Office of “all the Year Round,”
Friday, 26th January, 1866.
My dear Forster,
I most heartily hope that your doleful apprehensions will prove unfounded. These changes from muggy weather to slight sharp frost, and back again, touch weak places, as I find by my own foot; but the touch goes by. May it prove so with you!
Yesterday Captain ——, Captain ——, and Captain ——, dined at Gad’s. They are, all three, naval officers of the highest reputation. —— is supposed to be the best sailor in our Service. I said I had been remarking at home, à propos of the London, that I knew of no shipwreck of a large strong ship (not carrying weight of guns) in the open sea, and that I could find none such in the shipwreck books. They all agreed that the unfortunate Captain Martin must have been unacquainted with the truth as to what can and what can not be done with a Steamship having rigging and canvas; and that no sailor would dream of turning a ship’s stern to such a gale—unless his vessel could run faster than the sea. —— said (and the other two confirmed) that the London was the better for everything that she lost aloft in such a gale, and that with her head kept to the wind by means of a storm topsail—which is hoisted from the deck and requires no man to be sent aloft, and can be set under the worst circumstances—the disaster could not have occurred. If he had no such sail, he could have improvised it, even of hammocks and the like. They said that under a Board of Enquiry into the wreck, any efficient witness must of necessity state this as the fact, and could not possibly avoid the conclusion that the seamanship was utterly bad; and as to the force of the wind, for which I suggested allowance, they all had been in West Indian hurricanes and in Typhoons, and had put the heads of their ships to the wind under the most adverse circumstances.
I thought you might be interested in this, as you have no doubt been interested in the case. They had a great respect for the unfortunate Captain’s character, and for his behaviour when the case was hopeless, but they had not the faintest doubt that he lost the ship and those two hundred and odd lives.
Mr. R. M. Ross.
Gad’s Hill Place, Higham by Rochester, Kent,
Monday, 19th February, 1866.
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging letter enclosing a copy of the Resolution passed by the members of the St. George Club on my last past birthday. Do me the kindness to assure those friends of mine that I am touched to the heart by their affectionate remembrance, and that I highly esteem it. To have established such relations with readers of my books is a great happiness to me, and one that I hope never to forfeit by being otherwise than manfully and truly in earnest in my vocation.
I am, dear sir,
Your faithful servant.
Mr. R. Browning.
6, Southwick Place, Hyde Park,
Monday, 12th March, 1866.
My dear Browning,
Will you dine here next Sunday at half-past six punctually, instead of with Forster? I am going to read Thirty times, in London and elsewhere, and as I am coming out with “Doctor Marigold,” I had written to ask Forster to come on Sunday and hear me sketch him. Forster says (with his own boldness) that he is sure it would not bore you to have that taste of his quality after dinner. I should be delighted if this should prove true. But I give warning that in that case I shall exact a promise from you to come to St. James’s Hall one evening in April or May, and hear “David Copperfield,” my own particular favourite.
Ever affectionately yours.
Gad’s Hill, Monday, 16th July, 1866.
My dear Lytton,
First, let me congratulate you on the honour which Lord Derby has conferred upon the peerage. And next, let me thank you heartily for your kind letter.
I am very sorry to report that we are so encumbered with engagements in the way of visitors coming here that we cannot see our way to getting to Knebworth yet.
Mary and Georgina send you their kind regard, and hope that the delight of coming to see you is only deferred.
Fitzgerald will be so proud of your opinion of his “Mrs. Tillotson,” and will (I know) derive such great encouragement from it that I have faithfully quoted it, word for word, and sent it on to him in Ireland. He is a very clever fellow (you may remember, perhaps, that I brought him to Knebworth on the Guild day) and has charming sisters and an excellent position.
Ever affectionately yours.
My dear Sir,
Again I have to thank you very heartily for your kindness in writing to me about my son. The intelligence you send me concerning him is a great relief and satisfaction to my mind, and I cannot separate those feelings from a truly grateful recognition of the advice and assistance for which he is much beholden to you, or from his strong desire to deserve your good opinion.
Believe me always, my dear sir,
Your faithful and truly obliged.
Gad’s Hill, Thursday, 27th December, 1866.
You make an absurd, though common mistake, in supposing that any human creature can help you to be an authoress, if you cannot become one in virtue of your own powers. I know nothing about “impenetrable barrier,” “outsiders,” and “charmed circles.” I know that anyone who can write what is suitable to the requirements of my own journal—for instance—is a person I am heartily glad to discover, and do not very often find. And I believe this to be no rare case in periodical literature. I cannot undertake to advise you in the abstract, as I number my unknown correspondents by the hundred. But if you offer anything to me for insertion in “All the Year Round,” you may be sure that it will be honestly read, and that it will be judged by no test but its own merits and adaptability to those pages.
But I am bound to add that I do not regard successful fiction as a thing to be achieved in “leisure moments.”