Mr. W. H. Wills.
1, Junction Parade, Brighton,
Thursday night, 4th March, 1853.
My dear Wills,
I am sorry, but Brutus sacrifices unborn children of his own as well as those of other people. “The Sorrows of Childhood,” long in type, and long a mere mysterious name, must come out. The paper really is, like the celebrated ambassadorial appointment, “too bad.”
“A Doctor of Morals,” impossible of insertion as it stands. A mere puff, with all the difficult facts of the question blinked, and many statements utterly at variance with what I am known to have written. It is exactly because the great bulk of offences in a great number of places are committed by professed thieves, that it will not do to have pet prisoning advocated without grave remonstrance and great care. That class of prisoner is not to be reformed. We must begin at the beginning and prevent, by stringent correction and supervision of wicked parents, that class of prisoner from being regularly supplied as if he were a human necessity.
Do they teach trades in workhouses and try to fit their people (the worst part of them) for society? Come with me to Tothill Fields Bridewell, and I will show you what a workhouse girl is. Or look to my “Walk in a Workhouse” (in “H. W.”) and to the glance at the youths I saw in one place positively kept like wolves.
Mr. —— thinks prisons could be made nearly self-supporting. Have you any idea of the difficulty that is found in disposing of Prison-work, or does he think that the Treadmills didn’t grind the air because the State or the Magistracy objected to the competition of prison-labour with free-labour, but because the work could not be got?
I never can have any kind of prison-discipline disquisition in “H. W.” that does not start with the first great principle I have laid down, and that does not protest against Prisons being considered per se. Whatever chance is given to a man in a prison must be given to a man in a refuge for distress.
The article in itself is very good, but it must have these points in it, otherwise I am not only compromising opinions I am known to hold, but the journal itself is blowing hot and cold, and playing fast and loose in a ridiculous way.
“Starting a Paper in India” is very droll to us. But it is full of references that the public don’t understand, and don’t in the least care for. Bourgeois, brevier, minion, and nonpareil, long primer, turn-ups, dunning advertisements, and reprints, back forme, imposing-stone, and locking-up, are all quite out of their way, and a sort of slang that they have no interest in.
Let me see a revise when you have got it together, and if you can strengthen it—do. I mention all the objections that occur to me as I go on, not because you can obviate them (except in the case of the prison-paper), but because if I make a point of doing so always you will feel and judge the more readily both for yourself and me too when I take an Italian flight.
How are the eyes getting on?
I have been at work all day.
Boulogne, Sunday, 7th August, 1853.
My dear Wills,
Can’t possibly write autographs until I have written “Bleak House.” My work has been very hard since I have been here; and when I throw down my pen of a day, I throw down myself, and can take up neither article.
The “C. P.” is very well done, but I cannot make up my mind to lend my blow to the great Forge-bellows of puffery at work. I so heartily desire to have nothing to do with it, that I wish you would cancel this article altogether, and substitute something else. As to the guide-books, I think they are a sufficiently flatulent botheration in themselves, without being discussed. A lurking desire is always upon me to put Mr. ——’s speech on Accidents to the public, as chairman of the Brighton Railway, against his pretensions as a chairman of public instructors and guardians. And I don’t know but that I may come to it at some odd time. This strengthens me in my wish to avoid the bellows.
How two men can have gone, one after the other, to the Camp, and have written nothing about it, passes my comprehension. I have been in great doubt about the end of ——. I wish you would suggest to him from me, when you see him, how wrong it is. Surely he cannot be insensible to the fact that military preparations in England at this time mean Defence. Woman, says ——, means Home, love, children, Mother. Does he not find any protection for these things in a wise and moderate means of Defence; and is not the union between these things and those means one of the most natural, significant, and plain in the world?
I wish you would send friend Barnard here a set of “Household Words,” in a paid parcel (on the other side is an inscription to be neatly pasted into vol. i. before sending), with a post-letter beforehand from yourself, saying that I had begged you to forward the books, feeling so much obliged to him for his uniform attention and politeness. Also that you will not fail to continue his set, as successive volumes appear.
Aspects of Nature.
We have had a tremendous sea here. Steam-packet in the harbour frantic, and dashing her brains out against the stone walls.
Rev. James White.
Boulogne, September 30th, 1853.
My dear White,
As you wickedly failed in your truth to the writer of books you adore, I write something that I hoped to have said, and meant to have said, in the confidence of the Pavilion among the trees.
Will you write another story for the Christmas No.? It will be exactly (I mean the Xmas No.) on the same plan as the last.
I shall be at the office from Monday to Thursday, and shall hope to receive a cheery “Yes,” in reply.
Loves from all to all, and my particular love to Mrs. White.
Ever cordially yours.
Mrs. Charles Dickens.
Hotel de Londres, Chamounix,
Thursday Night, 20th October, 1853.
My dearest Kate,
We came here last night after a very long journey over very bad roads, from Geneva, and leave here (for Montigny, by the Tête Noire) at 6 to-morrow morning. Next morning early we mean to try the Simplon.
After breakfast to-day we ascended to the Mer de Glace—wonderfully different at this time of the year from when we saw it—a great portion of the ascent being covered with snow, and the climbing very difficult. Regardless of my mule, I walked up and walked down again, to the great admiration of the guides, who pronounced me “an Intrepid.” The little house at the top being closed for the winter, and Edward having forgotten to carry any brandy, we had nothing to drink at the top—which was a considerable disappointment to the Inimitable, who was streaming with perspiration from head to foot. But we made a fire in the snow with some sticks, and after a not too comfortable rest came down again. It took a long time—from 10 to 3.
The appearance of Chamounix at this time of year is very remarkable. The travellers are over for the season, the inns are generally shut up, all the people who can afford it are moving off to Geneva, the snow is low on the mountains, and the general desolation and grandeur extraordinarily fine. I wanted to pass by the Col de Balme, but the snow lies too deep upon it.
You would have been quite delighted if you could have seen the warmth of our old Lausanne friends, and the heartiness with which they crowded down on a fearfully bad morning to see us off. We passed the night at the Ecu de Genève, in the rooms once our old rooms—at that time (the day before yesterday) occupied by the Queen of the French (ex- I mean) and Prince Joinville and his family.
Tell Sydney that all the way here from Geneva, and up to the Sea of Ice this morning, I wore his knitting, which was very comfortable indeed. I mean to wear it on the long mule journey to Martigny to-morrow.
We get on extremely well. Edward continues as before. He had never been here, and I took him up to the Mer de Glace this morning, and had a mule for him.
I shall leave this open, as usual, to add a word or two on our arrival at Martigny. We have had an amusingly absurd incident this afternoon. When we came here, I saw added to the hotel—our old hotel, and I am now writing in the room where we once dined at the table d’hôte—some baths, cold and hot, down on the margin of the torrent below. This induced us to order three hot baths. Thereupon the keys of the bath-rooms were found with immense difficulty, women ran backwards and forwards across the bridge, men bore in great quantities of wood, a horrible furnace was lighted, and a smoke was raised which filled the whole valley. This began at half-past three, and we congratulated each other on the distinction we should probably acquire by being the cause of the conflagration of the whole village. We sat by the fire until half-past five (dinner-time), and still no baths. Then Edward came up to say that the water was as yet only “tippit,” which we suppose to be tepid, but that by half-past eight it would be in a noble state. Ever since the smoke has poured forth in enormous volume, and the furnace has blazed, and the women have gone and come over the bridge, and piles of wood have been carried in; but we observe a general avoidance of us by the establishment which still looks like failure. We have had a capital dinner, the dessert whereof is now on the table. When we arrived, at nearly seven last night, all the linen in the house, newly washed, was piled in the sitting-room, all the curtains were taken down, and all the chairs piled bottom upwards. They cleared away as much as they could directly, and had even got the curtains up at breakfast this morning.
I am looking forward to letters at Genoa, though I doubt if we shall get there (supposing all things right at the Simplon) before Monday night or Tuesday morning. I found there last night what F—— would call “Mr. Smith’s” story of Mont Blanc, and took it to bed to read. It is extremely well and unaffectedly done. You would be interested in it.
Martigny, Friday Afternoon, October 21st.
Safely arrived here after a most delightful day, without a cloud. I walked the whole way. The scenery most beautifully presented. We are in the hotel where our old St. Bernard party assembled.
I should like to see you all very much indeed.
Hôtel de la Ville, Milan, 25th October, 1853.
My dearest Catherine,
The road from Chamounix here takes so much more time than I supposed (for I travelled it day and night, and my companions don’t at all understand the idea of never going to bed) that we only reached Milan last night, though we had been travelling twelve and fifteen hours a day. We crossed the Simplon on Sunday, when there was not (as there is not now) a particle of cloud in the whole sky, and when the pass was as nobly grand and beautiful as it possibly can be. There was a good deal of snow upon the top, but not across the road, which had been cleared. We crossed the Austrian frontier yesterday, and, both there and at the gate of Milan, received all possible consideration and politeness.
I have not seen Bairr yet. He has removed from the old hotel to a larger one at a few hours’ distance. The head-waiter remembered me very well last night after I had talked to him a little while, and was greatly interested in hearing about all the family, and about poor Roche. The boy we used to have at Lausanne is now seventeen-and-a-half—very tall, he says. The elder girl, fifteen, very like her mother, but taller and more beautiful. He described poor Mrs. Bairr’s death (I am speaking of the head-waiter before mentioned) in most vivacious Italian. It was all over in ten minutes, he said. She put her hands to her head one day, down in the courtyard, and cried out that she heard little bells ringing violently in her ears. They sent off for Bairr, who was close by. When she saw him, she stretched out her arms, said in English, “Adieu, my dear!” and fell dead. He has not married again, and he never will. She was a good woman (my friend went on), excellent woman, full of charity, loved the poor, but un poco furiosa—that was nothing!
The new hotel is just like the old one, admirably kept, excellently furnished, and a model of comfort. I hope to be at Genoa on Thursday morning, and to find your letter there. We have agreed to drop Sicily, and to return home by way of Marseilles. Our projected time for reaching London is the 10th of December.
As this house is full, I daresay we shall meet some one we know at the table d’hôte to-day. It is extraordinary that the only travellers we have encountered, since we left Paris, have been one horribly vapid Englishman and wife whom we dropped at Basle, one boring Englishman whom we found (and, thank God, left) at Geneva, and two English maiden ladies, whom we found sitting on a rock (with parasols) the day before yesterday, in the most magnificent part of the Gorge of Gondo, the most awful portion of the Simplon—there awaiting their travelling chariot, in which, with their money, their parasols, and a perfect shop of baskets, they were carefully locked up by an English servant in sky blue and silver buttons. We have been in the most extraordinary vehicles—like swings, like boats, like Noah’s arks, like barges and enormous bedsteads. After dark last night, a landlord, where we changed horses, discovered that the luggage would certainly be stolen from questo porco d’uno carro—this pig of a cart—his complimentary description of our carriage, unless cords were attached to each of the trunks, which cords were to hang down so that we might hold them in our hands all the way, and feel any tug that might be made at our treasures. You will imagine the absurdity of our jolting along some twenty miles in this way, exactly as if we were in three shower-baths and were afraid to pull the string.
We are going to the Scala to-night, having got the old box belonging to the hotel, the old key of which is lying beside me on the table. There seem to be no singers of note here now, and it appears for the time to have fallen off considerably. I shall now bring this to a close, hoping that I may have more interesting jottings to send you about the old scenes and people, from Genoa, where we shall stay two days. You are now, I take it, at Macready’s. I shall be greatly interested by your account of your visit there. We often talk of you all.
Edward’s Italian is (I fear) very weak. When we began to get really into the language, he reminded me of poor Roche in Germany. But he seems to have picked up a little this morning. He has been unfortunate with the unlucky Egg, leaving a pair of his shoes (his favourite shoes) behind in Paris, and his flannel dressing-gown yesterday morning at Domo d’Ossola. In all other respects he is just as he was.
Egg and Collins have gone out to kill the lions here, and I take advantage of their absence to write to you, Georgie, and Miss Coutts. Wills will have told you, I daresay, that Cerjat accompanied us on a miserably wet morning, in a heavy rain, down the lake. By-the-bye, the wife of one of his cousins, born in France of German parents, living in the next house to Haldimand’s, is one of the most charming, natural, open-faced, and delightful women I ever saw. Madame de —— is set up as the great attraction of Lausanne; but this capital creature shuts her up altogether. We have called her (her—the real belle), ever since, the early closing movement.
I am impatient for letters from home; confused ideas are upon me that you are going to White’s, but I have no notion when.
Take care of yourself, and God bless you.
Ever most affectionately.
Croce di Malta, Genoa,
Friday Night, October 29th, 1853.
My dearest Catherine,
As we arrived here later than I had expected (in consequence of the journey from Milan being most horribly slow) I received your welcome letter only this morning. I write this before going to bed, that I may be sure of not being taken by any engagement off the post time to-morrow.
We came in last night between seven and eight. The railroad to Turin is finished and opened to within twenty miles of Genoa. Its effect upon the whole town, and especially upon that part of it lying down beyond the lighthouse and away by San Pietro d’Arena, is quite wonderful. I only knew the place by the lighthouse, so numerous were the new buildings, so wide the streets, so busy the people, and so thriving and busy the many signs of commerce. To-day I have seen ——, the ——, the ——, and the ——, the latter of whom live at Nervi, fourteen or fifteen miles off, towards Porto Fino. First, of the ——. They are just the same, except that Mrs. ——’s face is larger and fuller, and her hair rather gray. As I rang at their bell she came out walking, and stared at me. “What! you don’t know me?” said I; upon which she recognised me very warmly, and then said in her old quiet way: “I expected to find a ruin. We heard you had been so ill; and I find you younger and better-looking than ever. But it’s so strange to see you without a bright waistcoat. Why haven’t you got a bright waistcoat on?” I apologised for my black one, and was sent upstairs, when —— presently appeared in a hideous and demoniacal nightdress, having turned out of bed to greet his distinguished countryman. After a long talk, in the course of which I arranged to dine there on Sunday early, before starting by the steamer for Naples, and in which they told me every possible and impossible particular about their minutest affairs, and especially about ——’s marriage, I set off for ——, at ——. I had found letters from him here, and he had been here over and over again, and had driven out no end of times to the Gate to leave messages for me, and really is (in his strange uncouth way) crying glad to see me. I found him and his wife in a little comfortable country house, overlooking the sea, sitting in a small summer-house on wheels, exactly like a bathing machine. I found her rather pretty, extraordinarily cold and composed, a mere piece of furniture, talking broken English. Through eight months in the year they live in this country place. She never reads, never works, never talks, never gives an order or directs anything, has only a taste for going to the theatre (where she never speaks either) and buying clothes. They sit in the garden all day, dine at four, smoke their cigars, go in at eight, sit about till ten, and then go to bed. The greater part of this I had from —— himself in a particularly unintelligible confidence in the garden, the only portion of which that I could clearly understand were the words “and one thing and another,” repeated one hundred thousand times. He described himself as being perfectly happy, and seemed very fond of his wife. “But that,” said —— to me this morning, looking like the figure-head of a ship, with a nutmeg-grater for a face, “that he ought to be, and must be, and is bound to be—he couldn’t help it.”
Then I went on to the ——’s, and found them living in a beautiful situation in a ruinous Albaro-like palace. Coming upon them unawares, I found ——, with a pointed beard, smoking a great German pipe, in a pair of slippers; the two little girls very pale and faint from the climate, in a singularly untidy state—one (heaven knows why!) without stockings, and both with their little short hair cropped in a manner never before beheld, and a little bright bow stuck on the top of it. —— said she had invented this headgear as a picturesque thing, adding that perhaps it was—and perhaps it was not. She was greatly flushed and agitated, but looked very well, and seems to be greatly liked here. We had disturbed her at her painting in oils, and I rather received an impression that, what with that, and what with music, the household affairs went a little to the wall. —— was teaching the two little girls the multiplication table in a disorderly old billiard-room with all manner of maps in it.
Having obtained a gracious permission from the lady of the school, I am going to show my companions the Sala of the Peschiere this morning. It is raining intensely hard in the regular Genoa manner, so that I can hardly hope for Genoa’s making as fine an impression as I could desire. Our boat for Naples is a large French mail boat, and we hope to get there on Tuesday or Wednesday. If the day after you receive this you write to the Poste Restante, Rome, it will be the safest course. Friday’s letter write Poste Restante, Florence. You refer to a letter you suppose me to have received from Forster—to whom my love. No letter from him has come to hand.
I will resume my report of this place in my next. In the meantime, I will not fail to drink dear Katey’s health to-day. Edward has just come in with mention of an English boat on Tuesday morning, superior to French boat to-morrow, and faster. I shall inquire at —— and take the best. When I next write I will give you our route in detail.
I am pleased to hear of Mr. Robson’s success in a serious part, as I hope he will now be a fine actor. I hope you will enjoy yourself at Macready’s, though I fear it must be sometimes but a melancholy visit.
Good-bye, my dear, and believe me ever most affectionately.
Sunday, 30th October.
We leave for Naples to-morrow morning by the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steamer the Valletta. I send a sketch of our movements that I have at last been able to make.
Mrs. —— quite came out yesterday. So did Mrs. —— (in a different manner), by violently attacking Mrs. —— for painting ill in oils when she might be playing well on the piano. It rained hard all yesterday, but is finer this morning. We went over the Peschiere in the wet afternoon. The garden is sorely neglected now, and the rooms are all full of boarding-school beds, and most of the fireplaces are closed up, but the old beauty and grandeur of the place were in it still.
This will find you, I suppose, at Sherborne. My heartiest love to dear Macready, and to Miss Macready, and to all the house. I hope my godson has not forgotten me.
I will think of Charley (from whom I have heard here) and soon write to him definitely. At present I think he had better join me at Boulogne. I shall not bring the little boys over, as, if we keep our time, it would be too long before Christmas Day.
With love to Georgy, ever most affectionately yours.
Hotel des Étrangers, Naples,
Friday Night, November 4th, 1853.
My dearest Catherine,
We arrived here at midday—two days after our intended time, under circumstances which I reserve for Georgina’s letter, by way of variety—in what Forster used to call good health and sp—p—pirits. We have a charming apartment opposite the sea, a little lower down than the Victoria—in the direction of the San Carlo Theatre—and the windows are now wide open as on an English summer night. The first persons we found on board at Genoa, were Emerson Tennent, Lady Tennent, their son and daughter. They are all here too, in an apartment over ours, and we have all been constantly together in a very friendly way, ever since our meeting. We dine at the table —made a league together on board—and have been mutually agreeable. They have no servant with them, and have profited by Edward. He goes on perfectly well, is always cheerful and ready, has been sleeping on board (upside down, I believe), in a corner, with his head in the wet and his heels against the side of the paddle-box—but has been perpetually gay and fresh.
As soon as we got our luggage from the custom house, we packed complete changes in a bag, set off in a carriage for some warm baths, and had a most refreshing cleansing after our long journey. There was an odd Neapolitan attendant—a steady old man—who, bringing the linen into my bath, proposed to “soap me.” Upon which I called out to the other two that I intended to have everything done to me that could be done, and gave him directions accordingly. I was frothed all over with Naples soap, rubbed all down, scrubbed with a brush, had my nails cut, and all manner of extraordinary operations performed. He was as much disappointed (apparently) as surprised not to find me dirty, and kept on ejaculating under his breath, “Oh, Heaven! how clean this Englishman is!” He also remarked that the Englishman is as fair as a beautiful woman. Some relations of Lord John Russell’s, going to Malta, were aboardship, and we were very pleasant. Likewise there was a Mr. Young aboard—an agreeable fellow, not very unlike Forster in person—who introduced himself as the brother of the Miss Youngs whom we knew at Boulogne. He was musical and had much good-fellowship in him, and we were very agreeable together also. On the whole I became decidedly popular, and was embraced on all hands when I came over the side this morning. We are going up Vesuvius, of course, and to Herculaneum and Pompeii, and the usual places. The Tennents will be our companions in most of our excursions, but we shall leave them here behind us. Naples looks just the same as when we left it, except that the weather is much better and brighter.
On the day before we left Genoa, we had another dinner with —— at his country place. He was the soul of hospitality, and really seems to love me. You would have been quite touched if you could have seen the honest warmth of his affection. On the occasion of this second banquet, Egg made a brilliant mistake that perfectly convulsed us all. I had introduced all the games with great success, and we were playing at the “What advice would you have given that person?” game. The advice was “Not to bully his fellow-creatures.” Upon which, Egg triumphantly and with the greatest glee, screamed, “Mr. ——!” utterly forgetting ——’s relationship, which I had elaborately impressed upon him. The effect was perfectly irresistible and uncontrollable; and the little woman’s way of humouring the joke was in the best taste and the best sense. While I am upon Genoa I may add, that when we left the Croce the landlord, in hoping that I was satisfied, told me that as I was an old inhabitant, he had charged the prices “as to a Genoese.” They certainly were very reasonable.
Mr. and Mrs. Sartoris have lately been staying in this house, but are just gone. It is kept by an English waiting-maid who married an Italian courier, and is extremely comfortable and clean. I am getting impatient to hear from you with all home news, and shall be heartily glad to get to Rome, and find my best welcome and interest at the post-office there.
That ridiculous —— and her mother were at the hotel at Leghorn the day before yesterday, where the mother (poor old lady!) was so ill from the fright and anxiety consequent on her daughter’s efforts at martyrdom, that it is even doubtful whether she will recover. I learnt from a lady friend of ——, that all this nonsense originated at Nice, where she was stirred up by Free Kirk parsons—itinerant—any one of whom I take her to be ready to make a semi-celestial marriage with. The dear being who told me all about her was a noble specimen—single, forty, in a clinging flounced black silk dress, which wouldn’t drape, or bustle, or fall, or do anything of that sort—and with a leghorn hat on her head, at least (I am serious) six feet round. The consequence of its immense size, was, that whereas it had an insinuating blue decoration in the form of a bow in front, it was so out of her knowledge behind, that it was all battered and bent in that direction—and, viewed from that quarter, she looked drunk.
My best love to Mamey and Katey, and Sydney the king of the nursery, and Harry and the dear little Plornishghenter. I kiss almost all the children I encounter in remembrance of their sweet faces, and talk to all the mothers who carry them. I hope to hear nothing but good news from you, and to find nothing but good spirits in your expected letter when I come to Rome. I already begin to look homeward, being now at the remotest part of the journey, and to anticipate the pleasure of return.
Ever most affectionately.