Devonshire Terrace, London, January 2nd, 1844.
My very dear Felton,
You are a prophet, and had best retire from business straightway. Yesterday morning, New Year’s Day, when I walked into my little workroom after breakfast, and was looking out of window at the snow in the garden—not seeing it particularly well in consequence of some staggering suggestions of last night, whereby I was beset—the postman came to the door with a knock, for which I denounced him from my heart. Seeing your hand upon the cover of a letter which he brought, I immediately blessed him, presented him with a glass of whisky, inquired after his family (they are all well), and opened the despatch with a moist and oystery twinkle in my eye. And on the very day from which the new year dates, I read your New Year congratulations as punctually as if you lived in the next house. Why don’t you?
Now, if instantly on the receipt of this you will send a free and independent citizen down to the Cunard wharf at Boston, you will find that Captain Hewett, of the Britannia steamship (my ship), has a small parcel for Professor Felton of Cambridge; and in that parcel you will find a Christmas Carol in prose; being a short story of Christmas by Charles Dickens. Over which Christmas Carol Charles Dickens wept and laughed and wept again, and excited himself in a most extraordinary manner in the composition; and thinking whereof he walked about the black streets of London, fifteen and twenty miles many a night when all the sober folks had gone to bed. . . . . Its success is most prodigious. And by every post all manner of strangers write all manner of letters to him about their homes and hearths, and how this same Carol is read aloud there, and kept on a little shelf by itself. Indeed, it is the greatest success, as I am told, that this ruffian and rascal has ever achieved.
Forster is out again; and if he don’t go in again, after the manner in which we have been keeping Christmas, he must be very strong indeed. Such dinings, such dancings, such conjurings, such blindman’s-buffings, such theatre-goings, such kissings-out of old years and kissings-in of new ones, never took place in these parts before. To keep the Chuzzlewit going, and do this little book, the Carol, in the odd times between two parts of it, was, as you may suppose, pretty tight work. But when it was done I broke out like a madman. And if you could have seen me at a children’s party at Macready’s the other night, going down a country dance with Mrs. M., you would have thought I was a country gentleman of independent property, residing on a tiptop farm, with the wind blowing straight in my face every day. . . . .
Your friend, Mr. P——, dined with us one day (I don’t know whether I told you this before), and pleased us very much. Mr. C—— has dined here once, and spent an evening here. I have not seen him lately, though he has called twice or thrice; for K—— being unwell and I busy, we have not been visible at our accustomed seasons. I wonder whether H—— has fallen in your way. Poor H——! He was a good fellow, and has the most grateful heart I ever met with. Our journeyings seem to be a dream now. Talking of dreams, strange thoughts of Italy and France, and maybe Germany, are springing up within me as the Chuzzlewit clears off. It’s a secret I have hardly breathed to anyone, but I “think” of leaving England for a year, next midsummer, bag and baggage, little ones and all—then coming out with such a story, Felton, all at once, no parts, sledgehammer blow.
I send you a Manchester paper, as you desire. The report is not exactly done, but very well done, notwithstanding. It was a very splendid sight, I assure you, and an awful-looking audience. I am going to preside at a similar meeting at Liverpool on the 26th of next month, and on my way home I may be obliged to preside at another at Birmingham. I will send you papers, if the reports be at all like the real thing.
I wrote to Prescott about his book, with which I was perfectly charmed. I think his descriptions masterly, his style brilliant, his purpose manly and gallant always. The introductory account of Aztec civilisation impressed me exactly as it impressed you. From beginning to end the whole history is enchanting and full of genius. I only wonder that, having such an opportunity of illustrating the doctrine of visible judgments, he never remarks, when Cortes and his men tumble the idols down the temple steps and call upon the people to take notice that their gods are powerless to help themselves, that possibly if some intelligent native had tumbled down the image of the Virgin or patron saint after them nothing very remarkable might have ensued in consequence.
Of course you like Macready. Your name’s Felton. I wish you could see him play Lear. It is stupendously terrible. But I suppose he would be slow to act it with the Boston company.
Hearty remembrances to Sumner, Longfellow, Prescott, and all whom you know I love to remember. Countless happy years to you and yours, my dear Felton, and some instalment of them, however slight, in England, in the loving company of
The Proscribed One.
Oh, breathe not his name!
Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer.
Athenæum, Thursday Afternoon, 25th January, 1844.
My dear Sir Edward,
I received your kind cheque yesterday, in behalf of the Elton family; and am much indebted to you on their behalf.
Pray do not believe that the least intentional neglect has prevented me from calling on you, or that I am not sincerely desirous to avail myself of any opportunity of cultivating your friendship. I venture to say this to you in an unaffected and earnest spirit, and I hope it will not be displeasing to you.
At the time when you called, and for many weeks afterwards, I was so closely occupied with my little Carol (the idea of which had just occurred to me), that I never left home before the owls went out, and led quite a solitary life. When I began to have a little time and to go abroad again, I knew that you were in affliction, and I then thought it better to wait, even before I left a card at your door, until the pressure of your distress had past.
I fancy a reproachful spirit in your note, possibly because I knew that I may appear to deserve it. But do let me say to you that it would give me real pain to retain the idea that there was any coldness between us, and that it would give me heartfelt satisfaction to know the reverse.
I shall make a personal descent upon you before Sunday, in the hope of telling you this myself. But I cannot rest easy without writing it also. And if this should lead to a better knowledge in each of us, of the other, believe me that I shall look upon it as something I have long wished for.
Always faithfully yours.
Liverpool, Wednesday Night, 28th February,
Half-past ten at night.
My dear Thompson,
There never were such considerate people as they are here. After offering me unbounded hospitality and my declining it, they leave me to myself like gentlemen. They saved me from all sorts of intrusion at the Town Hall—brought me back—and left me to my quiet supper (now on the table) as they had left me to my quiet dinner.
I wish you had come. It was really a splendid sight. The Town Hall was crammed to the roof by, I suppose, two thousand persons. The ladies were in full dress and immense numbers; and when Dick showed himself, the whole assembly stood up, rustling like the leaves of a wood. Dick, with the heart of a lion, dashed in bravely. He introduced that about the genie in the casket with marvellous effect; and was applauded to the echo, which did applaud again. He was horribly nervous when he arrived at Birmingham, but when he stood upon the platform, I don’t believe his pulse increased ten degrees. A better and quicker audience never listened to man.
The ladies had hung the hall (do you know what an immense place it is?) with artificial flowers all round. And on the front of the great gallery, immediately fronting this young gentleman, were the words in artificial flowers (you’ll observe) “Welcome Boz” in letters about six feet high. Behind his head, and about the great organ, were immense transparencies representing several Fames crowning a corresponding number of Dicks, at which Victoria (taking out a poetic licence) was highly delighted.
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I am going to bed. The landlady is not literary, and calls me Mr. Digzon. In other respects it is a good house.
My dear Thompson, always yours.
Countess of Blessington.
Devonshire Terrace, March 10th, 1844.
My dear Lady Blessington,
I have made up my mind to “see the world,” and mean to decamp, bag and baggage, next midsummer for a twelvemonth. I purpose establishing my family in some convenient place, from whence I can make personal ravages on the neighbouring country, and, somehow or other, have got it into my head that Nice would be a favourable spot for head-quarters. You are so well acquainted with these matters, that I am anxious to have the benefit of your kind advice. I do not doubt that you can tell me whether this same Nice be a healthy place the year through, whether it be reasonably cheap, pleasant to look at and to live in, and the like. If you will tell me, when you have ten minutes to spare for such a client, I shall be delighted to come to you, and guide myself by your opinion. I will not ask you to forgive me for troubling you, because I am sure beforehand that you will do so. I beg to be kindly remembered to Count D’Orsay and to your nieces—I was going to say “the Misses Power,” but it looks so like the blue board at a ladies’ school, that I stopped short.
Very faithfully yours.
Devonshire Terrace, March 13th, 1844.
My dear Thompson,
Think of Italy! Don’t give that up! Why, my house is entered at Phillips’s and at Gillow’s to be let for twelve months; my letter of credit lies ready at Coutts’s; my last number of Chuzzlewit comes out in June; and the first week, if not the first day in July, sees me, God willing, steaming off towards the sun.
Yes. We must have a few books, and everything that is idle, sauntering, and enjoyable. We must lie down at the bottom of those boats, and devise all kinds of engines for improving on that gallant holiday. I see myself in a striped shirt, moustache, blouse, red sash, straw hat, white trousers, sitting astride a mule, and not caring for the clock, the day of the month, or the week. Tinkling bells upon the mule, I hope. I look forward to it day and night, and wish the time were come. Don’t you give it up. That’s all.
* * * * * *
Always, my dear Thompson,
Faithfully your friend.
Devonshire Terrace, Sunday, March 24th, 1844.
My dear Thompson,
My study fireplace having been suddenly seized with symptoms of insanity, I have been in great affliction. The bricklayer was called in, and considered it necessary to perform an extensive operation without delay. I don’t know whether you are aware of a peculiar bricky raggedness (not unaccompanied by pendent stalactites of mortar) which is exposed to view on the removal of a stove, or are acquainted with the suffocating properties of a kind of accidental snuff which flies out of the same cavernous region in great abundance. It is very distressing. I have been walking about the house after the manner of the dove before the waters subsided for some days, and have no pens or ink or paper. Hence this gap in our correspondence which I now repair.
What are you doing??? When are you coming away???? Why are you stopping there????? Do enlighten me, for I think of you constantly, and have a true and real interest in your proceedings.
D’Orsay, who knows Italy very well indeed, strenuously insists there is no such place for headquarters as Pisa. Lady Blessington says so also. What do you say? On the first of July! The first of July! Dick turns his head towards the orange groves.
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Daniel not having yet come to judgment, there is no news stirring. Every morning I proclaim: “At home to Mr. Thompson.” Every evening I ejaculate with Monsieur Jacques: “But he weel come. I know he weel.” After which I look vacantly at the boxes; put my hands to my gray wig, as if to make quite sure that it is still on my head, all safe: and go off, first entrance O.P. to soft music.
* * * * * *
Always faithfully your friend.
Mr. Ebenezer Jones.
Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent’s Park,
Monday, 15th April, 1844.
I don’t know how it has happened that I have been so long in acknowledging the receipt of your kind present of your poems; but I do know that I have often thought of writing to you, and have very often reproached myself for not carrying that thought into execution.
I have not been neglectful of the poems themselves, I assure you, but have read them with very great pleasure. They struck me at the first glance as being remarkably nervous, picturesque, imaginative, and original. I have frequently recurred to them since, and never with the slightest abatement of that impression. I am much flattered and gratified by your recollection of me. I beg you to believe in my unaffected sympathy with, and appreciation of, your powers; and I entreat you to accept my best wishes, and genuine though tardy thanks.
Dear Sir, faithfully yours.
Mr. Charles Babbage.
9, Osnaburgh Terrace, New Road, 28th May, 1844.
My dear Sir,
I regret to say that we are placed in the preposterous situation of being obliged to postpone our little dinner-party on Saturday, by reason of having no house to dine in. We have not been burnt out; but a desirable widow (as a tenant, I mean) proposed, only last Saturday, to take our own house for the whole term of our intended absence abroad, on condition that she had possession of it to-day. We fled, and were driven into this place, which has no convenience for the production of any other banquet than a cold collation of plate and linen, the only comforts we have not left behind us.
My consolation lies in knowing what sort of dinner you would have had if you had come here, and in looking forward to claiming the fulfilment of your kind promise when we are again at home.
Always believe me, my dear Sir, faithfully yours.
Countess of Blessington.
Milan, Wednesday, November 20th, 1844.
My dear Lady Blessington,
Appearances are against me. Don’t believe them. I have written you, in intention, fifty letters, and I can claim no credit for anyone of them (though they were the best letters you ever read), for they all originated in my desire to live in your memory and regard. Since I heard from Count D’Orsay, I have been beset in I don’t know how many ways. First of all, I went to Marseilles and came back to Genoa. Then I moved to the Peschiere. Then some people, who had been present at the Scientific Congress here, made a sudden inroad on that establishment, and overran it. Then they went away, and I shut myself up for a month, close and tight, over my little Christmas book, “The Chimes.” All my affections and passions got twined and knotted up in it, and I became as haggard as a murderer, long before I wrote “The End.” When I had done that, like “The man of Thessaly,” who having scratched his eyes out in a quickset hedge, plunged into a bramble-bush to scratch them in again, I fled to Venice, to recover the composure I had disturbed. From thence I went to Verona and to Mantua. And now I am here—just come up from underground, and earthy all over, from seeing that extraordinary tomb in which the dead saint lies in an alabaster case, with sparkling jewels all about him to mock his dusty eyes, not to mention the twenty-franc pieces which devout votaries were ringing down upon a sort of sky-light in the cathedral pavement above, as if it were the counter of his heavenly shop. You know Verona? You know everything in Italy, I know. The Roman Amphitheatre there delighted me beyond expression. I never saw anything so full of solemn ancient interest. There are the four-and-forty rows of seats, as fresh and perfect as if their occupants had vacated them but yesterday—the entrances, passages, dens, rooms, corridors, the numbers over some of the arches. An equestrian troop had been there some days before, and had scooped out a little ring at one end of the arena, and had their performances in that spot. I should like to have seen it, of all things, for its very dreariness. Fancy a handful of people sprinkled over one corner of the great place (the whole population of Verona wouldn’t fill it now); and a spangled cavalier bowing to the echoes, and the grass-grown walls! I climbed to the topmost seat, and looked away at the beautiful view for some minutes; when I turned round, and looked down into the theatre again, it had exactly the appearance of an immense straw hat, to which the helmet in the Castle of Otranto was a baby; the rows of seats representing the different plaits of straw, and the arena the inside of the crown. I had great expectations of Venice, but they fell immeasurably short of the wonderful reality. The short time I passed there went by me in a dream. I hardly think it possible to exaggerate its beauties, its sources of interest, its uncommon novelty and freshness. A thousand and one realisations of the Thousand and one Nights, could scarcely captivate and enchant me more than Venice.
Your old house at Albaro—Il Paradiso—is spoken of as yours to this day. What a gallant place it is! I don’t know the present inmate, but I hear that he bought and furnished it not long since, with great splendour, in the French style, and that he wishes to sell it. I wish I were rich and could buy it. There is a third-rate wine shop below Byron’s house, and the place looks dull and miserable, and ruinous enough. Old —— is a trifle uglier than when I first arrived. He has periodical parties, at which there are a great many flowerpots and a few ices—no other refreshments. He goes about, constantly charged with extemporaneous poetry, and is always ready, like tavern dinners, on the shortest notice and the most reasonable terms. He keeps a gigantic harp in his bedroom, together with pen, ink, and paper, for fixing his ideas as they flow, a kind of profane King David, but truly good-natured and very harmless.
Pray say to Count D’Orsay everything that is cordial and loving from me. The travelling purse he gave me has been of immense service. It has been constantly opened. All Italy seems to yearn to put its hand in it. I think of hanging it, when I come back to England, on a nail as a trophy, and of gashing the brim like the blade of an old sword, and saying to my son and heir, as they do upon the stage: “You see this notch, boy? Five hundred francs were laid low on that day, for post-horses. Where this gap is, a waiter charged your father treble the correct amount—and got it. This end, worn into teeth like the rasped edge of an old file, is sacred to the Custom Houses, boy, the passports, and the shabby soldiers at town-gates, who put an open hand and a dirty coat-cuff into the coach windows of all ‘Forestieri.’ Take it, boy. Thy father has nothing else to give!”
My desk is cooling itself in a mail-coach, somewhere down at the back of the cathedral, and the pens and ink in this house are so detestable, that I have no hope of your ever getting to this portion of my letter. But I have the less misery in this state of mind, from knowing that it has nothing in it to repay you for the trouble of perusal.
Very faithfully yours.
Covent Garden, Sunday, Noon (December, 1844).
My dear Lady Blessington,
Business for other people (and by no means of a pleasant kind) has held me prisoner during two whole days, and will so detain me to-day, in the very agony of my departure for Italy again, that I shall not even be able to reach Gore House once more, on which I had set my heart. I cannot bear the thought of going away without some sort of reference to the happy day you gave me on Monday, and the pleasure and delight I had in your earnest greeting. I shall never forget it, believe me. It would be worth going to China—it would be worth going to America, to come home again for the pleasure of such a meeting with you and Count D’Orsay—to whom my love, and something as near it to Miss Power and her sister as it is lawful to send. It will be an unspeakable satisfaction to me (though I am not maliciously disposed) to know under your own hand at Genoa that my little book made you cry. I hope to prove a better correspondent on my return to those shores. But better or worse, or any how, I am ever, my dear Lady Blessington, in no common degree, and not with an every-day regard, yours.
Very faithfully yours.