Read 1866. of The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol. 2 (1857-1870), free online book, by Charles Dickens, on ReadCentral.com.

NARRATIVE.

The furnished house hired by Charles Dickens in the spring of this year was in Southwick Place, Hyde Park.

Having entered into negotiations with the Messrs. Chappell for a series of readings to be given in London, in the English provinces, in Scotland and Ireland, Charles Dickens had no leisure for more than his usual editorial work for “All the Year Round.”  He contributed four parts to the Christmas number, which was entitled, “Mugby Junction.”

For the future all his English readings were given in connection with the Messrs. Chappell, and never in all his career had he more satisfactory or more pleasant business relations than those connected with these gentlemen.  Moreover, out of this connection sprang a sincere friendship on both sides.

Mr. Dolby is so constantly mentioned in future letters, that they themselves will tell of the cordial companionship which existed between Charles Dickens and this able and most obliging “manager.”

The letter to “Lily” was in answer to a child’s letter from Miss Lily Benzon, inviting him to a birthday party.

The play alluded to in the letter to M. Fechter was called “A Long Strike,” and was performed at the Lyceum Theatre.

The “Sultan” mentioned in the letter to Mr. Fitzgerald was a noble Irish bloodhound, presented by this gentleman to Charles Dickens.  The story of the dog’s death is told in a letter to M. de Cerjat, which we give in the following year.

Miss Mary Boyle.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Saturday, Jath, 1866.

MY DEAR MARY,

Feeling pretty certain that I shall never answer your letter unless I answer it at once (I got it this morning), here goes!

I did not dramatise “The Master of Ravenswood,” though I did a good deal towards and about the piece, having an earnest desire to put Scott, for once, upon the stage in his own gallant manner.  It is an enormous success, and increases in attraction nightly.  I have never seen the people in all parts of the house so leaning forward, in lines sloping towards the stage, earnestly and intently attractive, as while the story gradually unfolds itself.  But the astonishing circumstance of all is, that Miss Leclercq (never thought of for Lucy till all other Lucies had failed) is marvellously good, highly pathetic, and almost unrecognisable in person!  What note it touches in her, always dumb until now, I do not pretend to say, but there is no one on the stage who could play the contract scene better, or more simply and naturally, and I find it impossible to see it without crying!  Almost everyone plays well, the whole is exceedingly picturesque, and there is scarcely a movement throughout, or a look, that is not indicated by Scott.  So you get a life romance with beautiful illustrations, and I do not expect ever again to see a book take up its bed and walk in like manner.

I am charmed to learn that you have had a freeze out of my ghost story.  It rather did give me a shiver up the back in the writing.  “Dr. Marigold” has just now accomplished his two hundred thousand.  My only other news about myself is that I am doubtful whether to read or not in London this season.  If I decide to do it at all, I shall probably do it on a large scale.

Many happy years to you, my dear Mary.  So prays

Your ever affectionate
Jo.

Mr. William Charles Kent.

GAD’S HILL, Thursday, Jath, 1866.

MY DEAR KENT,

I cannot tell you how grieved we all are here to know that you are suffering again.  Your patient tone, however, and the hopefulness and forbearance of Ferguson’s course, gives us some reassurance.  Apropos of which latter reference I dined with Ferguson at the Lord Mayor’s, last Tuesday, and had a grimly distracted impulse upon me to defy the toast-master and rush into a speech about him and his noble art, when I sat pining under the imbecility of constitutional and corporational idiots.  I did seize him for a moment by the hair of his head (in proposing the Lady Mayoress), and derived some faint consolation from the company’s response to the reference.  O! no man will ever know under what provocation to contradiction and a savage yell of repudiation I suffered at the hands of ­, feebly complacent in the uniform of Madame Tussaud’s own military waxers, and almost the worst speaker I ever heard in my life!  Mary and Georgina, sitting on either side of me, urged me to “look pleasant.”  I replied in expressions not to be repeated.  Shea (the judge) was just as good and graceful, as he (the member) was bad and gawky.

Bulwer’s “Lost Tales of Miletus” is a most noble book!  He is an extraordinary fellow, and fills me with admiration and wonder.

It is of no use writing to you about yourself, my dear Kent, because you are likely to be tired of that constant companion, and so I have gone scratching (with an exceedingly bad pen) about and about you.  But I come back to you to let you know that the reputation of this house as a convalescent hospital stands (like the house itself) very high, and that testimonials can be produced from credible persons who have recovered health and spirits here swiftly.  Try us, only try us, and we are content to stake the reputation of the establishment on the result.

Ever affectionately yours.

Mr. Percy Fitzgerald.

GAD’S HILL, Friday, Fend, 1866.

MY DEAR FITZGERALD,

I ought to have written to you days and days ago, to thank you for your charming book on Charles Lamb, to tell you with what interest and pleasure I read it as soon as it came here, and to add that I was honestly affected (far more so than your modesty will readily believe) by your intimate knowledge of those touches of mine concerning childhood.

Let me tell you now that I have not in the least cooled, after all, either as to the graceful sympathetic book, or as to the part in it with which I am honoured.  It has become a matter of real feeling with me, and I postponed its expression because I couldn’t satisfactorily get it out of myself, and at last I came to the conclusion that it must be left in.

My dear Fitzgerald, faithfully yours always.

Miss Hogarth.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,” Friday, Feth, 1866.

MY DEAREST GEORGY,

I found your letter here when I came back on Wednesday evening, and was extremely glad to get it.

Frank Beard wrote me word that with such a pulse as I described, an examination of the heart was absolutely necessary, and that I had better make an appointment with him alone for the purpose.  This I did.  I was not at all disconcerted, for I knew well beforehand that the effect could not possibly be without that one cause at the bottom of it.  There seems to be degeneration of some functions of the heart.  It does not contract as it should.  So I have got a prescription of iron, quinine, and digitalis, to set it a-going, and send the blood more quickly through the system.  If it should not seem to succeed on a reasonable trial, I will then propose a consultation with someone else.  Of course I am not so foolish as to suppose that all my work can have been achieved without some penalty, and I have noticed for some time a decided change in my buoyancy and hopefulness ­in other words, in my usual “tone.”

I shall wait to see Beard again on Monday, and shall most probably come down that day.  If I should not, I will telegraph after seeing him.  Best love to Mamie.

Mrs. Brookfield.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Tuesday, Feth, 1866.

MY DEAR MRS. BROOKFIELD,

Having gone through your MS. (which I should have done sooner, but that I have not been very well), I write these few following words about it.  Firstly, with a limited reference to its unsuitability to these pages.  Secondly, with a more enlarged reference to the merits of the story itself.

If you will take any part of it and cut it up (in fancy) into the small portions into which it would have to be divided here for only a month’s supply, you will (I think) at once discover the impossibility of publishing it in weekly parts.  The scheme of the chapters, the manner of introducing the people, the progress of the interest, the places in which the principal places fall, are all hopelessly against it.  It would seem as though the story were never coming, and hardly ever moving.  There must be a special design to overcome that specially trying mode of publication, and I cannot better express the difficulty and labour of it than by asking you to turn over any two weekly numbers of “A Tale of Two Cities,” or “Great Expectations,” or Bulwer’s story, or Wilkie Collins’s, or Reade’s, or “At the Bar,” and notice how patiently and expressly the thing has to be planned for presentation in these fragments, and yet for afterwards fusing together as an uninterrupted whole.

Of the story itself I honestly say that I think highly.  The style is particularly easy and agreeable, infinitely above ordinary writing, and sometimes reminds me of Mrs. Inchbald at her best.  The characters are remarkably well observed, and with a rare mixture of delicacy and truthfulness.  I observe this particularly in the brother and sister, and in Mrs. Neville.  But it strikes me that you constantly hurry your narrative (and yet without getting on) by telling it, in a sort of impetuous breathless way, in your own person, when the people should tell it and act it for themselves.  My notion always is, that when I have made the people to play out the play, it is, as it were, their business to do it, and not mine.  Then, unless you really have led up to a great situation like Basil’s death, you are bound in art to make more of it.  Such a scene should form a chapter of itself.  Impressed upon the reader’s memory, it would go far to make the fortune of the book.  Suppose yourself telling that affecting incident in a letter to a friend.  Wouldn’t you describe how you went through the life and stir of the streets and roads to the sick-room?  Wouldn’t you say what kind of room it was, what time of day it was, whether it was sunlight, starlight, or moonlight?  Wouldn’t you have a strong impression on your mind of how you were received, when you first met the look of the dying man, what strange contrasts were about you and struck you?  I don’t want you, in a novel, to present yourself to tell such things, but I want the things to be there.  You make no more of the situation than the index might, or a descriptive playbill might in giving a summary of the tragedy under representation.

As a mere piece of mechanical workmanship, I think all your chapters should be shorter; that is to say, that they should be subdivided.  Also, when you change from narrative to dialogue, or vice versa, you should make the transition more carefully.  Also, taking the pains to sit down and recall the principal landmarks in your story, you should then make them far more elaborate and conspicuous than the rest.  Even with these changes I do not believe that the story would attract the attention due to it, if it were published even in such monthly portions as the space of “Fraser” would admit of.  Even so brightened, it would not, to the best of my judgment, express itself piecemeal.  It seems to me to be so constituted as to require to be read “off the reel.”  As a book in two volumes I think it would have good claims to success, and good chances of obtaining success.  But I suppose the polishing I have hinted at (not a meretricious adornment, but positively necessary to good work and good art) to have been first thoroughly administered.

Now don’t hate me if you can help it.  I can afford to be hated by some people, but I am not rich enough to put you in possession of that luxury.

Ever faithfully yours.

P.S. ­The MS. shall be delivered at your house to-morrow.  And your petitioner again prays not to be, etc.

Miss Hogarth.

ADELPHI, LIVERPOOL, Friday, April 13th, 1866.

MY DEAREST GEORGY,

The reception at Manchester last night was quite a magnificent sight; the whole of the immense audience standing up and cheering.  I thought them a little slow with “Marigold,” but believe it was only the attention necessary in so vast a place.  They gave a splendid burst at the end.  And after “Nickleby” (which went to perfection), they set up such a call, that I was obliged to go in again.  The unfortunate gasman, a very steady fellow, got a fall off a ladder and sprained his leg.  He was put to bed in a public opposite, and was left there, poor man.

This is the first very fine day we have had.  I have taken advantage of it by crossing to Birkenhead and getting some air upon the water.  It was fresh and beautiful.

I send my best love to Mamie, and hope she is better.  I am, of course, tired (the pull of “Marigold” upon one’s energy, in the Free Trade Hall, was great); but I stick to my tonic, and feel, all things considered, in very good tone.  The room here (I mean the hall) being my special favourite and extraordinarily easy, is almost a rest!

Miss Dickens.

ADELPHI, LIVERPOOL, Saturday, April 14th, 1866.

MY DEAREST MAMIE,

The police reported officially that three thousand people were turned away from the hall last night.  I doubt if they were so numerous as that, but they carried in the outer doors and pitched into Dolby with great vigour.  I need not add that every corner of the place was crammed.  They were a very fine audience, and took enthusiastically every point in “Copperfield” and the “Trial.”  They made the reading a quarter of an hour longer than usual.  One man advertised in the morning paper that he would give thirty shillings (double) for three stalls, but nobody would sell, and he didn’t get in.

Except that I cannot sleep, I really think myself in much better training than I had anticipated.  A dozen oysters and a little champagne between the parts every night, constitute the best restorative I have ever yet tried.  John appears low, but I don’t know why.  A letter comes for him daily; the hand is female; whether Smudger’s, or a nearer one still and a dearer one, I don’t know.  So it may or may not be the cause of his gloom.

“Miss Emily” of Preston is married to a rich cotton lord, rides in open carriages in gorgeous array, and is altogether splendid.  With this effective piece of news I close.

Miss Hogarth.

GLASGOW, April 17th, 1866.

We arrived here at ten yesterday evening.  I don’t think the journey shook me at all.  Dolby provided a superb cold collation and “the best of drinks,” and we dined in the carriage, and I made him laugh all the way.

The let here is very large.  Every precaution taken to prevent my platform from being captured as it was last time; but I don’t feel at all sure that it will not be stormed at one of the two readings.  Wills is to do the genteel to-night at the stalls, and Dolby is to stem the shilling tide if he can.  The poor gasman cannot come on, and we have got a new one here who is to go to Edinburgh with us.  Of Edinburgh we know nothing, but as its first night has always been shady, I suppose it will stick to its antecedents.

I like to hear about Harness and his freshness.  The let for the next reading at St. James’s is “going,” they report, “admirably.”  Lady Russell asked me to dinner to-morrow, and I have written her a note to-day.  The rest has certainly done me good.  I slept thoroughly well last night, and feel fresh.  What to-night’s work, and every night’s work this week, may do contrariwise, remains to be seen.

I hope Harry’s knee may be in the way of mending, from what you relate of it.

Miss Dickens.

WATERLOO HOTEL, EDINBURGH, Wednesday, April 18th, 1866.

We had a tremendous house again last night at Glasgow; and turned away great numbers.  Not only that, but they were a most brilliant and delicate audience, and took “Marigold” with a fine sense and quickness not to be surpassed.  The shillings pitched into Dolby again, and one man writes a sensible letter in one of the papers this morning, showing to my satisfaction (?) that they really had, through the local agent, some cause of complaint.  Nevertheless, the shilling tickets are sold for to-morrow, and it seems to be out of the question to take any money at the doors, the call for all parts is so enormous.  The thundering of applause last night was quite staggering, and my people checked off my reception by the minute hand of a watch, and stared at one another, thinking I should never begin.  I keep quite well, have happily taken to sleeping these last three nights; and feel, all things considered, very little conscious of fatigue.  I cannot reconcile my town medicine with the hours and journeys of reading life, and have therefore given it up for the time.  But for the moment, I think I am better without it.  What we are doing here I have not yet heard.  I write at half-past one, and we have been little more than an hour in the house.  But I am quite prepared for the inevitable this first Edinburgh night.  Endeavours have been made (from Glasgow yesterday) to telegraph the exact facts out of our local agent; but hydraulic pressure wouldn’t have squeezed a straight answer out of him.  “Friday and Saturday doing very well, Wednesday not so good.”  This was all electricity could discover.

I am going to write a line this post to Katie, from whom I have a note.  I hope Harry’s leg will now step out in the manner of the famous cork leg in the song.

Miss Hogarth.

EDINBURGH, Thursday, April 19th, 1866.

The house was more than twice better than any first night here previously.  They were, as usual here, remarkably intelligent, and the reading went brilliantly.  I have not sent up any newspapers, as they are generally so poorly written, that you may know beforehand all the commonplaces that they will write.  But The Scotsman has so pretty an article this morning, and (so far as I know) so true a one, that I will try to post it to you, either from here or Glasgow.  John and Dolby went over early, and Wills and I follow them at half-past eleven.  It is cold and wet here.  We have laid half-crown bets with Dolby, that he will be assaulted to-night at Glasgow.  He has a surprising knowledge of what the receipts will be always, and wins half-crowns every night.  Chang is living in this house.  John (not knowing it) was rendered perfectly drivelling last night, by meeting him on the stairs.  The Tartar Dwarf is always twining himself upstairs sideways, and drinks a bottle of whisky per day, and is reported to be a surprising little villain.

Miss Dickens.

WATERLOO HOTEL, EDINBURGH, Friday, April 20th, 1866.

No row at Glasgow last night.  Great placards were posted about the town by the anxious Dolby, announcing that no money would be taken at the doors.  This kept the crowd off.  Two files of policemen and a double staff everywhere did the rest, and nothing could be better-tempered or more orderly.  Tremendous enthusiasm with the “Carol” and “Trial.”  I was dead beat afterwards, that reading being twenty minutes longer than usual; but plucked up again, had some supper, slept well, and am quite right to-day.  It is a bright day, and the express ride over from Glasgow was very pleasant.

Everything is gone here for to-night.  But it is difficult to describe what the readings have grown to be.  The let at St. James’s Hall is not only immense for next Tuesday, but so large for the next reading afterwards, that Chappell writes:  “That will be the greatest house of the three.”  From Manchester this morning they write:  “Send us more tickets instantly, for we are sold out and don’t know what to do with the people.”  Last night the whole of my money under the agreement had been taken.  I notice that a great bank has broken at Liverpool, which may hurt us there, but when last heard of it was going as before.  And the audience, though so enormous, do somehow express a personal affection, which makes them very strange and moving to see.

I have a story to answer you and your aunt with.  Before I left Southwick Place for Liverpool, I received a letter from Glasgow, saying, “Your little Emily has been woo’d and married and a’! since you last saw her;” and describing her house within a mile or two of the city, and asking me to stay there.  I wrote the usual refusal, and supposed Mrs. ­ to be some romantic girl whom I had joked with, perhaps at Allison’s or where not.  On the first night at Glasgow I received a bouquet from ­, and wore one of the flowers.  This morning at the Glasgow station, ­ appeared, and proved to be the identical Miss Emily, of whose marriage Dolby had told me on our coming through Preston.  She was attired in magnificent raiment, and presented the happy .

Miss Hogarth.

LIVERPOOL, Thursday, April 26th, 1866.

We noticed between London and Rugby (the first stoppage) something very odd in our carriage yesterday, not so much in its motion as in its sound.  We examined it as well as we could out of both windows, but could make nothing of it.  On our arrival at Rugby, it was found to be on fire.  And as it was in the middle of the train, the train had to be broken to get it off into a siding by itself and get another carriage on.  With this slight exception we came down all right.

My voice is much better, I am glad to report, and I mean to try Beard’s remedy after dinner to-day.  This is all my present news.

DOWN HOTEL, CLIFTON, Friday, May 11th, 1866.

I received your note before I left Birmingham this morning.  It has been very heavy work getting up at half-past six each morning after a heavy night, and I am not at all well to-day.  We had a tremendous hall at Birmingham last night ­two thousand one hundred people.  I made a most ridiculous mistake.  Had “Nickleby” on my list to finish with, instead of “Trial.”  Read “Nickleby” with great go, and the people remained.  Went back again at ten and explained the accident, and said if they liked, I would give them the “Trial.”  They did like, and I had another half-hour of it in that enormous place.

This stoppage of Overend and Gurney in the City will play the ­ with all public gaieties, and with all the arts.

My cold is no better.  John fell off a platform about ten feet high yesterday, and fainted.  He looks all the colours of the rainbow to-day, but does not seem much hurt beyond being puffed up one hand, arm, and side.

Miss Lily Benzon.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Monday, June 18th, 1866.

MY DEAR LILY,

I am sorry that I cannot come to read to you “The Boots at the Holly Tree Inn,” as you ask me to do; but the truth is, that I am tired of reading at this present time, and have come into the country to rest and hear the birds sing.  There are a good many birds, I daresay, in Kensington Palace Gardens, and upon my word and honour they are much better worth listening to than I am.  So let them sing to you as hard as ever they can, while their sweet voices last (they will be silent when the winter comes); and very likely after you and I have eaten our next Christmas pudding and mince-pies, you and I and Uncle Harry may all meet together at St. James’s Hall; Uncle Harry to bring you there, to hear the “Boots;” I to receive you there, and read the “Boots;” and you (I hope) to applaud very much, and tell me that you like the “Boots.”  So, God bless you and me, and Uncle Harry, and the “Boots,” and long life and happiness to us all!

Your affectionate Friend.

P.S. ­There’s a flourish!

Mr. B. W. Procter.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Monday, Auth, 1866.

MY DEAR PROCTER,

I have read your biography of Charles Lamb with inexpressible pleasure and interest.  I do not think it possible to tell a pathetic story with a more unaffected and manly tenderness.  And as to the force and vigour of the style, if I did not know you I should have made sure that there was a printer’s error in the opening of your introduction, and that the word “seventy” occupied the place of “forty.”

Let me, my dear friend, most heartily congratulate you on your achievement.  It is not an ordinary triumph to do such justice to the memory of such a man.  And I venture to add, that the fresh spirit with which you have done it impresses me as being perfectly wonderful.

Ever affectionately yours.

Sir James Emerson Tennent.

GAD’S HILL, Monday, Auth, 1866.

MY DEAR TENNENT,

I have been very much interested by your extract, and am strongly inclined to believe that the founder of the Refuge for Poor Travellers meant the kind of man to which it refers.  Chaucer certainly meant the Pardonere to be a humbug, living on the credulity of the people.  After describing the sham reliques he carried, he says: 

        But with these relikes whawne that he found
        A poure personne dwelling up on lond
        Upon a day he gat him more monnie
        Than that the personne got in monthes time,
        And thus, with fained flattering and japes
        He made the personne, and the people, his apes.

And the worthy Watts (founder of the charity) may have had these very lines in his mind when he excluded such a man.

When I last heard from my boy he was coming to you, and was full of delight and dignity.  My midshipman has just been appointed to the Bristol, on the West Coast of Africa, and is on his voyage out to join her.  I wish it was another ship and another station.  She has been unlucky in losing men.

Kindest regard from all my house to yours.

Faithfully yours ever.

M. Charles Fechter.

GAD’S HILL, Tuesday, Septh, 1866.

MY DEAR FECHTER,

This morning I received the play to the end of the telegraph scene, and
I have since read it twice.

I clearly see the ground of Mr. Boucicault’s two objections; but I do not see their force.

First, as to the writing.  If the characters did not speak in a terse and homely way, their idea and language would be inconsistent with their dress and station, and they would lose, as characters, before the audience.  The dialogue seems to be exactly what is wanted.  Its simplicity (particularly in Mr. Boucicault’s part) is often very effective; and throughout there is an honest, straight-to-the-purpose ruggedness in it, like the real life and the real people.

Secondly, as to the absence of the comic element.  I really do not see how more of it could be got into the story, and I think Mr. Boucicault underrates the pleasant effect of his own part.  The very notion of a sailor, whose life is not among those little courts and streets, and whose business does not lie with the monotonous machinery, but with the four wild winds, is a relief to me in reading the play.  I am quite confident of its being an immense relief to the audience when they see the sailor before them, with an entirely different bearing, action, dress, complexion even, from the rest of the men.  I would make him the freshest and airiest sailor that ever was seen; and through him I can distinctly see my way out of “the Black Country” into clearer air. (I speak as one of the audience, mind.) I should like something of this contrast to be expressed in the dialogue between the sailor and Jew, in the second scene of the second act.  Again, I feel Widdicomb’s part (which is charming, and ought to make the whole house cry) most agreeable and welcome, much better than any amount in such a story, of mere comicality.

It is unnecessary to say that the play is done with a master’s hand.  Its closeness and movement are quite surprising.  Its construction is admirable.  I have the strongest belief in its making a great success.  But I must add this proviso:  I never saw a play so dangerously depending in critical places on strict natural propriety in the manner and perfection in the shaping of the small parts.  Those small parts cannot take the play up, but they can let it down.  I would not leave a hair on the head of one of them to the chance of the first night, but I would see, to the minutest particular, the make-up of every one of them at a night rehearsal.

Of course you are free to show this note to Mr. Boucicault, and I suppose you will do so; let me throw out this suggestion to him and you.  Might it not ease the way with the Lord Chamberlain’s office, and still more with the audience, when there are Manchester champions in it, if instead of “Manchester” you used a fictitious name?  When I did “Hard Times” I called the scene Coketown.  Everybody knew what was meant, but every cotton-spinning town said it was the other cotton-spinning town.

I shall be up on Saturday, and will come over about mid-day, unless you name any other time.

Ever heartily.

Mr. Walter Thornbury

“ALL THE YEAR ROUND” OFFICE, Saturday, Septh, 1866.

MY DEAR THORNBURY,

Many thanks for your letter.

In reference to your Shakespeare queries, I am not so much enamoured of the first and third subjects as I am of the Ariosto enquiry, which should be highly interesting.  But if you have so got the matter in your mind, as that its execution would be incomplete and unsatisfactory to you unless you write all the three papers, then by all means write the three, and I will most gladly take them.  For some years I have had so much pleasure in reading you, that I can honestly warrant myself as what actors call “a good audience.”

The idea of old stories retold is decidedly a good one.  I greatly like the notion of that series.  Of course you know De Quincey’s paper on the Ratcliffe Highway murderer?  Do you know also the illustration (I have it at Gad’s Hill), representing the horrible creature as his dead body lay on a cart, with a piece of wood for a pillow, and a stake lying by, ready to be driven through him?

I don’t quite like the title, “The Social History of London.”  I should better like some title to the effect, “The History of London’s Social Changes in so many Years.”  Such a title would promise more, and better express your intention.  What do you think of taking for a first title, “London’s Changes”?  You could then add the second title, “Being a History,” etc.

I don’t at all desire to fix a limit to the series of old stories retold.  I would state the general intention at the beginning of the first paper, and go on like Banquo’s line.

Don’t let your London title remind people, by so much as the place of the word “civilisation,” of Buckle.  It seems a ridiculous caution, but the indolent part of the public (a large part!) on such points tumble into extraordinary mistakes.

Faithfully yours always.

Mr. Percy Fitzgerald.

GAD’S HILL, Tuesday, Noth, 1866.

MY DEAR FITZGERALD,

It is always pleasant to me to hear from you, and I hope you will believe that this is not a mere fashion of speech.

Concerning the green covers, I find the leaves to be budding ­on unquestionable newspaper authority; but, upon my soul, I have no other knowledge of their being in embryo!  Really, I do not see a chance of my settling myself to such work until after I have accomplished forty-two readings, to which I stand pledged.

I hope to begin this series somewhere about the middle of January, in Dublin.  Touching the details of the realisation of this hope, will you tell me in a line as soon as you can ­Is the exhibition room a good room for speaking in?

Your mention of the late Sultan touches me nearly.  He was the finest dog I ever saw, and between him and me there was a perfect understanding.  But, to adopt the popular phrase, it was so very confidential that it “went no further.”  He would fly at anybody else with the greatest enthusiasm for destruction.  I saw him, muzzled, pound into the heart of a regiment of the line; and I have frequently seen him, muzzled, hold a great dog down with his chest and feet.  He has broken loose (muzzled) and come home covered with blood, again and again.  And yet he never disobeyed me, unless he had first laid hold of a dog.

You heard of his going to execution, evidently supposing the procession to be a party detached in pursuit of something to kill or eat?  It was very affecting.  And also of his bolting a blue-eyed kitten, and making me acquainted with the circumstance by his agonies of remorse (or indigestion)?

I cannot find out that there is anyone in Rochester (a sleepy old city) who has anything to tell about Garrick, except what is not true.  His brother, the wine merchant, would be more in Rochester way, I think.  How on earth do you find time to do all these books?

You make my hair stand on end; an agreeable sensation, for I am charmed to find that I have any.  Why don’t you come yourself and look after Garrick?  I should be truly delighted to receive you.

My dear Fitzgerald, always faithfully yours.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Friday, Deth, 1866.

MY DEAREST MACREADY,

I have received your letter with the utmost pleasure and we all send our most affectionate love to you, Mrs. Macready, Katie, Johnny, and the boy of boys.  All good Christmas and New Year greetings are to be understood as included.

You will be interested in knowing that, encouraged by the success of summer cricket-matches, I got up a quantity of foot-races and rustic sports in my field here on the 26th last past:  as I have never yet had a case of drunkenness, the landlord of The Falstaff had a drinking-booth on the ground.  All the prizes I gave were in money, too.  We had two thousand people here.  Among the crowd were soldiers, navvies, and labourers of all kinds.  Not a stake was pulled up, or a rope slackened, or one farthing’s-worth of damage done.  To every competitor (only) a printed bill of general rules was given, with the concluding words:  “Mr. Dickens puts every man upon his honour to assist in preserving order.”  There was not a dispute all day, and they went away at sunset rending the air with cheers, and leaving every flag on a six hundred yards’ course as neat as they found it when the gates were opened at ten in the morning.  Surely this is a bright sign in the neighbourhood of such a place as Chatham!

“Mugby Junction” turned, yesterday afternoon, the extraordinary number of two hundred and fifty thousand!

In the middle of next month I begin a new course of forty-two readings.  If any of them bring me within reach of Cheltenham, with an hour to spare, I shall come on to you, even for that hour.  More of this when I am afield and have my list, which Dolby (for Chappell) is now preparing.

Forster and Mrs. Forster were to have come to us next Monday, to stay until Saturday.  I write “were,” because I hear that Forster (who had a touch of bronchitis when he wrote to me on Christmas Eve) is in bed.  Katie, who has been ill of low nervous fever, was brought here yesterday from London.  She bore the journey much better than I expected, and so I hope will soon recover.  This is my little stock of news.

I begin to discover in your riper years, that you have been secretly vain of your handwriting all your life.  For I swear I see no change in it!  What it always was since I first knew it (a year or two!) it is.  This I will maintain against all comers.

Ever affectionately, my dearest Macready.