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At the beginning of this year, Charles Dickens resumed the reading tour which he had commenced at the close of the previous year and continued up to Christmas.  The first letter which follows, to Mr. Wills, a New Year’s greeting, is written from a railway station between one town and another on this journey.  Mr. Macready, who had married for the second time not very long before this, was now settled at Cheltenham.  Charles Dickens had arranged to give readings there, chiefly for the pleasure of visiting him, and of having him as one of his audience.

This reading tour went on until the beginning of February.  One of the last of the series was in his favourite “beautiful room,” the St. George’s Hall at Liverpool.  In February, he made an exchange of houses with his friends Mr. and Mrs. Hogge, they going to Gad’s Hill, and he and his family to Mr. Hogge’s house in Hyde Park Gate South.  In March he commenced a series of readings at St. James’s Hall, which went on until the middle of June, when he, very gladly, returned to his country home.

A letter beginning “My dear Girls,” addressed to some American ladies who happened to be at Colchester, in the same inn with him when he was reading there, was published by one of them under the name of “Our Letter,” in the “St. Nicholas Magazine,” New York, in 1877.  We think it best to explain it in the young lady’s own words, which are, therefore, appended to the letter.

Mr. Walter Thornbury was one of Charles Dickens’s most valuable contributors to “All the Year Round.”  His letters to him about the subjects of his articles for that journal, are specimens of the minute and careful attention and personal supervision, never neglected or distracted by any other work on which he might be engaged, were it ever so hard or engrossing.

The letter addressed to Mr. Baylis we give chiefly because it has, since Mr. Baylis’s death, been added to the collection of MSS. in the British Museum.  He was a very intimate and confidential friend of the late Lord Lytton, and accompanied him on a visit to Gad’s Hill in that year.

We give an extract from another letter from Charles Dickens to his sister, as a beautiful specimen of a letter of condolence and encouragement to one who was striving, very bravely, but by very slow degrees, to recover from the overwhelming grief of her bereavement.  Mr. Wilkie Collins was at this time engaged on his novel of “No Name,” which appeared in “All the Year Round,” and was threatened with a very serious breakdown in health.  Charles Dickens wrote the letter which we give, to relieve Mr. Collins’s mind as to his work.  Happily he recovered sufficiently to make an end to his own story without any help; but the true friendship and kindness which suggested the offer were none the less appreciated, and may, very likely, by lessening his anxiety, have helped to restore his health.  At the end of October in this year, Charles Dickens, accompanied by his daughter and sister-in-law, went to reside for a couple of months in Paris, taking an apartment in the Rue du Faubourg St. Honore.  From thence he writes to M. Charles Fechter.  He had been greatly interested in this fine artist from the time of his first appearance in England, and was always one of his warmest friends and supporters during his stay in this country.  M. Fechter was, at this time, preparing for the opening of the Lyceum Theatre, under his own management, at the beginning of the following year.

Just before Christmas, Charles Dickens returned to Gad’s Hill.  The Christmas number for this year was “Somebody’s Luggage.”

Mr. W. H. Wills.

AT THE BIRMINGHAM STATION, Thursday, Jand, 1862.


Being stationed here for an hour, on my way from Leamington to
Cheltenham, I write to you.

Firstly, to reciprocate all your cordial and affectionate wishes for the New Year, and to express my earnest hope that we may go on through many years to come, as we have gone on through many years that are gone.  And I think we can say that we doubt whether any two men can have gone on more happily and smoothly, or with greater trust and confidence in one another.

A little packet will come to you from Hunt and Roskell’s, almost at the same time, I think, as this note.

The packet will contain a claret-jug.  I hope it is a pretty thing in itself for your table, and I know that you and Mrs. Wills will like it none the worse because it comes from me.

It is not made of a perishable material, and is so far expressive of our friendship.  I have had your name and mine set upon it, in token of our many years of mutual reliance and trustfulness.  It will never be so full of wine as it is to-day of affectionate regard.

Ever faithfully yours.

Miss Hogarth.

CHELTENHAM, Friday, Jard, 1862.


Mrs. Macready in voice is very like poor Mrs. Macready dead and gone; not in the least like her otherwise.  She is perfectly satisfactory, and exceedingly winning.  Quite perfect in her manner with him and in her ease with his children, sensible, gay, pleasant, sweet-tempered; not in the faintest degree stiff or pedantic; accessible instantly.  I have very rarely seen a more agreeable woman.  The house is (on a smaller scale) any house we have known them in.  Furnished with the old furniture, pictures, engravings, mirrors, tables, and chairs.  Butty is too tall for strength, I am afraid, but handsome, with a face of great power and character, and a very nice girl.  Katie you know all about.  Macready, decidedly much older and infirm.  Very much changed.  His old force has gone out of him strangely.  I don’t think I left off talking a minute from the time of my entering the house to my going to bed last night, and he was as much amused and interested as ever I saw him; still he was, and is, unquestionably aged.

And even now I am obliged to cut this letter short by having to go and look after Headland.  It would never do to be away from the rest of them.  I have no idea what we are doing here; no notion whether things are right or wrong; no conception where the room is; no hold of the business at all.  For which reason I cannot rest without going and looking after the worthy man.

TORQUAY, Wednesday, Jath, 1862.

You know, I think, that I was very averse to going to Plymouth, and would not have gone there again but for poor Arthur.  But on the last night I read “Copperfield,” and positively enthralled the people.  It was a most overpowering effect, and poor Andrew came behind the screen, after the storm, and cried in the best and manliest manner.  Also there were two or three lines of his shipmates and other sailors, and they were extraordinarily affected.  But its culminating effect was on Macready at Cheltenham.  When I got home after “Copperfield,” I found him quite unable to speak, and able to do nothing but square his dear old jaw all on one side, and roll his eyes (half closed), like Jackson’s picture of him.  And when I said something light about it, he returned:  “No ­er ­Dickens!  I swear to Heaven that, as a piece of passion and playfulness ­er ­indescribably mixed up together, it does ­er ­no, really, Dickens! ­amaze me as profoundly as it moves me.  But as a piece of art ­and you know ­er ­that I ­no, Dickens!  By ! have seen the best art in a great time ­it is incomprehensible to me.  How is it got at ­er ­how is it done ­er ­how one man can ­well?  It lays me on my ­er ­back, and it is of no use talking about it!” With which he put his hand upon my breast and pulled out his pocket-handkerchief, and I felt as if I were doing somebody to his Werner.  Katie, by-the-bye, is a wonderful audience, and has a great fund of wild feeling in her.  Johnny not at all unlike Plorn.

I have not yet seen the room here, but imagine it to be very small.  Exeter I know, and that is small also.  I am very much used up, on the whole, for I cannot bear this moist warm climate.  It would kill me very soon.  And I have now got to the point of taking so much out of myself with “Copperfield,” that I might as well do Richard Wardour.

You have now, my dearest Georgy, the fullest extent of my tidings.  This is a very pretty place ­a compound of Hastings, Tunbridge Wells, and little bits of the hills about Naples; but I met four respirators as I came up from the station, and three pale curates without them, who seemed in a bad way.

Frightful intelligence has just been brought in by Boylett, concerning the small size of the room.  I have terrified Headland by sending him to look at it, and swearing that if it’s too small I will go away to Exeter.

ADELPHI HOTEL, LIVERPOOL, Tuesday, Jath, 1862.

The beautiful room was crammed to excess last night, and numbers were turned away.  Its beauty and completeness when it is lighted up are most brilliant to behold, and for a reading it is simply perfect.  You remember that a Liverpool audience is usually dull, but they put me on my mettle last night, for I never saw such an audience ­no, not even in Edinburgh!

I slept horribly last night, and have been over to Birkenhead for a little change of air to-day.  My head is dazed and worn by gas and heat, and I fear that “Copperfield” and “Bob” together to-night won’t mend it.

Best love to Mamie and Katie, if still at Gad’s.  I am going to bring the boys some toffee.

The Misses Armstrong

Monday, Feth, 1862.


For if I were to write “young friends,” it would look like a schoolmaster; and if I were to write “young ladies,” it would look like a schoolmistress; and worse than that, neither form of words would look familiar and natural, or in character with our snowy ride that tooth-chattering morning.

I cannot tell you both how gratified I was by your remembrance, or how often I think of you as I smoke the admirable cigars.  But I almost think you must have had some magnetic consciousness across the Atlantic, of my whiffing my love towards you from the garden here.

My daughter says that when you have settled those little public affairs at home, she hopes you will come back to England (possibly in united states) and give a minute or two to this part of Kent. Her words are, “a day or two;” but I remember your Italian flights, and correct the message.

I have only just now finished my country readings, and have had nobody to make breakfast for me since the remote ages of Colchester!

Ever faithfully yours.



“From among all my treasures ­to each one of which some pleasant history is bound ­I choose this letter, written on coarse blue paper.

The letter was received in answer to cigars sent from America to Mr. Dickens.

The ‘little public affairs at home’ refers to the war of the Rebellion.

At Colchester, he read ‘The Trial’ from ‘Pickwick,’ and selections from ‘Nicholas Nickleby.’

The lady, her two sisters, and her brother were Mr. Dickens’s guests at the queer old English inn at Colchester.

Through the softly falling snow we came back together to London, and on the railway platform parted, with a hearty hand-shaking, from the man who will for ever be enshrined in our hearts as the kindest and most generous, not to say most brilliant of hosts.”

M. de Cerjat.

Sunday, March 16th, 1862.


My daughter naturally liking to be in town at this time of year, I have changed houses with a friend for three months.

My eldest boy is in business as an Eastern merchant in the City, and will do well if he can find continuous energy; otherwise not.  My second boy is with the 42nd Highlanders in India.  My third boy, a good steady fellow, is educating expressly for engineers or artillery.  My fourth (this sounds like a charade), a born little sailor, is a midshipman in H.M.S. Orlando, now at Bermuda, and will make his way anywhere.  Remaining two at school, elder of said remaining two very bright and clever.  Georgina and Mary keeping house for me; and Francis Jeffrey (I ought to have counted him as the third boy, so we’ll take him in here as number two and a half) in my office at present.  Now you have the family bill of fare.

You ask me about Fechter and his Hamlet.  It was a performance of extraordinary merit; by far the most coherent, consistent, and intelligible Hamlet I ever saw.  Some of the delicacies with which he rendered his conception clear were extremely subtle; and in particular he avoided that brutality towards Ophelia which, with a greater or less amount of coarseness, I have seen in all other Hamlets.  As a mere tour de force, it would have been very remarkable in its disclosure of a perfectly wonderful knowledge of the force of the English language; but its merit was far beyond and above this.  Foreign accent, of course, but not at all a disagreeable one.  And he was so obviously safe and at ease, that you were never in pain for him as a foreigner.  Add to this a perfectly picturesque and romantic “make up,” and a remorseless destruction of all conventionalities, and you have the leading virtues of the impersonation.  In Othello he did not succeed.  In Iago he is very good.  He is an admirable artist, and far beyond anyone on our stage.  A real artist and a gentleman.

Last Thursday I began reading again in London ­a condensation of “Copperfield,” and “Mr. Bob Sawyer’s Party,” from “Pickwick,” to finish merrily.  The success of “Copperfield” is astounding.  It made an impression that I must not describe.  I may only remark that I was half dead when I had done; and that although I had looked forward, all through the summer, when I was carefully getting it up, to its being a London sensation; and that although Macready, hearing it at Cheltenham, told me to be prepared for a great effect, it even went beyond my hopes.  I read again next Thursday, and the rush for places is quite furious.  Tell Townshend this with my love, if you see him before I have time to write to him; and tell him that I thought the people would never let me go away, they became so excited, and showed it so very warmly.  I am trying to plan out a new book, but have not got beyond trying.

Yours affectionately.

Mr. Walter Thornbury.

Friday, April 18th, 1862.


The Bow Street runners ceased out of the land soon after the introduction of the new police.  I remember them very well as standing about the door of the office in Bow Street.  They had no other uniform than a blue dress-coat, brass buttons (I am not even now sure that that was necessary), and a bright red cloth waistcoat.  The waistcoat was indispensable, and the slang name for them was “redbreasts,” in consequence.

They kept company with thieves and the like, much more than the detective police do.  I don’t know what their pay was, but I have no doubt their principal complements were got under the rose.  It was a very slack institution, and its head-quarters were The Brown Bear, in Bow Street, a public-house of more than doubtful reputation, opposite the police-office; and either the house which is now the theatrical costume maker’s, or the next door to it.

Field, who advertises the Secret Enquiry Office, was a Bow Street runner, and can tell you all about it; Goddard, who also advertises an enquiry office, was another of the fraternity.  They are the only two I know of as yet existing in a “questionable shape.”

Faithfully yours always.

Mr. Baylis.

GAD’S HILL, ETC., Wednesday, July 2nd, 1862.


I have been in France, and in London, and in other parts of Kent than this, and everywhere but here, for weeks and weeks.  Pray excuse my not having (for this reason specially) answered your kind note sooner.

After carefully cross-examining my daughter, I do NOT believe her to be worthy of the fernery.  Last autumn we transplanted into the shrubbery a quantity of evergreens previously clustered close to the front of the house, and trained more ivy about the wall and the like.  When I ask her where she would have the fernery and what she would do with it, the witness falters, turns pale, becomes confused, and says:  “Perhaps it would be better not to have it at all.”  I am quite confident that the constancy of the young person is not to be trusted, and that she had better attach her fernery to one of her chateaux in Spain, or one of her English castles in the air.  None the less do I thank you for your more than kind proposal.

We have been in great anxiety respecting Miss Hogarth, the sudden decline of whose health and spirits has greatly distressed us.  Although she is better than she was, and the doctors are, on the whole, cheerful, she requires great care, and fills us with apprehension.  The necessity of providing change for her will probably take us across the water very early in the autumn; and this again unsettles home schemes here, and withers many kinds of fern.  If they knew (by “they” I mean my daughter and Miss Hogarth) that I was writing to you, they would charge me with many messages of regard.  But as I am shut up in my room in a ferocious and unapproachable condition, owing to the great accumulation of letters I have to answer, I will tell them at lunch that I have anticipated their wish.  As I know they have bills for me to pay, and are at present shy of producing them, I wish to preserve a gloomy and repellent reputation.

My dear Mr. Baylis, faithfully yours always.

Mrs. Henry Austin.

GAD’S HILL, Tuesday, Octh, 1862.

I do not preach consolation because I am unwilling to preach at any time, and know my own weakness too well.  But in this world there is no stay but the hope of a better, and no reliance but on the mercy and goodness of God.  Through those two harbours of a shipwrecked heart, I fully believe that you will, in time, find a peaceful resting-place even on this careworn earth.  Heaven speed the time, and do you try hard to help it on!  It is impossible to say but that our prolonged grief for the beloved dead may grieve them in their unknown abiding-place, and give them trouble.  The one influencing consideration in all you do as to your disposition of yourself (coupled, of course, with a real earnest strenuous endeavour to recover the lost tone of spirit) is, that you think and feel you can do.  I do not in the least regard your change of course in going to Havre as any evidence of instability.  But I rather hope it is likely that through such restlessness you will come to a far quieter frame of mind.  The disturbed mind and affections, like the tossed sea, seldom calm without an intervening time of confusion and trouble.

But nothing is to be attained without striving.  In a determined effort to settle the thoughts, to parcel out the day, to find occupation regularly or to make it, to be up and doing something, are chiefly to be found the mere mechanical means which must come to the aid of the best mental efforts.

It is a wilderness of a day, here, in the way of blowing and raining, and as darkly dismal, at four o’clock, as need be.  My head is but just now raised from a day’s writing, but I will not lose the post without sending you a word.

Katie was here yesterday, just come back from Clara White’s (that was), in Scotland.  In the midst of her brilliant fortune, it is too clear to me that she is already beckoned away to follow her dead sisters.  Macready was here from Saturday evening to yesterday morning, older but looking wonderfully well, and (what is very rare in these times) with the old thick sweep of hair upon his head.  Georgina being left alone here the other day, was done no good to by a great consternation among the servants.  On going downstairs, she found Marsh (the stableman) seated with great dignity and anguish in an arm-chair, and incessantly crying out:  “I am dead.”  To which the women servants said with great pathos (and with some appearance of reason):  “No, you ain’t, Marsh!” And to which he persisted in replying:  “Yes, I am; I am dead!” Some neighbouring vagabond was impressed to drive a cart over to Rochester and fetch the doctor, who said (the patient and his consolers being all very anxious that the heart should be the scene of affliction):  “Stomach.”

Mr. W. Wilkie Collins.

Tuesday Night, Octh, 1862.


Frank Beard has been here this evening, of course since I posted my this day’s letter to you, and has told me that you are not at all well, and how he has given you something which he hopes and believes will bring you round.  It is not to convey this insignificant piece of intelligence, or to tell you how anxious I am that you should come up with a wet sheet and a flowing sail (as we say at sea when we are not sick), that I write.  It is simply to say what follows, which I hope may save you some mental uneasiness.  For I was stricken ill when I was doing “Bleak House,” and I shall not easily forget what I suffered under the fear of not being able to come up to time.

Dismiss that fear (if you have it) altogether from your mind.  Write to me at Paris at any moment, and say you are unequal to your work, and want me, and I will come to London straight and do your work.  I am quite confident that, with your notes and a few words of explanation, I could take it up at any time and do it.  Absurdly unnecessary to say that it would be a makeshift!  But I could do it at a pinch, so like you as that no one should find out the difference.  Don’t make much of this offer in your mind; it is nothing, except to ease it.  If you should want help, I am as safe as the bank.  The trouble would be nothing to me, and the triumph of overcoming a difficulty great.  Think it a Christmas number, an “Idle Apprentice,” a “Lighthouse,” a “Frozen Deep.”  I am as ready as in any of these cases to strike in and hammer the hot iron out.

You won’t want me.  You will be well (and thankless!) in no time.  But there I am; and I hope that the knowledge may be a comfort to you.  Call me, and I come.

As Beard always has a sense of medical responsibility, and says anything important about a patient in confidence, I have merely remarked here that “Wilkie” is out of sorts.  Charley (who is here with Katie) has no other cue from me.

Ever affectionately.

M. Charles Fechter.

Tuesday, Noth, 1862.


You know, I believe, how our letters crossed, and that I am here until Christmas.  Also, you know with what pleasure and readiness I should have responded to your invitation if I had been in London.

Pray tell Paul Feval that I shall be charmed to know him, and that I shall feel the strongest interest in making his acquaintance.  It almost puts me out of humour with Paris (and it takes a great deal to do that!) to think that I was not at home to prevail upon him to come with you, and be welcomed to Gad’s Hill; but either there or here, I hope to become his friend before this present old year is out.  Pray tell him so.

You say nothing in your note of your Lyceum preparations.  I trust they are all going on well.  There is a fine opening for you, I am sure, with a good beginning; but the importance of a good beginning is very great.  If you ever have time and inclination to tell me in a short note what you are about, you can scarcely interest me more, as my wishes and strongest sympathies are for and with your success ­maïs cela va sans dire.

I went to the Chatelet (a beautiful theatre!) the other night to see “Rothomago,” but was so mortally gene with the poor nature of the piece and of the acting, that I came out again when there was a week or two (I mean an hour or two, but the hours seemed weeks) yet to get through.

My dear Fechter, very faithfully yours always.

Mr. Clarkson Stanfield‚ R.A.

                          PARIS, RUE DU FAUBOURG ST. HONORE, 27,
                                             Friday, Deth, 1862.


We have been here for two months, and I shall probably come back here after Christmas (we go home for Christmas week) and stay on into February.  But I shall write and propose a theatre before Christmas is out, so this is to warn you to get yourself into working pantomime order!

I hope Wills has duly sent you our new Christmas number.  As you may like to know what I myself wrote of it, understand the Dick contributions to be, his leaving it till called for, and his wonderful end, his boots, and his brown paper parcel.

Since you were at Gad’s Hill I have been travelling a good deal, and looking up many odd things for use.  I want to know how you are in health and spirits, and it would be the greatest of pleasures to me to have a line under your hand.

God bless you and yours with all the blessings of the time of year, and of all times!

Ever your affectionate and faithful

M. Charles Fechter.

PARIS, Saturday, Deth, 1862.


I have read “The White Rose” attentively, and think it an extremely good play.  It is vigorously written with a great knowledge of the stage, and presents many striking situations.  I think the close particularly fine, impressive, bold, and new.

But I greatly doubt the expediency of your doing any historical play early in your management.  By the words “historical play,” I mean a play founded on any incident in English history.  Our public are accustomed to associate historical plays with Shakespeare.  In any other hands, I believe they care very little for crowns and dukedoms.  What you want is something with an interest of a more domestic and general nature ­an interest as romantic as you please, but having a more general and wider response than a disputed succession to the throne can have for Englishmen at this time of day.  Such interest culminated in the last Stuart, and has worn itself out.  It would be uphill work to evoke an interest in Perkin Warbeck.

I do not doubt the play’s being well received, but my fear is that these people would be looked upon as mere abstractions, and would have but a cold welcome in consequence, and would not lay hold of your audience.  Now, when you have laid hold of your audience and have accustomed them to your theatre, you may produce “The White Rose,” with far greater justice to the author, and to the manager also.  Wait.  Feel your way.  Perkin Warbeck is too far removed from analogy with the sympathies and lives of the people for a beginning.

My dear Fechter, ever faithfully yours.

Miss Mary Boyle.

Saturday, Deth, 1862.


I must send you my Christmas greeting and happy New Year wishes in return for yours; most heartily and fervently reciprocating your interest and affection.  You are among the few whom I most care for and best love.

Being in London two evenings in the opening week, I tried to persuade my legs (for whose judgment I have the highest respect) to go to an evening party.  But I could not induce them to pass Leicester Square.  The faltering presentiment under which they laboured so impressed me, that at that point I yielded to their terrors.  They immediately ran away to the east, and I accompanied them to the Olympic, where I saw a very good play, “Camilla’s Husband,” very well played.  Real merit in Mr. Neville and Miss Saville.

We came across directly after the gale, with the Channel all bestrewn with floating wreck, and with a hundred and fifty sick schoolboys from Calais on board.  I am going back on the morning after Fechter’s opening night, and have promised to read “Copperfield” at the Embassy, for a British charity.

Georgy continues wonderfully well, and she and Mary send you their best love.  The house is pervaded by boys; and every boy has (as usual) an unaccountable and awful power of producing himself in every part of the house at every moment, apparently in fourteen pairs of creaking boots.

My dear Mary, ever affectionately your