Yesterdays with Authors
James T. Fields

Part 3 out of 8

taken my hat and joined him to offer my arm, but I knew he did not wish
to _seem_ ill, and I feared he might be troubled at my anxiety. Fearing
to disturb him, I followed him with my eyes only, and watched him till
he turned the corner and passed out of sight.

On the morning of the 19th of May, 1864, a telegram, signed by Franklin
Pierce, stunned us all. It announced the death of Hawthorne. In the
afternoon of the same day came this letter to me:--

"Pemigewasset House, Plymouth, N.H., Thursday morning, 5 o'clock

"My Dear Sir,--The telegraph has communicated to you the fact of our
dear friend Hawthorne's death. My friend Colonel Hibbard, who bears
this note, was a friend of H----, and will tell you more than I am
able to write.

"I enclose herewith a note which I commenced last evening to dear
Mrs. Hawthorne. O, how will she bear this shock! Dear mother--dear

"When I met Hawthorne in Boston a week ago, it was apparent that he
was much more feeble and more seriously diseased than I had supposed
him to be. We came from Centre Harbor yesterday afternoon, and I
thought he was on the whole brighter than he was the day before.
Through the week he had been inclined to somnolency during the day,
but restless at night. He retired last night soon after nine
o'clock, and soon fell into a quiet slumber. In less than half an
hour changed his position, but continued to sleep. I left the door
open between his bedroom and mine,--our beds being opposite to each
other,--and was asleep myself before eleven o'clock. The light
continued to burn in my room. At two o'clock, I went to H----'s
bedside; he was apparently in a sound sleep, and I did not place my
hand upon him. At four o'clock I went into his room again, and, as
his position was unchanged, I placed my hand upon him and found that
life was extinct. I sent, however, immediately for a physician, and
called Judge Bell and Colonel Hibbard, who occupied rooms upon the
same floor and near me. He lies upon his side, his position so
perfectly natural and easy, his eyes closed, that it is difficult to
realize, while looking upon his noble face, that this is death. He
must have passed from natural slumber to that from which there is no
waking without the slightest movement.

"I cannot write to dear Mrs. Hawthorne, and you must exercise your
judgment with regard to sending this and the unfinished note,
enclosed, to her.

"Your friend,


Hawthorne's lifelong desire that the end might be a sudden one was
gratified. Often and often he has said to me, "What a blessing to go
quickly!" So the same swift angel that came as a messenger to Allston,
Irving, Prescott, Macaulay, Thackeray, and Dickens was commissioned to
touch his forehead, also, and beckon him away.

The room in which death fell upon him,

"Like a shadow thrown
Softly and lightly from a passing cloud,"

looks toward the east; and standing in it, as I have frequently done,
since he passed out silently into the skies, it is easy to imagine the
scene on that spring morning which President Pierce so feelingly
describes in his letter.

On the 24th of May we carried Hawthorne through the blossoming orchards
of Concord, and laid him down under a group of pines, on a hillside,
overlooking historic fields. All the way from the village church to the
grave the birds kept up a perpetual melody. The sun shone brightly, and
the air was sweet and pleasant, as if death had never entered the world.
Longfellow and Emerson, Channing and Hoar, Agassiz and Lowell, Greene
and Whipple, Alcott and Clarke, Holmes and Hillard, and other friends
whom he loved, walked slowly by his side that beautiful spring morning.
The companion of his youth and his manhood, for whom he would willingly,
at any time, have given up his own life, Franklin Pierce, was there
among the rest, and scattered flowers into the grave. The unfinished
Romance, which had cost him so much anxiety, the last literary work on
which he had ever been engaged, was laid on his coffin.

"Ah! who shall lift that wand of magic power,
And the lost clew regain?
The unfinished window in Aladdin's tower
Unfinished must remain."

Longfellow's beautiful poem will always be associated with the memory of
Hawthorne, and most fitting was it that his fellow-student, whom he so
loved and honored, should sing his requiem.


* * * * *

"_O friend with heart as gentle for distress,
As resolute with wise true thoughts to bind
The happiest with the unhappiest of our kind_"

John Forster.

_"All men are to an unspeakable degree brothers, each man's life a
strange emblem of every man's; and Human Portraits, faithfully drawn,
are of all pictures the welcomest on human walls."_--Carlyle.


I observe my favorite chair is placed to-day where the portraits of
Charles Dickens are easiest seen, and I take the hint accordingly. Those
are likenesses of him from the age of twenty-eight down to the year when
he passed through "the golden gate," as that wise mystic William Blake
calls death. One would hardly believe these pictures represented the
same man! See what a beautiful young person Maclise represents in this
early likeness of the great author, and then contrast the face with that
worn one in the photograph of 1869. The same man, but how different in
aspect! I sometimes think, while looking at those two portraits, I must
have known two individuals bearing the same name, at various periods of
my own life. Let me speak to-day of the younger Dickens. How well I
recall the bleak winter evening in 1842 when I first saw the handsome,
glowing face of the young man who was even then famous over half the
globe! He came bounding into the Tremont House, fresh from the steamer
that had brought him to our shores, and his cheery voice rang through
the hall, as he gave a quick glance at the new scenes opening upon him
in a strange land on first arriving at a Transatlantic hotel. "Here we
are!" he shouted, as the lights burst upon the merry party just entering
the house, and several gentlemen came forward to greet him. Ah, how
happy and buoyant he was then! Young, handsome, almost worshipped for
his genius, belted round by such troops of friends as rarely ever man
had, coming to a new country to make new conquests of fame and
honor,--surely it was a sight long to be remembered and never wholly to
be forgotten. The splendor of his endowments and the personal interest
he had won to himself called forth all the enthusiasm of old and young
America, and I am glad to have been among the first to witness his
arrival. You ask me what was his appearance as he ran, or rather flew,
up the steps of the hotel, and sprang into the hall. He seemed all on
fire with curiosity, and alive as I never saw mortal before. From top to
toe every fibre of his body was unrestrained and alert. What vigor, what
keenness, what freshness of spirit, possessed him! He laughed all over,
and did not care who heard him! He seemed like the Emperor of
Cheerfulness on a cruise of pleasure, determined to conquer a realm or
two of fun every hour of his overflowing existence. That night impressed
itself on my memory for all time, so far as I am concerned with things
sublunary. It was Dickens, the true "Boz," in flesh and blood, who stood
before us at last, and with my companions, three or four lads of my own
age, I determined to sit up late that night. None of us then, of course,
had the honor of an acquaintance with the delightful stranger, and I
little thought that I should afterwards come to know him in the beaten
way of friendship, and live with him day after day in years far distant;
that I should ever be so near to him that he would reveal to me his joys
and his sorrows, and thus that I should learn the story of his life from
his own lips.

About midnight on that eventful landing, "Boz,"--everybody called him
"Boz" in those days,--having finished his supper, came down into the
office of the hotel, and, joining the young Earl of M----, his
fellow-voyager, sallied out for a first look at Boston streets. It was
a stinging night, and the moon was at the full. Every object stood out
sharp and glittering, and "Boz," muffled up in a shaggy fur coat, ran
over the shining frozen snow, wisely keeping the middle of the street
for the most part. We boys followed cautiously behind, but near enough
not to lose any of the fun. Of course the two gentlemen soon lost their
way on emerging into Washington from Tremont Street. Dickens kept up one
continual shout of uproarious laughter as he went rapidly forward,
reading the signs on the shops, and observing the "architecture" of the
new country into which he had dropped as if from the clouds. When the
two arrived opposite the "Old South Church" Dickens screamed. To this
day I could never tell why. Was it because of its fancied resemblance to
St. Paul's or the Abbey? I declare firmly, the mystery of that shout is
still a mystery to me!

The great event of Boz's first visit to Boston was the dinner of welcome
tendered to him by the young men of the city. It is idle to attempt much
talk about the banquet given on that Monday night in February,
twenty-nine years ago. Papanti's Hall (where many of us learned to
dance, under the guidance of that master of legs, now happily still
among us and pursuing the same highly useful calling which he practised
in 1842) was the scene of that festivity. It was a glorious episode in
all our lives, and whoever was not there has suffered a loss not easy to
estimate. We younger members of that dinner-party sat in the seventh
heaven of happiness, and were translated into other spheres.
Accidentally, of course, I had a seat just in front of the honored
guest; saw him take a pinch of snuff out of Washington Allston's box,
and heard him joke with old President Quincy. Was there ever such a
night before in our staid city? Did ever mortal preside with such
felicitous success as did Mr. Quincy? How he went on with his delicious
compliments to our guest! How he revelled in quotations from "Pickwick"
and "Oliver Twist" and "The Curiosity Shop"! And how admirably he closed
his speech of welcome, calling up the young author amid a perfect volley
of applause! "Health, Happiness, and a Hearty Welcome to Charles
Dickens." I can see and hear Mr. Quincy now, as he spoke the words. Were
ever heard such cheers before? And when Dickens stood up at last to
answer for himself, so fresh and so handsome, with his beautiful eyes
moist with feeling, and his whole frame aglow with excitement, how we
did hurrah, we young fellows! Trust me, it _was_ a great night; and we
must have made a mighty noise at our end of the table, for I remember
frequent messages came down to us from the "Chair," begging that we
would hold up a little and moderate if possible the rapture of our

After Dickens left Boston he went on his American travels, gathering up
materials, as he journeyed, for his "American Notes." He was accompanied
as far as New York by a very dear friend, to whom he afterwards
addressed several most interesting letters. For that friend he always
had the warmest enthusiasm; and when he came the second time to America,
there was no one of his old companions whom he missed more. Let us read
some of these letters written by Dickens nearly thirty years ago. The
friend to whom they were addressed was also an intimate and dear
associate of mine, and his children have kindly placed at my disposal
the whole correspondence. Here is the first letter, time-stained, but
preserved with religious care.

Fuller's Hotel, Washington, Monday, March 14, 1842.

My Dear Felton: I was more delighted than I can possibly tell you to
receive (last Saturday night) your welcome letter. We and the
oysters missed you terribly in New York. You carried away with you
more than half the delight and pleasure of my New World; and I
heartily wish you could bring it back again.

There are very interesting men in this place,--highly interesting,
of course,--but it's not a comfortable place; is it? If spittle
could wait at table we should be nobly attended, but as that
property has not been imparted to it in the present state of
mechanical science, we are rather lonely and orphan-like, in respect
of "being looked arter." A blithe black was introduced on our
arrival, as our peculiar and especial attendant. He is the only
gentleman in the town who has a peculiar delicacy in intruding upon
my valuable time. It usually takes seven rings and a threatening
message from ---- to produce him; and when he comes he goes to fetch
something, and, forgetting it by the way, comes back no more.

We have been in great distress, really in distress, at the
non-arrival of the Caledonia. You may conceive what our joy was,
when, while we were dining out yesterday, H. arrived with the joyful
intelligence of her safety. The very news of her having really
arrived seemed to diminish the distance between ourselves and home,
by one half at least.

And this morning (though we have not yet received our heap of
despatches, for which we are looking eagerly forward to this night's
mail),--this morning there reached us unexpectedly, through the
government bag (Heaven knows how they came there), two of our many
and long-looked-for letters, wherein was a circumstantial account of
the whole conduct and behavior of our pets; with marvellous
narrations of Charley's precocity at a Twelfth Night juvenile party
at Macready's; and tremendous predictions of the governess, dimly
suggesting his having got out of pot-hooks and hangers, and darkly
insinuating the possibility of his writing us a letter before long;
and many other workings of the same prophetic spirit, in reference
to him and his sisters, very gladdening to their mother's heart, and
not at all depressing to their father's. There was, also, the
doctor's report, which was a clean bill; and the nurse's report,
which was perfectly electrifying; showing as it did how Master
Walter had been weaned, and had cut a double tooth, and done many
other extraordinary things, quite worthy of his high descent. In
short, we were made very happy and grateful; and felt as if the
prodigal father and mother had got home again.

What do you think of this incendiary card being left at my door last
night? "General G. sends compliments to Mr. Dickens, and called with
two literary ladies. As the two L.L.'s are ambitious of the honor of
a personal introduction to Mr. D., General G requests the honor of
an appointment for to-morrow." I draw a veil over my sufferings.
They are sacred.

We have altered our route, and don't mean to go to Charleston, for I
want to see the West, and have taken it into my head that as I am
not obliged to go to Charleston, and don't exactly know why I should
go there, I need do no violence to my own inclinations. My route is
of Mr. Clay's designing, and I think it a very good one. We go on
Wednesday night to Richmond in Virginia. On Monday we return to
Baltimore for two days. On Thursday morning we start for Pittsburg,
and so go by the Ohio to Cincinnati, Louisville, Kentucky,
Lexington, St. Louis; and either down the Lakes to Buffalo, or back
to Philadelphia, and by New York to that place, where we shall stay
a week, and then make a hasty trip into Canada. We shall be in
Buffalo, please Heaven, on the 30th of April. If I don't find a
letter from you in the care of the postmaster at that place, I'll
never write to you from England.

But if I _do_ find one, my right hand shall forget its cunning,
before I forget to be your truthful and constant correspondent; not,
dear Felton, because I promised it, nor because I have a natural
tendency to correspond (which is far from being the case), nor
because I am truly grateful to you for, and have been made truly
proud by, that affectionate and elegant tribute which ---- sent me,
but because you are a man after my own heart, and I love you _well_.
And for the love I bear you, and the pleasure with which I shall
always think of you, and the glow I shall feel when I see your
handwriting in my own home, I hereby enter into a solemn league, and
covenant to write as many letters to you as you write to me, at
least. Amen.

Come to England! Come to England! Our oysters are small I know; they
are said by Americans to be coppery, but our hearts are of the
largest size. We are thought to excel in shrimps, to be far from
despicable in point of lobsters, and in periwinkles are considered
to challenge the universe. Our oysters, small though they be, are
not devoid of the refreshing influence which that species of fish is
supposed to exercise in these latitudes. Try them and compare.

Affectionately yours,


His next letter is dated from Niagara, and I know every one will relish
his allusion to oysters with wet feet, and his reference to the
squeezing of a Quaker.

Clifton House, Niagara Falls, 29th April, 1842.

My Dear Felton: Before I go any farther, let me explain to you what
these great enclosures portend, lest--supposing them part and parcel
of my letter, and asking to be read--you shall fall into fits, from
which recovery might be doubtful.

They are, as you will see, four copies of the same thing. The nature
of the document you will discover at a glance. As I hoped and
believed, the best of the British brotherhood took fire at my being
attacked because I spoke my mind and theirs on the subject of an
international copyright; and with all good speed, and hearty private
letters, transmitted to me this small parcel of gauntlets for
immediate casting down.

Now my first idea was, publicity being the object, to send one copy
to you for a Boston newspaper, another to Bryant for his paper, a
third to the New York Herald (because of its large circulation), and
a fourth to a highly respectable journal at Washington (the property
of a gentleman, and a fine fellow named Seaton, whom I knew there),
which I think is called the Intelligencer. Then the Knickerbocker
stepped into my mind, and then it occurred to me that possibly the
North American Review might be the best organ after all, because
indisputably the most respectable and honorable, and the most
concerned in the rights of literature.

Whether to limit its publication to one journal, or to extend it to
several, is a question so very difficult of decision to a stranger,
that I have finally resolved to send these papers to you, and ask
you (mindful of the conversation we had on this head one day, in
that renowned oyster-cellar) to resolve the point for me. You need
feel no weighty sense of responsibility, my dear Felton, for
whatever you do is _sure_ to please me. If you see Sumner, take him
into our councils. The only two things to be borne in mind are,
first, that if they be published in several quarters, they must be
published in all _simultaneously_; secondly, that I hold them in
trust, to put them before the people.

I fear this is imposing a heavy tax upon your friendship; and I
don't fear it the less, by reason of being well assured that it is
one you will most readily pay. I shall be in Montreal about the 11th
of May. Will you write to me there, to the care of the Earl of
Mulgrave, and tell me what you have done?

So much for that. Bisness first, pleasure artervards, as King
Richard the Third said ven he stabbed the tother king in the Tower,
afore he murdered the babbies.

I have long suspected that oysters have a rheumatic tendency. Their
feet are always wet; and so much damp company in a man's inside
cannot contribute to his peace. But whatever the cause of your
indisposition, we are truly grieved and pained to hear of it, and
should be more so, but that we hope from your account of that
farewell dinner, that you are all right again. I _did_ receive
Longfellow's note. Sumner I have not yet heard from; for which
reason I am constantly bringing telescopes to bear on the ferryboat,
in hopes to see him coming over, accompanied by a modest

To say anything about this wonderful place would be sheer nonsense.
It far exceeds my most sanguine expectations, though the impression
on my mind has been, from the first, nothing but beauty and peace. I
haven't drunk the water. Bearing in mind your caution, I have
devoted myself to beer, whereof there is an exceedingly pretty fall
in this house.

One of the noble hearts who sat for the Cheeryble brothers is dead.
If I had been in England, I would certainly have gone into mourning
for the loss of such a glorious life. His brother is not expected to
survive him. I am told that it appears from a memorandum found among
the papers of the deceased, that in his lifetime he gave away in
charity L600,000, or three millions of dollars!

What do you say to my _acting_ at the Montreal Theatre? I am an old
hand at such matters, and am going to join the officers of the
garrison in a public representation for the benefit of a local
charity. We shall have a good house, they say. I am going to enact
one Mr. Snobbington in a funny farce called A Good Night's Rest. I
shall want a flaxen wig and eyebrows; and my nightly rest is broken
by visions of there being no such commodities in Canada. I wake in
the dead of night in a cold perspiration, surrounded by imaginary
barbers, all denying the existence or possibility of obtaining such
articles. If ---- had a flaxen head, I would certainly have it
shaved and get a wig and eyebrows out of him, for a small pecuniary

By the by, if you could only have seen the man at Harrisburg,
crushing a friendly Quaker in the parlor door! It was the greatest
sight I ever saw. I had told him not to admit anybody whatever,
forgetting that I had previously given this honest Quaker a special
invitation to come. The Quaker would not be denied, and H. was
stanch. When I came upon them, the Quaker was black in the face, and
H. was administering the final squeeze. The Quaker was still rubbing
his waistcoat with an expression of acute inward suffering, when I
left the town. I have been looking for his death in the newspapers
almost daily.

Do you know one General G.? He is a weazen-faced warrior, and in his
dotage. I had him for a fellow-passenger on board a steamboat. I had
also a statistical colonel with me, outside the coach from
Cincinnati to Columbus. A New England poet buzzed about me on the
Ohio, like a gigantic bee. A mesmeric doctor, of an impossibly great
age, gave me pamphlets at Louisville. I have suffered much, very

If I could get beyond New York to see anybody, it would be (as you
know) to see _you_. But I do not expect to reach the "Carlton" until
the last day of May, and then we are going with the Coldens
somewhere on the banks of the North River for a couple of days. So
you see we shall not have much leisure for our voyaging

You and Dr. Howe (to whom my love) MUST come to New York. On the 6th
of June, you must engage yourselves to dine with us at the
"Carlton"; and if we don't make a merry evening of it, the fault
shall not be in us.

Mrs. Dickens unites with me in best regards to Mrs. Felton and your
little daughter, and I am always, my dear Felton,

Affectionately your friend,


P.S. I saw a good deal of Walker at Cincinnati. I like him very
much. We took to him mightily at first, because he resembled you in
face and figure, we thought. You will be glad to hear that our news
from home is cheering from first to last, all well, happy, and
loving. My friend Forster says in his last letter that he "wants to
know you," and looks forward to Longfellow.

When Dickens arrived in Montreal he had, it seems, a busy time of it,
and I have often heard of his capital acting in private theatricals
while in that city.

Montreal, Saturday, 21st May, 1842.

My Dear Felton: I was delighted to receive your letter yesterday,
and was well pleased with its contents. I anticipated objection to
Carlyle's letter. I called particular attention to it for three
reasons. Firstly, because he boldly _said_ what all the others
_think_, and therefore deserved to be manfully supported. Secondly,
because it is my deliberate opinion that I have been assailed on
this subject in a manner in which no man with any pretensions to
public respect or with the remotest right to express an opinion on
a subject of universal literary interest would be assailed in any
other country.....

I really cannot sufficiently thank you, dear Felton, for your warm
and hearty interest in these proceedings. But it would be idle to
pursue that theme, so let it pass.

The wig and whiskers are in a state of the highest preservation. The
play comes off next Wednesday night, the 25th. What would I give to
see you in the front row of the centre box, your spectacles gleaming
not unlike those of my dear friend Pickwick, your face radiant with
as broad a grin as a staid professor may indulge in, and your very
coat, waistcoat, and shoulders expressive of what we should take
together when the performance was over! I would give something (not
so much, but still a good round sum) if you could only stumble into
that very dark and dusty theatre in the daytime (at any minute
between twelve and three), and see me with my coat off, the stage
manager and universal director, urging impracticable ladies and
impossible gentlemen on to the very confines of insanity, shouting
and driving about, in my own person, to an extent which would
justify any philanthropic stranger in clapping me into a
strait-waistcoat without further inquiry, endeavoring to goad H.
into some dim and faint understanding of a prompter's duties, and
struggling in such a vortex of noise, dirt, bustle, confusion, and
inextricable entanglement of speech and action as you would grow
giddy in contemplating. We perform A Roland for an Oliver, A good
Night's Rest, and Deaf as a Post. This kind of voluntary hard labor
used to be my great delight. The _furor_ has come strong upon me
again, and I begin to be once more of opinion that nature intended
me for the lessee of a national theatre, and that pen, ink, and
paper have spoiled a manager.

O, how I look forward across that rolling water to home and its
small tenantry! How I busy myself in thinking how my books look, and
where the tables are, and in what positions the chairs stand
relatively to the other furniture; and whether we shall get there in
the night, or in the morning, or in the afternoon; and whether we
shall be able to surprise them, or whether they will be too sharply
looking out for us; and what our pets will say; and how they'll
look, and who will be the first to come and shake hands, and so
forth! If I could but tell you how I have set my heart on rushing
into Forster's study (he is my great friend, and writes at the
bottom of all his letters, "My love to Felton"), and into Maclise's
painting-room, and into Macready's managerial ditto, without a
moment's warning, and how I picture every little trait and
circumstance of our arrival to myself, down to the very color of the
bow on the cook's cap, you would almost think I had changed places
with my eldest son, and was still in pantaloons of the thinnest
texture. I left all these things--God only knows what a love I have
for them--as coolly and calmly as any animated cucumber; but when I
come upon them again I shall have lost all power of self-restraint,
and shall as certainly make a fool of myself (in the popular meaning
of that expression) as ever Grimaldi did in his way, or George III.
in his.

And not the less so, dear Felton, for having found some warm hearts,
and left some instalments of earnest and sincere affection, behind
me on this continent. And whenever I turn my mental telescope
hitherward, trust me that one of the first figures it will descry
will wear spectacles so like yours that the maker couldn't tell the
difference, and shall address a Greek class in such an exact
imitation of your voice, that the very students hearing it should
cry, "That's he! Three cheers. Hoo-ray-ay-ay-ay-ay!"

About those joints of yours, I think you are mistaken. They _can't_
be stiff. At the worst they merely want the air of New York, which,
being impregnated with the flavor of last year's oysters, has a
surprising effect in rendering the human frame supple and flexible
in all cases of rust.

A terrible idea occurred to me as I wrote those words. The
oyster-cellars,--what do they do when oysters are not in season? Is
pickled salmon vended there? Do they sell crabs, shrimps, winkles,
herrings? The oyster-openers,--what do _they_ do? Do they commit
suicide in despair, or wrench open tight drawers and cupboards and
hermetically sealed bottles for practice? Perhaps they are dentists
out of the oyster season. Who knows?

Affectionately yours,


Dickens always greatly rejoiced in the theatre; and, having seen him act
with the Amateur Company of the Guild of Literature and Art, I can well
imagine the delight his impersonations in Montreal must have occasioned.
I have seen him play Sir Charles Coldstream, in the comedy of Used Up,
with such perfection that all other performers in the same part have
seemed dull by comparison. Even Matthews, superb artist as he is, could
not rival Dickens in the character of Sir Charles. Once I saw Dickens,
Mark Lemon, and Wilkie Collins on the stage together. The play was
called Mrs. Nightingale's Diary (a farce in one act, the joint
production of Dickens and Mark Lemon), and Dickens played six characters
in the piece. Never have I seen such wonderful changes of face and form
as he gave us that night. He was alternately a rattling lawyer of the
Middle Temple, a boots, an eccentric pedestrian and cold-water drinker,
a deaf sexton, an invalid captain, and an old woman. What fun it was, to
be sure, and how we roared over the performance! Here is the playbill
which I held in my hand nineteen years ago, while the great writer was
proving himself to be as pre-eminent an actor as he was an author. One
can see by reading the bill that Dickens was manager of the company, and
that it was under his direction that the plays were produced. Observe
the clear evidence of his hand in the very wording of the bill:--

"On Wednesday evening, September 1, 1852.


To encourage Life Assurance and other provident habits among Authors
and Artists; to render such assistance to both as shall never
compromise their independence; and to found a new Institution where
honorable rest from arduous labors shall still be associated with
the discharge of congenial duties;

"Will have the honor of presenting," etc., etc.,

But let us go on with the letters. Here is the first one to his friend
after Dickens arrived home again in England. It is delightful, through
and through.

London, 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent's Park, Sunday, July
31, 1842.

My Dear Felton: Of all the monstrous and incalculable amount of
occupation that ever beset one unfortunate man, mine has been the
most stupendous since I came home. The dinners I have had to eat,
the places I have had to go to, the letters I have had to answer,
the sea of business and of pleasure in which I have been plunged,
not even the genius of an ---- or the pen of a ---- could describe.

Wherefore I indite a monstrously short and wildly uninteresting
epistle to the American Dando, but perhaps you don't know who Dando
was. He was an oyster-eater, my dear Felton. He used to go into
oyster-shops, without a farthing of money, and stand at the counter
eating natives, until the man who opened them grew pale, cast down
his knife, staggered backward, struck his white forehead with his
open hand, and cried, "You are Dando!!!" He has been known to eat
twenty dozen at one sitting, and would have eaten forty, if the
truth had not flashed upon the shopkeeper. For these offences he was
constantly committed to the House of Correction. During his last
imprisonment he was taken ill, got worse and worse, and at last
began knocking violent double-knocks at Death's door. The doctor
stood beside his bed, with his fingers on his pulse. "He is going,"
says the doctor. "I see it in his eye. There is only one thing that
would keep life in him for another hour, and that is--oysters." They
were immediately brought. Dando swallowed eight, and feebly took a
ninth. He held it in his mouth and looked round the bed strangely.
"Not a bad one, is it?" says the doctor. The patient shook his head,
rubbed his trembling hand upon his stomach, bolted the oyster, and
fell back--dead. They buried him in the prison yard, and paved his
grave with oyster-shells.

We are all well and hearty, and have already begun to wonder what
time next year you and Mrs. Felton and Dr. Howe will come across the
briny sea together. To-morrow we go to the seaside for two months. I
am looking out for news of Longfellow, and shall be delighted when I
know that he is on his way to London and this house.

I am bent upon striking at the piratical newspapers with the
sharpest edge I can put upon my small axe, and hope in the next
session of Parliament to stop their entrance into Canada. For the
first time within the memory of man, the professors of English
literature seem disposed to act together on this question. It is a
good thing to aggravate a scoundrel, if one can do nothing else, and
I think we can make them smart a little in this way....

I wish you had been at Greenwich the other day, where a party of
friends gave me a private dinner; public ones I have refused. C. was
perfectly wild at the reunion, and, after singing all manner of
marine songs, wound up the entertainment by coming home (six miles)
in a little open phaeton of mine, _on his head_, to the mingled
delight and indignation of the metropolitan police. We were very
jovial indeed; and I assure you that I drank your health with
fearful vigor and energy.

On board that ship coming home I established a club, called the
United Vagabonds, to the large amusement of the rest of the
passengers. This holy brotherhood committed all kinds of
absurdities, and dined always, with a variety of solemn forms, at
one end of the table, below the mast, away from all the rest. The
captain being ill when we were three or four days out, I produced my
medicine-chest and recovered him. We had a few more sick men after
that, and I went round "the wards" every day in great state,
accompanied by two Vagabonds, habited as Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer,
bearing enormous rolls of plaster and huge pairs of scissors. We
were really very merry all the way, breakfasted in one party at
Liverpool, shook hands, and parted most cordially....


Your faithful friend,


P.S. I have looked over my journal, and have decided to produce my
American trip in two volumes. I have written about half the first
since I came home, and hope to be out in October. This is "exclusive
news," to be communicated to any friends to whom you may like to
intrust it, my dear F.

What a capital epistolary pen Dickens held! He seems never to have
written the shortest note without something piquant in it; and when he
attempted a _letter_, he always made it entertaining from sheer force of

When I think of this man, and all the lasting good and abounding
pleasure he has brought into the world, I wonder at the superstition
that dares to arraign him. A sound philosopher once said: "He that
thinks any innocent pastime foolish has either to grow wiser, or is past
the ability to do so"; and I have always counted it an impudent fiction
that playfulness is inconsistent with greatness. Many men and women have
died of Dignity, but the disease which sent them to the tomb was not
contracted from Charles Dickens. Not long ago, I met in the street a
bleak old character, full of dogmatism, egotism, and rheumatism, who
complained that Dickens had "too much exuberant sociality" in his books
for _him_, and he wondered how any one could get through Pickwick. My
solemn friend evidently preferred the dropping-down-deadness of manner,
which he had been accustomed to find in Hervey's "Meditations," and
other kindred authors, where it always seems to be urged that life would
be endurable but for its pleasures. A person once commended to my
acquaintance an individual whom he described as "a fine, pompous,
gentlemanly man," and I thought it prudent, under the circumstances, to
decline the proffered introduction.

But I will proceed with those outbursts of bright-heartedness vouchsafed
to us in Dickens's letters. To me these epistles are good as fresh
"Uncommercials," or unpublished "Sketches by Boz."

1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent's Park, London, 1st
September, 1842.

My Dear Felton: Of course that letter in the papers was as foul a
forgery as ever felon swung for.... I have not contradicted it
publicly, nor shall I. When I tilt at such wringings out of the
dirtiest mortality, I shall be another man--indeed, almost the
creature they would make me.

I gave your message to Forster, who sends a despatch-box full of
kind remembrances in return. He is in a great state of delight with
the first volume of my American book (which I have just finished),
and swears loudly by it. It is _True_, and Honorable I know, and I
shall hope to send it you, complete, by the first steamer in

Your description of the porter and the carpet-bags prepares me for a
first-rate facetious novel, brimful of the richest humor, on which I
have no doubt you are engaged. What is it called? Sometimes I
imagine the title-page thus:--


As to the man putting the luggage on his head, as a sort of sign, I
adopt it from this hour.

I date this from London, where I have come, as a good, profligate,
graceless bachelor, for a day or two; leaving my wife and babbies at
the seaside.... Heavens! if you were but here at this minute! A
piece of salmon and a steak are cooking in the kitchen; it's a very
wet day, and I have had a fire lighted; the wine sparkles on a
side-table; the room looks the more snug from being the only
undismantled one in the house; plates are warming for Forster and
Maclise, whose knock I am momentarily expecting; that groom I told
you of, who never comes into the house, except when we are all out
of town, is walking about in his shirt-sleeves without the smallest
consciousness of impropriety; a great mound of proofs are waiting to
be read aloud, after dinner. With what a shout I would clap you down
into the easiest chair, my genial Felton, if you would but appear,
and order you a pair of slippers instantly!

Since I have written this, the aforesaid groom--a very small man (as
the fashion is) with fiery-red hair (as the fashion is _not_)--has
looked very hard at me and fluttered about me at the same time, like
a giant butterfly. After a pause, he says, in a Sam Wellerish kind
of way: "I vent to the club this mornin', sir. There vorn't no
letters, sir." "Very good. Topping." "How's missis, sir?" "Pretty
well, Topping." "Glad to hear it, sir. My missis ain't wery well,
sir." "No!" "No, sir, she's a goin', sir, to have a hincrease wery
soon, and it makes her rather nervous, sir; and ven a young voman
gets at all down at sich a time, sir, she goes down wery deep, sir."
To this sentiment I reply affirmatively, and then he adds, as he
stirs the fire (as if he were thinking out loud), "Wot a mystery it
is! Wot a go is natur'!" With which scrap of philosophy, he
gradually gets nearer to the door, and so fades out of the room.
This same man asked me one day, soon after I came home, what Sir
John Wilson was. This is a friend of mine, who took our house and
servants, and everything as it stood, during our absence in America.
I told him an officer. "A wot, sir?" "An officer." And then, for
fear he should think I meant a police-officer, I added, "An officer
in the army." "I beg your pardon, sir," he said, touching his hat,
"but the club as I always drove him to wos the United Servants."

The real name of this club is the United Service, but I have no
doubt he thought it was a high-life-below-stairs kind of resort, and
that this gentleman was a retired butler or superannuated footman.

There's the knock, and the Great Western sails, or steams rather,
to-morrow. Write soon again, dear Felton, and ever believe me, ...

Your affectionate friend,


P.S. All good angels prosper Dr. Howe. He, at least, will not like
me the less, I hope, for what I shall say of Laura.

London, 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent's Park, 31st
December, 1842.

My Dear Felton: Many and many happy New Years to you and yours! As
many happy children as may be quite convenient (no more)! and as
many happy meetings between them and our children, and between you
and us, as the kind fates in their utmost kindness shall favorably

The American book (to begin with that) has been a most complete and
thorough-going success. Four large editions have now been sold _and
paid for_, and it has won golden opinions from all sorts of men,
except our friend in F----, who is a miserable creature; a
disappointed man in great poverty, to whom I have ever been most
kind and considerate (I need scarcely say that); and another friend
in B----, no less a person than an illustrious gentleman named ----,
who wrote a story called ----. They have done no harm, and have
fallen short of their mark, which, of course, was to annoy me. Now I
am perfectly free from any diseased curiosity in such respects, and
whenever I hear of a notice of this kind, I never read it; whereby I
always conceive (don't you?) that I get the victory. With regard to
your slave-owners, they may cry, till they are as black in the face
as their own slaves, that Dickens lies. Dickens does not write for
their satisfaction, and Dickens will not explain for their comfort.
Dickens has the name and date of every newspaper in which every one
of those advertisements appeared, as they know perfectly well; but
Dickens does not choose to give them, and will not at any time
between this and the day of judgment....

I have been hard at work on my new book, of which the first number
has just appeared. The Paul Joneses who pursue happiness and profit
at other men's cost will no doubt enable you to read it, almost as
soon as you receive this. I hope you will like it. And I
particularly commend, my dear Felton, one Mr. Pecksniff and his
daughters to your tender regards. I have a kind of liking for them

Blessed star of morning, such a trip as we had into Cornwall, just
after Longfellow went away! The "we" means Forster, Maclise,
Stanfield (the renowned marine painter), and the Inimitable Boz. We
went down into Devonshire by the railroad, and there we hired an
open carriage from an innkeeper, patriotic in all Pickwick matters,
and went on with post horses. Sometimes we travelled all night,
sometimes all day, sometimes both. I kept the joint-stock purse,
ordered all the dinners, paid all the turnpikes, conducted facetious
conversations with the post boys, and regulated the pace at which we
travelled. Stanfield (an old sailor) consulted an enormous map on
all disputed points of wayfaring; and referred, moreover, to a
pocket-compass and other scientific instruments. The luggage was in
Forster's department; and Maclise, having nothing particular to do,
sang songs. Heavens! If you could have seen the necks of
bottles--distracting in their immense varieties of shape--peering
out of the carriage pockets! If you could have witnessed the deep
devotion of the post-boys, the wild attachment of the hostlers, the
maniac glee of the waiters. If you could have followed us into the
earthy old churches we visited, and into the strange caverns on the
gloomy sea-shore, and down into the depths of mines, and up to the
tops of giddy heights where the unspeakably green water was roaring,
I don't know how many hundred feet below! If you could have seen but
one gleam of the bright fires by which we sat in the big rooms of
ancient inns at night, until long after the small hours had come and
gone, or smelt but one steam of the HOT punch (not white, dear
Felton, like that amazing compound I sent you a taste of, but a
rich, genial, glowing brown) which came in every evening in a huge
broad china bowl! I never laughed in my life as I did on this
journey. It would have done you good to hear me. I was choking and
gasping and bursting the buckle off the back of my stock, all the
way. And Stanfield (who is very much of your figure and temperament,
but fifteen years older) got into such apoplectic entanglements
that we were often obliged to beat him on the back with portmanteaus
before we could recover him. Seriously, I do believe there never was
such a trip. And they made such sketches, those two men, in the most
romantic of our halting-places, that you would have sworn we had the
Spirit of Beauty with us, as well as the Spirit of Fun. But stop
till you come to England,--I say no more.

The actuary of the national debt couldn't calculate the number of
children who are coming here on Twelfth Night, in honor of Charley's
birthday, for which occasion I have provided a magic lantern and
divers other tremendous engines of that nature. But the best of it
is that Forster and I have purchased between us the entire stock in
trade of a conjurer, the practice and display whereof is intrusted
to me. And O my dear eyes, Felton, if you could see me conjuring the
company's watches into impossible tea-caddies, and causing pieces of
money to fly, and burning pocket-handkerchiefs without hurting 'em,
and practising in my own room, without anybody to admire, you would
never forget as long as you live. In those tricks which require a
confederate, I am assisted (by reason of his imperturbable
good-humor) by Stanfield, who always does his part exactly the wrong
way, to the unspeakable delight of all beholders. We come out on a
small scale, to-night, at Forster's, where we see the old year out
and the new one in. Particulars of shall be forwarded in my next.

I have quite made up my mind that F---- really believes he _does_
know you personally, and has all his life. He talks to me about you
with such gravity that I am afraid to grin, and feel it necessary to
look quite serious. Sometimes he _tells_ me things about you,
doesn't ask me, you know, so that I am occasionally perplexed beyond
all telling, and begin to think it was he, and not I, who went to
America. It's the queerest thing in the world.

The book I was to have given Longfellow for you is not worth sending
by itself, being only a Barnaby. But I will look up some manuscript
for you (I think I have that of the American Notes complete), and
will try to make the parcel better worth its long conveyance. With
regard to Maclise's pictures, you certainly are quite right in your
impression of them; but he is "such a discursive devil" (as he says
about himself), and flies off at such odd tangents, that I feel it
difficult to convey to you any general notion of his purpose. I will
try to do so when I write again. I want very much to know about ----
and that charming girl..... Give me full particulars. Will you
remember me cordially to Sumner, and say I thank him for his
welcome letter? The like to Hillard, with many regards to himself
and his wife, with whom I had one night a little conversation which
I shall not readily forget. The like to Washington Allston, and all
friends who care for me and have outlived my book.... Always, my
dear Felton,

With true regard and affection, yours,


Here is a letter that seems to me something tremendous in its fun and

1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent's Park, London, 2d March,

My Dear Felton: I don't know where to begin, but plunge headlong
with a terrible splash into this letter, on the chance of turning up

Hurrah! Up like a cork again, with the "North American Review" in my
hand. Like you, my dear ----, and I can say no more in praise of it,
though I go on to the end of the sheet. You cannot think how much
notice it has attracted here. Brougham called the other day, with
the number (thinking I might not have seen it), and I being out at
the time, he left a note, speaking of it, and of the writer, in
terms that warmed my heart. Lord Ashburton (one of whose people
wrote a notice in the "Edinburgh," which they have since publicly
contradicted) also wrote to me about it in just the same strain. And
many others have done the like.

I am in great health and spirits and powdering away at Chuzzlewit,
with all manner of facetiousness rising up before me as I go on. As
to news, I have really none, saving that ---- (who never took any
exercise in his life) has been laid up with rheumatism for weeks
past, but is now, I hope, getting better. My little captain, as I
call him,--he who took me out, I mean, and with whom I had that
adventure of the cork soles,--has been in London too, and seeing all
the lions under my escort. Good heavens! I wish you could have seen
certain other mahogany-faced men (also captains) who used to call
here for him in the morning, and bear him off to docks and rivers
and all sorts of queer places, whence he always returned late at
night, with rum-and-water tear-drops in his eyes, and a complication
of punchy smells in his mouth! He was better than a comedy to us,
having marvellous ways of tying his pocket-handkerchief round his
neck at dinner-time in a kind of jolly embarrassment, and then
forgetting what he had done with it; also of singing songs to wrong
tunes, and calling land objects by sea names, and never knowing
what o'clock it was, but taking midnight for seven in the evening;
with many other sailor oddities, all full of honesty, manliness, and
good temper. We took him to Drury Lane Theatre to see Much Ado About
Nothing. But I never could find out what he meant by turning round,
after he had watched the first two scenes with great attention, and
inquiring "whether it was a Polish piece." ...

On the 4th of April I am going to preside at a public dinner for the
benefit of the printers; and if you were a guest at that table,
wouldn't I smite you on the shoulder, harder than ever I rapped the
well-beloved back of Washington Irving at the City Hotel in New

You were asking me--I love to say asking, as if we could talk
together--about Maclise. He is such a discursive fellow, and so
eccentric in his might, that on a mental review of his pictures I
can hardly tell you of them as leading to any one strong purpose.
But the annual Exhibition of the Royal Academy comes off in May, and
then I will endeavor to give you some notion of him. He is a
tremendous creature, and might do anything. But, like all tremendous
creatures, he takes his own way, and flies off at unexpected
breaches in the conventional wall.

You know H----'s Book, I daresay. Ah! I saw a scene of mingled
comicality and seriousness at his funeral some weeks ago, which has
choked me at dinner-time ever since. C---- and I went as mourners;
and as he lived, poor fellow, five miles out of town, I drove C----
down. It was such a day as I hope, for the credit of nature, is
seldom seen in any parts but these,--muddy, foggy, wet, dark, cold,
and unutterably wretched in every possible respect. Now, C---- has
enormous whiskers, which straggle all down his throat in such
weather, and stick out in front of him, like a partially unravelled
bird's-nest; so that he looks queer enough at the best, but when he
is very wet, and in a state between jollity (he is always very jolly
with me) and the deepest gravity (going to a funeral, you know), it
is utterly impossible to resist him; especially as he makes the
strangest remarks the mind of man can conceive, without any
intention of being funny, but rather meaning to be philosophical. I
really cried with an irresistible sense of his comicality all the
way; but when he was dressed out in a black cloak and a very long
black hat-band by an undertaker (who, as he whispered me with tears
in his eyes--for he had known H---- many years--was "a character,
and he would like to sketch him"), I thought I should have been
obliged to go away. However, we went into a little parlor where the
funeral party was, and God knows it was miserable enough, for the
widow and children were crying bitterly in one corner, and the other
mourners--mere people of ceremony, who cared no more for the dead
man than the hearse did--were talking quite coolly and carelessly
together in another; and the contrast was as painful and distressing
as anything I ever saw. There was an independent clergyman present,
with his bands on and a Bible under his arm, who, as soon as we were
seated, addressed ---- thus, in a loud, emphatic voice: "Mr. C----,
have you seen a paragraph respecting our departed friend, which has
gone the round of the morning papers?" "Yes, sir," says C----, "I
have," looking very hard at me the while, for he had told me with
some pride coming down that it was his composition. "Oh!" said the
clergyman. "Then you will agree with me, Mr. C----, that it is not
only an insult to me, who am the servant of the Almighty, but an
insult to the Almighty, whose servant I am." "How is that, sir?"
said C----. "It is stated, Mr. C----, in that paragraph," says the
minister, "that when Mr. H---- failed in business as a bookseller,
he was persuaded by _me_ to try the pulpit, which is false,
incorrect, unchristian, in a manner blasphemous, and in all respects
contemptible. Let us pray." With which, my dear Felton, and in the
same breath, I give you my word, he knelt down, as we all did, and
began a very miserable jumble of an extemporary prayer. I was really
penetrated with sorrow for the family, but when C---- (upon his
knees, and sobbing for the loss of an old friend) whispered me,
"that if that wasn't a clergyman, and it wasn't a funeral, he'd have
punched his head," I felt as if nothing but convulsions could
possibly relieve me.....

Faithfully always, my dear Felton,


Was there ever such a genial, jovial creature as this master of humor!
When we read his friendly epistles, we cannot help wishing he had
written letters only, as when we read his novels we grudge the time he
employed on anything else.

Broadstairs, Kent, 1st September, 1843.

My Dear Felton: If I thought it in the nature of things that you and
I could ever agree on paper, touching a certain Chuzzlewitian
question whereupon F---- tells me you have remarks to make, I should
immediately walk into the same, tooth and nail. But as I don't, I
won't. Contenting myself with this prediction, that one of these
years and days, you will write or say to me, "My dear Dickens, you
were right, though rough, and did a world of good, though you got
most thoroughly hated for it." To which I shall reply, "My dear
Felton, I looked a long way off and not immediately under my nose."
... At which sentiment you will laugh, and I shall laugh; and then
(for I foresee this will all happen in my land) we shall call for
another pot of porter and two or three dozen of oysters.

Now don't you in your own heart and soul quarrel with me for this
long silence? Not half so much as I quarrel with myself, I know; but
if you could read half the letters I write to you in imagination,
you would swear by me for the best of correspondents. The truth is,
that when I have done my morning's work, down goes my pen, and from
that minute I feel it a positive impossibility to take it up again,
until imaginary butchers and bakers wave me to my desk. I walk about
brimful of letters, facetious descriptions, touching morsels, and
pathetic friendships, but can't for the soul of me uncork myself.
The post-office is my rock ahead. My average number of letters that
_must_ be written every day is, at the least, a dozen. And you could
no more know what I was writing to you spiritually, from the perusal
of the bodily thirteenth, than you could tell from my hat what was
going on in my head, or could read my heart on the surface of my
flannel waistcoat.

This is a little fishing-place; intensely quiet; built on a cliff
whereon--in the centre of a tiny semicircular bay--our house stands;
the sea rolling and dashing under the windows. Seven miles out are
the Goodwin Sands, (you've heard of the Goodwin Sands?) whence
floating lights perpetually wink after dark, as if they were
carrying on intrigues with the servants. Also there is a big
lighthouse called the North Foreland on a hill behind the village, a
severe parsonic light, which reproves the young and giddy floaters,
and stares grimly out upon the sea. Under the cliff are rare good
sands, where all the children assemble every morning and throw up
impossible fortifications, which the sea throws down again at high
water. Old gentlemen and ancient ladies flirt after their own manner
in two reading-rooms and on a great many scattered seats in the open
air. Other old gentlemen look all day through telescopes and never
see anything. In a bay-window in a one pair sits from nine o'clock
to one a gentleman with rather long hair and no neckcloth, who
writes and grins as if he thought he were very funny indeed. His
name is Boz. At one he disappears, and presently emerges from a
bathing-machine, and may be seen--a kind of salmon-colored
porpoise--splashing about in the ocean. After that he may be seen
in another bay-window on the ground-floor, eating a strong lunch;
after that, walking a dozen miles or so, or lying on his back in the
sand reading a book. Nobody bothers him unless they know he is
disposed to be talked to; and I am told he is very comfortable
indeed. He's as brown as a berry, and they _do_ say is a small
fortune to the innkeeper who sells beer and cold punch. But this is
mere rumor. Sometimes he goes up to London (eighty miles, or so,
away), and then I'm told there is a sound in Lincoln Inn Fields at
night, as of men laughing, together with a clinking of knives and
forks and wine-glasses.

I never shall have been so near you since we parted aboard the
George Washington as next Tuesday. Forster, Maclise, and I, and
perhaps Stanfield, are then going aboard the Cunard steamer at
Liverpool, to bid Macready good by, and bring his wife away. It will
be a very hard parting. You will see and know him of course. We gave
him a splendid dinner last Saturday at Richmond, whereat I presided
with my accustomed grace. He is one of the noblest fellows in the
world, and I would give a great deal that you and I should sit
beside each other to see him play Virginius, Lear, or Werner, which
I take to be, every way, the greatest piece of exquisite perfection
that his lofty art is capable of attaining. His Macbeth, especially
the last act, is a tremendous reality; but so indeed is almost
everything he does. You recollect, perhaps, that he was the guardian
of our children while we were away. I love him dearly....

You asked me, long ago, about Maclise. He is such a wayward fellow
in his subjects, that it would be next to impossible to write such
an article as you were thinking of about him. I wish you could form
an idea of his genius. One of these days a book will come out,
"Moore's Irish Melodies," entirely illustrated by him, on every
page. _When_ it comes, I'll send it to you. You will have some
notion of him then. He is in great favor with the queen, and paints
secret pictures for her to put upon her husband's table on the
morning of his birthday, and the like. But if he has a care, he will
leave his mark on more enduring things than palace walls.

And so L---- is married. I remember _her_ well, and could draw her
portrait, in words, to the life. A very beautiful and gentle
creature, and a proper love for a poet. My cordial remembrances and
congratulations. Do they live in the house where we breakfasted?....

I very often dream I am in America again; but, strange to say, I
never dream of you. I am always endeavoring to get home in disguise,
and have a dreary sense of the distance. _Apropos_ of dreams, is it
not a strange thing if writers of fiction never dream of their own
creations; recollecting, I suppose, even in their dreams, that they
have no real existence? _I_ never dreamed of any of my own
characters, and I feel it so impossible that I would wager Scott
never did of his, real as they are. I had a good piece of absurdity
in my head a night or two ago. I dreamed that somebody was dead. I
don't know who, but it's not to the purpose. It was a private
gentleman, and a particular friend; and I was greatly overcome when
the news was broken to me (very delicately) by a gentleman in a
cocked hat, top boots, and a sheet. Nothing else. "Good God!" I
said, "is he dead?" "He is as dead, sir," rejoined the gentleman,
"as a door-nail. But we must all die, Mr. Dickens; sooner or later,
my dear sir." "Ah!" I said. "Yes, to be sure. Very true. But what
did he die of?" The gentleman burst into a flood of tears, and said,
in a voice broken by emotion: "He christened his youngest child,
sir, with a toasting-fork." I never in my life was so affected as at
his having fallen a victim to this complaint. It carried a
conviction to my mind that he never could have recovered. I knew
that it was the most interesting and fatal malady in the world; and
I wrung the gentleman's hand in a convulsion of respectful
admiration, for I felt that this explanation did equal honor to his
head and heart!

What do you think of Mrs. Gamp? And how do you like the undertaker?
I have a fancy that they are in your way. O heaven! such green woods
as I was rambling among down in Yorkshire, when I was getting that
done last July! For days and weeks we never saw the sky but through
green boughs; and all day long I cantered over such soft moss and
turf, that the horse's feet scarcely made a sound upon it. We have
some friends in that part of the country (close to Castle Howard,
where Lord Morpeth's father dwells in state, _in_ his park indeed),
who are the jolliest of the jolly, keeping a big old country house,
with an ale cellar something larger than a reasonable church, and
everything like Goldsmith's bear dances, "in a concatenation
accordingly." Just the place for you, Felton! We performed some
madnesses there in the way of forfeits, picnics, rustic games,
inspections of ancient monasteries at midnight, when the moon was
shining, that would have gone to your heart, and, as Mr. Weller
says, "come out on the other side." ...

Write soon, my dear Felton; and if I write to you less often than I
would, believe that my affectionate heart is with you always. Loves
and regards to all friends, from yours ever and ever,


These letters grow better and better as we get on. Ah me! and to think
we shall have no more from that delightful pen!

Devonshire Terrace, London, January 2, 1844.

My Very Dear Felton: You are a prophet, and had best retire from
business straightway. Yesterday morning, New Year's day, when I
walked into my little workroom after breakfast, and was looking out
of window at the snow in the garden,--not seeing it particularly
well in consequence of some staggering suggestions of last night,
whereby I was beset,--the postman came to the door with a knock, for
which I denounced him from my heart. Seeing your hand upon the cover
of a letter which he brought, I immediately blessed him, presented
him with a glass of whiskey, inquired after his family (they are all
well), and opened the despatch with a moist and oystery twinkle in
my eye. And on the very day from which the new year dates, I read
your New Year congratulations as punctually as if you lived in the
next house. Why don't you?

Now, if instantly on the receipt of this you will send a free and
independent citizen down to the Cunard wharf at Boston, you will
find that Captain Hewett, of the Britannia steamship (my ship), has
a small parcel for Professor Felton of Cambridge; and in that parcel
you will find a Christmas Carol in prose; being a short story of
Christmas by Charles Dickens. Over which Christmas Carol Charles
Dickens wept and laughed and wept again, and excited himself in a
most extraordinary manner in the composition; and thinking whereof
he walked about the black streets of London, fifteen and twenty
miles, many a night when all the sober folks had gone to bed.... Its
success is most prodigious. And by every post all manner of
strangers write all manner of letters to him about their homes and
hearths, and how this same Carol is read aloud there, and kept on a
little shelf by itself. Indeed, it is the greatest success, as I am
told, that this ruffian and rascal has ever achieved.

Forster is out again; and if he don't go in again, after the manner
in which we have been keeping Christmas, he must be very strong
indeed. Such dinings, such dancings, such conjurings, such
blindman's-buffings, such theatre-goings, such kissings-out of old
years and kissings-in of new ones, never took place in these parts
before. To keep the Chuzzlewit going, and do this little book, the
Carol, in the odd times between two parts of it, was, as you may
suppose, pretty tight work. But when it was done I broke out like a
madman. And if you could have seen me at a children's party at
Macready's the other night, going down a country dance with Mrs.
M., you would have thought I was a country gentleman of independent
property, residing on a tiptop farm, with the wind blowing straight
in my face every day....

Your friend, Mr. P----, dined with us one day (I don't know whether
I told you this before), and pleased us very much. Mr. C---- has
dined here once, and spent an evening here. I have not seen him
lately, though he has called twice or thrice; for K----being unwell
and I busy, we have not been visible at our accustomed seasons. I
wonder whether H---- has fallen in your way. Poor H----! He was a
good fellow, and has the most grateful heart I ever met with. Our
journeyings seem to be a dream now. Talking of dreams, strange
thoughts of Italy and France, and maybe Germany, are springing up
within me as the Chuzzlewit clears off. It's a secret I have hardly
breathed to any one, but I "think" of leaving England for a year,
next midsummer, bag and baggage, little ones and all,--then coming
out with _such_ a story, Felton, all at once, no parts,
sledge-hammer blow.

I send you a Manchester paper, as you desire. The report is not
exactly done, but very well done, notwithstanding. It was a very
splendid sight, I assure you, and an awful-looking audience. I am
going to preside at a similar meeting at Liverpool on the 26th of
next month, and on my way home I may be obliged to preside at
another at Birmingham. I will send you papers, if the reports be at
all like the real thing.

I wrote to Prescott about his book, with which I was perfectly
charmed. I think his descriptions masterly, his style brilliant, his
purpose manly and gallant always. The introductory account of Aztec
civilization impressed me exactly as it impressed you. From
beginning to end, the whole history is enchanting and full of
genius. I only wonder that, having such an opportunity of
illustrating the doctrine of visible judgments, he never remarks,
when Cortes and his men tumble the idols down the temple steps and
call upon the people to take notice that their gods are powerless to
help themselves, that possibly if some intelligent native had
tumbled down the image of the Virgin or patron saint after them
nothing very remarkable might have ensued in consequence.

Of course you like Macready. Your name's Felton. I wish you could
see him play Lear. It is stupendously terrible. But I suppose he
would be slow to act it with the Boston company.

Hearty remembrances to Sumner, Longfellow, Prescott, and all whom
you know I love to remember. Countless happy years to you and
yours, my dear Felton, and some instalment of them, however slight,
in England, in the loving company of


O, breathe not his name.

* * * * *

Here is a portfolio of Dickens's letters, written to me from time to
time during the past ten years. As long ago as the spring of 1858 I
began to press him very hard to come to America and give us a course of
readings from his works. At that time I had never heard him read in
public, but the fame of his wonderful performances rendered me eager to
have my own country share in the enjoyment of them. Being in London in
the summer of 1859, and dining with him one day in his town residence,
Tavistock House, Tavistock Square, we had much talk in a corner of his
library about coming to America. I thought him over-sensitive with
regard to his reception here, and I tried to remove any obstructions
that might exist in his mind at that time against a second visit across
the Atlantic. I followed up our conversation with a note setting forth
the certainty of his success among his Transatlantic friends, and urging
him to decide on a visit during the year. He replied to me, dating from
"Gad's Hill Place, Higham by Rochester, Kent."

"I write to you from my little Kentish country house, on the very
spot where Falstaff ran away.

"I cannot tell you how very much obliged to you I feel for your kind
suggestion, and for the perfectly frank and unaffected manner in
which it is conveyed to me.

"It touches, I will admit to you frankly, a chord that has several
times sounded in my breast, since I began my readings. I should very
much like to read in America. But the idea is a mere dream as yet.
Several strong reasons would make the journey difficult to me,
and--even were they overcome--I would never make it, unless I had
great general reason to believe that the American people really
wanted to hear me.

"Through the whole of this autumn I shall be reading in various
parts of England, Ireland, and Scotland. I mention this, in
reference to the closing paragraph of your esteemed favor.

"Allow me once again to thank you most heartily, and to remain,

"Gratefully and faithfully yours,


Early in the month of July, 1859, I spent a day with him in his
beautiful country retreat in Kent. He drove me about the leafy lanes in
his basket wagon, pointing out the lovely spots belonging to his
friends, and ending with a visit to the ruins of Rochester Castle. We
climbed up the time-worn walls and leaned out of the ivied windows,
looking into the various apartments below. I remember how vividly he
reproduced a probable scene in the great old banqueting-room, and how
graphically he imagined the life of _ennui_ and every-day tediousness
that went on in those lazy old times. I recall his fancy picture of the
dogs stretched out before the fire, sleeping and snoring with their
masters. That day he seemed to revel in the past, and I stood by,
listening almost with awe to his impressive voice, as he spoke out whole
chapters of a romance destined never to be written. On our way back to
Gad's Hill Place, he stopped in the road, I remember, to have a crack
with a gentleman who he told me was a son of Sydney Smith. The only
other guest at his table that day was Wilkie Collins; and after dinner
we three went out and lay down on the grass, while Dickens showed off a
raven that was hopping about, and told anecdotes of the bird and of his
many predecessors. We also talked about his visiting America, I putting
as many spokes as possible into that favorite wheel of mine. A day or
two after I returned to London I received this note from him:--

"...Only to say that I heartily enjoyed our day, and shall long
remember it. Also that I have been perpetually repeating the ----
experience (of a more tremendous sort in the way of ghastly
comicality, experience there is none) on the grass, on my back.
Also, that I have not forgotten Cobbett. Also, that I shall trouble
you at greater length when the mysterious oracle, of New York,

"Wilkie Collins begs me to report that he declines pale horse, and
all other horse exercise--and all exercise, except eating, drinking,
smoking, and sleeping--in the dog days.

"With united kind regards, believe me always cordially yours,


An agent had come out from New York with offers to induce him to arrange
for a speedy visit to America, and Dickens was then waiting to see the
man who had been announced as on his way to him. He was evidently giving
the subject serious consideration, for on the 20th of July he sends me
this note:--

"As I have not yet heard from Mr. ---- of New York, I begin to think
it likely (or, rather, I begin to think it more likely than I
thought it before) that he has not backers good and sufficient, and
that his 'mission' will go off. It is possible that I may hear from
him before the month is out, and I shall not make any reading
arrangements until it has come to a close; but I do not regard it as
being very probable that the said ---- will appear satisfactorily,
either in the flesh or the spirit.

"Now, considering that it would be August before I could move in the
matter, that it would be indispensably necessary to choose some
business connection and have some business arrangements made in
America, and that I am inclined to think it would not be easy to
originate and complete all the necessary preparations for beginning
in October, I want your kind advice on the following points:--

"1. Suppose I postponed the idea for a year.

"2. Suppose I postponed it until after Christmas.

"3. Suppose I sent some trusty person out to America _now_, to
negotiate with some sound, responsible, trustworthy man of business
in New York, accustomed to public undertakings of such a nature; my
negotiator being fully empowered to conclude any arrangements with
him that might appear, on consultation, best.

"Have you any idea of any such person to whom you could recommend
me? Or of any such agent here? I only want to see my way distinctly,
and to have it prepared before me, out in the States. Now, I will
make no apology for troubling you, because I thoroughly rely on your
interest and kindness.

"I am at Gad's Hill, except on Tuesdays and the greater part of

"With kind regards, very faithfully yours,


Various notes passed between us after this, during my stay in London in
1859. On the 6th of August he writes:--

"I have considered the subject in every way, and have consulted with
the few friends to whom I ever refer my doubts, and whose judgment
is in the main excellent. I have (this is between ourselves) come to
the conclusion _that I will not go now_.

"A year hence I may revive the matter, and your presence in America
will then be a great encouragement and assistance to me. I shall see
you (at least I count upon doing so) at my house in town before you
turn your face towards the locked-up house; and we will then,
reversing Macbeth, 'proceed further in this business.' ...

"Believe me always (and here I forever renounce 'Mr.,' as having
anything whatever to do with our communication, and as being a mere
preposterous interloper),

"Faithfully yours,


When I arrived in Rome, early in 1860, one of the first letters I
received from London was from him. The project of coming to America was
constantly before him, and he wrote to me that he should have a great
deal to say when I came back to England in the spring; but the plan fell
through, and he gave up all hope of crossing the water again. However, I
did not let the matter rest; and when I returned home I did not cease,
year after year, to keep the subject open in my communications with him.
He kept a watchful eye on what was going forward in America, both in
literature and politics. During the war, of course, both of us gave up
our correspondence about the readings. He was actively engaged all over
Great Britain in giving his marvellous entertainments, and there
certainly was no occasion for his travelling elsewhere. In October,
1862, I sent him the proof-sheets of an article, that was soon to appear
in the Atlantic Monthly, on "Blind Tom," and on receipt of it he sent me
a letter, from which this is an extract:--

"I have read that affecting paper you have had the kindness to send
me, with strong interest and emotion. You may readily suppose that I
have been most glad and ready to avail myself of your permission to
print it. I have placed it in our Number made up to-day, which will
be published on the 18th of this month,--well before you,--as you

"Think of reading in America? Lord bless you, I think of reading in
the deepest depth of the lowest crater in the Moon, on my way there!

"There is no sun-picture of my Falstaff House as yet; but it shall
be done, and you shall have it. It has been much improved internally
since you saw it....

"I expect Macready at Gad's Hill on Saturday. You know that his
second wife (an excellent one) presented him lately with a little
boy? I was staying with him for a day or two last winter, and,
seizing an umbrella when he had the audacity to tell me he was
growing old, made at him with Macduff's defiance. Upon which he fell
into the old fierce guard, with the desperation of thirty years ago.

"Kind remembrances to all friends who kindly remember me.

"Ever heartily yours,


Every time I had occasion to write to him after the war, I stirred up
the subject of the readings. On the 2d of May, 1866, he says:--

"Your letter is an excessively difficult one to answer, because I
really do not know that any sum of money that could be laid down
would induce me to cross the Atlantic to read. Nor do I think it
likely that any one on your side of the great water can be prepared
to understand the state of the case. For example, I am now just
finishing a series of thirty readings. The crowds attending them
have been so astounding, and the relish for them has so far outgone
all previous experience, that if I were to set myself the task, 'I
will make such or such a sum of money by devoting myself to readings
for a certain time,' I should have to go no further than Bond
Street or Regent Street, to have it secured to me in a day.
Therefore, if a specific offer, and a very large one indeed, were
made to me from America, I should naturally ask myself, 'Why go
through this wear and tear, merely to pluck fruit that grows on
every bough at home?' It is a delightful sensation to move a new
people; but I have but to go to Paris, and I find the brightest
people in the world quite ready for me. I say thus much in a sort of
desperate endeavor to explain myself to you. I can put no price upon
fifty readings in America, because I do not know that any possible
price could pay me for them. And I really cannot say to any one
disposed towards the enterprise, 'Tempt me,' because I have too
strong a misgiving that he cannot in the nature of things do it.

"This is the plain truth. If any distinct proposal be submitted to
me, I will give it a distinct answer. But the chances are a round
thousand to one that the answer will be no, and therefore I feel
bound to make the declaration beforehand.

"....This place has been greatly improved since you were here, and
we should be heartily glad if you and she could see it.

"Faithfully yours ever,


On the 16th of October he writes:--

"Although I perpetually see in the papers that I am coming out with
a new serial, I assure you I know no more of it at present. I am
_not_ writing (except for Christmas number of 'All the Year Round'),
and am going to begin, in the middle of January, a series of
forty-two readings. Those will probably occupy me until Easter.
Early in the summer I hope to get to work upon a story that I have
in my mind. But in what form it will appear I do not yet know,
because when the time comes I shall have to take many circumstances
into consideration.....

"A faint outline of a castle in the air always dimly hovers between
me and Rochester, in the great hall of which I see myself reading to
American audiences. But my domestic surroundings must change before
the castle takes tangible form. And perhaps _I_ may change first,
and establish a castle in the other world. So no more at present.

"Believe me ever faithfully yours,


In June, 1867, things begin to look more promising, and I find in one
of his letters, dated the 3d of that month, some good news, as

"I cannot receive your pleasantest of notes, without assuring you of
the interest and gratification that _I_ feel on _my_ side in our
alliance. And now I am going to add a piece of intelligence that I
hope may not be disagreeable.

"I am trying hard so to free myself, as to be able to come over to
read this next winter! Whether I may succeed in this endeavor or no
I cannot yet say, but I am trying HARD. So in the mean time don't
contradict the rumor. In the course of a few mails I hope to be able
to give you positive and definite information on the subject.

"My daughter (whom I shall not bring if I come) will answer for
herself by and by. Understand that I am really endeavoring tooth and
nail to make my way personally to the American public, and that no
light obstacles will turn me aside, now that my hand is in.

"My dear Fields, faithfully yours always,


This was followed up by another letter, dated the 13th, in which he

"I have this morning resolved to send out to Boston, in the first
week in August, Mr. Dolby, the secretary and manager of my readings.
He is profoundly versed in the business of those delightful
intellectual feasts (!), and will come straight to Ticknor and
Fields, and will hold solemn council with them, and will then go to
New York, Philadelphia, Hartford, Washington, etc., etc., and see
the rooms for himself, and make his estimates. He will then
telegraph to me: 'I see my way to such and such results. Shall I go
on?' If I reply, 'Yes,' I shall stand committed to begin reading in
America with the month of December. If I reply, 'No,' it will be
because I do not clearly see the game to be worth so large a candle.
In either case he will come back to me.

"He is the brother of Madame Sainton Dolby, the celebrated singer. I
have absolute trust in him and a great regard for him. He goes with
me everywhere when I read, and manages for me to perfection.

"We mean to keep all this STRICTLY SECRET, as I beg of you to do,
until I finally decide for or against. I am beleaguered by every
kind of speculator in such things on your side of the water; and it
is very likely that they would take the rooms over our heads,--to
charge me heavily for them,--or would set on foot unheard-of
devices for buying up the tickets, etc., etc., if the probabilities
oozed out. This is exactly how the case stands now, and I confide it
to you within a couple of hours after having so far resolved. Dolby
quite understands that _he_ is to confide in you, similarly, without
a particle of reserve.

"Ever faithfully yours,


On the 12th of July he says:--

"Our letters will be crossing one another rarely! I have received
your cordial answer to my first notion of coming out; but there has
not yet been time for me to hear again....

"With kindest regard to 'both your houses,' public and private,

"Ever faithfully yours,


He had engaged to write for "Our Young Folks" "A Holiday Romance," and
the following note, dated the 25th of July, refers to the story:--

"Your note of the 12th is like a cordial of the best sort. I have
taken it accordingly.

"Dolby sails in the Java on Saturday, the 3d of next month, and will
come direct to you. You will find him a frank and capital fellow. He
is perfectly acquainted with his business and with his chief, and
may be trusted without a grain of reserve.

"I hope the Americans will see the joke of 'Holiday Romance.' The
writing seems to me so like children's, that dull folks (on _any_
side of _any_ water) might perhaps rate it accordingly! I should
like to be beside you when you read it, and particularly when you
read the Pirate's story. It made me laugh to that extent that my
people here thought I was out of my wits, until I gave it to them to
read, when they did likewise.

"Ever cordially yours,


On the 3d of September he breaks out in this wise, Dolby having arrived
out and made all arrangements for the readings:--

"Your cheering letter of the 21st of August arrived here this
morning. A thousand thanks for it. I begin to think (nautically)
that I 'head west'ard.' You shall hear from me fully and finally as
soon as Dolby shall have reported personally.

"The other day I received a letter from Mr. ---- of New York (who
came over in the winning yacht, and described the voyage in the
Times), saying he would much like to see me. I made an appointment
in London, and observed that when he _did_ see me he was obviously
astonished. While I was sensible that the magnificence of my
appearance would fully account for his being overcome, I
nevertheless angled for the cause of his surprise. He then told me
that there was a paragraph going round the papers, to the effect
that I was 'in a critical state of health.' I asked him if he was
sure it wasn't 'cricketing' state of health? To which he replied,
Quite. I then asked him down here to dinner, and he was again
staggered by finding me in sporting training; also much amused.

"Yesterday's and to-day's post bring me this unaccountable paragraph
from hosts of uneasy friends, with the enormous and wonderful
addition that 'eminent surgeons' are sending me to America for
'cessation from literary labor'!!! So I have written a quiet line to
the Times, certifying to my own state of health, and have also
begged Dixon to do the like in the Athenaeum. I mention the matter
to you, in order that you may contradict, from me, if the nonsense
should reach America unaccompanied by the truth. But I suppose that
the New York Herald will probably have got the latter from Mr. ----

"Charles Reade and Wilkie Collins are here; and the joke of the time
is to feel my pulse when I appear at table, and also to inveigle
innocent messengers to come over to the summer-house, where I write
(the place is quite changed since you were here, and a tunnel under
the high road connects this shrubbery with the front garden), to
ask, with their compliments, how I find myself _now_.

"If I come to America this next November, even you can hardly
imagine with what interest I shall try Copperfield on an American
audience, or, if they give me their heart, how freely and fully I
shall give them mine. We will ask Dolby then whether he ever heard
it before.

"I cannot thank you enough for your invaluable help to Dolby. He
writes that at every turn and moment the sense and knowledge and
tact of Mr. Osgood are inestimable to him.

"Ever, my dear Fields, faithfully yours,


Here is a little note dated the 3d of October:--

"I cannot tell you how much I thank you for your kind little letter,
which is like a pleasant voice coming across the Atlantic, with
that domestic welcome in it which has no substitute on earth. If
you knew how strongly I am inclined to allow myself the pleasure of
staying at your house, you would look upon me as a kind of ancient
Roman (which, I trust in Heaven, I am not) for having the courage to
say no. But if I gave myself that gratification in the beginning, I
could scarcely hope to get on in the hard 'reading' life, without
offending some kindly disposed and hospitable American friend
afterwards; whereas if I observe my English principle on such
occasions, of having no abiding-place but an hotel, and stick to it
from the first, I may perhaps count on being consistently

"The nightly exertion necessitates meals at odd hours, silence and
rest at impossible times of the day, a general Spartan behavior so
utterly inconsistent with my nature, that if you were to give me a
happy inch, I should take an ell, and frightfully disappoint you in
public. I don't want to do that, if I can help it, and so I will be
good in spite of myself.

"Ever your affectionate friend,


A ridiculous paragraph in the papers following close on the public
announcement that Dickens was coming to America in November, drew from
him this letter to me, dated also early in October:--

"I hope the telegraph clerks did not mutilate out of recognition or
reasonable guess the words I added to Dolby's last telegram to
Boston. 'Tribune London correspondent totally false.' Not only is
there not a word of truth in the pretended conversation, but it is
so absurdly unlike me that I cannot suppose it to be even invented
by any one who ever heard me exchange a word with mortal creature.
For twenty years I am perfectly certain that I have never made any
other allusion to the republication of my books in America than the
good-humored remark, 'that if there had been international copyright
between England and the States, I should have been a man of very
large fortune, instead of a man of moderate savings, always
supporting a very expensive public position.' Nor have I ever been
such a fool as to charge the absence of international copyright upon
individuals. Nor have I ever been so ungenerous as to disguise or
suppress the fact that I have received handsome sums for advance
sheets. When I was in the States, I said what I had to say on the
question, and there an end. I am absolutely certain that I have
never since expressed myself, even with soreness, on the subject.
Reverting to the preposterous fabrication of the London
correspondent, the statement that I ever talked about 'these
fellows' who republished my books, or pretended to know (what I
don't know at this instant) who made how much out of them, or ever
talked of their sending me 'conscience money,' is as grossly and
completely false as the statement that I ever said anything to the
effect that I could not be expected to have an interest in the
American people. And nothing can by any possibility be falser than
that. Again and again in these pages (All the Year Round) I have
expressed my interest in them. You will see it in the 'Child's
History of England.' You will see it in the last Preface to
'American Notes.' Every American who has ever spoken with me in
London, Paris, or where not, knows whether I have frankly said, 'You
could have no better introduction to me than your country.' And for
years and years when I have been asked about reading in America, my
invariable reply has been, 'I have so many friends there, and
constantly receive so many earnest letters from personally unknown
readers there, that, but for domestic reasons, I would go
to-morrow.' I think I must, in the confidential intercourse between
you and me, have written you to this effect more than once.

"The statement of the London correspondent from beginning to end is
false. It is false in the letter and false in the spirit. He may
have been misinformed, and the statement may not have originated
with him. With whomsoever it originated, it never originated with
me, and consequently is false. More than enough about it.

"As I hope to see you so soon, my dear Fields, and as I am busily at
work on the Christmas number, I will not make this a longer letter
than I can help. I thank you most heartily for your proffered
hospitality, and need not tell you that if I went to any friend's
house in America, I would go to yours. But the readings are very
hard work, and I think I cannot do better than observe the rule on
that side of the Atlantic which I observe on this,--of never, under
such circumstances, going to a friend's house, but always staying at
a hotel. I am able to observe it here, by being consistent and never
breaking it. If I am equally consistent there, I can (I hope) offend
no one.

"Dolby sends his love to you and all his friends (as I do), and is
girding up his loins vigorously.

"Ever, my dear Fields, heartily and affectionately yours,


Before sailing in November he sent off this note to me from the office
of All the Year Round:--

"I received your more than acceptable letter yesterday morning, and
consequently am able to send you this line of acknowledgment by the next
mail. Please God we will have that walk among the autumn leaves, before
the readings set in.

"You may have heard from Dolby that a gorgeous repast is to be given to
me to-morrow, and that it is expected to be a notable demonstration. I
shall try, in what I say, to state my American case exactly. I have a
strong hope and belief that within the compass of a couple of minutes or
so I can put it, with perfect truthfulness, in the light that my
American friends would be best pleased to see me place it in. Either so,
or my instinct is at fault.

"My daughters and their aunt unite with me in kindest loves. As I write,
a shrill prolongation of the message comes in from the next room, 'Tell
them to take care of you-u-u!'

"Tell Longfellow, with my love, that I am charged by Forster (who has
been very ill of diffused gout and bronchitis) with a copy of his Sir
John Eliot.

"I will bring you out the early proof of the Christmas number. We
publish it here on the 12th of December. I am planning it (No
Thoroughfare) out into a play for Wilkie Collins to manipulate after I
sail, and have arranged for Fechter to go to the Adelphi Theatre and
play a Swiss in it. It will be brought out the day after Christmas day.

"Here, at Boston Wharf, and everywhere else,

"Yours heartily and affectionately,


On a blustering evening in November, 1867, Dickens arrived in Boston
Harbor, on his second visit to America. A few of his friends, under the
guidance of the Collector of the port, steamed down in the custom-house
boat to welcome him. It was pitch dark before we sighted the Cuba and
ran alongside. The great steamer stopped for a few minutes to take us on
board, and Dickens's cheery voice greeted me before I had time to
distinguish him on the deck of the vessel. The news of the excitement
the sale of the tickets to his readings had occasioned had been earned
to him by the pilot, twenty miles out. He was in capital spirits over
the cheerful account that all was going on so well, and I thought he
never looked in better health. The voyage had been a good one, and the
ten days' rest on shipboard had strengthened him amazingly he said. As
we were told that a crowd had assembled in East Boston, we took him in
our little tug and landed him safely at Long Wharf in Boston, where
carriages were in waiting. Rooms had been taken for him at the Parker
House, and in half an hour after he had reached the hotel he was sitting
down to dinner with half a dozen friends, quite prepared, he said, to
give the first reading in America that very night, if desirable.
Assurances that the kindest feelings towards him existed everywhere put
him in great spirits, and he seemed happy to be among us. On Sunday he
visited the School Ship and said a few words of encouragement and
counsel to the boys. He began his long walks at once, and girded himself
up for the hard winter's work before him. Steadily refusing all
invitations to go out during the weeks he was reading, he only went into
one other house besides the Parker, habitually, during his stay in
Boston. Every one who was present remembers the delighted crowds that
assembled nightly in the Tremont Temple, and no one who heard Dickens,
during that eventful month of December, will forget the sensation
produced by the great author, actor, and reader. Hazlitt says of Kean's
Othello, "The tone of voice in which he delivered the beautiful
apostrophe 'Then, O, farewell,' struck on the heart like the swelling
notes of some divine music, like the sound of years of departed
happiness." There were thrills of pathos in Dickens's readings (of David
Copperfield, for instance) which Kean himself never surpassed in
dramatic effect.

He went from Boston to New York, carrying with him a severe catarrh
contracted in our climate. In reality much of the time during his
reading in Boston he was quite ill from the effects of the disease, but
he fought courageously against its effects, and always came up, on the
night of the reading, all right. Several times I feared he would be
obliged to postpone the readings, and I am sure almost any one else
would have felt compelled to do so; but he declared no man had a right
to break an engagement with the public, if he were able to be out of
bed. His spirit was wonderful, and, although he lost all appetite and
could partake of very little food, he was always cheerful and ready for
his work when the evening came round. Every morning his table was
covered with invitations to dinners and all sorts of entertainments, but
he said, "I came for hard work, and I must try to fulfil the
expectations of the American public." He did accept a dinner which was
tendered to him by some of his literary friends in Boston; but the day
before it was to come off he was so ill he felt obliged to ask that the
banquet might be given up. The strain upon his strength and nerves was
very great during all the months he remained in the country, and only a
man of iron will could have accomplished all he did. And here let me
say, that although he was accustomed to talk and write a great deal
about eating and drinking, I have rarely seen a man eat and drink less.
He liked to dilate in imagination over the brewing of a bowl of punch,
but I always noticed that when the punch was ready, he drank less of it
than any one who might be present. It was the sentiment of the thing and
not the thing itself that engaged his attention. He liked to have a
little supper every night after a reading, and have three or four
friends round the table with him, but he only pecked at the viands as a
bird might do, and I scarcely saw him eat a hearty meal during his whole
stay in the country. Both at Parker's Hotel in Boston, and at the
Westminster in New York, everything was arranged by the proprietors for
his comfort and happiness, and tempting dishes to pique his invalid
appetite were sent up at different hours of the day, with the hope that
he might be induced to try unwonted things and get up again the habit of
eating more; but the influenza, that seized him with such masterful
powder, held the strong man down till he left the country.

One of the first letters I had from him, after he had begun his reading
tour, was dated from the Westminster Hotel in New York, on the 15th of
January, 1868.

My Dear Fields: On coming back from Philadelphia just now (three
o'clock) I was welcomed by your cordial letter. It was a delightful
welcome and did me a world of good.

The cold remains just as it was (beastly), and where it was (in my
head). We have left off referring to the hateful subject, except in
emphatic sniffs on my part, convulsive wheezes, and resounding

The Philadelphia audience ready and bright. I think they understood
the Carol better than Copperfield, but they were bright and
responsive as to both.--They also highly appreciated your friend Mr.
Jack Hopkins. A most excellent hotel there, and everything
satisfactory. While on the subject of satisfaction, I know you will
be pleased to hear that a long run is confidently expected for the
No Thoroughfare drama. Although the piece is well cast and well
played, my letters tell me that Fechter is so remarkably fine as to
play down the whole company. The Times, in its account of it, said
that "Mr. Fechter" (in the Swiss mountain scene, and in the Swiss
Hotel) "was practically alone upon the stage." It is splendidly got
up, and the Mountain Pass (I planned it with the scene-painter) was
loudly cheered by the whole house. Of course I knew that Fechter
would tear himself to pieces rather than fall short, but I was not
prepared for his contriving to get the pity and sympathy of the
audience out of his passionate love for Marguerite.

My dear fellow, you cannot miss me more than I miss you and yours.
And Heaven knows how gladly I would substitute Boston for Chicago,
Detroit, and Co.! But the tour is fast shaping itself out into its
last details, and we must remember that there is a clear fortnight
in Boston, not counting the four Farewells. I look forward to that
fortnight as a radiant landing-place in the series....

Rash youth! No presumptuous hand should try to make the punch,
except in the presence of the hoary sage who pens these lines. With
_him_ on the spot to perceive and avert impending failure, with
timely words of wisdom to arrest the erring hand and curb the
straying judgment, and, with such gentle expressions of
encouragement as his stern experience may justify, to cheer the
aspirant with faint hopes of future excellence,--with these
conditions observed, the daring mind may scale the heights of sugar
and contemplate the depths of lemon. Otherwise not.

Dolby is at Washington, and will return in the night. ---- is on
guard. He made a most brilliant appearance before the Philadelphia
public, and looked hard at them. The mastery of his eye diverted
their attention from his boots: charming in themselves, but
(unfortunately) two left ones.

I send my hearty and enduring love. Your kindness to the British
Wanderer is deeply inscribed in his heart.

When I think of L----'s story about Dr. Webster, I feel like the
lady in Nickleby who "has had a sensation of alternate cold and
biling water running down her back ever since."

Ever, my dear Fields, your affectionate friend,


His birthday, 7th of February, was spent in Washington, and on the 9th
of the month he sent this little note from Baltimore:--

Baltimore, Sunday, February 9, 1868.

My Dear Fields: I thank you heartily for your pleasant note (I can
scarcely tell you _how_ pleasant it was to receive the same) and for
the beautiful flowers that you sent me on my birthday. For
which--and much more--my loving thanks to both.

In consequence of the Washington papers having referred to the
august 7th of this month, my room was on that day a blooming garden.
Nor were flowers alone represented there. The silversmith, the
goldsmith, the landscape-painter, all sent in their contributions.
After the reading was done at night, the whole audience rose; and it
was spontaneous, hearty, and affecting.

I was very much surprised by the President's face and manner. It is,
in its way, one of the most remarkable faces I have ever seen. Not
imaginative, but very powerful in its firmness (or perhaps
obstinacy), strength of will, and steadiness of purpose. There is a
reticence in it too, curiously at variance with that first
unfortunate speech of his. A man not to be turned or trifled with. A
man (I should say) who must be killed to be got out of the way. His
manners, perfectly composed. We looked at one another pretty hard.
There was an air of chronic anxiety upon him. But not a crease or a
ruffle in his dress, and his papers were as composed as himself.
(Mr. Thornton was going in to deliver his credentials, immediately

This day fortnight will find me, please God, in my "native Boston."
I wish I were there to-day.

Ever, my dear Fields, your affectionate friend,

CHARLES DICKENS, _Chairman Missionary Society._

When he returned to Boston in the latter part of the month, after his
fatiguing campaign in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington,
he seemed far from well, and one afternoon sent round from the Parker
House to me this little note, explaining why he could not go out on our
accustomed walk.

I have been terrifying Dolby out of his wits, by setting in for a
paroxysm of sneezing, and it would be madness in me, with such a
cold, and on such a night, and with to-morrow's reading before me,
to go out. I need not add that I shall be heartily glad to see you
if you have time. Many thanks for the Life and Letters of Wilder
Dwight. I shall "save up" that book, to read on the passage home.
After turning over the leaves, I have shut it up and put it away;
for I am a great reader at sea, and wish to reserve the interest
that I find awaiting me in the personal following of the sad war.
Good God, when one stands among the hearths that war has broken,
what an awful consideration it is that such a tremendous evil _must_
be sometimes!

Ever affectionately yours,


* * * * *

I will dispose here of the question often asked me by correspondents,
and lately renewed in many epistles, _"Was Charles Dickens a believer in
our Saviour's life and teachings?"_ Persons addressing to me such
inquiries must be profoundly ignorant of the works of the great author,
whom they endeavor by implication to place among the "Unbelievers." If
anywhere, out of the Bible, God's goodness and mercy are solemnly
commended to the world's attention, it is in the pages of Dickens. I had
supposed that these written words of his, which have been so extensively
copied both in Europe and America, from his last will and testament,
dated the 12th of May, 1869, would forever remain an emphatic testimony
to his Christian faith:--

"I commit my soul to the mercy of God, through our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ, and I exhort my dear children humbly to try to guide
themselves by the teachings of the New Testament."

I wish it were in my power to bring to the knowledge of all who doubt


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