Yesterdays with Authors
James T. Fields

Part 4 out of 8

the Christian character of Charles Dickens certain other memorable words
of his, written years ago, with reference to Christmas. They are not as
familiar as many beautiful things from the same pen on the same subject,
for the paper which enshrines them has not as yet been collected among
his authorized works. Listen to these loving words in which the
Christian writer has embodied the life of his Saviour:--

"Hark! the Waits are playing, and they break my childish sleep! What
images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set
forth on the Christmas tree? Known before all others, keeping far
apart from all the others, they gather round my little bed. An
angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travellers,
with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in
a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure with a
mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again,
near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to
life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber
where he site, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes;
the same in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a
sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his
knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind,
speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick,
strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a
cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the
earth beginning to shake, and only one voice heard,--'Forgive them,
for they know not what they do!'"

The writer of these pages begs to say here, most respectfully and
emphatically, that he will not feel himself bound, in future, to reply
to any inquiries, from however well-meaning correspondents, as to
whether Charles Dickens was an "Unbeliever," or a "Unitarian," or an
"Episcopalian," or whether "he ever went to church in his life," or
"used improper language," or "drank enough to hurt him." He was human,
very human, but he was no scoffer or doubter. His religion was of the
heart, and his faith beyond questioning. He taught the world, said Dean
Stanley over his new-made grave in Westminster Abbey, great lessons of
"the eternal value of generosity, of purity, of kindness, and of
unselfishness," and by his fruits he shall be known of all men.

Let me commend to the attention of my numerous nameless correspondents,
who have attempted to soil the moral character of Dickens, the following
little incident, related to me by himself, during a summer-evening walk
among the Kentish meadows, a few months before he died. I will try to
tell the story, if possible, as simply and naturally as he told it to

"I chanced to be travelling some years ago," he said, "in a railroad
carriage between Liverpool and London. Beside myself there were two
ladies and a gentleman occupying the carriage. We happened to be all
strangers to each other, but I noticed at once that a clergyman was of
the party. I was occupied with a ponderous article in the 'Times,' when
the sound of my own name drew my attention to the fact that a
conversation was going forward among the three other persons in the
carriage with reference to myself and my books. One of the ladies was
perusing 'Bleak House,' then lately published, and the clergyman had
commenced a conversation with the ladies by asking what book they were
reading. On being told the author's name and the title of the book, he
expressed himself greatly grieved that any lady in England should be
willing to take up the writings of so vile a character as Charles
Dickens. Both the ladies showed great surprise at the low estimate the
clergyman put upon an author whom they had been accustomed to read, to
say the least, with a certain degree of pleasure. They were evidently
much shocked at what the man said of the immoral tendency of these
books, which they seemed never before to have suspected; but when he
attacked the author's private character, and told monstrous stories of
his immoralities in every direction, the volume was shut up and
consigned to the dark pockets of a travelling bag. I listened in wonder
and astonishment, behind my newspaper, to stories of myself, which if
they had been true would have consigned any man to a prison for life.
After my fictitious biographer had occupied himself for nearly an hour
with the eloquent recital of my delinquencies and crimes, I very quietly
joined in the conversation. Of course I began by modestly doubting some
statements which I had just heard, touching the author of 'Bleak House,'
and other unimportant works of a similar character. The man stared at
me, and evidently considered my appearance on the conversational stage
an intrusion and an impertinence. 'You seem to speak,' I said, 'from
personal knowledge of Mr. Dickens. Are you acquainted with him?' He
rather evaded the question, but, following him up closely, I compelled
him to say that he had been talking, not from his own knowledge of the
author in question; but he said he knew for a certainty that every
statement he had made was a true one. I then became more earnest in my
inquiries for proofs, which he arrogantly declined giving. The ladies
sat by in silence, listening intently to what was going forward. An
author they had been accustomed to read for amusement had been traduced
for the first time in their hearing, and they were waiting to learn
what I had to say in refutation of the clergyman's charges. I was taking
up his vile stories, one by one, and stamping them as false in every
particular, when the man grew furious, and asked me if I knew Dickens
personally. I replied, 'Perfectly well; no man knows him better than I
do; and all your stories about him from beginning to end, to these
ladies, are unmitigated lies.' The man became livid with rage, and asked
for my card. 'You shall have it,' I said, and, coolly taking out
one, I presented it to him without bowing. We were just then nearing the
station in London, so that I was spared a longer interview with my
_truthful_ companion; but, if I were to live a hundred years, I should
not forget the abject condition into which the narrator of my crimes was
instantly plunged. His face turned white as his cravat, and his lips
refused to utter words. He seemed like a wilted vegetable, and as if his
legs belonged to somebody else. The ladies became aware of the situation
at once, and, bidding them 'good day,' I stepped smilingly out of the
carriage. Before I could get away from the station the man had mustered
up strength sufficient to follow me, and his apologies were so nauseous
and craven, that I pitied him from my soul. I left him with this
caution, 'Before you make charges against the character of any man
again, about whom you know nothing, and of whose works you are utterly
ignorant, study to be a seeker after Truth, and avoid Lying as you would
eternal perdition.'"

I never ceased to wonder at Dickens's indomitable cheerfulness, even
when he was suffering from ill health, and could not sleep more than two
or three hours out of the twenty-four. He made it a point never to
inflict on another what he might be painfully enduring himself, and I
have seen him, with what must have been a great effort, arrange a merry
meeting for some friends, when I knew that almost any one else under
similar circumstances would have sought relief in bed.

One evening at a little dinner given by himself to half a dozen friends
in Boston, he came out very strong. His influenza lifted a little, as he
said afterwards, and he took advantage of the lull. Only his own pen
could possibly give an idea of that hilarious night, and I will merely
attempt a brief reference to it. As soon as we were seated at the table,
I read in his lustrous eye, and heard in his jovial voice, that all
solemn forms were to be dispensed with on that occasion, and that
merriment might be confidently expected. To the end of the feast there
was no let up to his magnificent cheerfulness and humor. J---- B----,
ex-minister plenipotentiary as he was, went in for nonsense, and he, I
am sure, will not soon forget how undignified we all were, and what
screams of laughter went up from his own uncontrollable throat. Among
other tomfooleries, we had an imitation of scenes at an English
hustings, Dickens bringing on his candidate (his friend D----), and I
opposing him with mine (the ex-minister). Of course there was nothing
spoken in the speeches worth remembering, but it was Dickens's _manner_
that carried off the whole thing. D---- necessarily now wears his hair
so widely parted in the middle that only two little capillary scraps are
left, just over his ears, to show what kind of thatch once covered his
jolly cranium. Dickens pretended that _his_ candidate was superior to
the other, _because_ he had no hair; and that mine, being profusely
supplied with that commodity was in consequence disqualified in a marked
degree for an election. His speech, for volubility and nonsense, was
nearly fatal to us all. We roared and writhed in agonies of laughter,
and the candidates themselves were literally choking and crying with the
humor of the thing. But the fun culminated when I tried to get a hearing
in behalf of my man, and Dickens drowned all my attempts to be heard
with imitative jeers of a boisterous election mob. He seemed to have as
many voices that night as the human throat is capable of, and the
repeated interrupting shouts, among others, of a pretended husky old man
bawling out at intervals, "Three cheers for the bald 'un!" "Down vith
the hairy aristocracy!" "Up vith the little shiny chap on top!" and
other similar outbursts, I can never forget. At last, in sheer
exhaustion, we all gave in, and agreed to break up and thus save our
lives, if it were not already too late to make the attempt.

The extent and variety of Dickens's tones were wonderful. Once he
described to me in an inimitable way a scene he witnessed many years ago
at a London theatre, and I am certain no professional ventriloquist
could have reproduced it better. I could never persuade him to repeat
the description in presence of others; but he did it for me several
times during our walks into the country, where he was, of course,
unobserved. His recital of the incident was irresistibly droll, and no
words of mine can give the _situation_ even, as he gave it. He said he
was once sitting in the pit of a London theatre, when two men came in
and took places directly in front of him. Both were evidently strangers
from the country, and not very familiar with the stage. One of them was
stone deaf, and relied entirely upon his friend to keep him informed of
the dialogue and story of the play as it went on, by having bawled into
his ear, word for word, as near as possible what the actors and
actresses were saying. The man who could hear became intensely
interested in the play, and kept close watch of the stage. The deaf man
also shared in the progressive action of the drama, and rated his friend
soundly, in a loud voice, if a stitch in the story of the play were
inadvertently dropped. Dickens gave the two voices of these two
spectators with his best comic and dramatic power. Notwithstanding the
roars of the audience, for the scene in the pit grew immensely funny to
them as it went on, the deaf man and his friend were too much interested
in the main business of the evening to observe that they were noticed.
One bawled louder, and the other, with his elevated ear-trumpet,
listened more intently than ever. At length the scene culminated in a
most unexpected manner. "Now," screamed the hearing man to the deaf one,
"they are going to elope!" "_Who_ is going to elope?" asked the deaf
man, in a loud, vehement tone. "Why, them two, the young man in the red
coat and the girl in a white gown, that's a talking together now, and
just going off the stage!" "Well, then, you must have missed telling me
something they've said before," roared the other in an enraged and
stentorian voice; "for there was nothing in their conduct all the
evening, as you have been representing it to me, that would warrant them
in such a proceeding!" At which the audience could not bear it any
longer, and screamed their delight till the curtain fell.

Dickens was always planning something to interest and amuse his friends,
and when in America he taught us several games arranged by himself,
which we played again and again, he taking part as our instructor. While
he was travelling from point to point, he was cogitating fresh charades
to be acted when we should again meet. It was at Baltimore that he first
conceived the idea of a walking-match, which should take place on his
return to Boston, and he drew up a set of humorous "articles," which he
sent to me with this injunction, "Keep them in a place of profound
safety, for attested execution, until my arrival in Boston." He went
into this matter of the walking-match with as much earnest directness as
if he were planning a new novel. The articles, as prepared by himself,
are thus drawn up:--

"Articles of agreement entered into at Baltimore, in the United
States of America, this third day of February in the year of our
Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight, between ----,
British subject, _alias_ the Man of Ross, and ----, American
citizen, _alias_ the Boston Bantam.

"Whereas, some Bounce having arisen between the above men in
reference to feats of pedestrianism and agility, they have agreed to
settle their differences and prove who is the better man, by means
of a walking-match for two hats a side and the glory of their
respective countries; and whereas they agree that the said match
shall come off, whatsoever the weather, on the Mill Dam Road outside
Boston, on Saturday, the 29th day of this present month; and whereas
they agree that the personal attendants on themselves during the
whole walk, and also the umpires and starters and declarers of
victory in the match shall be ---- of Boston, known in sporting
circles as Massachusetts Jemmy, and Charles Dickens of Falstaff's
Gad's Hill, whose surprising performances (without the least
variation) on that truly national instrument, the American catarrh,
have won for him the well-merited title of the Gad's Hill Gasper:--

"1. The men are to be started, on the day appointed, by
Massachusetts Jemmy and The Gasper.

"2. Jemmy and The Gasper are, on some previous day, to walk out at
the rate of not less than four miles an hour by the Gasper's watch,
for one hour and a half. At the expiration of that one hour and a
half they are to carefully note the place at which they halt. On the
match's coming off they are to station themselves in the middle of
the road, at that precise point, and the men (keeping clear of them
and of each other) are to turn round them, right shoulder inward,
and walk back to the starting-point. The man declared by them to
pass the starting-point first is to be the victor and the winner of
the match.

"3. No jostling or fouling allowed.

"4. All cautions or orders issued to the men by the umpires,
starters, and declarers of victory to be considered final and
admitting of no appeal.

"5. A sporting narrative of the match to be written by The Gasper
within one week after its coming off, and the same to be duly
printed (at the expense of the subscribers to these articles) on a
broadside. The said broadside to be framed and glazed, and one copy
of the same to be carefully preserved by each of the subscribers to
these articles.

"6. The men to show on the evening of the day of walking, at six
o'clock precisely, at the Parker House, Boston, when and where a
dinner will be given them by The Gasper. The Gasper to occupy the
chair, faced by Massachusetts Jemmy. The latter promptly and
formally to invite, as soon as may be after the date of these
presents, the following guests to honor the said dinner with their
presence; that is to say [here follow the names of a few of his
friends, whom he wished to be invited].

"Now, lastly. In token of their accepting the trusts and offices by
these articles conferred upon them, these articles are solemnly and
formally signed by Massachusetts Jemmy and by the Gad's Hill Gasper,
as well as by the men themselves.

"Signed by the Man of Ross, otherwise ----.

"Signed by the Boston Bantam, otherwise ----.

"Signed by Massachusetts Jemmy, otherwise ----.

"Signed by the Gad's Hill Gasper, otherwise Charles Dickens.

"Witness to the signatures, ----."

When he returned to Boston from Baltimore, he proposed that I should
accompany him over the walking-ground "at the rate of not less than four
miles an hour, for one hour and a half." I shall not soon forget the
tremendous pace at which he travelled that day. I have seen a great many
walkers, but never one with whom I found it such hard work to keep up.
Of course his object was to stretch out the space as far as possible for
our friends to travel on the appointed day. With watch in hand, Dickens
strode on over the Mill Dam toward Newton Centre. When we reached the
turning-point, and had established the extreme limit, we both felt that
we had given the men who were to walk in the match excellent good
measure. All along the road people had stared at us, wondering, I
suppose, why two men on such a blustering day should be pegging away in
the middle of the road as if life depended on the speed they were
getting over the ground. We had walked together many a mile before this,
but never at such a rate as on this day. I had never seen his full power
tested before, and I could not but feel great admiration for his
walking pluck. We were both greatly heated, and, seeing a little shop by
the roadside, we went in for refreshments. A few sickly-looking oranges
were all we could obtain to quench our thirst, and we seized those and
sat down on the shop door-steps, tired and panting. After a few minutes'
rest we started again and walked back to town. Thirteen miles' stretch
on a brisk winter day did neither of us any harm, and Dickens was in
great spirits over the match that was so soon to come off. We agreed to
walk over the ground again on the appointed day, keeping company with
our respective men. Here is the account that Dickens himself drew up, of
that day's achievement, for the broadside.



"The Boston Bantam (_alias_ Bright Chanticleer) is a young bird,
though too old to be caught with chaff. He comes of a thorough game
breed, and has a clear though modest crow. He pulls down the scale
at ten stone and a half and add a pound or two. His previous
performances in the pedestrian line have not been numerous. He once
achieved a neat little match against time in two left boots at
Philadelphia; but this must be considered as a pedestrian
eccentricity, and cannot be accepted by the rigid chronicler as high
art. The old mower with the scythe and hour-glass has not yet laid
his mauley heavily on the Bantam's frontispiece, but he has had a
grip at the Bantam's top feathers, and in plucking out a handful was
very near making him like the great Napoleon Bonaparte (with the
exception of the victualling department), when the ancient one found
himself too much occupied to carry out the idea, and gave it up. The
Man of Ross (_alias_ old Alick Pope, _alias_
Allourpraises-whyshouldlords, etc.) is a thought and a half too
fleshy, and, if he accidentally sat down upon his baby, would do it
to the tune of fourteen stone. This popular codger is of the
rubicund and jovial sort, and has long been known as a piscatorial
pedestrian on the banks of the Wye. But Izaak Walton hadn't
pace,--look at his book and you'll find it slow,--and when that
article comes in question, the fishing-rod may prove to some of his
disciples a rod in pickle. Howbeit, the Man of Ross is a lively
ambler, and has a smart stride of his own.


"If vigorous attention to diet could have brought both men up to the
post in tip-top feather, their condition would have left nothing to
be desired. But both might have had more daily practice in the
poetry of motion. Their breathings were confined to an occasional
Baltimore burst under the guidance of The Gasper, and to an amicable
toddle between themselves at Washington.


"Six miles and a half, good measure, from the first tree on the Mill
Dam Road, lies the little village (with no refreshments in it but
five oranges and a bottle of blacking) of Newton Centre. Here
Massachusetts Jemmy and The Gasper had established the
turning-point. The road comprehended every variety of inconvenience
to test the mettle of the men, and nearly the whole of it was
covered with snow.


was effected beautifully. The men taking their stand in exact line
at the starting-post, the first tree aforesaid, received from The
Gasper the warning, "Are you ready?" and then the signal, "One, two,
three. Go!" They got away exactly together, and at a spinning speed,
waited on by Massachusetts Jemmy and the Gasper.


"In the teeth of an intensely cold and bitter wind, before which the
snow flew fast and furious across the road from right to left, the
Bantam slightly led. But the Man responded to the challenge, and
soon breasted him. For the first three miles each led by a yard or
so alternately; but the walking was very even. On four miles being
called by The Gasper the men were side by side; and then ensued one
of the best periods of the race, the same splitting pace being held
by both through a heavy snow-wreath and up a dragging hill. At this
point it was anybody's game, a dollar on Rossius and two
half-dollars on the member of the feathery tribe. When five miles
were called, the men were still shoulder to shoulder. At about six
miles The Gasper put on a tremendous spirt to leave the men behind
and establish himself at the turning-point at the entrance of the
village. He afterwards declared that he received a mental
knock-downer on taking his station and facing about, to find Bright
Chanticleer close in upon him, and Rossius steaming up like a
locomotive. The Bantam rounded first; Rossius rounded wide; and from
that moment the Bantam steadily shot ahead. Though both were
breathed at the town, the Bantam quickly got his bellows into
obedient condition, and blew away like an orderly blacksmith in full
work. The forcing-pumps of Rossius likewise proved themselves tough
and true, and warranted first-rate, but he fell off in pace; whereas
the Bantam pegged away with his little drumsticks, as if he saw his
wives and a peck of barley waiting for him at the family perch.
Continually gaining upon him of Ross, Chanticleer gradually drew
ahead within a very few yards of half a mile, finally doing the
whole distance in two hours and forty-eight minutes. Ross had ceased
to compete three miles short of the winning-post, but bravely walked
it out and came in seven minutes later.


"The difficulties under which this plucky match was walked can only
be appreciated by those who were on the ground. To the excessive
rigor of the icy blast and the depth and state of the snow must be
added the constant scattering of the latter into the air and into
the eyes of the men, while heads of hair, beards, eyelashes, and
eyebrows were frozen into icicles. To breathe at all, in such a
rarefied and disturbed atmosphere, was not easy; but to breathe up
to the required mark was genuine, slogging, ding-dong, hard labor.
That both competitors were game to the backbone, doing what they did
under such conditions, was evident to all; but to his gameness the
courageous Bantam added unexpected endurance and (like the sailor's
watch that did three hours to the cathedral clock's one) unexpected
powers of going when wound up. The knowing eye could not fail to
detect considerable disparity between the lads; Chanticleer being,
as Mrs. Cratchit said of Tiny Tim, 'very light to carry,' and
Rossius promising fair to attain the rotundity of the Anonymous Cove
in the Epigram:--

And when he walks the streets the paviors cry,
"God bless you, sir!"--and lay their rammers by.

The dinner at the Parker House, after the fatigues of the day, was a
brilliant success. The Great International Walking-Match was over;
America had won, and England was nowhere. The victor and the vanquished
were the heroes of the occasion, for both had shown great powers of
endurance and done their work in capital time. We had no set speeches at
the table, for we had voted eloquence a bore before we sat down. David
Copperfield, Hyperion, Hosea Biglow, the Autocrat, and the Bad Boy were
present, and there was no need of set speeches. The ladies present,
being all daughters of America, smiled upon the champion, and we had a
great, good time. The banquet provided by Dickens was profusely
decorated with flowers, arranged by himself. The master of the feast was
in his best mood, albeit his country had lost; and we all declared, when
we bade him good night, that none of us had ever enjoyed a festival

Soon after this Dickens started on his reading travels again, and I
received from him frequent letters from various parts of the country. On
the 8th of March, 1868, he writes from a Western city:--

Sunday, 8th March, 1868.

My Dear Fields: We came here yesterday most comfortably in a
"drawing-room car," of which (Rule Britannia!) we bought exclusive
possession. ---- is rather a depressing feather in the eagle's wing,
when considered on a Sunday and in a thaw. Its hotel is likewise a
dreary institution. But I have an impression that we must be in the
wrong one, and buoy myself up with a devout belief in the other,
over the way. The awakening to consciousness this morning on a
lop-sided bedstead facing nowhere, in a room holding nothing but
sour dust, was more terrible than the being afraid to go to bed last
night. To keep ourselves up we played whist (double dummy) until
neither of us could bear to speak to the other any more. We had
previously supped on a tough old nightmare named buffalo.

What do you think of a "Fowl de poulet"? or a "Paettie de Shay"? or
"Celary"? or "Murange with cream"? Because all these delicacies are
in the printed bill of fare! If Mrs. Fields would like the recipe,
how to make a "Paettie de Shay," telegraph instantly, and the recipe
shall be purchased. We asked the Irish waiter what this dish was,
and he said it was "the Frinch name the steward giv' to oyster
pattie." It is usually washed down, I believe, with "Movseaux," or
"Table Madeira," or "Abasinthe," or "Curraco," all of which drinks
are on the wine list. I mean to drink my love to ---- after dinner
in Movseaux. Your ruggeder nature shall be pledged in Abasinthe.

Ever affectionately,


On the 19th of March he writes from Albany:--

Albany, 19th March, 1868.

My Dear ----: I should have answered your kind and welcome note
before now, but that we have been in difficulties. After creeping
through water for miles upon miles, our train gave it up as a bad
job between Rochester and this place, and stranded us, early on
Tuesday afternoon, at Utica. There we remained all night, and at six
o'clock yesterday morning were ordered up to get ready for starting
again. Then we were countermanded. Then we were once more told to
get ready. Then we were told to stay where we were. At last we got
off at eight o'clock, and after paddling through the flood until
half past three, got landed here,--to the great relief of our minds
as well as bodies, for the tickets were all sold out for last night.
We had all sorts of adventures by the way, among which two of the
most notable were:--

1. Picking up two trains out of the water, in which the passengers
had been composedly sitting all night, until relief should arrive.

2. Unpacking and releasing into the open country a great train of
cattle and sheep that had been in the water I don't know how long,
and that had begun in their imprisonment to eat each other. I never
could have realized the strong and dismal expressions of which the
faces of sheep are capable, had I not seen the haggard countenances
of this unfortunate flock as they were tumbled out of their dens and
picked themselves up and made off, leaping wildly (many with broken
legs) over a great mound of thawing snow, and over the worried body
of a deceased companion. Their misery was so very human that I was
sorry to recognize several intimate acquaintances conducting
themselves in this forlornly gymnastic manner.

As there is no question that our friendship began in some previous
state of existence many years ago, I am now going to make bold to
mention a discovery we have made concerning Springfield. We find
that by remaining there next Saturday and Sunday, instead of coming
on to Boston, we shall save several hours' travel, and much wear and
tear of our baggage and camp-followers. Ticknor reports the
Springfield hotel excellent. Now will you and Fields come and pass
Sunday with us there? It will be delightful, if you can. If you
cannot, will you defer our Boston dinner until the following Sunday?
Send me a hopeful word to Springfield (Massasoit House) in reply,

Lowell's delightful note enclosed with thanks. _Do_ make a trial for
Springfield. We saw Professor White at Syracuse, and went out for a
ride with him. Queer quarters at Utica, and nothing particular to
eat; but the people so very anxious to please, that it was better
than the best cuisine. I made a jug of punch (in the bedroom
pitcher), and we drank our love to you and Fields. Dolby had more
than his share, under pretence of devoted enthusiasm. Ever
affectionately yours,


His readings everywhere were crowned with enthusiastic success, and if
his strength had been equal to his will, he could have stayed in America
another year, and occupied every night of it with his wonderful
impersonations. I regretted extremely that he felt obliged to give up
visiting the West. Invitations which greatly pleased him came day after
day from the principal cities and towns, but his friends soon discovered
that his health would not allow him to extend his travels beyond

He sailed for home on the 19th of April, 1868, and we shook hands with
him on the deck of the Russia as the good ship turned her prow toward
England. He was in great spirits at the thought of so soon again seeing
Gad's Hill, and the prospect of a rest after all his toilsome days and
nights in America. While at sea he wrote the following letter to me:--

Aboard The Russia, Bound For Liverpool, Sunday, 26th April, 1868.

My Dear Fields: In order that you may have the earliest intelligence
of me, I begin this note to-day in my small cabin, purposing (if it
should prove practicable) to post it at Queenstown for the return

We are already past the Banks of Newfoundland, although our course
was seventy miles to the south, with the view of avoiding ice seen
by Judkins in the Scotia on his passage out to New York. The Russia
is a magnificent ship, and has dashed along bravely. We had made
more than thirteen hundred and odd miles at, noon to-day. The wind,
after being a little capricious, rather threatens at the present
time to turn against us, but our run is already eighty miles ahead
of the Russia's last run in this direction,--a very fast one. ...To
all whom it may concern, report the Russia in the highest terms. She
rolls more easily than the other Cunard Screws, is kept in perfect
order, and is most carefully looked after in all departments. We
have had nothing approaching to heavy weather; still, one can speak
to the trim of the ship. Her captain, a gentleman; bright, polite,
good-natured, and vigilant.....

As to me, I am greatly better, I hope. I have got on my right boot
to-day for the first time; the "true American" seems to be turning
faithless at last; and I made a Gad's Hill breakfast this morning,
as a further advance on having otherwise eaten and drunk all day
ever since Wednesday.

You will see Anthony Trollope, I dare say. What was my amazement to
see him with these eyes come aboard in the mail tender just before
we started! He had come out in the Scotia just in time to dash off
again in said tender to shake hands with me, knowing me to be aboard
here. It was most heartily done. He is on a special mission of
convention with the United States post-office.

We have been picturing your movements, and have duly checked off
your journey home, and have talked about you continually. But I have
thought about, you both, even much, much more. You will never know
how I love you both; or what you have been to me in America, and
will always be to me everywhere; or how fervently I thank you.

All the working of the ship seems to be done on my forehead. It is
scrubbed and holystoned (my head--not the deck) at three every
morning. It is scraped and swabbed all day. Eight pairs of heavy
boots are now clattering on it, getting the ship under sail again.
Legions of ropes'-ends are flopped upon it as I write, and I must
leave off with Dolby's love.

Thursday, 30th.

Soon after I left off as above we had a gale of wind, which blew all
night. For a few hours on the evening side of midnight there was no
getting from this cabin of mine to the saloon, or _vice versa,_ so
heavily did the sea break over the decks. The ship, however, made
nothing of it, and we were all right again by Monday afternoon.
Except for a few hours yesterday (when we had a very light head
wind), the weather has been constantly favorable, and we are now
bowling away at a great rate, with a fresh breeze filling all our
sails. We expect to be at Queenstown between midnight and three in
the morning.

I hope, my dear Fields, you may find this legible, but I rather
doubt it; for there is motion enough on the ship to render writing
to a landsman, however accustomed to pen and ink, rather a difficult
achievement. Besides which, I slide away gracefully from the paper,
whenever I want to be particularly expressive.....

----, sitting opposite to me at breakfast, always has the following
items: A large dish of porridge, into which he casts slices of
butter and a quantity of sugar. Two cups of tea. A steak. Irish
stew. Chutnee, and marmalade. Another deputation of two has
solicited a reading to-night. Illustrious novelist has
unconditionally and absolutely declined.

More love, and more to that, from your ever affectionate friend,


His first letter from home gave us all great pleasure, for it announced
his complete recovery from the severe influenza that had fastened itself
upon him so many months before. Among his earliest notes I find these

"I have found it so extremely difficult to write about America
(though never so briefly) without appearing to blow trumpets on the
one hand, or to be inconsistent with my avowed determination _not_
to write about it on the other, that I have taken the simple course
enclosed. The number will be published on the 6th of June. It
appears to me to be the most modest and manly course, and to derive
some graceful significance from its title.....

"Thank my dear ---- for me for her delightful letter received on the
16th. I will write to her very soon, and tell her about the dogs. I
would write by this post, but that Wills's absence (in Sussex, and
getting no better there as yet) so overwhelms me with business that
I can scarcely get through it.

"Miss me? Ah, my dear fellow, but how do I miss _you!_ We talk about
you both at Gad's Hill every day of our lives. And I never see the
place looking very pretty indeed, or hear the birds sing all day
long and the nightingales all night, without restlessly wishing that
you were both there.

"With best love, and truest and most enduring regard, ever, my dear

"Your most affectionate,


".... I hope you will receive by Saturday's Cunard a case

1. A trifling supply of the pen-knibs that suited your hand. 2. A
do. of unfailing medicine for cockroaches. 3. Mrs. Gamp, for ----.

"The case is addressed to you at Bleecker Street, New York. If it
should be delayed for the knibs (or nibs) promised to-morrow, and
should be too late for the Cunard packet, it will in that case come
by the next following Inman steamer.

"Everything here looks lovely, and I find it (you will be surprised
to hear) really a pretty place! I have seen No Thoroughfare twice.
Excellent things in it; but it drags, to my thinking. It is,
however, a great success in the country, and is now getting up with
great force in Paris. Fechter is ill, and was ordered off to
Brighton yesterday. Wills is ill too, and banished into Sussex for
perfect rest. Otherwise, thank God, I find everything well and
thriving. You and my dear Mrs. F---- are constantly in my mind.
Procter greatly better...."

On the 25th of May he sent off the following from Gad's Hill:--

My Dear ----: As you ask me about the dogs, I begin with them. When
I came down first, I came to Gravesend, five miles off. The two
Newfoundland dogs coming to meet me, with the usual carriage and the
usual driver, and beholding me coming in my usual dress out at the
usual door, it struck me that their recollection of my having been
absent for any unusual time was at once cancelled. They behaved
(they are both young dogs) exactly in their usual manner; coming
behind the basket phaeton as we trotted along, and lifting their
heads to have their ears pulled,--a special attention which they
receive from no one else. But when I drove into the stable-yard,
Linda (the St. Bernard) was greatly excited; weeping profusely, and
throwing herself on her back that she might caress my foot with her
great fore-paws. M----'s little dog too, Mrs. Bouncer, barked in the
greatest agitation on being called down and asked by M----, "Who is
this?" and tore round and round me, like the dog in the Faust
outlines. You must know that all the farmers turned out on the road
in their market-chaises to say, "Welcome home, sir!" that all the
houses along the road were dressed with flags; and that our
servants, to cut out the rest, had dressed this house so, that every
brick of it was hidden. They had asked M----'s permission to "ring
the alarm-bell (!) when master drove up"; but M----, having some
slight idea that that compliment might awaken master's sense of the
ludicrous, had recommended bell abstinence. But on Sunday, the
village choir (which includes the bell-ringers) made amends. After
some unusually brief pious reflection in the crowns of their hats at
the end of the sermon, the ringers bolted out and rang like mad
until I got home. (There had been a conspiracy among the villagers
to take the horse out, if I had come to our own station, and draw me
here. M---- and G---- had got wind of it and warned me.)

Divers birds sing here all day, and the nightingales all night. The
place is lovely, and in perfect order. I have put five mirrors in
the Swiss Chalet (where I write), and they reflect and refract in
all kinds of ways the leaves that are quivering at the windows, and
he great fields of waving corn, and the sail-dotted river. My room
is up among the branches of the trees; and the birds and the
butterflies fly in and out, and the green branches shoot in, at the
open windows, and the lights and shadows of the clouds come and go
with the rest of the company. The scent of the flowers, and indeed
of everything that is growing for miles and miles, is most

Dolby (who sends a world of messages) found his wife much better
than he expected, and the children (wonderful to relate!) perfect.
The little girl winds up her prayers every night with a special
commendation to Heaven of me and the pony,--as if I must mount him
to get there! I dine with Dolby (I was going to write "him," but
found it would look as if I were going to dine with the pony) at
Greenwich this very day, and if your ears do not burn from six to
nine this evening, then the Atlantic is a non-conductor. We are
already settling--think of this!--the details of my farewell course
of readings. I am brown beyond relief, and cause the greatest
disappointment in all quarters by looking so well. It is really
wonderful what those fine days at sea did for me! My doctor was
quite broken down in spirits when he saw me, for the first time
since my return, last Saturday. "Good Lord!" he said, recoiling;
"seven years younger!"

It is time I should explain the otherwise inexplicable enclosure.
Will you tell Fields, with my love, (I suppose he hasn't used _all_
the pens yet?) that I think there is in Tremont Street a set of my
books, sent out by Chapman, not arrived when I departed. Such set of
the immortal works of our illustrious, etc., is designed for the
gentleman to whom the enclosure is addressed. If T., F., & Co. will
kindly forward the set (carriage paid) with the enclosure to ----'s
address, I will invoke new blessings on their heads, and will get
Dolby's little daughter to mention them nightly.

"No Thoroughfare" is very shortly coming out in Paris, where it is
now in active rehearsal. It is still playing here, but without
Fechter, who has been very ill. The doctor's dismissal of him to
Paris, however, and his getting better there, enables him to get up
the play there. He and Wilkie missed so many pieces of stage effect
here, that, unless I am quite satisfied with his report, I shall go
over and try my stage-managerial hand at the Vaudeville Theatre. I
particularly want the drugging and attempted robbing in the bedroom
scene at the Swiss inn to be done to the sound of a waterfall rising
and falling with the wind. Although in the very opening of that
scene they speak of the waterfall and listen to it, nobody thought
of its mysterious music. I could make it, with a good stage
carpenter, in an hour. Is it not a curious thing that they want to
make me a governor of the Foundling Hospital, because, since the
Christmas number, they have had such an amazing access of visitors
and money?

My dear love to Fields once again. Same to you and him from M----
and G----. I cannot tell you both how I miss you, or how overjoyed I
should be to see you here.

Ever, my dear ----, your most affectionate friend,


Excellent accounts of his health and spirits continued to come from
Gad's Hill, and his letters were full of plans for the future. On the
7th of July he writes from Gad's Hill as usual:--

Gad's Hill Place, Tuesday, 7th July, 1868.

My Dear Fields: I have delayed writing to you (and ----, to whom my
love) until I should have seen Longfellow. When he was in London the
first time he came and went without reporting himself, and left me
in a state of unspeakable discomfiture. Indeed, I should not have
believed in his having been here at all, if Mrs. Procter had not
told me of his calling to see Procter. However, on his return he
wrote to me from the Langham Hotel, and I went up to town to see
him, and to make an appointment for his coming here. He, the girls,
and ---- came down last Saturday night, and stayed until Monday
forenoon. I showed them all the neighboring country that could be
shown in so short a time, and they finished off with a tour of
inspection of the kitchens, pantry, wine-cellar, pickles, sauces,
servants' sitting-room, general household stores, and even the
Cellar Book, of this illustrious establishment. Forster and Kent
(the latter wrote certain verses to Longfellow, which have been
published in the "Times," and which I sent to D----) came down for a
day, and I hope we all had a really "good time." I turned out a
couple of postilions in the old red jacket of the old red royal
Dover road, for our ride; and it was like a holiday ride in England
fifty years ago. Of course we went to look at the old houses in
Rochester, and the old cathedral, and the old castle, and the house
for the six poor travellers who, "not being rogues or proctors,
shall have lodging, entertainment, and four pence each."

Nothing can surpass the respect paid to Longfellow here, from the
Queen downward. He is everywhere received and courted, and finds (as
I told him he would, when we talked of it in Boston) the workingmen
at least as well acquainted with his books as the classes socially
above them.....

Last Thursday I attended, as sponsor, the christening of Dolby's son
and heir,--a most jolly baby, who held on tight by the rector's left
whisker while the service was performed. What time, too, his little
sister, connecting me with the pony, trotted up and down the centre
isle, noisily driving herself as that celebrated animal, so that it
went very hard with the sponsorial dignity.

---- is not yet recovered from that concussion of the brain, and I
have all his work to do. This may account for my not being able to
devise a Christmas number, but I seem to have left my invention in
America. In case you should find it, please send it over. I am going
up to town to-day to dine with Longfellow. And now, my dear Fields,
you know all about me and mine.

You are enjoying your holiday? and are still thinking sometimes of
our Boston days, as I do? and are maturing schemes for coming here
next summer? A satisfactory reply to the last question is
particularly entreated.

I am delighted to find you both so well pleased with the Blind Book
scheme. I said nothing of it to you when we were together, though I
had made up my mind, because I wanted to come upon you with that
little burst from a distance. It seemed something like meeting
again when I remitted the money and thought of your talking of it.

The dryness of the weather is amazing. All the ponds and surface
wells about here are waterless, and the poor people suffer greatly.
The people of this village have only one spring to resort to, and it
is a couple of miles from many cottages. I do not let the great dogs
swim in the canal, because the people have to drink of it. But when
they get into the Medway, it is hard to get them out again. The
other day Bumble (the son, Newfoundland dog) got into difficulties
among some floating timber, and became frightened. Don (the father)
was standing by me, shaking off the wet and looking on carelessly,
when all of a sudden he perceived something amiss, and went in with
a bound and brought Bumble out by the ear. The scientific way in
which he towed him along was charming.

Ever your loving


* * * * *

During the summer of 1868 constant messages and letters came from
Dickens across the seas, containing pleasant references to his visit in
America, and giving charming accounts of his way of life at home. Here
is a letter announcing the fact that he had decided to close forever his
appearance in the reading-desk:--

Liverpool, Friday, October 30, 1868.

My Dear ----: I ought to have written to you long ago. But I have
begun my one hundred and third Farewell Readings, and have been so
busy and so fatigued that my hands have been quite full. Here are
Dolby and I again leading the kind of life that you know so well. We
stop next week (except in London) for the month of November, on
account of the elections, and then go on again, with a short holiday
at Christmas. We have been doing wonders, and the crowds that pour
in upon us in London are beyond all precedent or means of providing
for. I have serious thoughts of doing the murder from Oliver Twist;
but it is so horrible, that I am going to try it on a dozen people
in my London hall one night next month, privately, and see what
effect it makes.

My reason for abandoning the Christmas number was, that I became
weary of having my own writing swamped by that of other people. This
reminds me of the Ghost story. I don't think so well of it my dear
Fields, as you do. It seems to me to be too obviously founded on
Bill Jones (in Monk Lewis's Tales of Terror), and there is also a
remembrance in it of another Sea-Ghost story entitled, I think,
"Stand from Under," and written by I don't know whom. _Stand from
under_ is the cry from aloft when anything is going to be sent down
on deck, and the ghost is aloft on a yard....

You know all about public affairs, Irish churches, and party
squabbles. A vast amount of electioneering is going on about here;
but it has not hurt us; though Gladstone has been making speeches,
north, east, south, and west of us. I hear that C----is on his way
here in the Russia. Gad's Hill must be thrown open.....

Your most affectionate


We had often talked together of the addition to his _repertoire_ of some
scenes from "Oliver Twist," and the following letter explains itself:--

Glasgow, Wednesday, December 16, 1868.

Mr Dear ----: ...And first, as you are curious about the Oliver
murder, I will tell you about that trial of the same at which you
_ought_ to have assisted. There were about a hundred people present
in all. I have changed my stage. Besides that back screen which you
know so well, there are two large screens of the same color, set
off, one on either side, like the "wings" at a theatre. And besides
those again, we have a quantity of curtains of the same color, with
which to close in any width of room from wall to wall. Consequently,
the figure is now completely isolated, and the slightest action
becomes much more important. This was used for the first time on the
occasion. But behind the stage--the orchestra being very large and
built for the accommodation of a numerous chorus--there was ready,
on the level of the platform, a very long table, beautifully
lighted, with a large staff of men ready to open oysters and set
champagne corks flying. Directly I had done, the screens being
whisked off by my people, there was disclosed one of the prettiest
banquets you can imagine; and when all the people came up, and the
gay dresses of the ladies were lighted by those powerful lights of
mine, the scene was exquisitely pretty; the hall being newly
decorated, and very elegantly; and the whole looking like a great
bed of flowers and diamonds.

Now, you must know that all this company were, before the wine went
round, unmistakably pale, and had horror-stricken faces. Next
morning, Harness (Fields knows--Rev. William--did an edition of
Shakespeare--old friend of the Kembles and Mrs. Siddons), writing to
me about it, and saying it was "a most amazing and terrific thing,"
added, "but I am bound to tell you that I had an almost irresistible
impulse upon me to _scream_, and that, if any one had cried out, I
am certain I should have followed." He had no idea that on the night
P----, the great ladies' doctor, had taken me aside and said, "My
dear Dickens, you may rely upon it that if only one woman cries out
when you murder the girl, there will be a contagion of hysteria all
over this place." It is impossible to soften it without spoiling it,
and you may suppose that I am rather anxious to discover how it goes
on the 5th of January!!! We are afraid to announce it elsewhere,
without knowing, except that I have thought it pretty safe to put it
up once in Dublin. I asked Mrs. K----, the famous actress, who was
at the experiment: "What do _you_ say? Do it, or not?" "Why, of
course, do it," she replied. "Having got at such an effect as that,
it must be done. But," rolling her large black eyes very slowly, and
speaking very distinctly, "the public have been looking out for a
sensation these last fifty years or so, and by Heaven they have got
it!" With which words, and a long breath and a long stare, she
became speechless. Again, you may suppose that I am a little
anxious! I had previously tried it, merely sitting over the fire in
a chair, upon two ladies separately, one of whom was G----. They had
both said, "O, good gracious! if you are going to do _that_, it
ought to be seen; but it's awful." So once again you may suppose I
am a little anxious!...

Not a day passes but Dolby and I talk about you both, and recall
where we were at the corresponding time of last year. My old
likening of Boston to Edinburgh has been constantly revived within
these last ten days. There is a certain remarkable similarity of
tone between the two places. The audiences are curiously alike,
except that the Edinburgh audience has a quicker sense of humor and
is a little more genial. No disparagement to Boston in this, because
I consider an Edinburgh audience perfect.

I trust, my dear Eugenius, that you have recognized yourself in a
certain Uncommercial, and also some small reference to a name rather
dear to you? As an instance of how strangely something comic springs
up in the midst of the direst misery, look to a succeeding
Uncommercial, called "A Small Star in the East," published to-day,
by the by. I have described, with _exactness_, the poor places into
which I went, and how the people behaved, and what they said. I was
wretched, looking on; and yet the boiler-maker and the poor man with
the legs filled me with a sense of drollery not to be kept down by
any pressure.

The atmosphere of this place, compounded of mists from the highlands
and smoke from the town factories, is crushing my eyebrows as I
write, and it rains as it never does rain anywhere else, and always
does rain here. It is a dreadful place, though much improved and
possessing a deal of public spirit. Improvement is beginning to
knock the old town of Edinburgh about, here and there; but the
Canongate and the most picturesque of the horrible courts and wynds
are not to be easily spoiled, or made fit for the poor wretches who
people them to live in. Edinburgh is so changed as to its
notabilities, that I had the only three men left of the Wilson and
Jeffrey time to dine with me there, last Saturday.

I read here to-night and to-morrow, go back to Edinburgh on Friday
morning, read there on Saturday morning, and start southward by the
mail that same night. After the great experiment of the 5th,--that
is to say, on the morning of the 6th,--we are off to Belfast and
Dublin. On every alternate Tuesday I am due in London, from
wheresoever I may be, to read at St. James's Hall.

I think you will find "Fatal Zero" (by Percy Fitzgerald) a very
curious analysis of a mind, as the story advances. A new beginner in
A.Y.R. (Hon. Mrs. Clifford, Kinglake's sister), who wrote a story in
the series just finished, called "The Abbot's Pool," has just sent
me another story. I have a strong impression that, with care, she
will step into Mrs. Graskell's vacant place. W---- is no better, and
I have work enough even in that direction.

God bless the woman with the black mittens, for making me laugh so
this morning! I take her to be a kind of public-spirited Mrs.
Sparsit, and as such take her to my bosom. God bless you both, my
dear friends, in this Christmas and New Year time, and in all times,
seasons, and places, and send you to Gad's Hill with the next

Ever your most affectionate


All who witnessed the reading of Dickens in the "Oliver Twist" murder
scene unite in testifying to the wonderful effect he produced in it. Old
theatrical _habitues_ have told me that, since the days of Edmund Kean
and Cooper, no mimetic representation had been superior to it. I became
so much interested in all I heard about it, that I resolved early in the
year 1869 to step across the water (it is only a stride of three
thousand miles) and see it done. The following is Dickens's reply to my
announcement of the intended voyage:--

A.Y.R. Office, London, Monday, February 15, 1869.

My Dear Fields: Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! It is a remarkable instance
of magnetic sympathy that before I received your joyfully welcomed
announcement of your probable visit to England, I was waiting for
the enclosed card to be printed, that I might send you a clear
statement of my Readings. I felt almost convinced that you would
arrive before the Farewells were over. What do you say to _that_?

The final course of Four Readings in a week, mentioned in the
enclosed card, is arranged to come off, on

Monday, June 7th;

Tuesday, June 8th;

Thursday, June 10th; and

Friday, June 11th: last night of all.

We hoped to have finished in May, but cannot clear the country off
in sufficient time. I shall probably be about the Lancashire towns
in that month. There are to be three morning murders in London not
yet announced, but they will be extra the London nights I send you,
and will in no wise interfere with them. We are doing most
amazingly. In the country the people usually collapse with the
murder, and don't fully revive in time for the final piece; in
London, where they are much quicker, they are equal to both. It is
very hard work; but I have never for a moment lost voice or been
unwell; except that my foot occasionally gives me a twinge. We shall
have in London on the 2d of March, for the second murder night,
probably the greatest assemblage of notabilities of all sorts ever
packed together. D---- continues steady in his allegiance to the
Stars and Stripes, sends his kindest regard, and is immensely
excited by the prospect of seeing you. Gad's Hill is all ablaze on
the subject. We are having such wonderfully warm weather that I fear
we shall have a backward spring there. You'll excuse east-winds,
won't you, if they shake the flowers roughly when you first set foot
on the lawn? I have only seen it once since Christmas, and that was
from last Saturday to Monday, when I went there for my birthday, and
had the Forsters and Wilkie to keep it. I had had ----'s letter
four days before, and drank to you both most heartily and lovingly.

I was with M---- a week or two ago. He is quite surprisingly infirm
and aged. Could not possibly get on without his second wife to take
care of him, which she does to perfection. I went to Cheltenham
expressly to do the murder for him, and we put him in the front row,
where he sat grimly staring at me. After it was over, he thus
delivered himself, on my laughing it off and giving him some wine:
"No, Dickens--er--er--I will NOT," with sudden emphasis, --"er--have
it--er--put aside. In my--er--best times--er--you remember them, my
dear boy--er--gone, gone! --no,"--with great emphasis again,--"it
comes to this--er --TWO MACBETHS!" with extraordinary energy. After
which he stood (with his glass in his hand and his old square jaw of
its old fierce form) looking defiantly at Dolby as if Dolby had
contradicted him; and then trailed off into a weak pale likeness of
himself as if his whole appearance had been some clever optical

I am away to Scotland on Wednesday next, the 17th, to finish there.
Ireland is already disposed of, and Manchester and Liverpool will
follow within six weeks. "Like lights in a theatre, they are being
snuffed out fast," as Carlyle says of the guillotined in his
Revolution. I suppose I shall be glad when they are all snuffed out.
Anyhow, I think so now.

The N----s have a very pretty house at Kensington. He has quite
recovered, and is positively getting fat. I dined with them last
Friday at F----'s, having (marvellous to relate!) a spare day in
London. The warm weather has greatly spared F----'s bronchitis; but
I fear that he is quite unable to bear cold, or even changes of
temperature, and that he will suffer exceedingly if east-winds
obtain. One would say they must at last, for it has been blowing a
tempest from the south and southwest for weeks and weeks.

The safe arrival of my boy's ship in Australia has been telegraphed
home, but I have not yet heard from him. His post will be due a week
or so hence in London. My next boy is doing very well, I hope, at
Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Of my seafaring boy's luck in getting a
death-vacancy of First Lieutenant, aboard a new ship-of-war on the
South American Station, I heard from a friend, a captain in the
Navy, when I was at Bath the other day; though we have not yet heard
it from himself. Bath (setting aside remembrances of Roderick Random
and Humphrey Clinker) looked, I fancied, just as if a cemetery-full
of old people had somehow made a successful rise against death,
carried the place by assault, and built a city with their
gravestones; in which they were trying to look alive, but with very
indifferent success.

C---- is no better, and no worse. M---- and G---- send all manner of
loves, and have already represented to me that the red-jacketed
post-boys must be turned out for a summer expedition to Canterbury,
and that there must be lunches among the cornfields, walks in Cobham
Park, and a thousand other expeditions. Pray give our pretty M----
to understand that a great deal will be expected of her, and that
she will have to look her very best, to look as I have drawn her. If
your Irish people turn up at Gad's at the same time, as they
probably will, they shall be entertained in the yard, with muzzled
dogs. I foresee that they will come over, haymaking and hopping, and
will recognize their beautiful vagabonds at a glance.

I wish Reverdy Johnson would dine in private and hold his tongue. He
overdoes the thing. C---- is trying to get the Pope to subscribe,
and to run over to take the chair at his next dinner, on which
occasion Victor Emmanuel is to propose C----'s health, and may all
differences among friends be referred to him. With much love always,
and in high rapture at the thought of seeing you both here,

Ever your most affectionate


A few weeks later, while on his reading tour, he sent off the

Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, Friday, April 9, 1869.

My Dear Fields: The faithful Russia will bring this out to you, as a
sort of warrant to take you into loving custody and bring you back
on her return trip.

I have been "reading" here all this week, and finish here for good
to-night. To-morrow the Mayor, Corporation, and citizens give me a
farewell dinner in St. George's Hall. Six hundred and fifty are to
dine, and a mighty show of beauty is to be mustered besides. N----
had a great desire to see the sight, and so I suggested him as a
friend to be invited. He is over at Manchester now on a visit, and
will come here at midday to-morrow, and go back to London with us on
Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday I read in London, and on Wednesday
start off again. To-night is No. 68 out of one hundred. I am very
tired of it, but I could have no such good fillip as you among the
audience, and that will carry me on gayly to the end. So please to
look sharp in the matter of landing on the bosom of the used-up,
worn-out, and rotten old Parient. I rather think that when the 12th
of June shall have shaken off these shackles, there _will_ be borage
on the lawn at Gad's. Your heart's desire in that matter, and in the
minor particulars of Cobham Park, Rochester Castle, and Canterbury
shall be fulfilled, please God! The red jackets shall turn out again
upon the turnpike road, and picnics among the cherry-orchards and
hop-gardens shall be heard of in Kent. Then, too, shall the
Uncommercial resuscitate (being at present nightly murdered by Mr.
W. Sikes) and uplift his voice again.

The chief officer of the Russia (a capital fellow) was at the
Reading last night, and Dolby specially charged him with the care of
you and yours. We shall be on the borders of Wales, and probably
about Hereford, when you arrive. Dolby has insane projects of
getting over here to meet you; so amiably hopeful and obviously
impracticable, that I encourage him to the utmost. The regular
little captain of the Russia, Cook, is just now changed into the
Cuba, whence arise disputes of seniority, etc. I wish he had been
with you, for I liked him very much when I was his passenger. I like
to think of your being in _my_ ship!

---- and ---- have been taking it by turns to be "on the point of
death," and have been complimenting one another greatly on the
fineness of the point attained. My people got a very good impression
of ----, and thought her a sincere and earnest little woman.

The Russia hauls out into the stream to-day, and I fear her people
may be too busy to come to us to-night. But if any of them do, they
shall have the warmest of welcomes for your sake. (By the by, a very
good party of seamen from the Queen's ship Donegal, lying in the
Mersey, have been told off to decorate St. George's Hall with the
ship's bunting. They were all hanging on aloft upside down, holding
to the gigantically high roof by nothing, this morning, in the most
wonderfully cheerful manner.)

My son Charley has come for the dinner, and Chappell (my Proprietor,
as--isn't it Wemmick?--says) is coming to-day, and Lord Dufferin
(Mrs. Norton's nephew) is to come and make _the_ speech. I don't
envy the feelings of my noble friend when he sees the hall.
Seriously, it is less adapted to speaking than Westminster Abbey,
and is as large....

I hope you will see Fechter in a really clever piece by Wilkie. Also
you will see the Academy Exhibition, which will be a very good one;
and also we will, please God, see everything and more, and
everything else after that. I begin to doubt and fear on the subject
of your having a horror of me after seeing the murder. I don't
think a hand moved while I was doing it last night, or an eye looked
away. And there was a fixed expression of horror of me, all over the
theatre, which could not have been surpassed if I had been going to
be hanged to that red velvet table. It is quite a new sensation to
be execrated with that unanimity; and I hope it will remain so!

[Is it lawful--would that woman in the black gaiters, green veil,
and spectacles, hold it so--to send my love to the pretty M----?]

Pack up, my dear Fields, and be quick.

Ever your most affectionate


It will be remembered that Dickens broke down entirely during the month
of April, being completely worn out with hard work in the Readings. He
described to me with graphic earnestness, when we met in May, all the
incidents connected with the final crisis, and I shall never forget how
he imitated himself during that last Reading, when he nearly fell before
the audience. It was a terrible blow to his constitution, and only a man
of the greatest strength and will could have survived it. When we
arrived in Queenstown, this note was sent on board our steamer.

Loving welcome to England. Hurrah!

Office Of All The Year Round, Wednesday, May 5, 1869.

My Dear ----: I fear you will have been uneasy about me, and will
have heard distorted accounts of the stoppage of my Readings. It is
a measure of precaution, and not of cure. I was too tired and too
jarred by the railway fast express, travelling night and day. No
half-measure could be taken; and rest being medically considered
essential, we stopped. I became, thank God, myself again, almost as
soon as I could rest! I am good for all country pleasures with you,
and am looking forward to Gad's, Rochester Castle, Cobham Park, red
jackets, and Canterbury. When you come to London we shall probably
be staying at our hotel. You will learn, here, where to find us. I
yearn to be with you both again!

Love to M----.

Ever your affectionate C.D.

I hope this will be put into your hands on board, in Queenstown

We met in London a few days after this, and I found him in capital
spirits, with such a protracted list of things we were to do together,
that, had I followed out the prescribed programme, it would have taken
many more months of absence from home than I had proposed to myself. We
began our long rambles among the thoroughfares that had undergone
important changes since I was last in London, taking in the noble Thames
embankments, which I had never seen, and the improvements in the city
markets. Dickens had moved up to London for the purpose of showing us
about, and had taken rooms only a few streets off from our hotel. Here
are two specimens of the welcome little notes which I constantly found
on my breakfast-table:--

Office Of All The Year Round, London, Wednesday, May 19, 1869.

My Dear Fields: Suppose we give the weather a longer chance, and say
Monday instead of Friday. I think we must be safer with that
precaution. If Monday will suit you, I propose that we meet here
that day,--your ladies and you and I,--and cast ourselves on the
stony-hearted streets. If it be bright for St. Paul's, good; if not,
we can take some other lion that roars in dull weather. We will dine
here at six, and meet here at half past two. So IF you should want
to go elsewhere after dinner, it can be done, notwithstanding. Let
me know in a line what you say.

O the delight of a cold bath this morning, after those
lodging-houses! And a mild sniffler of punch, on getting into the
hotel last night, I found what my friend Mr. Wegg calls, "Mellering,
sir, very mellering."

With kindest regards, ever affectionately,


Office Of All The Year Round, London, Tuesday, May 25, 1869.

My Dear Fields: First, you leave Charing Cross Station, by North
Kent railway, on Wednesday, June 2d, at 2.10 for Higham Station, the
next station beyond Gravesend. Now, bring your lofty mind back to
the previous Saturday, next Saturday. There is only one way of
combining Windsor and Richmond. That way will leave us but two hours
and a half at Windsor. This would not be long enough to enable us to
see the inside of the castle, but would admit of our seeing the
outside, the Long Walk, etc. I will assume that such a survey will
suffice. That taken for granted, meet me at Waterloo Terminus (Loop
Line for Windsor) at 10.35, on Saturday morning.

The rendezvous for Monday evening will be _here at half past eight_.
As I don't know Mr. Eytinge's number in Guildford Street, will you
kindly undertake to let him know that we are going out with the
great Detective? And will you also give him the time and place for

I shall be here on Friday for a few hours; meantime at Gad's

With love to the ladies, ever faithfully,


During my stay in England in that summer of 1869, I made many excursions
with Dickens both around the city and into the country. Among the most
memorable of these London rambles was a visit to the General
Post-Office, by arrangement with the authorities there, a stroll among
the cheap theatres and lodging-houses for the poor, a visit to
Furnival's Inn and the very room in it where "Pickwick" was written, and
a walk through the thieves' quarter. Two of these expeditions were made
on two consecutive nights, under the protection of police detailed for
the service. On one of these nights we also visited the lock-up houses,
watch-houses, and opium-eating establishments. It was in one of the
horrid opium-dens that he gathered the incidents which he has related in
the opening pages of "Edwin Drood." In a miserable court we found the
haggard old woman blowing at a kind of pipe made of an old penny
ink-bottle. The identical words which Dickens puts into the mouth of
this wretched creature in "Edwin Drood" we heard her croon as we leaned
over the tattered bed on which she was lying. There was something
hideous in the way this woman kept repeating, "Ye'll pay up
according, deary, won't ye?" and the Chinamen and Lascars made
never-to-be-forgotten pictures in the scene. I watched Dickens intently
as he went among these outcasts of London, and saw with what deep
sympathy he encountered the sad and suffering in their horrid abodes. At
the door of one of the penny lodging-houses (it was growing toward
morning, and the raw air almost cut one to the bone), I saw him snatch a
little child out of its poor drunken mother's arms, and bear it in,
filthy as it was, that it might be warmed and cared for. I noticed that
whenever he entered one of these wretched rooms he had a word of cheer
for its inmates, and that when he left the apartment he always had a
pleasant "Good night" or "God bless you" to bestow upon them. I do not
think his person was ever recognized in any of these haunts, except in
one instance. As we entered a low room in the worst alley we had yet
visited, in which were huddled together some forty or fifty
half-starved-looking wretches, I noticed a man among the crowd
whispering to another and pointing out Dickens. Both men regarded him
with marked interest all the time he remained in the room, and tried to
get as near him, without observation, as possible. As he turned to go
out, one of these men pressed forward and said, "Good night, sir," with
much feeling, in reply to Dickens's parting word.

Among other places, we went, a little past midnight, into one of the
Casual Wards, which were so graphically described, some years ago, in an
English magazine, by a gentleman who, as a pretended tramp, went in on a
reporting expedition. We walked through an avenue of poor tired sleeping
forms, all lying flat on the floor, and not one of them raised a head to
look at us as we moved thoughtfully up the aisle of sorrowful humanity.
I think we counted sixty or seventy prostrate beings, who had come in
for a night's shelter, and had lain down worn out with fatigue and
hunger. There was one pale young face to which I whispered Dickens's
attention, and he stood over it with a look of sympathizing interest not
to be easily forgotten. There was much ghastly comicality mingled with
the horror in several of the places we visited on those two nights. We
were standing in a room half filled with people of both sexes, whom the
police accompanying us knew to be thieves. Many of these abandoned
persons had served out their terms in jail or prison, and would probably
be again sentenced under the law. They were all silent and sullen as we
entered the room, until an old woman spoke up with a strong, beery
voice: "Good evening, gentlemen. We are all wery poor, but strictly
honest." At which cheerful apocryphal statement, all the inmates of the
room burst into boisterous laughter, and began pelting the imaginative
female with epithets uncomplimentary and unsavory. Dickens's quick eye
never for a moment ceased to study all these scenes of vice and gloom,
and he told me afterwards that, bad as the whole thing was, it had
improved infinitely since he first began to study character in those
regions of crime and woe.

Between eleven and twelve o'clock on one of the evenings I have
mentioned we were taken by Dickens's favorite Detective W---- into a
sort of lock-up house, where persons are brought from the streets who
have been engaged in brawls, or detected in the act of thieving, or who
have, in short, committed any offence against the laws. Here they are
examined for commitment by a sort of presiding officer, who sits all
night for that purpose. We looked into some of the cells, and found them
nearly filled with wretched-looking objects who had been brought in that
night. To this establishment are also brought lost children who are
picked up in the streets by the police,--children who have wandered away
from their homes, and are not old enough to tell the magistrate where
they live. It was well on toward morning, and we were sitting in
conversation with one of the officers, when the ponderous door opened
and one of these small wanderers was brought in. She was the queerest
little figure I ever beheld, and she walked in, holding the police
officer by the hand as solemnly and as quietly if she were attending her
own obsequies. She was between four and five years old, and had on what
was evidently her mother's bonnet,--an enormous production, resembling a
sort of coal-scuttle, manufactured after the fashion of ten or fifteen
years ago. The child had, no doubt, caught up this wonderful head-gear
in the absence of her parent, and had gone forth in quest of adventure.
The officer reported that he had discovered her in the middle of the
street, moving ponderingly along, without any regard to the horses and
vehicles all about her. When asked where she lived, she mentioned a
street which only existed in her own imagination, and she knew only her
Christian name. When she was interrogated by the proper authorities,
without the slightest apparent discomposure she replied in a steady
voice, as she thought proper, to their questions. The magistrate
inadvertently repeated a question as to the number of her brothers and
sisters, and the child snapped out, "I told ye wunst; can't ye hear?"
When asked if she would like anything, she gayly answered, "Candy, cake
and _candy_." A messenger was sent out to procure these commodities,
which she instantly seized on their arrival and began to devour. She
showed no signs of fear, until one of the officers untied the huge
bonnet and took it off, when she tearfully insisted upon being put into
it again. I was greatly impressed by the ingenious efforts of the
excellent men in the room to learn from the child where she lived, and
who her parents were. Dickens sat looking at the little figure with
profound interest, and soon came forward and asked permission to speak
with the child. Of course his request was granted, and I don't know when
I have enjoyed a conversation more. She made some very smart answers,
which convulsed us all with laughter as we stood looking on; and the
creator of "little Nell" and "Paul Dombey" gave her up in despair. He
was so much interested in the little vagrant, that he sent a messenger
next morning to learn if the rightful owner of the bonnet had been
found. Report came back, on a duly printed form, setting forth that the
anxious father and mother had applied for the child at three o'clock in
the morning, and had borne her away in triumph to her home.

It was a warm summer afternoon towards the close of the day, when
Dickens went with us to visit the London Post-Office. He said: "I know
nothing which could give a stranger a better idea of the size of London
than that great institution. The hurry and rush of letters! men up to
their chin in letters! nothing but letters everywhere! the air full of
letters!--suddenly the clock strikes; not a person is to be seen, _nor_
a letter: only one man with a lantern peering about and putting one
drop-letter into a box." For two hours we went from room to room, with
him as our guide, up stairs and down stairs, observing the myriad clerks
at their various avocations, with letters for the North Pole, for the
South Pole, for Egypt and Alaska, Darien and the next street.

The "Blind Man," as he was called, appeared to afford Dickens as much
amusement as if he saw his work then for the first time; but this was
one of the qualities of his genius; there was inexhaustibility and
freshness in everything to which he turned his attention. The ingenuity
and loving care shown by the "Blind Man" in deciphering or guessing at
the apparently inexplicable addresses on letters and parcels excited his
admiration. "What a lesson to all of us," he could not help saying, "to
be careful in preparing our letters for the mail!" His own were always
directed with such exquisite care, however, that had he been brother to
the "Blind Man," and considered it his special work in life to teach
others how to save that officer trouble, he could hardly have done

Leaving the hurry and bustle of the Post-Office behind us, we strolled
out into the streets of London. It was past eight o'clock, but the
beauty of the soft June sunset was only then overspreading the misty
heavens. Every sound of traffic had died out of those turbulent
thoroughfares; now and then a belated figure would hurry past us and
disappear, or perhaps in turning the corner would linger to "take a good
look" at Charles Dickens. But even these stragglers soon dispersed,
leaving us alone in the light of day and the sweet living air to
heighten the sensation of a dream. We came through White Friars to the
Temple, and thence into the Temple Garden, where our very voices echoed.
Dickens pointed up to Talfourd's room, and recalled with tenderness the
merry hours they had passed together in the old place. Of course we
hunted out Goldsmith's abode, and Dr. Johnson's, saw the site of the
Earl of Essex's palace, and the steps by which he was wont to descend to
the river, now so far removed. But most interesting of all to us there
was "Pip's" room, to which Dickens led us, and the staircase where the
convict stumbled up in the dark, and the chimney nearest the river
where, although less exposed than in "Pip's" days, we could well
understand how "the wind shook the house that night like discharges of
cannon, or breakings of a sea." We looked in at the dark old staircase,
so dark on that night when "the lamps were blown out, and the lamps on
the bridges and the shore were shuddering," then went on to take a peep,
half shuddering ourselves, at the narrow street where "Pip" by and by
found a lodging for the convict. Nothing dark could long survive in our
minds on that June night, when the whole scene was so like the airy work
of imagination. Past the Temple, past the garden to the river, mistily
fair, with a few boats moving upon its surface, the convict's story was
forgotten, and we only knew this was Dickens's home, where he had lived
and written, lying in the calm light of its fairest mood.

* * * * *

Dickens had timed our visit to his country house in Kent, and arranged
that we should appear at Gad's Hill with the nightingales. Arriving at
the Higham station on a bright June day in 1869, we found his stout
little pony ready to take us up the hill; and before we had proceeded
far on the road, the master himself came out to welcome us on the way.
He looked brown and hearty, and told us he had passed a breezy morning
writing in the chalet. We had parted from him only a few days before in
London, but I thought the country air had already begun to exert its
strengthening influence,--a process he said which commonly set in the
moment he reached his garden gate.

It was ten years since I had seen Gad's Hill Place, and I observed at
once what extensive improvements had been made during that period.
Dickens had increased his estate by adding quite a large tract of land
on the opposite side of the road, and a beautiful meadow at the back of
the house. He had connected the front lawn, by a passageway running
under the road, with beautifully wooded grounds, on which was erected
the Swiss chalet, a present from Fechter. The old house, too, had been
greatly improved, and there was an air of assured comfort and ease about
the charming establishment. No one could surpass Dickens as a host; and
as there were certain household rules (hours for meals, recreation,
etc.), he at once announced them, so that visitors never lost any time
"wondering" when this or that was to happen.

Lunch over, we were taken round to see the dogs, and Dickens gave us a
rapid biographical account of each as we made acquaintance with the
whole colony. One old fellow, who had grown superannuated and nearly
blind, raised himself up and laid his great black head against Dickens's
breast as if he loved him. All were spoken to with pleasant words of
greeting, and the whole troop seemed wild with joy over the master's
visit. "Linda" put up her shaggy paw to be shaken at parting; and as we
left the dog-houses, our host told us some amusing anecdotes of his
favorite friends.

Dickens's admiration of Hogarth was unbounded, and he had hung the
staircase leading up from the hall of his house with fine old
impressions of the great master's best works. Observing our immediate
interest in these pictures, he seemed greatly pleased, and proceeded at
once to point out in his graphic way what had struck his own fancy most
in Hogarth's genius. He had made a study of the painter's _thought_ as
displayed in these works, and his talk about the artist was delightful.
He used to say he never came down the stairs without pausing with new
wonder over the fertility of the mind that had conceived and the hand
that had executed these powerful pictures of human life; and I cannot
forget with what fervid energy and feeling he repeated one day, as we
were standing together on the stairs in front of the Hogarth pictures,
Dr. Johnson's epitaph, on the painter:--

"The hand of him here torpid lies,
That drew the essential form of grace;
Here closed in death the attentive eyes
That saw the manners in the face."

Every day we had out-of-door games, such as "Bowls," "Aunt Sally," and
the like, Dickens leading off with great spirit and fun. Billiards came
after dinner, and during the evening we had charades and dancing. There
was no end to the new divertisements our kind host was in the habit of
proposing, so that constant cheerfulness reigned at Gad's Hill. He went
into his work-room, as he called it, soon after breakfast, and wrote
till twelve o'clock; then he came out, ready for a long walk. The
country about Gad's Hill is admirably adapted for pedestrian exercise,
and we went forth every day, rain or shine, for a stretcher. Twelve,
fifteen, even twenty miles were not too much for Dickens, and many a
long tramp we have had over the hop-country together. Chatham,
Rochester, Cobham Park, Maidstone,--anywhere, out under the open sky and
into the free air! Then Dickens was at his best, and talked. Swinging
his blackthorn stick, his lithe figure sprang forward over the ground,
and it took a practised pair of legs to keep alongside of his voice. In
these expeditions I heard from his own lips delightful reminiscences of
his early days in the region we were then traversing, and charming
narratives of incidents connected with the writing of his books.

Dickens's association with Gad's Hill, the city of Rochester, the road
to Canterbury, and the old cathedral town itself, dates back to his
earliest years. In "David Copperfield," the most autobiographic of all
his books, we find him, a little boy, (so small, that the landlady is
called to peer over the counter and catch a glimpse of the tiny lad who
possesses such "a spirit,") trudging over the old Kent Road to Dover. "I
see myself," he writes, "as evening closes in, coming over the bridge at
Rochester, footsore and tired, and eating bread that I had bought for
supper. One or two little houses, with the notice, 'Lodgings for
Travellers' hanging out, had tempted me; but I was afraid of spending
the few pence I had, and was even more afraid of the vicious looks of
the trampers I had met or overtaken. I sought no shelter, therefore, but
the sky; and toiling into Chatham,--which in that night's aspect is a
mere dream of chalk, and drawbridges, and mastless ships in a muddy
river, roofed like Noah's arks,--crept, at last, upon a sort of
grass-grown battery overhanging a lane, where a sentry was walking to
and fro. Here I lay down near a cannon; and, happy in the society of the
sentry's footsteps, though he knew no more of my being above him than
the boys at Salem House had known of my lying by the wall, slept soundly
until morning," Thus early he noticed "the trampers" which infest the
old Dover Road, and observed them in their numberless gypsy-like
variety; thus early he looked lovingly on Gad's Hill Place, and wished
it might be his own, if he ever grew up to be a man. His earliest
memories were filled with pictures of the endless hop-grounds and
orchards, and the little child "thought it all extremely beautiful!"

Through the long years of his short life he was always consistent in his
love for Kent and the old surroundings. When the after days came and
while travelling abroad, how vividly the childish love returned! As he
passed rapidly over the road on his way to France he once wrote: "Midway
between Gravesend and Rochester the widening river was bearing the
ships, white-sailed or black-smoked, out to sea, when I noticed by the
wayside a very queer small boy.

"'Halloa!' said I to the very queer small boy, 'where do you live?'

"'At Chatham,' says he.

"'What do you do there?' said I.

"'I go to school,' says he.

"I took him up in a moment, and we went on. Presently the very queer
small boy says, 'This is Gad's Hill we are coming to, where Falstaff
went out to rob those travellers, and ran away.'

"'You know something about Falstaff, eh?' said I.

"'All about him,' said the very queer small boy. 'I am old (I am nine)
and I read all sorts of books. But _do_ let us stop at the top of the
hill, and look at the house there, if you please!'

"'You admire that house,' said I.

"'Bless you, sir,' said the very queer small boy, 'when I was not more
than half as old as nine, it used to be a treat for me to be brought to
look at it. And now I am nine, I come by myself to look at it. And ever
since I can recollect, my father, seeing me so fond of it, has often
said to me, "If you were to be very persevering and were to work hard,
you might some day come to live in it." Though that's impossible!' said
the very queer small boy, drawing a low breath, and now staring at the
house out of window with all his might. I was rather annoyed to be told
this by the very queer small boy; for that house happens to be _my_
house, and I have reason to believe that what he said was true."

What stay-at-home is there who does not know the Bull Inn at Rochester,
from which Mr. Tupman and Mr. Jingle attended the ball, Mr. Jingle
wearing Mr. Winkle's coat? or who has not seen in fancy the
"gypsy-tramp," the "show-tramp," the "cheap jack," the "tramp-children,"
and the "Irish hoppers" all passing over "the Kentish Road, bordered" in
their favorite resting-place "on either side by a wood, and having on
one hand, between the road-dust and the trees, a skirting patch of
grass? Wild-flowers grow in abundance on this spot, and it lies high and
airy, with the distant river stealing steadily away to the ocean, like a
man's life."

Sitting in the beautiful chalet during his later years and watching
this same river stealing away like his own life, he never could find a
harsh word for the tramps, and many and many a one has gone over the
road rejoicing because of some kindness received from his hands. Every
precaution was taken to protect a house exposed as his was to these wild
rovers, several dogs being kept in the stable-yard, and the large outer
gates locked. But he seldom made an excursion in any direction without
finding some opportunity to benefit them. One of these many kindnesses
came to the public ear during the last summer of his life. He was
dressing in his own bedroom in the morning, when he saw two Savoyards
and two bears come up to the Falstaff Inn opposite. While he was
watching the odd company, two English bullies joined the little party
and insisted upon taking the muzzles off the bears in order to have a
dance with them. "At once," said Dickens, "I saw there would be trouble,
and I watched the scene with the greatest anxiety. In a moment I saw how
things were going, and without delay I found myself at the gate. I
called the gardener by the way, but he managed to hold himself at safe
distance behind the fence. I put the Savoyards instantly in a secure
position, asked the bullies what they were at, forced them to muzzle the
bears again, under threat of sending for the police, and ended the whole
affair in so short a time that I was not missed from the house.
Unfortunately, while I was covered with dust and blood, for the bears
had already attacked one of the men when I arrived, I heard a carriage
roll by. I thought nothing of it at the time, but the report in the
foreign journals which startled and shocked my friends so much came
probably from the occupants of that vehicle. Unhappily, in my desire to
save the men, I entirely forgot the dogs, and ordered the bears to be
carried into the stable-yard until the scuffle should be over, when a
tremendous tumult arose between the bears and the dogs. Fortunately we
were able to separate them without injury, and the whole was so soon
over that it was hard to make the family believe, when I came in to
breakfast, that anything of the kind had gone forward." It was the
newspaper report, causing anxiety to some absent friends, which led, on
inquiry, to this rehearsal of the incident.

Who does not know Cobham Park? Has Dickens not invited us
there in the old days to meet Mr. Pickwick, who pronounced it
"delightful!--thoroughly delightful," while "the skin of his expressive
countenance was rapidly peeling off with exposure to the sun"? Has he
not invited the world to enjoy the loveliness of its solitudes with him,
and peopled its haunts for us again and again?

Our first _real_ visit to Cobham Park was on a summer morning when
Dickens walked out with us from his own gate, and, strolling quietly
along the road, turned at length into what seemed a rural wooded
pathway. At first we did not associate the spot in its spring freshness
with that morning after Christmas when he had supped with the "Seven
Poor Travellers," and lain awake all night with thinking of them; and
after parting in the morning with a kindly shake of the hand all round,
started to walk through Cobham woods on his way towards London. Then on
his lonely road, "the mists began to rise in the most beautiful manner
and the sun to shine; and as I went on," he writes, "through the bracing
air, seeing the hoar frost sparkle everywhere, I felt as if all nature
shared in the joy of the great Birthday. Going through the woods, the
softness of my tread upon the mossy ground and among the brown leaves
enhanced the Christmas sacredness by which I felt surrounded. As the
whitened stems environed me, I thought how the Founder of the time had
never raised his benignant hand, save to bless and heal, except in the
case of one unconscious tree."

Now we found ourselves on the same ground, surrounded by the full beauty
of the summer-time. The hand of Art conspiring with Nature had planted
rhododendrons, as if in their native soil beneath the forest-trees. They
were in one universal flame of blossoms, as far as the eye could see.
Lord and Lady D----, the kindest and most hospitable of neighbors, were
absent; there was not a living figure beside ourselves to break the
solitude, and we wandered on and on with the wild birds for companions
as in our native wildernesses. By and by we came near Cobham Hall, with
its fine lawns and far-sweeping landscape, and workmen and gardeners and
a general air of summer luxury. But to-day we were to go past the hall
and lunch on a green slope under the trees, (was it _just_ the spot
where Mr. Pickwick tried the cold punch and found it satisfactory? I
never liked to ask!) and after making the old woods ring with the
clatter and clink of our noontide meal, mingled with floods of laughter,
were to come to the village, and to the very inn from which the
disconsolate Mr. Tupman wrote to Mr. Pickwick, after his adventure with
Miss Wardle. There is the old sign, and here we are at the Leather
Bottle, Cobham, Kent. "There's no doubt whatever about that." Dickens's
modesty would not allow him to go in, so we made the most of an outside
study of the quaint old place as we strolled by; also of the cottages
whose inmates were evidently no strangers to our party, but were cared
for by them as English cottagers are so often looked after by the kindly
ladies in their neighborhood. And there was the old churchyard, "where
the dead had been quietly buried 'in the sure and certain hope' which
Christmas-time inspired." There too were the children, whom, seeing at
their play, he could not but be loving, remembering who had loved them!
One party of urchins swinging on a gate reminded us vividly of Collins,
the painter. Here was his composition to the life. Every lover of rural
scenery must recall the little fellow on the top of a five-barred gate
in the picture Collins painted, known widely by the fine engraving made
of it at the time. And there too were the blossoming gardens, which now
shone in their new garments of resurrection. The stillness of midsummer
noon crept over everything as we lingered in the sun and shadow of the
old village. Slowly circling the hall, we came upon an avenue of
lime-trees leading up to a stately doorway in the distance. The path was
overgrown, birds and squirrels were hopping unconcernedly over the
ground, and the gates and chains were rusty with disuse. "This avenue,"
said Dickens, as we leaned upon the wall and looked into its cool
shadows, "is never crossed except to bear the dead body of the lord of
the hall to its last resting-place; a remnant of superstition, and one
which Lord and Lady D---- would be glad to do away with, but the
villagers would never hear of such a thing, and would consider it
certain death to any person who should go or come through this entrance.
It would be a highly unpopular movement for the present occupants to
attempt to uproot this absurd idea, and they have given up all thoughts
of it for the time."

It was on a subsequent visit to Cobham village that we explored the
"College," an old foundation of the reign of Edward III. for the aged
poor of both sexes. Each occupant of the various small apartments was
sitting at his or her door, which opened on a grassy enclosure with
arches like an abandoned cloister of some old cathedral. Such a motley
society, brought together under such unnatural circumstances, would of
course interest Dickens. He seemed to take a profound pleasure in
wandering about the place, which was evidently filled with the
associations of former visits in his own mind. He was usually possessed
by a childlike eagerness to go to any spot which he had made up his mind
it was best to visit, and quick to come away, but he lingered long about
this leafy old haunt on that Sunday afternoon.

Of Cobham Hall itself much might be written without conveying an
adequate idea of its peculiar interest to this generation. The terraces,
and lawns, and cedar-trees, and deer-park, the names of Edward III. and
Elizabeth, the famous old Cobhams and their long line of distinguished
descendants, their invaluable pictures and historic chapel, have all
been the common property of the past and of the present. But the air of
comfort and hospitality diffused about the place by the present owners
belongs exclusively to our time, and a little Swiss chalet removed from
Gad's Hill, standing not far from the great house, will always connect
the name of Charles Dickens with the place he loved so well. The chalet
has been transferred thither as a tribute from the Dickens family to the
kindness of their friends and former neighbors. We could not fail,
during our visit, to think of the connection his name would always have
with Cobham Hall, though he was then still by our side, and the little
chalet yet remained embowered in its own green trees overlooking the
sail-dotted Medway as it flowed towards the Thames.

The old city of Rochester, to which we have already referred as being
particularly well known to all Mr. Pickwick's admirers, is within
walking distance from Gad's Hill Place, and was the object of daily
visits from its occupants. The ancient castle, one of the best ruins in
England, as Dickens loved to say, because less has been done to it,
rises with rugged walls precipitously from the river. It is wholly
unrestored; just enough care has been bestowed to prevent its utter
destruction, but otherwise it stands as it has stood and crumbled from
year to year. We climbed painfully up to the highest steep of its
loftiest tower, and looked down on the wonderful scene spread out in the
glory of a summer sunset. Below, a clear trickling stream flowed and
tinkled as it has done since the rope was first lowered in the year 800
to bring the bucket up over the worn stones which still remain to attest
the fact. How happy Dickens was in the beauty of that scene! What
delight he took in rebuilding the old place, with every legend of which
he proved himself familiar, and repeopling it out of the storehouse of
his fancy. "Here was the kitchen, and there the dining-hall! How
frightfully dark they must have been in those days, with such small
slits for windows, and the fireplaces without chimneys! There were the
galleries; this is one of the four towers; the others, you will
understand, corresponded with this; and now, if you're not dizzy, we
will come out on the battlements for the view!" Up we went, of course,
following our cheery leader until we stood among the topmost
wall-flowers, which were waving yellow and sweet in the sunset air. East
and west, north and south, our eyes traversed the beautiful garden land
of Kent, the land beloved of poets through the centuries. Below lay the
city of Rochester on one hand, and in the heart of it an old inn where a
carrier was even then getting out, or putting in, horses and wagon for
the night. A procession, with banners and music, was moving slowly by
the tavern, and the quaint costumes in which the men were dressed
suggested days long past, when far other scenes were going forward in
this locality. It was almost like a pageant marching out of antiquity
for our delectation. Our master of ceremonies revelled that day in
repeopling the queer old streets down into which we were looking from
our charming elevation. His delightful fancy seemed especially alert on
that occasion, and we lived over again with him many a chapter in the
history of Rochester, full of interest to those of us who had come from
a land where all is new and comparatively barren of romance.

Below, on the other side, was the river Medway, from whose depths the
castle once rose steeply. Now the _debris_ and perhaps also a slight
swerving of the river from its old course have left a rough margin, over
which it would not be difficult to make an ascent. Rochester Bridge,
too, is here, and the "windy hills" in the distance; and again, on the
other hand, Chatham, and beyond, the Thames, with the sunset tingeing
the many-colored sails. We were not easily persuaded to descend from our
picturesque vantage-ground; but the master's hand led us gently on from
point to point, until we found ourselves, before we were aware, on the
grassy slope outside the castle wall. Besides, there was the cathedral
to be visited, and the tomb of Richard Watts, "with the effigy of worthy
Master Richard starting out of it like a ship's figurehead."

After seeing the cathedral, we went along the silent High Street, past
queer Elizabethan houses with endless gables and fences and
lattice-windows, until we came to Watts's Charity, the house of
entertainment for six poor travellers. The establishment is so familiar
to all lovers of Dickens through his description of it in the article
entitled "Seven Poor Travellers" among his "Uncommercial" papers, that
little is left to be said on that subject; except perhaps that no
autobiographic sketch ever gave a more faithful picture, a closer
portrait, than is there conveyed.

Dickens's fancy for Rochester, and his numberless associations with it,
have left traces of that city in almost everything he wrote. From the
time when Mr. Snodgrass first discovered the castle ruin from Rochester
Bridge, to the last chapter of Edwin Drood, we observe hints of the
city's quaintness or silence; the unending pavements, which go on and
on till the wisest head would be puzzled to know where Rochester ends
and where Chatham begins, the disposition of Father Time to have his own
unimpeded way therein, and of the gray cathedral towers which loom up in
the background of many a sketch and tale. Rochester, too, is on the way
to Canterbury, Dickens's best loved cathedral, the home of Agnes
Wickfield, the sunny spot in the life and memory of David Copperfield.
David was particularly small, as we are told, when he first saw
Canterbury, but he was already familiar with Roderick Random, Peregrine
Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don
Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe, who came out, as he says, a
glorious host, to keep him company. Naturally, the calm old place, the
green nooks, the beauty of the cathedral, possessed a better chance with
him than with many others, and surely no one could have loved them more.
In the later years of his life the crowning-point of the summer holidays
was "a pilgrimage to Canterbury."

The sun shone merrily through the day when he chose to carry us thither.
Early in the morning the whole house was astir; large hampers were
packed, ladies and gentlemen were clad in gay midsummer attire, and,
soon after breakfast, huge carriages with four horses, and postilions
with red coats and top-boots, after the fashion of the olden time, were
drawn up before the door. Presently we were moving lightly over the
road, the hop-vines dancing on the poles on either side, the orchards
looking invitingly cool, the oast-houses fanning with their wide arms,
the river glowing from time to time through the landscape. We made such
a clatter passing through Rochester, that all the main street turned out
to see the carriages, and, being obliged to stop the horses a moment, a
shopkeeper, desirous of discovering Dickens among the party, hit upon
the wrong man, and confused an humble individual among the company by
calling a crowd, pointing him out as Dickens, and making him the mark of
eager eyes. This incident seemed very odd to us in a place he knew so
well. On we clattered, leaving the echoing street behind us, on and on
for many a mile, until noon, when, finding a green wood and clear stream
by the roadside, we encamped under the shadow of the trees in a retired
spot for lunch. Again we went on, through quaint towns and lonely roads,
until we came to Canterbury, in the yellow afternoon. The bells for
service were ringing as we drove under the stone archway into the
soundless streets. The whole town seemed to be enjoying a simultaneous
nap, from which it was aroused by our horses' hoofs. Out the people ran,
at this signal, into the highway, and we were glad to descend at some
distance from the centre of the city, thus leaving the excitement behind
us. We had been exposed to the hot rays of the sun all day, and the
change into the shadow of the cathedral was refreshing. Service was
going forward as we entered; we sat down, therefore, and joined our
voices with those of the choristers. Dickens, with tireless observation,
noted how sleepy and inane were the faces of many of the singers, to
whom this beautiful service was but a sickening monotony of repetition.
The words, too, were gabbled over in a manner anything but impressive.
He was such a downright enemy to form, as substituted for religion, that
any dash of untruth or unreality was abhorrent to him. When the last
sounds died away in the cathedral we came out again into the cloisters,
and sauntered about until the shadows fell over the beautiful enclosure.
We were hospitably entreated, and listened to many an historical tale of
tomb and stone and grassy nook; but under all we were listening to the
heart of our companion, who had so often wandered thither in his
solitude, and was now rereading the stories these urns had prepared for

During one of his winter visits, he says (in "Copperfield"):--

"Coming into Canterbury, I loitered through the old streets with a sober
pleasure that calmed my spirits and eased my heart. There were the old
signs, the old names over the shops, the old people serving in them. It
appeared so long since I had been a school-boy there, that I wondered
the place was so little changed, until I reflected how little I was
changed myself. Strange to say, that quiet influence which was
inseparable in my mind from Agnes seemed to pervade even the city where
she dwelt. The venerable cathedral towers, and the old jackdaws and
rooks, whose airy voices made them more retired than perfect silence
would have done; the battered gateways, once stuck full with statues,
long thrown down and crumbled away, like the reverential pilgrims who
had gazed upon them; the still nooks, where the ivied growth of
centuries crept over gabled ends and ruined walls; the ancient houses;
the pastoral landscape of field, orchard, and garden;--everywhere, in
everything, I felt the same serene air, the same calm, thoughtful,
softening spirit."

Walking away and leaving Canterbury behind us forever, we came again
into the voiceless streets, past a "very old house bulging out over the
road, ... quite spotless in its cleanliness, the old-fashioned brass
knocker on the low, arched door ornamented with carved garlands of fruit
and flowers, twinkling like a star," the very house, perhaps, "with
angles and corners and carvings and mouldings," where David Copperfield
was sent to school. We were turned off with a laughing reply, when we
ventured to accuse this particular house of being _the one_, and were
told there were several that "would do"; which was quite true, for
nothing could be more quaint, more satisfactory to all, from the lovers
of Chaucer to the lovers of Dickens, than this same city of Canterbury.
The sun had set as we rattled noisily out of the ancient place that
afternoon, and along the high road, which was quite novel in its evening
aspect. There was no lingering now; on and on we went, the postilions
flying up and down on the backs of their huge horses, their red coats
glancing in the occasional gleams of wayside lamps, fire-flies making
the orchards shine, the sunset lighting up vast clouds that lay across
the western sky, and the whole scene filled with evening stillness. When
we stopped to change horses, the quiet was almost oppressive. Soon after
nine we espied the welcome lantern of Gad's Hill Place and the open
gates. And so ended Dickens's last pilgrimage to Canterbury.

There was another interesting spot near Gad's Hill which was one of
Dickens's haunts, and this was the "Druid-stone," as it is called, at
Maidstone. This is within walking distance of his house, along the
breezy hillside road, which we remember blossomy and wavy in the summer
season, with open spaces in the hedges where one may look over wide
hilly slopes, and at times come upon strange cuts down into the chalk
which pervades this district. We turned into a lane from the dusty road,
and, following our leader over a barred gate, came into wide grassy
fields full of summer's bloom and glory. A short walk farther brought us
to the Druid-stone, which Dickens thought to be, from the fitness of its
position, simply a vantage-ground chosen by priests,--whether Druid or
Christian of course it would be impossible to say,--from which to
address a multitude. The rock served as a kind of background and
sounding-board, while the beautiful sloping of the sward upward from the
speaker made it an excellent position for out-of-door discourses. On
this day it was only a blooming solitude, the birds had done all the
talking, until we arrived. It was a fine afternoon haunt, and one
worthy of a visit, apart from the associations which make the place

One of the weirdest neighborhoods to Gad's Hill, and one of those most
closely associated with Dickens, is the village of Cooling. A cloudy day
proved well enough for Cooling; indeed, was undoubtedly chosen by the
adroit master of hospitalities as being a fitting sky to show the dark
landscape of "Great Expectations." The pony-carriage went thither to
accompany the walking party and carry the baskets; the whole way, as we
remember, leading on among narrow lanes, where heavy carriages were
seldom seen. We are told in the novel, "On every rail and gate, wet lay
clammy, and the marsh mist was so thick that the wooden finger on the
post directing people to our village--a direction which they never
accepted, for they never came there--was invisible to me until I was
close under it." The lanes certainly wore that aspect of never being
accepted as a way of travel; but this was a delightful recommendation to
our walk, for summer kept her own way there, and grass and wild-flowers
were abundant. It was already noon, and low clouds and mists were lying
about the earth and sky as we approached a forlorn little village on the
edge of the wide marshes described in the opening of the novel. This was
Cooling, and passing by the few cottages, the decayed rectory, and
straggling buildings, we came at length to the churchyard. It took but a
short time to make us feel at home there, with the marshes on one hand,
the low wall over which Pip saw the convict climb before he dared to run
away; "the five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half
long, ... sacred to the memory of five little brothers, which I
had been indebted for a belief that they all had been born on their
backs, with their hands in their trousers pockets, and had never taken
them out in this state of existence";--all these points, combined with
the general dreariness of the landscape, the far-stretching marshes, and
the distant sea-line, soon revealed to us that this was Pip's country,
and we might momently expect to see the convict's head, or to hear the
clank of his chain, over that low wall.

We were in the churchyard now, having left the pony within eye-shot, and
taken the baskets along with us, and were standing on one of those very
lozenges, somewhat grass-grown by this time, and deciphering the
inscriptions. On tiptoe we could get a wide view of the marsh, with, the
wind sweeping in a lonely limitless way through the tall grasses.
Presently hearing Dickens's cheery call, we turned to see what he was
doing. He had chosen a good flat gravestone in one corner (the corner
farthest from the marsh and Pip's little brothers and the expected
convict), had spread a wide napkin thereupon after the fashion of a
domestic dinner-table, and was rapidly transferring the contents of the
hampers to that point. The horrible whimsicality of trying to eat and
make merry under these deplorable circumstances, the tragic-comic
character of the scene, appeared to take him by surprise. He at once
threw himself into it (as he says in "Copperfield" he was wont to do
with anything to which he had laid his hand) with fantastic eagerness.
Having spread the table after the most approved style, he suddenly
disappeared behind the wall for a moment, transformed himself by the aid
of a towel and napkin into a first-class head-waiter, reappeared, laid a
row of plates along the top of the wall, as at a bar-room or
eating-house, again retreated to the other side with some provisions,
and, making the gentlemen of the party stand up to the wall, went
through the whole play with most entire gravity. When we had wound up
with a good laugh, and were again seated together on the grass around
the table, we espied two wretched figures, not the convicts this time,
although we might have easily persuaded ourselves so, but only tramps
gazing at us over the wall from the marsh side as they approached, and
finally sitting down, just outside the churchyard gate. They looked
wretchedly hungry and miserable, and Dickens said at once, starting up,
"Come, let us offer them a glass of wine and something good for lunch."
He was about to carry them himself, when what he considered a happy
thought seemed to strike him. "_You_ shall carry it to them," he cried,
turning to one of the ladies; "it will be less like a charity and more
like a kindness if one of you should speak to the poor souls!" This was
so much in character for him, who stopped always to choose the most
delicate way of doing a kind deed, that the memory of this little
incident remains, while much, alas! of his wit and wisdom have vanished
beyond the power of reproducing. We feasted on the satisfaction the
tramps took in their lunch, long after our own was concluded; and,
seeing them well off on their road again, took up our own way to Gad's
Hill Place. How comfortable it looked on our return; how beautifully the
afternoon gleams of sunshine shone upon the holly-trees by the porch;


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