Read 1869. of The Letters of Charles Dickens Vol. 2 (1857-1870), free online book, by Charles Dickens, on


The “Farewell Readings” in town and country were resumed immediately after the beginning of this year, and were to have been continued until the end of May.  The work was even harder than it had ever been.  Charles Dickens began his country tour in Ireland early in January, and read continuously in all parts of England and Scotland until the end of April.  A public dinner (in commemoration of his last readings in the town) was given to him at Liverpool on the 10th April.  Besides all this severe country work, he was giving a series of readings at St. James’s Hall, and reading the “Murder” from “Oliver Twist,” in London and in the country, frequently four times a week.  In the second week of February, a sudden and unusually violent attack of the old trouble in his foot made it imperatively necessary to postpone a reading at St. James’s Hall, and to delay for a day or two his departure for Scotland.  The foot continued to cause him pain and inconvenience, but, as will be seen from his letters, he generally spoke of himself as otherwise well, until he arrived at Preston, where he was to read on the 22nd of April.  The day before this appointed reading, he writes home of some grave symptoms which he had observed in himself, and had reported to his doctor, Mr. F. Carr Beard.  That gentleman, taking alarm at what he considered “indisputable evidences of overwork,” wisely resolved not to content himself with written consultations, but went down to Preston on the day appointed for the reading there, and, after seeing his patient, peremptorily stopped it, carried him off to Liverpool, and the next day to London.  There he consulted Sir Thomas Watson, who entirely corroborated Mr. Beard’s opinion.  And the two doctors agreed that the course of readings must be stopped for this year, and that reading, combined with travelling, must be stopped for ever.  Charles Dickens had no alternative but to acquiesce in this verdict; but he felt it keenly, not only for himself, but for the sake of the Messrs. Chappell, who showed the most disinterested kindness and solicitude on the occasion.  He at once returned home to Gad’s Hill, and the rest and quiet of the country restored him, for the time, to almost his usual condition of health and spirits.  But it was observed, by all who loved him, that from this time forth he never regained his old vigour and elasticity.  The attack at Preston was the “beginning of the end!”

During the spring and summer of this year, he received visits from many dearly valued American friends.  In May, he stayed with his daughter and sister-in-law for two or three weeks at the St. James’s Hotel, Piccadilly, having promised to be in London at the time of the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Fields, of Boston, who visited Europe, accompanied by Miss Mabel Lowell (the daughter of the famous American poet) this year.  Besides these friends, Mr. and Mrs. Childs, of Philadelphia ­from whom he had received the greatest kindness and hospitality, and for whom he had a hearty regard ­Dr. Fordyce Barker and his son, Mr. Eytinge (an illustrator of an American edition of Charles Dickens’s works), and Mr. Bayard Taylor paid visits to Gad’s Hill, which were thoroughly enjoyed by Charles Dickens and his family.  This last summer was a very happy one.  He had the annual summer visitors and parties of his friends in the neighbourhood.  He was, as usual, projecting improvements in his beloved country home; one, which he called the “crowning improvement of all,” was a large conservatory, which was to be added during the absence of the family in London in the following spring.

The state of Mr. Wills’s health made it necessary for him now to retire altogether from the editorship of “All the Year Round.”  Charles Dickens’s own letters express the regret which he felt at the dissolution of this long and always pleasant association.  Mr. Wills’s place at the office was filled by Charles Dickens’s eldest son, now sole editor and proprietor of the journal.

In September Charles Dickens went to Birmingham, accompanied by his son Harry, and presided at the opening of the session of (what he calls in his letter to Mr. Arthur Ryland, “our Institution”) the Midland Institute.  He made a speech on education to the young students, and promised to go back early in the following year and distribute the prizes.  In one of the letters which we give to Mr. Ryland, he speaks of himself as “being in full force again,” and “going to finish his farewell readings soon after Christmas.”  He had obtained the sanction of Sir Thomas Watson to giving twelve readings, in London only, which he had fixed for the beginning of the following year.

The letter to his friend Mr. Finlay, which opens the year, was in reply to a proposal for a public banquet at Belfast, projected by the Mayor of that town, and conveyed through Mr. Finlay.  This gentleman was at that time proprietor of The Northern Whig newspaper at Belfast, and he was son-in-law to Mr. Alexander Russel, editor of The Scotsman.

Charles Dickens’s letter this New Year to M. de Cerjat was his last.  That faithful and affectionate friend died very shortly afterwards.

To Miss Mary Boyle he writes to acknowledge a New Year’s gift, which he had been much touched by receiving from her, at a time when he knew she was deeply afflicted by the sudden death of her brother, Captain Cavendish Boyle, for whom Charles Dickens had a true regard and friendship.

While he was giving his series of London readings in the spring, he received a numerously signed circular letter from actors and actresses of the various London theatres.  They were very curious about his new reading of the “Oliver Twist” murder, and representing to him the impossibility of their attending an evening, requested him to give a morning reading, for their especial benefit.  We give his answer, complying with the request.  And the occasion was, to him, a most gratifying and deeply interesting one.

The letter to Mr. Edmund Ollier was in answer to an invitation to be present at the inauguration of a bust of Mr. Leigh Hunt, which was to be placed over his grave at Kensal Green.

The letter to Mr. Shirley Brooks, the well-known writer, who succeeded Mr. Mark Lemon as editor of “Punch,” and for whom Charles Dickens had a cordial regard, was on the subject of a memorial on behalf of Mrs. Peter Cunningham, whose husband had recently died.

The “remarkable story,” of which he writes to his daughter in August, was called “An Experience.”  It was written by a lady (who prefers to be anonymous) who had been a contributor to “Household Words” from its first starting, and was always highly valued in this capacity by Charles Dickens.

Our latest letters for this year are in October.  One to Mr. Charles Kent, sympathising with him on a disappointment which he had experienced in a business undertaking, and one to Mr. Macready, in which he tells him of his being in the “preliminary agonies” of a new book.  The first number of “Edwin Drood” was to appear before the end of his course of readings in March; and he was at work so long beforehand with a view to sparing himself, and having some numbers ready before the publication of the first one.

Mr. F. D. Finlay.

THE ATHENAEUM (CLUB), New Year’s Day, 1869.


First my heartfelt wishes for many prosperous and happy years.  Next, as to the mayor’s kind intentions.  I feel really grateful to him and gratified by the whole idea, but acceptance of the distinction on my part would be impracticable.  My time in Ireland is all anticipated, and I could not possibly prolong my stay, because I must be back in London to read on Tuesday fortnight, and then must immediately set forth for the West of England.  It is not likely, besides, that I shall get through these farewells before the end of May.  And the work is so hard, and my voice is so precious, that I fear to add an ounce to the fatigue, or I might be overweighted.  The avoidance of gas and crowds when I am not in the act of being cooked before those lights of mine, is an essential part of the training to which (as I think you know) I strictly adhere, and although I have accepted the Liverpool invitation, I have done so as an exception; the Liverpool people having always treated me in our public relations with a kind of personal affection.

I am sincerely anxious that the Mayor of Belfast should know how the case stands with me.  If you will kindly set me straight and right, I shall be truly obliged to you.

My sister-in-law has been very unwell (though she is now much better), and is recommended a brisk change.  As she is a good sailor, I mean to bring her to Ireland with me; at which she is highly delighted.

Faithfully yours ever.

M. de Cerjat.

                                             Monday, Jath, 1869.


I will answer your question first.  Have I done with my farewell readings?  Lord bless you, no; and I shall think myself well out of it if I get done by the end of May.  I have undertaken one hundred and six, and have as yet only vanquished twenty-eight.  To-morrow night I read in London for the first time the “Murder” from “Oliver Twist,” which I have re-arranged for the purpose.  Next day I start for Dublin and Belfast.  I am just back from Scotland for a few Christmas holidays.  I go back there next month; and in the meantime and afterwards go everywhere else.

Take my guarantee for it, you may be quite comfortable on the subject of papal aspirations and encroachments.  The English people are in unconquerable opposition to that church.  They have the animosity in the blood, derived from the history of the past, though perhaps unconsciously.  But they do sincerely want to win Ireland over if they can.  They know that since the Union she has been hardly used.  They know that Scotland has her religion, and a very uncomfortable one.  They know that Scotland, though intensely anti-papal, perceives it to be unjust that Ireland has not her religion too, and has very emphatically declared her opinion in the late elections.  They know that a richly-endowed church, forced upon a people who don’t belong to it, is a grievance with these people.  They know that many things, but especially an artfully and schemingly managed institution like the Romish Church, thrive upon a grievance, and that Rome has thriven exceedingly upon this, and made the most of it.  Lastly, the best among them know that there is a gathering cloud in the West, considerably bigger than a man’s hand, under which a powerful Irish-American body, rich and active, is always drawing Ireland in that direction; and that these are not times in which other powers would back our holding Ireland by force, unless we could make our claim good in proving fair and equal government.

Poor Townshend charged me in his will “to publish without alteration his religious opinions, which he sincerely believed would tend to the happiness of mankind.”  To publish them without alteration is absolutely impossible; for they are distributed in the strangest fragments through the strangest note-books, pocket-books, slips of paper and what not, and produce a most incoherent and tautological result.  I infer that he must have held some always-postponed idea of fitting them together.  For these reasons I would certainly publish nothing about them, if I had any discretion in the matter.  Having none, I suppose a book must be made.  His pictures and rings are gone to the South Kensington Museum, and are now exhibiting there.

Charley Collins is no better and no worse.  Katie looks very young and very pretty.  Her sister and Miss Hogarth (my joint housekeepers) have been on duty this Christmas, and have had enough to do.  My boys are now all dispersed in South America, India, and Australia, except Charley, whom I have taken on at “All the Year Round” Office, and Henry, who is an undergraduate at Trinity Hall, and I hope will make his mark there.  All well.

The Thames Embankment is (faults of ugliness in detail apart) the finest public work yet done.  From Westminster Bridge to near Waterloo it is now lighted up at night, and has a fine effect.  They have begun to plant it with trees, and the footway (not the road) is already open to the Temple.  Besides its beauty, and its usefulness in relieving the crowded streets, it will greatly quicken and deepen what is learnedly called the “scour” of the river.  But the Corporation of London and some other nuisances have brought the weirs above Twickenham into a very bare and unsound condition, and they already begin to give and vanish, as the stream runs faster and stronger.

Your undersigned friend has had a few occasional reminders of his “true American catarrh.”  Although I have exerted my voice very much, it has not yet been once touched.  In America I was obliged to patch it up constantly.

I like to read your patriarchal account of yourself among your Swiss vines and fig-trees.  You wouldn’t recognise Gad’s Hill now; I have so changed it, and bought land about it.  And yet I often think that if Mary were to marry (which she won’t) I should sell it and go genteelly vagabondising over the face of the earth.  Then indeed I might see Lausanne again.  But I don’t seem in the way of it at present, for the older I get, the more I do and the harder I work.

Yours ever affectionately.

Miss Mary Boyle.

Wednesday, Jath, 1869.


I was more affected than you can easily believe, by the sight of your gift lying on my dressing-table on the morning of the new year.  To be remembered in a friend’s heart when it is sore is a touching thing; and that and the remembrance of the dead quite overpowered me, the one being inseparable from the other.

You may be sure that I shall attach a special interest and value to the beautiful present, and shall wear it as a kind of charm.  God bless you, and may we carry the friendship through many coming years!

My preparations for a certain murder that I had to do last night have rendered me unfit for letter-writing these last few days, or you would have heard from me sooner.  The crime being completely off my mind and the blood spilled, I am (like many of my fellow-criminals) in a highly edifying state to-day.

Ever believe me, your affectionate Friend.

Miss Dickens.

TORQUAY, Wednesday, Jath, 1869.


We have been doing immensely.

This place is most beautiful, though colder now than one would expect.  This hotel, an immense place, built among picturesque broken rocks out in the blue sea, is quite delicious.  There are bright green trees in the garden, and new peas a foot high.  Our rooms are en suite, all commanding the sea, and each with two very large plate-glass windows.  Everything good and well served.

A pantomime was being done last night, in the place where I am to read to-night.  It is something between a theatre, a circus, a riding-school, a Methodist chapel, and a cow-house.  I was so disgusted with its acoustic properties on going in to look at it, that the whole unfortunate staff have been all day, and now are, sticking up baize and carpets in it to prevent echoes.

I have rarely seen a more uncomfortable edifice than I thought it last night.

At Clifton, on Monday night, we had a contagion of fainting.  And yet the place was not hot.  I should think we had from a dozen to twenty ladies borne out, stiff and rigid, at various times.  It became quite ridiculous.

Miss Hogarth.

BATH, Friday, Jath, 1869.


You must not trust blank places in my list, because many have been, and will be, gradually filled up.  After the Tuesday’s reading in London, I have TWO for that same week in the country ­Nottingham and Leicester.  In the following week I have none; but my arrangements are all at sea as yet, for I must somehow and somewhere do an “Uncommercial” in that week, and I also want to get poor Chauncey’s “opinions” to the printer.

This mouldy old roosting-place comes out mouldily as to let of course.  I hate the sight of the bygone assembly-rooms, and the Bath chairs trundling the dowagers about the streets.  As to to-morrow morning in the daylight! ­

I have no cold to speak of.  Dolby sends kindest regard.

Mrs. Lehmann.

OFFICE, Wednesday, Ferd, 1869.


Before getting your kind note, I had written to Lehmann, explaining why I cannot allow myself any social pleasure while my farewell task is yet unfinished.  The work is so very hard, that every little scrap of rest and silence I can pick up is precious.  And even those morsels are so flavoured with “All the Year Round,” that they are not quite the genuine article.

Joachim came round to see me at the hall last night, and I told him how sorry I was to forego the pleasure of meeting him (he is a noble fellow!) at your pleasant table.

I am glad you are coming to the “Murder” on the 2nd of March. (The house will be prodigious.) Such little changes as I have made shall be carefully presented to your critical notice, and I hope will be crowned with your approval.  But you are always such a fine audience that I have no fear on that head.  I saw Chorley yesterday in his own room.  A sad and solitary sight.  The widowed Drake, with a certain gincoherence of manner, presented a blooming countenance and buxom form in the passage; so buxom indeed that she was obliged to retire before me like a modest stopper, before I could get into the dining decanter where poor Chorley reposed.

Faithfully yours always.

P.S. ­My love to Rudie.

Miss Hogarth.

GLASGOW, Thursday, Feth, 1869.

I received your letter at Edinburgh this morning.  I did not write to you yesterday, as there had been no reading on the previous night.

The foot bears the fatigue wonderfully well, and really occasions me no inconvenience beyond the necessity of wearing the big work of art.  Syme saw me again this morning, and utterly scouted the gout notion altogether.  I think the Edinburgh audience understood the “Murder” better last night than any audience that has heard it yet.  “Business” is enormous, and Dolby jubilant.

It is a most deplorable afternoon here, deplorable even for Glasgow.  A great wind blowing, and sleet driving before it in a storm of heavy blobs.  We had to drive our train dead in the teeth of the wind, and got in here late, and are pressed for time.

Strange that in the North we have had absolutely no snow.  There was a very thin scattering on the Pentlands for an hour or two, but no more.

EDINBURGH, Friday, Feth, 1869.

Writing to-morrow morning would be all but impracticable for me; would be quite so for Dolby, who has to go to the agents and “settle up” in the midst of his breakfast.  So I write to-day, in reply to your note received at Glasgow this morning.

The foot conducts itself splendidly.  We had a most enormous cram at Glasgow.  Syme saw me again yesterday (before I left here for Glasgow), and repeated “Gout!” with the greatest indignation and contempt, several times.  The aching is going off as the day goes on, if it be worth mentioning again.  The ride from Glasgow was charming this morning; the sun shining brilliantly, and the country looking beautiful.

I told you what the Nortons were.  Mabel Lowell is a charming little thing, and very retiring in manner and expression.

We shall have a scene here to-night, no doubt.  The night before last, Ballantyne, unable to get in, had a seat behind the screen, and was nearly frightened off it by the “Murder.”  Every vestige of colour had left his face when I came off, and he sat staring over a glass of champagne in the wildest way.  I have utterly left off my champagne, and, I think, with good results.  Nothing during the readings but a very little weak iced brandy-and-water.

I hope you will find me greatly improved on Tuesday.

Miss Dickens.

BIRMINGHAM, Friday, March 5th, 1869.

This is to send you my best love, and to wish you many and many happy returns of to-morrow, which I miraculously remember to be your birthday.

I saw this morning a very pretty fan here.  I was going to buy it as a remembrance of the occasion, when I was checked by a dim misgiving that you had a fan not long ago from Chorley.  Tell me what you would like better, and consider me your debtor in that article, whatever it may be.

I have had my usual left boot on this morning, and have had an hour’s walk.  It was in a gale of wind and a simoom of dust, but I greatly enjoyed it.  Immense enthusiasm at Wolverhampton last night over “Marigold.”  Scott made a most amazing ass of himself yesterday.  He reported that he had left behind somewhere three books ­“Boots,” “Murder,” and “Gamp.”  We immediately telegraphed to the office.  Answer, no books there.  As my impression was that he must have left them at St. James’s Hall, we then arranged to send him up to London at seven this morning.  Meanwhile (though not reproached), he wept copiously and audibly.  I had asked him over and over again, was he sure he had not put them in my large black trunk?  Too sure, too sure.  Hadn’t opened that trunk after Tuesday night’s reading.  He opened it to get some clothes out when I went to bed, and there the books were!  He produced them with an air of injured surprise, as if we had put them there.

Miss Hogarth.

QUEEN’S HOTEL, MANCHESTER, Sunday, March 7th, 1869.

We have had our sitting-room chimney afire this morning, and have had to turn out elsewhere to breakfast; but the chamber has since been cleaned up, and we are reinstated.  Manchester is (for Manchester) bright and fresh.

Tell Russell that a crop of hay is to be got off the meadow this year, before the club use it.  They did not make such use of it last year as reconciles me to losing another hay-crop.  So they must wait until the hay is in, before they commence active operations.

Poor Olliffe!  I am truly sorry to read those sad words about his suffering, and fear that the end is not far off.

We are very comfortably housed here, and certainly that immense hall is a wonderful place for its size.  Without much greater expenditure of voice than usual, I a little enlarged the action last night, and Dolby (who went to all the distant points of view) reported that he could detect no difference between it and any other place.  As always happens now ­and did not at first ­they were unanimously taken by Noah Claypole’s laugh.  But the go, throughout, was enormous.  Sims Reeves was doing Henry Bertram at the theatre, and of course took some of our shillings.  It was a night of excitement for Cottonopolis.

I received from Mrs. Keeley this morning a very good photograph of poor old Bob.  Yesterday I had a letter from Harry, reminding me that our intended Cambridge day is the day next after that of the boat-race.  Clearly it must be changed.

QUEEN’S HOTEL, MANCHESTER, Saturday, March 20th, 1869.

Getting yours and its enclosure, Mary’s note, at two this afternoon, I write a line at once in order that you may have it on Monday morning.

The Theatre Royal, Liverpool, will be a charming place to read in.  Ladies are to dine at the dinner, and we hear it is to be a very grand affair.  Dolby is doubtful whether it may not “hurt the business,” by drawing a great deal of money in another direction, which I think possible enough.  Trade is very bad here, and the gloom of the Preston strike seems to brood over the place.  The Titiens Company have been doing wretchedly.  I should have a greater sympathy with them if they were not practising in the next room now.

My love to Letitia and Harriette, wherein Dolby (highly gratified by being held in remembrance) joins with the same to you.

MANCHESTER, Sunday, March 21st, 1869.

Will you tell Mary that I have had a letter from Frith, in which he says that he will be happy to show her his pictures “any day in the first week of April”?  I have replied that she will be proud to receive his invitation.  His object in writing was to relieve his mind about the “Murder,” of which he cannot say enough.

Tremendous enthusiasm here last night, calling in the most thunderous manner after “Marigold,” and again after the “Trial,” shaking the great hall, and cheering furiously.

Love to all.

Mr. John Clarke.

                                        Wednesday, March 24th, 1869.


I beg to assure you that I am much gratified by the desire you do me the honour to express in your letter handed to me by Mr. John Clarke.

Before that letter reached me, I had heard of your wish, and had mentioned to Messrs. Chappell that it would be highly agreeable to me to anticipate it, if possible.  They readily responded, and we agreed upon having three morning readings in London.  As they are not yet publicly announced, I add a note of the days and subjects: 

Saturday, May 1st.  “Boots at the Holly-Tree Inn,” and “Sikes and Nancy” from “Oliver Twist.”

Saturday, May 8th.  “The Christmas Carol.”

Saturday, May 22nd.  “Sikes and Nancy” from “Oliver Twist,” and “The
Trial” from “Pickwick.”

With the warmest interest in your art, and in its claims upon the general gratitude and respect,

Believe me, always faithfully your Friend.

Miss Hogarth.

ADELPHI HOTEL, LIVERPOOL, Sunday, April 4th, 1869.

By this post I send to Mary the truly affecting account of poor dear Katie Macready’s death.  It is as sorrowful as anything so peaceful and trustful can be!

Both my feet are very tender, and often feel as though they were in hot water.  But I was wonderfully well and strong, thank God! and had no end of voice for the two nights running in that great Birmingham hall.  We had enormous houses.

So far as I understand the dinner arrangements here, they are much too long.  As to the acoustics of that hall, and the position of the tables (both as bad as bad can be), my only consolation is that, if anybody can be heard, I probably can be.  The honorary secretary tells me that six hundred people are to dine.  The mayor, being no speaker and out of health besides, hands over the toast of the evening to Lord Dufferin.  The town is full of the festival.  The Theatre Royal, touched up for the occasion, will look remarkably bright and well for the readings, and our lets are large.  It is remarkable that our largest let as yet is for Thursday, not Friday.  I infer that the dinner damages Friday, but Dolby does not think so.  There appears to be great curiosity to hear the “Murder.” (On Friday night last I read to two thousand people, and odd hundreds.)

I hear that Anthony Trollope, Dixon, Lord Houghton, Lemon, Esquiros (of the Revue des Deux Mondes), and Sala are to be called upon to speak; the last, for the newspaper press.  All the Liverpool notabilities are to muster.  And Manchester is to be represented by its mayor with due formality.

I had been this morning to look at St. George’s Hall, and suggest what can be done to improve its acoustics.  As usually happens in such cases, their most important arrangements are already made and unchangeable.  I should not have placed the tables in the committee’s way at all, and could certainly have placed the dais to much greater advantage.  So all the good I could do was to show where banners could be hung with some hope of stopping echoes.  Such is my small news, soon exhausted.  We arrived here at three yesterday afternoon; it is now mid-day; Chorley has not yet appeared, but he had called at the local agent’s while I was at Birmingham.

It is a curious little instance of the way in which things fit together that there is a ship-of-war in the Mersey, whose flags and so forth are to be brought up to St. George’s Hall for the dinner.  She is the Donegal, of which Paynter told me he had just been captain, when he told me all about Sydney at Bath.

One of the pleasantest things I have experienced here this time, is the manner in which I am stopped in the streets by working men, who want to shake hands with me, and tell me they know my books.  I never go out but this happens.  Down at the docks just now, a cooper with a fearful stutter presented himself in this way.  His modesty, combined with a conviction that if he were in earnest I would see it and wouldn’t repel him, made up as true a piece of natural politeness as I ever saw.

IMPERIAL HOTEL, BLACKPOOL, Wednesday, April 21st, 1869.

I send you this hasty line to let you know that I have come to this sea-beach hotel (charming) for a day’s rest.  I am much better than I was on Sunday, but shall want careful looking to, to get through the readings.  My weakness and deadness are all on the left side, and if I don’t look at anything I try to touch with my left hand, I don’t know where it is.  I am in (secret) consultation with Frank Beard; he recognises, in the exact description I have given him, indisputable evidences of overwork, which he would wish to treat immediately.  So I have said:  “Go in and win.”

I have had a delicious walk by the sea to-day, and I sleep soundly, and have picked up amazingly in appetite.  My foot is greatly better too, and I wear my own boot.

Miss Dickens.

PRESTON, Thursday Evening, April 22nd, 1869.

Don’t be in the least alarmed. Beard has come down, and instantly echoes my impression (perfectly unknown to him), that the readings must be stopped.  I have had symptoms that must not be disregarded.  I go to Liverpool to-night with him (to get away from here), and proceed to the office to-morrow.

The Lord John Russell.

Wednesday, May 26th, 1869.


I have delayed answering your kind letter, in order that you might get home before I wrote.  I am happy to report myself quite well again, and I shall be charmed to come to Pembroke Lodge on any day that may be most convenient to Lady Russell and yourself after the middle of June.

You gratify me beyond expression by your reference to the Liverpool dinner.  I made the allusion to you with all my heart at least, and it was most magnificently received.

I beg to send my kind regard to Lady Russell, with many thanks for her remembrance, and am ever,

My dear Lord Russell, faithfully yours.

Mr. W. H. Wills.

Thursday, June 24th, 1869.


At a great meeting compounded of your late “Chief,” Charley, Morley, Grieve, and Telbin, your letter was read to-day, and a very sincere record of regret and thanks was placed on the books of the great institution.

Many thanks for the suggestion about the condition of churches.  I am so aweary of church questions of all sorts that I am not quite clear as to tackling this.  But I am turning it in my mind.  I am afraid of two things:  firstly, that the thing would not be picturesquely done; secondly, that a general cucumber-coolness would pervade the mind of our circulation.

Nothing new here but a speaking-pipe, a post-box, and a mouldy smell from some forgotten crypt ­an extra mouldy smell, mouldier than of yore.  Lillie sniffs, projects one eye into nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, and does no more.

I have been to Chadwick’s, to look at a new kind of cottage he has built (very ingenious and cheap).

We were all much disappointed last Saturday afternoon by a neighbouring fire being only at a carpenter’s, and not at Drury Lane Theatre.  Ellen’s child having an eye nearly poked out by a young friend, and being asked whether the young friend was not very sorry afterwards, replied:  “No. She wasn’t. I was.”

London execrable.

Ever affectionately yours.

P.S. ­Love to Mrs. Wills.

Mr. Shirley Brooks.

Tuesday, July 12th, 1869.


I have appended my sign manual to the memorial, which I think is very discreetly drawn up.  I have a strong feeling of sympathy with poor Mrs. Cunningham, for I remember the pretty house she managed charmingly.  She has always done her duty well, and has had hard trials.  But I greatly doubt the success of the memorial, I am sorry to add.

It was hotter here yesterday on this Kentish chalk than I have felt it anywhere for many a day.  Now it is overcast and raining hard, much to the satisfaction of great farmers like myself.

I am glad to infer from your companionship with the Cocked Hats, that there is no such thing as gout within several miles of you.  May it keep its distance.

Ever, my dear Brooks, faithfully yours.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

GAD’S HILL, Tuesday, July 20th, 1869.


I have received your letter here to-day, and deeply feel with you and for you the affliction of poor dear Katie’s loss.  I was not unprepared for the sad news, but it comes in such a rush of old remembrances and withered joys that strikes to the heart.

God bless you!  Love and youth are still beside you, and in that thought I take comfort for my dear old friend.

I am happy to report myself perfectly well and flourishing.  We are just now announcing the resumption and conclusion of the broken series of farewell readings in a London course of twelve, beginning early in the new year.

Scarcely a day has gone by this summer in which we have not talked of you and yours.  Georgina, Mary, and I continually speak of you.  In the spirit we certainly are even more together than we used to be in the body in the old times.  I don’t know whether you have heard that Harry has taken the second scholarship (fifty pounds a year) at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.  The bigwigs expect him to do a good deal there.

Wills having given up in consequence of broken health (he has been my sub-editor for twenty years), I have taken Charley into “All the Year Round.”  He is a very good man of business, and evinces considerable aptitude in sub-editing work.

This place is immensely improved since you were here, and really is now very pretty indeed.  We are sorry that there is no present prospect of your coming to see it; but I like to know of your being at the sea, and having to do ­from the beach, as Mrs. Keeley used to say in “The Prisoner of War” ­with the winds and the waves and all their freshening influences.

I dined at Greenwich a few days ago with Delane.  He asked me about you with much interest.  He looks as if he had never seen a printing-office, and had never been out of bed after midnight.

Great excitement caused here by your capital news of Butty.  I suppose Willy has at least a dozen children by this time.

Our loves to the noble boy and to dear Mrs. Macready.

Ever, my dearest Macready,
Your attached and affectionate.

Mr. Edmund Ollier.

Tuesday, Aurd, 1869.


I am very sensible of the feeling of the Committee towards me; and I receive their invitation (conveyed through you) as a most acceptable mark of their consideration.

But I have a very strong objection to speech-making beside graves.  I do not expect or wish my feeling in this wise to guide other men; still, it is so serious with me, and the idea of ever being the subject of such a ceremony myself is so repugnant to my soul, that I must decline to officiate.

Faithfully yours always.

Miss Dickens.

Tuesday, Aurd, 1869.


I send you the second chapter of the remarkable story.  The printer is late with it, and I have not had time to read it, and as I altered it considerably here and there, I have no doubt there are some verbal mistakes in it.  However, they will probably express themselves.

But I offer a prize of six pairs of gloves ­between you, and your aunt, and Ellen Stone, as competitors ­to whomsoever will tell me what idea in this second part is mine.  I don’t mean an idea in language, in the turning of a sentence, in any little description of an action, or a gesture, or what not in a small way, but an idea, distinctly affecting the whole story as I found it.  You are all to assume that I found it in the main as you read it, with one exception.  If I had written it, I should have made the woman love the man at last.  And I should have shadowed that possibility out, by the child’s bringing them a little more together on that holiday Sunday.

But I didn’t write it.  So, finding that it wanted something, I put that something in.  What was it?

Love to Ellen Stone.

Mr. Arthur Ryland.

Friday, Auth, 1869.


Many thanks for your letter.

I have very strong opinions on the subject of speechification, and hold that there is, everywhere, a vast amount too much of it.  A sense of absurdity would be so strong upon me, if I got up at Birmingham to make a flourish on the advantages of education in the abstract for all sorts and conditions of men, that I should inevitably check myself and present a surprising incarnation of the soul of wit.  But if I could interest myself in the practical usefulness of the particular institution; in the ways of life of the students; in their examples of perseverance and determination to get on; in their numbers, their favourite studies, the number of hours they must daily give to the work that must be done for a livelihood, before they can devote themselves to the acquisition of new knowledge, and so forth, then I could interest others.  This is the kind of information I want.  Mere holding forth “I utterly detest, abominate, and abjure.”

I fear I shall not be in London next week.  But if you will kindly send me here, at your leisure, the roughest notes of such points as I have indicated, I shall be heartily obliged to you, and will take care of their falling into shape and order in my mind.  Meantime I “make a note of” Monday, 27th September, and of writing to you touching your kind offer of hospitality, three weeks before that date.

I beg to send my kind regard to Mrs. and Miss Ryland, and am always,

Very faithfully yours.

Mr. Frederic Ouvry.

Sunday, Aund, 1869.


I will expect a call from you at the office, on Thursday, at your own most convenient hour.  I admit the soft impeachment concerning Mrs. Gamp:  I likes my payments to be made reg’lar, and I likewise likes my publisher to draw it mild.

Ever yours.

Mr. Arthur Ryland.

Monday, Septh, 1869.


I am sorry to find ­I had a foreshadowing of it some weeks ago ­that I shall not be able to profit by your kind offer of hospitality when I come to Birmingham for our Institution.  I must come down in time for a quiet dinner at the hotel with my “Readings” secretary, Mr. Dolby, and must away next morning.  Besides having a great deal in hand just now (the title of a new book among other things), I shall have visitors from abroad here at the time, and am severely claimed by my daughter, who indeed is disloyal to Birmingham in the matter of my going away at all.  Pray represent me to Mrs. Ryland as the innocent victim of circumstances, and as sacrificing pleasure to the work I have to do, and to the training under which alone I can do it without feeling it.

You will see from the enclosed that I am in full force, and going to finish my readings, please God, after Christmas.  I am in the hope of receiving your promised notes in due course, and continue in the irreverent condition in which I last reported myself on the subject of speech-making.  Now that men not only make the nights of the session hideous by what the Americans call “orating” in Parliament, but trouble the peace of the vacation by saying over again what they said there (with the addition of what they didn’t say there, and never will have the courage to say there), I feel indeed that silence, like gold across the Atlantic, is a rarity at a premium.

Faithfully yours always.

Mr. William Charles Kent.

Thursday, Octh, 1869.


I felt that you would be deeply disappointed.  I thought it better not to make the first sign while you were depressed, but my mind has been constantly with you.  And not mine alone.  You cannot think with what affection and sympathy you have been made the subject of our family dinner talk at Gad’s Hill these last three days.  Nothing could exceed the interest of my daughters and my sister-in-law, or the earnestness of their feeling about it.  I have been really touched by its warm and genuine expression.

Cheer up, my dear fellow; cheer up, for God’s sake.  That is, for the sake of all that is good in you and around you.

Ever your affectionate Friend.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

GAD’S HILL, Monday, Octh, 1869.


I duly received your letter nearly a fortnight ago, with the greatest interest and pleasure.  Above all things I am delighted with the prospect of seeing you here next summer; a prospect which has been received with nine times nine and one more by the whole house.  You will hardly know the place again, it is so changed.  You are not expected to admire, but there is a conservatory building at this moment ­be still, my soul!

This leaves me in the preliminary agonies of a new book, which I hope to begin publishing (in twelve numbers, not twenty) next March.  The coming readings being all in London, and being, after the first fortnight, only once a week, will divert my attention very little, I hope.

Harry has just gone up to Cambridge again, and I hope will get a fellowship in good time.

Wills is much gratified by your remembrance, and sends you his warm regard.  He wishes me to represent that he is very little to be pitied.  That he suffers no pain, scarcely inconvenience, even, so long as he is idle.  That he likes idleness exceedingly.  He has bought a country place by Welwyn in Hertfordshire, near Lytton’s, and takes possession presently.

My boy Sydney is now a second lieutenant, the youngest in the Service, I believe.  He has the highest testimonials as an officer.

You may be quite sure there will be no international racing in American waters.  Oxford knows better, or I am mistaken.  The Harvard crew were a very good set of fellows, and very modest.

Ryland of Birmingham doesn’t look a day older, and was full of interest in you, and asked me to remind you of him.  By-the-bye, at Elkington’s I saw a pair of immense tea-urns from a railway station (Stafford), sent there to be repaired.  They were honeycombed within in all directions, and had been supplying the passengers, under the active agency of hot water, with decomposed lead, copper, and a few other deadly poisons, for heaven knows how many years!

I must leave off in a hurry to catch the post, after a hard day’s work.

Ever, my dearest Macready,
Your most affectionate and attached.