and has a deep cut just above the knee ­fortunately not in the knee itself, which is doing exceedingly well, but which will probably incapacitate her from walking for days and days to come.  It is well it was no worse.  The accident occurred at Milton, near Gravesend, and they found Mary in a public-house there, wonderfully taken care of and looked after.

I propose that we start on Thursday morning, the 1st of November.  The train for Penzance leaves the Great Western terminus at a quarter-past nine in the morning.  It is a twelve hours’ journey.  Shall we meet at the terminus at nine?  I shall be here all the previous day, and shall dine here.

Your account of your passage goes to my heart through my stomach.  What a pity I was not there on board to present that green-visaged, but sweet-tempered and uncomplaining spectacle of imbecility, at which I am so expert under stormy circumstances, in the poet’s phrase: 

        As I sweep
        Through the deep,
        When the stormy winds do blow.

What a pity I am not there, at Meurice’s, to sleep the sleep of infancy through the long plays where the gentlemen stand with their backs to the mantelpieces.  What a pity I am not with you to make a third at the Trois Frères, and drink no end of bottles of Bordeaux, without ever getting a touch of redness in my (poet’s phrase again) “innocent nose.”  But I must go down to Gad’s to-night, and get to work again.  Four weekly numbers have been ground off the wheel, and at least another must be turned before we meet.  They shall be yours in the slumberous railway-carriage.

I don’t think Forster is at all in good health.  He was tremendously hospitable and hearty.  I walked six hours and a half on the downs yesterday, and never stopped or sat.  Early in the morning, before breakfast, I went to the nearest baths to get a shower-bath.  They kept me waiting longer than I thought reasonable, and seeing a man in a cap in the passage, I went to him and said:  “I really must request that you’ll be good enough to see about this shower-bath;” and it was Hullah! waiting for another bath.

Rumours were brought into the house on Saturday night, that there was a “ghost” up at Larkins’s monument.  Plorn was frightened to death, and I was apprehensive of the ghost’s spreading and coming there, and causing “warning” and desertion among the servants.  Frank was at home, and Andrew Gordon was with us.  Time, nine o’clock.  Village talk and credulity, amazing.  I armed the two boys with a short stick apiece, and shouldered my double-barrelled gun, well loaded with shot.  “Now observe,” says I to the domestics, “if anybody is playing tricks and has got a head, I’ll blow it off.”  Immense impression.  New groom evidently convinced that he has entered the service of a bloodthirsty demon.  We ascend to the monument.  Stop at the gate.  Moon is rising.  Heavy shadows.  “Now, look out!” (from the bloodthirsty demon, in a loud, distinct voice).  “If the ghost is here and I see him, so help me God I’ll fire at him!” Suddenly, as we enter the field, a most extraordinary noise responds ­terrific noise ­human noise ­and yet superhuman noise.  B. T. D. brings piece to shoulder.  “Did you hear that, pa?” says Frank.  “I did,” says I. Noise repeated ­portentous, derisive, dull, dismal, damnable.  We advance towards the sound.  Something white comes lumbering through the darkness.  An asthmatic sheep!  Dead, as I judge, by this time.  Leaving Frank to guard him, I took Andrew with me, and went all round the monument, and down into the ditch, and examined the field well, thinking it likely that somebody might be taking advantage of the sheep to frighten the village.  Drama ends with discovery of no one, and triumphant return to rum-and-water.

Ever affectionately.

Miss Hogarth.

BIDEFORD, NORTH DEVON, Thursday Night, Nost, 1860.

MY DEAREST GEORGY,

I write (with the most impracticable iron pen on earth) to report our safe arrival here, in a beastly hotel.  We start to-morrow morning at nine on a two days’ posting between this and Liskeard in Cornwall.  We are due in Liskeard (but nobody seems to know anything about the roads) on Saturday afternoon, and we purpose making an excursion in that neighbourhood on Sunday, and coming up from Liskeard on Monday by Great Western fast train, which will get us to London, please God, in good time on Monday evening.  There I shall hear from you, and know whether dear Mamie will move to London too.

We had a pleasant journey down here, and a beautiful day.  No adventures whatever.  Nothing has happened to Wilkie, and he sends love.

We had stinking fish for dinner, and have been able to drink nothing, though we have ordered wine, beer, and brandy-and-water.  There is nothing in the house but two tarts and a pair of snuffers.  The landlady is playing cribbage with the landlord in the next room (behind a thin partition), and they seem quite comfortable.

Ever, my dearest Georgy, your most affectionate.

Miss Mary Boyle.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Friday, Deth, 1860.

MY DEAR MARY,

I cannot tell you how much I thank you for the beautiful cigar-case, and how seasonable, and friendly, and good, and warm-hearted it looked when I opened it at Gad’s Hill.  Besides which, it is a cigar-case, and will hold cigars; two crowning merits that I never yet knew to be possessed by any article claiming the same name.  For all of these reasons, but more than all because it comes from you, I love it, and send you eighteen hundred and sixty kisses, with one in for the new year.

Both excellent stories and perfectly new.  Your Joe swears that he never heard either ­never a word or syllable of either ­after he laughed at ’em this blessed day.

I have no news, except that I am not quite well, and am being doctored.  Pray read “Great Expectations.”  I think it is very droll.  It is a very great success, and seems universally liked.  I suppose because it opens funnily, and with an interest too.

I pass my time here (I am staying here alone) in working, taking physic, and taking a stall at a theatre every night.  On Boxing Night I was at Covent Garden.  A dull pantomime was “worked” (as we say) better than I ever saw a heavy piece worked on a first night, until suddenly and without a moment’s warning, every scene on that immense stage fell over on its face, and disclosed chaos by gaslight behind!  There never was such a business; about sixty people who were on the stage being extinguished in the most remarkable manner.  Not a soul was hurt.  In the uproar, some moon-calf rescued a porter pot, six feet high (out of which the clown had been drinking when the accident happened), and stood it on the cushion of the lowest proscenium box, P.S., beside a lady and gentleman, who were dreadfully ashamed of it.  The moment the house knew that nobody was injured, they directed their whole attention to this gigantic porter pot in its genteel position (the lady and gentleman trying to hide behind it), and roared with laughter.  When a modest footman came from behind the curtain to clear it, and took it up in his arms like a Brobdingnagian baby, we all laughed more than ever we had laughed in our lives.  I don’t know why.

We have had a fire here, but our people put it out before the parish-engine arrived, like a drivelling perambulator, with the beadle in it, like an imbecile baby.  Popular opinion, disappointed in the fire having been put out, snowballed the beadle.  God bless it!

Over the way at the Lyceum, there is a very fair Christmas piece, with one or two uncommonly well-done nigger songs ­one remarkably gay and mad, done in the finale to a scene.  Also a very nice transformation, though I don’t know what it means.

The poor actors waylay me in Bow Street, to represent their necessities; and I often see one cut down a court when he beholds me coming, cut round Drury Lane to face me, and come up towards me near this door in the freshest and most accidental way, as if I was the last person he expected to see on the surface of this globe.  The other day, there thus appeared before me (simultaneously with a scent of rum in the air) one aged and greasy man, with a pair of pumps under his arm.  He said he thought if he could get down to somewhere (I think it was Newcastle), he would get “taken on” as Pantaloon, the existing Pantaloon being “a stick, sir ­a mere muff.”  I observed that I was sorry times were so bad with him.  “Mr. Dickens, you know our profession, sir ­no one knows it better, sir ­there is no right feeling in it.  I was Harlequin on your own circuit, sir, for five-and-thirty years, and was displaced by a boy, sir! ­a boy!”

So no more at present, except love to Mrs. Watson and Bedgey Prig and all, from my dear Mary.

Your ever affectionate
JOE.

P.S. ­DON’T I pine neither?

P.P.S. ­I did my best to arouse Forster’s worst feelings; but he had got into a Christmas habit of mind, and wouldn’t respond.