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

NARRATIVE.

Charles Dickens passed his last Christmas and New Year’s Day at Gad’s Hill, with a party of family and friends, in the usual way, except that he was suffering again from an attack of the foot trouble, particularly on Christmas Day, when he was quite disabled by it and unable to walk at all ­able only to join the party in the evening by keeping his room all day.  However, he was better in a day or two, and early in January he went to London, where he had taken the house of his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Milner Gibson, for the season.

His series of “Farewell Readings” at St. James’s Hall began in January, and ended on the 16th March.  He was writing “Edwin Drood” also, and was, of course, constantly occupied with “All the Year Round” work.  In the beginning of January, he fulfilled his promise of paying a second visit to Birmingham and making a speech, of which he writes in his last letter to Mr. Macready.

For his last reading he gave the “Christmas Carol” and “The Trial” from “Pickwick,” and at the end of the evening he addressed a few farewell words to his audience.  It was a memorable and splendid occasion.  He was very deeply affected by the loving enthusiasm of his greeting, and it was a real sorrow to him to give up for ever the personal associations with thousands of the readers of his books.  But when the pain, mingled with pleasure, of this last reading was over, he felt greatly the relief of having undisturbed time for his own quieter pursuits, and looked forward to writing the last numbers of “Edwin Drood” at Gad’s Hill, where he was to return in June.

The last public appearance of any kind that he made was at the Royal Academy dinner in May.  He was at the time far from well, but he made a great effort to be present and to speak, from his strong desire to pay a tribute to the memory of his dear old friend Mr. Maclise, who died in April.

Her Majesty having expressed a wish, conveyed through Mr. Helps (afterwards Sir Arthur Helps), to have a personal interview with Charles Dickens, he accompanied Mr. Helps to Buckingham Palace one afternoon in March.  He was most graciously and kindly received by her Majesty, and came away with a hope that the visit had been mutually agreeable.  The Queen presented him with a copy of her “Journal in the Highlands,” with an autograph inscription.  And he had afterwards the pleasure of requesting her acceptance of a set of his books.  He attended a levee held by the Prince of Wales in April, and the last time he dined out in London was at a party given by Lord Houghton for the King of the Belgians and the Prince of Wales, who had both expressed a desire to meet Charles Dickens.  All through the season he had been suffering, at intervals, from the swollen foot, and on this occasion it was so bad, that up to the last moment it was very doubtful whether he could fulfil his engagement.

We have very few letters for this year, and none of any very particular interest, but we give them all, as they are the last.

Mr. S. L. Fildes was his “new illustrator,” to whom he alludes in a note to Mr. Frith; we also give a short note to Mr. Fildes himself.

The correspondence of Charles Dickens with Mrs. Dallas Glyn, the celebrated actress, for whom he had a great friendship, is so much on the subject of her own business, that we have only been able to select two notes of any public interest.

In explanation of the last letter, we give an extract from a letter addressed to The Daily News by Mr. J. M. Makeham, soon after the death of Charles Dickens, as follows:  “That the public may exactly understand the circumstances under which Charles Dickens’s letter to me was written, I am bound to explain that it is in reply to a letter which I addressed to him in reference to a passage in the tenth chapter of “Edwin Drood,” respecting which I ventured to suggest that he had, perhaps, forgotten that the figure of speech alluded to by him, in a way which, to my certain knowledge, was distasteful to some of his admirers, was drawn from a passage of Holy Writ which is greatly reverenced by a large number of his countrymen as a prophetic description of the sufferings of our Saviour.”

The MS. of the little “History of the New Testament” is now in the possession of his eldest daughter.  She has (together with her aunt) received many earnest entreaties, both from friends and strangers, that this history might be allowed to be published, for the benefit of other children.

These many petitions have his daughter’s fullest sympathy.  But she knows that her father wrote this history ONLY for his own children, that it was his particular wish that it never should be published, and she therefore holds this wish as sacred and irrevocable.

Mr. W. H. Wills.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, LONDON, W., Sunday, Jard, 1870.

MY DEAR WILLS,

In the note I had from you about Nancy and Sikes, you seem to refer to some other note you had written me.  Therefore I think it well merely to mention that I have received no other note.

I do not wonder at your not being up to the undertaking (even if you had had no cough) under the wearing circumstances.  It was a very curious scene.  The actors and actresses (most of the latter looking very pretty) mustered in extraordinary force, and were a fine audience.  I set myself to carrying out of themselves and their observation, those who were bent on watching how the effects were got; and I believe I succeeded.  Coming back to it again, however, I feel it was madness ever to do it so continuously.  My ordinary pulse is seventy-two, and it runs up under this effort to one hundred and twelve.  Besides which, it takes me ten or twelve minutes to get my wind back at all; I being, in the meantime, like the man who lost the fight ­in fact, his express image.  Frank Beard was in attendance to make divers experiments to report to Watson; and although, as you know, he stopped it instantly when he found me at Preston, he was very much astonished by the effects of the reading on the reader.

So I hope you may be able to come and hear it before it is silent for ever.  It is done again on the evenings of the 1st February, 15th February, and 8th March.  I hope, now I have got over the mornings, that I may be able to work on my book.  But up to this time the great preparation required in getting the subjects up again, and the twice a week besides, have almost exclusively occupied me.

I have something the matter with my right thumb, and can’t (as you see) write plainly.  I sent a word to poor Robert Chambers, and I send my love to Mrs. Wills.

Ever, my dear Wills, affectionately yours.

Mrs. Dallas.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Wednesday, Jath, 1870.

MY DEAR MRS. DALLAS,

It is perfectly delightful to me to get your fervent and sympathetic note this morning.  A thousand thanks for it.  I will take care that two places on the front row, by my daughter, are reserved for your occasion next time.  I cannot see you in too good a seat, or too often.

Believe me, ever very faithfully yours.

Mr. S. L. Fildes.

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Wednesday, Jath, 1870.

DEAR SIR,

I beg to thank you for the highly meritorious and interesting specimens of your art that you have had the kindness to send me.  I return them herewith, after having examined them with the greatest pleasure.

I am naturally curious to see your drawing from “David Copperfield,” in order that I may compare it with my own idea.  In the meanwhile, I can honestly assure you that I entertain the greatest admiration for your remarkable powers.

Faithfully yours.

Mr. Henry Fielding Dickens.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Thursday, Feth, 1870.

MY DEAR HARRY,

I am extremely glad to hear that you have made a good start at the Union.  Take any amount of pains about it; open your mouth well and roundly, speak to the last person visible, and give yourself time.

Loves from all.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. W. C. Macready.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 1870.

MY DEAREST MACREADY,

This is to wish you and yours all happiness and prosperity at the well-remembered anniversary to-morrow.  You may be sure that loves and happy returns will not be forgotten at our table.

I have been getting on very well with my book, and we are having immense audiences at St. James’s Hall.  Mary has been celebrating the first glimpses of spring by having the measles.  She got over the disorder very easily, but a weakness remains behind.  Katie is blooming.  Georgina is in perfect order, and all send you their very best loves.  It gave me true pleasure to have your sympathy with me in the second little speech at Birmingham.  I was determined that my Radicalism should not be called in question.  The electric wires are not very exact in their reporting, but at all events the sense was there.  Ryland, as usual, made all sorts of enquiries about you.

With love to dear Mrs. Macready and the noble boy my particular friend, and a hearty embrace to you,

I am ever, my dearest Macready,
Your most affectionate.

Mr. .

OFFICE OF “ALL THE YEAR ROUND,”
Wednesday, March 9th, 1870.

MY DEAR ­,

You make me very uneasy on the subject of your new long story here, by sowing your name broadcast in so many fields at once, and undertaking such an impossible amount of fiction at one time.  Just as you are coming on with us, you have another story in progress in “The Gentleman’s Magazine,” and another announced in “Once a Week.”  And so far as I know the art we both profess, it cannot be reasonably pursued in this way.  I think the short story you are now finishing in these pages obviously marked by traces of great haste and small consideration; and a long story similarly blemished would really do the publication irreparable harm.

These considerations are so much upon my mind that I cannot forbear representing them to you, in the hope that they may induce you to take a little more into account the necessity of care and preparation, and some self-denial in the quantity done.  I am quite sure that I write fully as much in your interest as in that of “All the Year Round.”

Believe me, always faithfully yours.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Friday, March 11th, 1870.

MY DEAR ­,

Of course the engagement between us is to continue, and I am sure you know me too well to suppose that I have ever had a thought to the contrary.  Your explanation is (as it naturally would be, being yours) manly and honest, and I am both satisfied and hopeful.

Ever yours.

Mr. William Charles Kent.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Saturday, March 26th, 1870.

MY DEAR KENT,

I received both copies of The Sun, with the tenderest pleasure and gratification.

Everything that I can let you have in aid of the proposed record (which, of course, would be far more agreeable to me if done by you than by any other hand), shall be at your service.  Dolby has all the figures relating to America, and you shall have for reference the books from which I read.  They are afterwards going into Forster’s collection.

Ever affectionately.

Mr. Henry Fielding Dickens.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Tuesday, March 29th, 1870.

MY DEAR HARRY,

Your next Tuesday’s subject is a very good one.  I would not lose the point that narrow-minded fanatics, who decry the theatre and defame its artists, are absolutely the advocates of depraved and barbarous amusements.  For wherever a good drama and a well-regulated theatre decline, some distorted form of theatrical entertainment will infallibly arise in their place.  In one of the last chapters of “Hard Times,” Mr. Sleary says something to the effect:  “People will be entertained thomehow, thquire.  Make the betht of uth, and not the wortht.”

Ever affectionately.

Mr. Shirley Brooks.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Friday, April 1st, 1870.

MY DEAR SHIRLEY BROOKS,

I have written to Mr. Low, expressing my regret that I cannot comply with his request, backed as it is by my friend S. B. But I have told him what is perfectly true ­that I leave town for the peaceful following of my own pursuits, at the end of next month; that I have excused myself from filling all manner of claims, on the ground that the public engagements I could make for the season were very few and were all made; and that I cannot bear hot rooms when I am at work.  I have smoothed this as you would have me smooth it.

With your longing for fresh air I can thoroughly sympathise.  May you get it soon, and may you enjoy it, and profit by it half as much as I wish!

Ever faithfully yours.

Mr. W. P. Frith‚ R.A.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Saturday, April 16th, 1870.

MY DEAR FRITH,

I shall be happy to go on Wednesday evening, if convenient.

You please me with what you say of my new illustrator, of whom I have great hopes.

Faithfully yours ever.

Mr. William Charles Kent.

Monday Morning, April 25th, 1870.

MY DEAR KENT,

I received your book with the greatest pleasure, and heartily thank you for it.  It is a volume of a highly prepossessing appearance, and a most friendly look.  I felt as if I should have taken to it at sight; even (a very large even) though I had known nothing of its contents, or of its author!

For the last week I have been most perseveringly and ding-dong-doggedly at work, making headway but slowly.  The spring always has a restless influence over me; and I weary, at any season, of this London dining-out beyond expression; and I yearn for the country again.  This is my excuse for not having written to you sooner.  Besides which, I had a baseless conviction that I should see you at the office last Thursday.  Not having done so, I fear you must be worse, or no better?  If you can let me have a report of yourself, pray do.

Mrs. Frederick Pollock.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Monday, May 2nd, 1870.

MY DEAR MRS. POLLOCK,

Pray tell the illustrious Philip van Artevelde, that I will deal with the nefarious case in question if I can.  I am a little doubtful of the practicability of doing so, and frisking outside the bounds of the law of libel.  I have that high opinion of the law of England generally, which one is likely to derive from the impression that it puts all the honest men under the diabolical hoofs of all the scoundrels.  It makes me cautious of doing right; an admirable instance of its wisdom!

I was very sorry to have gone astray from you that Sunday; but as the earlier disciples entertained angels unawares, so the later often miss them haphazard.

Your description of La Font’s acting is the complete truth in one short sentence:  Nature’s triumph over art; reversing the copy-book axiom!  But the Lord deliver us from Plessy’s mechanical ingenuousness!!

And your petitioner will ever pray.

And ever be,

Faithfully yours.

Mrs. E. M. Ward.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Wednesday, May 11th, 1870.

MY DEAR MRS. WARD,

I grieve to say that I am literally laid by the heels, and incapable of dining with you to-morrow.  A neuralgic affection of the foot, which usually seizes me about twice a year, and which will yield to nothing but days of fomentation and horizontal rest, set in last night, and has caused me very great pain ever since, and will too clearly be no better until it has had its usual time in which to wear itself out.  I send my kindest regard to Ward, and beg to be pitied.

Believe me, faithfully yours always.

Mr. William Charles Kent.

5, HYDE PARK PLACE, W., Tuesday, May 17th, 1870.

MY DEAR KENT,

Many, many thanks!  It is only my neuralgic foot.  It has given me such a sharp twist this time that I have not been able, in its extreme sensitiveness, to put any covering upon it except scalding fomentations.  Having viciously bubbled and blistered it in all directions, I hope it now begins to see the folly of its ways.

Affectionately ever.

P.S. ­I hope the Sun shines.

Mrs. Bancroft.

GAD’S HILL PLACE, HIGHAM BY ROCHESTER, KENT,
Thursday, May 31st, 1870.

MY DEAR MRS. BANCROFT,

I am most heartily obliged to you for your kind note, which I received here only last night, having come here from town circuitously to get a little change of air on the road.  My sense of your interest cannot be better proved than by my trying the remedy you recommend, and that I will do immediately.  As I shall be in town on Thursday, my troubling you to order it would be quite unjustifiable.  I will use your name in applying for it, and will report the result after a fair trial.  Whether this remedy succeeds or fails as to the neuralgia, I shall always consider myself under an obligation to it for having indirectly procured me the great pleasure of receiving a communication from you; for I hope I may lay claim to being one of the most earnest and delighted of your many artistic admirers.

Believe me, faithfully yours.