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wrote, its mere bulk and quantity is surely a very Forgues, you may tell him, without fear of anything surprising feature.
wrong, that I was born at Portsmouth on the 7th of And hardly less remarkable, in view of their February, 1812 ; that my father was in the Navy Pay copiousness, is their high and uniform excellence. Office; that I was taken by him to Chatham when I Regarded merely as literature, apart from their was very young, and lived and was educated there personal bearing, Dickens's letters are nearly as
till I was twelve or thirteen, I suppose ; that I was
then put to a school near London, where (as at other good and quite as entertaining as anything he
places) I distinguished myself like a brick; that I ever wrote. In those which he wrote to John Fors
was put in the office of a solicitor, a friend of my ter, and which are included in Forster's biogra
father's, and didn't much like it; and after a couple phy, the brilliancy and the liveliness are almost
of years (as well as I can remember) applied myself too much like that of an actor before the foot
with a celestial or diabolical energy to the study of lights; but that they were the natural and spon
such things as would qualify me to be a first-rate taneous expression of the feelings of the moment parliamentary reporter--at that time, a calling pur
-tinctured perhaps by the personality of the sued by many clever men who were young at the man to whom they were written-is unmistakably Bar; that I made my début in the gallery (at about shown by the more varied correspondence now eighteen, I suppose), engaged on a voluminous pubfirst published. The simplest business note, the lication, no longer in existence, called “The Mirror most formal communication, the briefest friendly of Parliament”; that, when “ The Morning Chronireminder, will have some touch of humor or fan- cle" was purchased by Sir John Easthope and accy, or some felicity of phrase, which would make quired a large circulation, I was engaged there, and the reputation of an ordinary writer; and they
that I remained there until I had begun to publish
“Pickwick," when I found myself in a condition to are quite obviously the natural and irrepressible
relinquish that part of my labors; that I left the overflowings of a mind which, though perpetually
reputation behind me of being the best and most being emptied, was always full. Dickens flung
8 rapid reporter ever known, and that I could do any. his jewels around with the heedless profusion of
thing in that way under any sort of circumstances, an Oriental prince; but the treasury from which and often did. (I dare say I am at this present writ. he drew so lavishly never exhibited a symptom ing the best short-hand writer in the world.) of depletion.
That I began, without any interest or introduction The correspondence begins with the year of any kind, to write fugitive pieces for the old 1833, but the first letter of any special interest is “Monthly Magazine," when I was in the gallery for one written in 1835 to Miss Hogarth (afterward “The Mirror of Parliament"; that my faculty for his wife), announcing that the publishers “ have descriptive writing was seized upon the moment I made me an offer of fourteen pounds a month, joined “ The Morning Chronicle," and that I was to write and edit a new publication they contem- liberally paid there and handsomely acknowledged, plate, entirely by myself, to be published month
and wrote the greater part of the short descriptive ly, and each to contain four woodcuts.” The
“Sketches by Boz" in that paper; that I had been work, he adds, will be no joke, “but the emolu
a writer when I was a mere baby, and always an acment is too tempting to resist." This was the
tor from the same age ; that I married the daughter
of a writer to the signet in Edinburgh, who was the origin of “ Pickwick," the first number of which
great friend and assistant of Scott, and who first was published in March of the following year.
made Lockhart known to him. Curiously enough, though the editors explain
And that here I am. with minute care every detail of the correspon- Finally, if you want any dates of publication of dence, no information is given as to Dickens's books, tell Wills, and he'll get them for you. life prior to the first letter—not even his age or This is the first time I ever set down even these the date of his birth. For this reason we shall particulars, and, glancing them over, I feel like a begin our own gleanings with a letter written at wild beast in a caravan describing himself in the a much later period, which, besides being emi- keeper's absence. nently characteristic of the author, will serve ad
Ever faithfully. mirably as an introduction to the rest :
The greater number of the earlier letters re[To Mr. W. Wilkie Collins.]
fer to the stories on which he was then succes
sively engaged—“ Pickwick,” “Oliver Twist,” TAVISTOCK HOUSE, Fune 6, 1856. “Nicholas Nickleby," “ Old Curiosity Shop," and MY DEAR COLLINS : I have never seen anything
“ Barnaby Rudge”—and the most interesting of about myself in print which has much correctness in them were written to Mr. George Cattermole, it-any biographical account of myself I mean. I who illustrated the books, and to whom he furdo not supply such particulars when I am asked for nished the most minute instructions. Here is them by editors and compilers, simply because I am one in which he suggests two designs for “Old asked for them every day. If you want to prime Curiosity Shop "-Little Nell :
December 22, 1840. seen him drink it. I thought he never would have DEAR GEORGE: The child lying dead in the lit- left off. I also gave him three pounds of inoney, all tle sleeping-room, which is behind the open screen, in sixpences, to make it seem more, and he said It is winter time, so there are no flowers; but upon directly that he should give more than half to his her breast and pillow, and about her bed, there may mamma and sister, and divide the rest with poor be strips of holly and berries, and such free green Smike. And I say he is a good fellow for saying things. Window overgrown with ivy. The little so; and, if anybody says he isn't, I am ready to fight boy who had that talk with her about angels may be him whenever they like—there! by the bedside, if you like it so; but I think it will Fanny Squeers shall be attended to, depend upon be quieter and more peaceful if she is quite alone. it. Your drawing of her is very like, except that I I want it to express the most beautiful repose and don't think the hair is quite curly enough. The nose tranquillity, and to have something of a happy look, is particularly like hers, and so are the legs. She is if death can.
a nasty, disagreeable thing, and I know it will make
her very cross when she sees it ; and what I say is The child has been buried inside the church, and that I hope it may. You will say the same I know the old man, who can not be made to understand at least, I think you will. that she is dead, repairs to the grave and sits there
I meant to have written you a long letter, but I all day long, waiting for her arrival, to begin another
can not write very fast when I like the person I am journey. His staff and knapsack, her little bonnet
writing to, because that makes me think about them, and basket, etc., lie beside him. “She'll come to
and I like you, and so I tell you. Besides, it is just morrow," he says when it gets dark, and goes sor.
eight o'clock at night, and I always go to bed at rowfully home. I think an hour-glass running out
eight o'clock, except when it is my birthday, and would help the notion ; perhaps her little things then I sit up to supper. So I will not say anything upon his knee, or in his hand.
more besides this and that is my love to you and I am breaking my heart over this story, and can Neptune : and, if you will drink my health every not bear to finish it,
Christmas-day, I will drink yours-come.
I am, respected sir,
Your affectionate Friend. One of the most pleasing features of the en- P.S. I don't write my name very plain, but you tire correspondence is the cordial and unaffected know what it is, you know, so never mind. kindness for children which it reveals. An ex
In 1842 Dickens made his first visit to the ample of this comes very early in the collection, United States, and, though in his “ American and was an answer to a little boy (Master Hast- Notes"
sto Notes” he gave very frank expression to his ings Hughes), who had written to him as “Nicho- opinions about us, the following extracts from a las Nickleby" approached completion, stating his letter to Mr. Macready are not without piquancy : wishes as to the rewards and punishments to be bestowed on the various characters in the book :
BALTIMORE, March 22, 1842.
DOUGHTY STREET, LONDON, MY DEAR MACREADY: I desire to be so honest
December 12, 1838. and just to those who have so enthusiastically and RESPECTED SIR: I have given Squeers one cut earnestly welcomed me, that I burned the last letter on the neck and two on the head, at which he I wrote to you-even to you to whom I would speak appeared much surprised and began to cry, which, as to myself-rather than let it come with anything being a cowardly thing, is just what I should have that might seem like an ill-considered word of disexpected from him-wouldn't you?
appointment. I preferred that you should think me I have carefully done what you told me in your neglectful (if you could imagine anything so wild) letter about the lamb and the two “sheeps" for the rather than I should do wrong in this respect. Still, little boys. They have also had some good ale and it is of no use. I am disappointed. This is not the porter, and some wine. I am sorry you didn't say republic I came to see ; this is not the republic of my what wine you would like them to have. I gave imagination. I infinitely prefer a liberal monarchy them some sherry, which they liked very much, ex- -even with its sickening accompaniments of court cept one boy, who was a little sick and choked a circles—to such a government as this. The more I good deal. He was rather greedy, and that's the think of its youth and strength, the poorer and more truth, and I believe it went the wrong way, which I trifling in a thousand aspects it appears in my eyes. say served him right, and I hope you will say so too. In everything of which it has made a boast-except.
Nicholas had his roast lamb, as you said he was ing its education of the people and its care for poor to, but he could not eat it all, and says if you do not children-it sinks immeasurably below the level I mind his doing so, he should like to have the rest had placed it upon; and England, even England, hashed to-morrow with some greens, which he is bad and faulty as the old land is, and miserable as very fond of, and so am I. He said he did not like millions of her people are, rises in the comparison, to have his porter hot, for he thought it spoilt the You live here, Macready, as I have sometimes flavor, so I let him have it cold. You should have heard you imagining! You! Loving you with all
my heart and soul, and knowing what your disposi- lar levee every day, you know, which is duly heralded tion really is, I would not condemn you to a year's and proclaimed in the newspapers) than in that of residence on this side of the Atlantic for any money. the carmen of Hartford, who presented themselves Freedom of opinion! Where is it? I see a press in a body in their blue frocks, among a crowd of more mean, and paltry, and silly, and disgraceful well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, and bade me than any country I ever knew. If that is its stan- welcome through their spokesman. They had all dard, here it is. But I speak of Bancroft, and am read my books, and all perfectly understood them. advised to be silent on that subject, for he is “a It is not these things I have in my mind when I say black sheep-a Democrat." I speak of Bryant, and that the man who comes to this country a Radical am entreated to be more careful, for the same reason. and goes home again with his opinions unchanged, I speak of international copyright, and am implored must be a Radical on reason, sympathy, and reflecnot to ruin myself outright. I speak of Miss Mar- tion, and one who has so well considered the subtineau, and all parties-Slave Upholders and Abo. ject that he has no chance of wavering. litionists, Whigs, Tyler Whigs, and Democratsshower down upon me a perfect cataract of abuse, Shortly after his return from America, Dick“But what has she done ? Surely she praised ens was invited to take the chair on the opening America enough!” “Yes, but she told us of some of the Mechanics' Institution at Liverpool, and of our faults, and Americans can't bear to be told to make a speech on the subject of education. of their faults. Don't split on that rock, Mr. Dick. The following report of the proceedings on the ens, don't write about America ; we are so very sus- occasion was addressed to his wife : picious."
Freedom of opinion! Macready, if I had been OUT OF THE COMMON-PLEASE. born here, and had written my books in this country, producing them with no stamp of approval from
Dickens against THE WORLD. any other land, it is my solemn belief that I should CHARLES DICKENS, of No. 1 Devonshire Terhave lived and died poor, unnoticed, and a “black race, York Gate, Regent's Park, in the county of sheep" to boot. I never was more convinced of Middlesex, gentleman, the successful plaintiff in the anything than I am of that.
above cause, maketh oath and saith : That on the The people are affectionate, generous, open day and date hereof, to wit, at seven o'clock in the hearted, hospitable, enthusiastic, good-humored, po- evening, he, this deponent, took the chair at a large lite to women, frank and candid to all strangers, assembly of the Mechanics' Institution at Liveranxious to oblige, far less prejudiced than they have pool, and that having been received with tremendous been described to be, frequently polished and re- and enthusiastic plaudits, he, this deponent, did imfined, very seldom rude or disagreeable. I have mediately dash into à vigorous, brilliant, humorous, made a great many friends here, even in public con- pathetic, eloquent, fervid, and impassioned speech. veyances, whom I have been truly sorry to part from. That the said speech was enlivened by thirteen hunIn the towns I have formed perfect attachments. I dred persons, with frequent, vehement, uproarious, have seen none of that greediness and indecorous- and deafening cheers, and, to the best of this deness on which travelers have laid so much emphasis. ponent's knowledge and belief, he, this deponent, I have returned frankness with frankness; met ques- did speak up like a man, and did, to the best of his tions not intended to be rude with answers meant to knowledge and belief, considerably distinguish himbe satisfactory; and have not spoken to one man, self. That after the proceedings of the opening woman, or child of any degree, who has not grown were over, and a vote of thanks was proposed to this positively affectionate before we parted. In the re- deponent, he, this deponent, did again distinguish spects of not being left alone, and of being horribly himself, and that the cheering at that time, accomdisgusted by tobacco-chewing and tobacco-spittle, I panied with clapping of hands and stamping of feet, have suffered considerably. The sight of slavery in was in this deponent's case thundering and awful. Virginia, the hatred of British feeling upon the sub- And this deponent further saith, that his white-andject, and the miserable hints of the impotent indig- black, or magpie, waistcoat did create a strong sensanation of the South, have pained me very much; on tion, and that during the hours of promenading this the last head, of course, I have felt nothing but a deponent heard from persons surrounding him such mingled pity and amusement; on the other, sheer exclamations as, “What is it? Is it a waistcoat ? distress. But however much I like the ingredients No, it's a shirt," and the like-all of which this deof this great dish, I can not but come back to the ponent believes to have been complimentary and point at which I started, and say that the dish it. gratifying ; but this deponent further saith that he is sell goes against the grain with me, and that I don't now going to supper, and wishes he may have an like it.
appetite to eat it.
CHARLES DICKENS. You know that I am truly a Liberal. I believe I
Sworn before me, at the Adelphi Hotel, Liverhave as little pride as most men, and I am conscious
pool, on the 26th of February, 1844. of not the smallest annoyance from being "hail fel
S. RADLEY. low well met" with everybody. I have not had greater pleasure in the company of any set of men The foregoing reference to the sensation among the thousands I have received (I hold a regu- created by the “magpie waistcoast” may appropriately introduce a characteristic note to Mac- with him, and his goodness and truth, I think what ready, in which Dickens's somewhat fantastic a dream we live in until it seems for the moment the taste in dress is amusingly illustrated :
saddest dream that ever was dreamed. Pray tell us
if you hear more of him. We really loved him. DEVONSHIRE TERRACE,
To go to the opposite side of life, let me tell you Friday Evening, October 17, 1845. that a week or so ago I took Charley (Dickens's el. MY DEAR MACREADY : You once-only once- dest son) and three of his schoolsellows down the rivgave the world assurance of a waistcoat. You wore er gypsying. I secured the services of Charley's it, sir, I think, in “Money.” It was a remarkable godfather (an old friend of mine, and a noble fellow and precious waistcoat, wherein certain broad stripes with boys), and went down to Slough, accompanied of blue or purple disported themselves as by a com- by two immense hampers from Fortnum and Mason, bination of extraordinary circumstances, too happy to on (I believe) the wettest morning ever seen out of occur again. I have seen it on your manly chest in the tropics. private life. I saw it, sir, I think, the other day, in It cleared before we got to Slough; but the boys, the cold light of morning, with feelings easier to be im- who had got up at four (we being due at eleven), had agined than described. Mr. Macready, sir, are you a horrible misgivings that we might not come, in confather? If so, lend me that waistcoat for five minutes. sequence of which we saw them looking into the I am bidden to a wedding (where fathers are made), carriages before us, all face. They seemed to have and my artist can not, I find (how should he ?), im- no bodies whatever, but to be all face ; their counagine such a waistcoast. Let me show it to him as tenances lengthened to that surprising extent. When a sample of my tastes and wishes, and-ha, ha, ha, they saw us, the faces shut up as if they were upon ha !-eclipse the bridegroom!
strong springs, and their waistcoats developed themI will send a trusty messenger at half-past nine selves in the usual places. When the first hamper precisely in the morning. He is sworn to secrecy. came out of the luggage-van, I was conscious of their He durst not for his life betray us, or swells in am- dancing behind the guard ; when the second came buscade would have the waistcoat at the cost of his out with bottles in it, they all stood wildly on one heart's blood. Thine,
leg. We then got a couple of flys to drive to the THE UNWAISTCOATED ONE. boat-house. I put them in the first, but they couldn't
sit still a moment, and were perpetually flying up To the letter already quoted as illustrating
and down like the toy-figures in the sham snuff-boxDickens's kindness to children we will add one
es. In this order we went on to “ Tom Brown's, more, which, though long, is worth reproducing the tailor's." where they all dressed in aquatic cos. as further exemplifying this amiable characteris- tume, and then to the boat-house, where they all tic, and also as showing the frank and easy com- cried in shrill chorus for “ Mahogany"-a gentleman radeship which he maintained in all his relations so called by reason of his sunburned complexion, a with his own children. It was written to the waterman by profession. (He was likewise called Hon. Mrs. Watson, to whom some of the most during the day “ Hog" and " Hogany," and seemed interesting and valuable letters in the collection to be unconscious of any proper name whatsoever.) are addressed :
We embarked, the sun shining now, in a galley with
a striped awning, which I had ordered for the pur. BROADSTAIRS, Kent, July 11, 1851. pose, and, all rowing hard, went down the river. We MY DEAR Mrs. WATSON: I am so desperately dined in a field; what I suffered for fear those boys indignant with you for writing me that short apology should get drunk, the struggles I underwent in a confor a note, and pretending to suppose that under any test of feeling between hospitality and prudence, circumstances I could fail to read with interest any. must ever remain untold. I feel, even now, old thing you wrote to me, that I have more than half a with the anxiety of that tremendous hour. They mind to inflict a regular letter upon you. If I were were very good, however. The speech of one benot the gentlest of men, I should do it !
came thick, and his eyes too like lobsters' to be com. Poor dear Haldimand, I have thought of him so fortable, but only temporarily. He recovered, and I often. That kind of decay is so inexpressibly af. suppose outlived the salad he took. I have heard fecting and piteous to me that I have no words to nothing to the contrary, and I imagine I should have express my compassion and sorrow. When I was at been implicated on the inquest if there had been one. Abbotsford, I saw in a vile glass case the last clothes We had tea and rashers of bacon at a public-house, Scott wore; among them an old white hat, which and came home, the last five or six miles in a prodi. seemed to be tumbled and bent and broken by the gious thunderstorm. This was the great success of the uneasy, purposeless wandering, hither and thither, day, which they certainly enjoyed more than anything of his heavy head. It so embodied Lockhart's pa- else. The dinner had been great, and Mahogany thetic description of him when he tried to write, and had informed them, after a bottle of light chamlaid down his pen and cried, that it associated itself pagne, that he never would come up the river “with in my mind with broken powers and mental weakginger company" any more. But the getting so ness from that hour. I fancy Haldimand in such completely wet through was the culminating part of another, going listlessly about that beautiful place, the entertainment. You never in your life saw such and remembering the happy hours we have passed objects as they were ; and their perfect unconsciousness that it was at all advisable to go home and itable action, and proved himself worthy of all confi. change, or that there was anything to prevent their dence. standing at the station two mortal hours to see me With love to the boys and girls, off, was wonderful. As to getting them to their
Ever, dear Mrs. Watson, dames with any sort of sense that they were damp, I
Most sincerely yours. abandoned the idea. I thought it a success when
About the time the preceding letter was writthey went down the street as civilly as if they were just up and newly dressed, though they really looked
ten, the author was preparing to move into Tavas if you could have rubbed them to rags with a
a istock House, that one of his London residences touch, like saturated curl-paper. ...
with which his name is most intimately associI find I am “used up" by the Exhibition. I ated. One of the fancies with which he amused don't say “there is nothing in it”-there's too much. himself while fitting up the library there is reI have only been twice ; so many things bewildered ferred to in the following epistle: me. I have a natural horror of sights, and the fusion
“ HOUSEHOLD WORDS" OFFICE, of so many sights in one has not decreased it. I am
Wednesday Evening, October 22, 1851. not sure that I have seen anything but the fountain
DEAR MR. EELES : I send you the list I have and perhaps the Amazon. It is a dreadful thing to
made for the book-backs. I should like the “ Hisbe obliged to be false, but when any one says, “ Have
tory of a Short Chancery Suit" to come at the botyou seen — ?" I say “ Yes," because, if I don't, I
tom of one recess, and the “Catalogue of Statues of know he'll explain it, and I can't bear that.
the Duke of Wellington " at the bottom of the other, took all the school one day. The school was com
If you should want more titles, and will let me know posed of a hundred “infants," who got among the how many, I will send them to you. horses' legs in coming to the main entrance from the
Faithfully yours. Kensington Gate, and came walking from between the wheels of coaches undisturbed in mind ; got LIST OF IMITATION BOOK-BACKS. among the horses' legs in crossing to the main en
Tavistock House, 1851. trance from the Kensington Gate, and came reeling Five Minutes in China. 3 vols. out from between the wheels of coaches undisturbed Forty Winks at the Pyramids. 2 vols. in mind. They were clinging to horses, I am told, Abernethy on the Constitution. 2 vols. all over the park. ....
Mr. Green's Overland Mail. 2 vols.
Captain Cook's Life of Savage. 2 vols. When they were collected and added up by the
A Carpenter's Bench of Bishops. 2 vols. frantic monitors, they were all right. They were
Toot's Universal Letter-Writer. 2 vols. then regaled with cake, etc., and went tottering and Orson's Art of Etiquette. staring all over the place; the greater part wetting Downeaster's Complete Calculator. their forefingers and drawing a wavy pattern on History of the Middling Ages. 6 vols. every accessible object. One infant strayed. He Jonah's Account of the Whale. was not missed. Ninety-and-nine were taken home, Captain Parry's Virtues of Cold Tar. supposed to be the whole collection, but this particu
Kant's Ancient Humbugs. 10 vols. lar infant went to Hammersmith. He was found by
Bowwowdom. A Poem
The Quarrelly Review. 4 vols. the police at night, going round and round the turn
The Gunpowder Magazine. 4 vols. pike, which he still supposed to be a part of the Ex
Steele. By the Author of " Ion." hibition. He had the same opinion of the police, The Art of Cutting the Teeth. also of Hammersmith workhouse, where he passed Matthew's Nursery Songs. 2 vols. the night. When his mother came for him in the Paxton's Bloomers. 5 vols. morning, he asked when it would be over? It was On the Use of Mercury by the Ancient Poets. a great Exhibition, he said, but he thought it Drowsy's Recollections of Nothing. 3 vols. long.
Heavyside's Conversations with Nobody. 3 vols. As I begin to have a foreboding that you will Commonplace Book of the Oldest Inhabitant. 2 vols. think the same of this act of vengeance of mine, this
Growler's Gruffiology, with Appendix. 4 vols.
The Books of Moses and Sons. 2 vols. present letter, I shall make an end of it, with my
Burke (of Edinburgh) on the Sublime and Beautiful.
Bi heartiest and most loving remembrances to Watson.
2 vols. I should have liked him of all things to have been in Teazer's Commentaries. the Eton expedition, tell him, and to have heard a King Henry the Eighth's Evidences of Christianity. song (by the by, I have forgotten that) sung in the 5 vols. thunderstorm, solos by Charley, chorus by the friends, Miss Biffin on Deportment. describing the career of a booby who was plucked at Morrison ing the career of a booby who was plucked at Morrison's Pills Progress. 2 vols.
Lady Godiva on the Horse. college, every verse ending
Munchausen's Modern Miracles. 4 vols. "I don't care a fig what the people may think,
Richardson's Show of Dramatic Literature. 12 vols. But what WILL the Governor say!”
Hansard's Guide to Refreshing Sleep. As many volumes
as possible. which was shouted with a deferential jollity toward In the midst of his own brilliant success, myself, as a governor who had that day done a cred. Dickens never failed in sympathy and generous