Mr. James T. Fields.
5, Hyde Park Place, London, W.,
Friday, January 14th, 1870.
My dear Fields,
We live here (opposite the Marble Arch) in a charming house until the 1st of June, and then return to Gad’s. The conservatory is completed, and is a brilliant success; but an expensive one!
I should be quite ashamed of not having written to you and my dear Mrs. Fields before now, if I didn’t know that you will both understand how occupied I am, and how naturally, when I put my papers away for the day, I get up and fly. I have a large room here, with three fine windows, overlooking the Park—unsurpassable for airiness and cheerfulness.
You saw the announcement of the death of poor dear Harness. The circumstances are curious. He wrote to his old friend the Dean of Battle saying he would come to visit him on that day (the day of his death). The Dean wrote back: “Come next day, instead, as we are obliged to go out to dinner, and you will be alone.” Harness told his sister a little impatiently that he must go on the first-named day; that he had made up his mind to go, and must. He had been getting himself ready for dinner, and came to a part of the staircase whence two doors opened—one, upon another level passage; one, upon a flight of stone steps. He opened the wrong door, fell down the steps, injured himself very severely, and died in a few hours.
You will know—I don’t—what Fechter’s success is in America at the time of this present writing. In his farewell performances at the Princess’s he acted very finely. I thought the three first acts of his Hamlet very much better than I had ever thought them before—and I always thought very highly of them. We gave him a foaming stirrup cup at Gad’s Hill.
Forster (who has been ill with his bronchitis again) thinks No. 2 of the new book (“Edwin Drood”) a clincher,—I mean that word (as his own expression) for Clincher. There is a curious interest steadily working up to No. 5, which requires a great deal of art and self-denial. I think also, apart from character and picturesqueness, that the young people are placed in a very novel situation. So I hope—at Nos. 5 and 6, the story will turn upon an interest suspended until the end.
I can’t believe it, and don’t, and won’t, but they say Harry’s twenty-first birthday is next Sunday. I have entered him at the Temple just now; and if he don’t get a fellowship at Trinity Hall when his time comes, I shall be disappointed, if in the present disappointed state of existence.
I hope you may have met with the little touch of Radicalism I gave them at Birmingham in the words of Buckle? With pride I observe that it makes the regular political traders, of all sorts, perfectly mad. was my intentions, as a grateful acknowledgment of having been misrepresented.
I think Mrs. ——’s prose very admirable; but I don’t believe it! No, I do not. My conviction is that those islanders get frightfully bored by the islands, and wish they had never set eyes upon them!
Charley Collins has done a charming cover for the monthly part of the new book. At the very earnest representations of Millais (and after having seen a great number of his drawings) I am going to engage with a new man; retaining of course, C. C.’s cover aforesaid. Katie has made some more capital portraits, and is always improving.
My dear Mrs. Fields, if “He” (made proud by chairs and bloated by pictures) does not give you my dear love, let us conspire against him when you find him out, and exclude him from all future confidences. Until then,
Ever affectionately yours and his.
5, Hyde Park Place, Monday, 14th February, 1870.
My dear Lytton,
I ought to have mentioned in my hurried note to you, that my knowledge of the consultation in question only preceded yours by certain hours; and that Longman asked me if I would make the design known to you, as he thought it might be a liberty to address you otherwise. This I did therefore.
The class of writers to whom you refer at the close of your note, have no copyright, and do not come within my case at all. I quite agree with you as to their propensities and deserts.
Indeed, I suppose in the main that there is very little difference between our opinions. I do not think the present Government worse than another, and I think it better than another by the presence of Mr. Gladstone; but it appears to me that our system fails.
Mr. Frederic Chapman.
5, Hyde Park Place, Monday, 14th March, 1870.
Dear Frederic Chapman,
Mr. Fildes has been with me this morning, and without complaining of —— or expressing himself otherwise than as being obliged to him for his care in No. 1, represents that there is a brother-student of his, a wood-engraver, perfectly acquainted with his style and well understanding his meaning, who would render him better.
I have replied to him that there can be no doubt that he has a claim beyond dispute to our employing whomsoever he knows will present him in his best aspect. Therefore, we must make the change; the rather because the fellow-student in question has engraved Mr. Fildes’ most successful drawings hitherto.
Mr. Charles Mackay.
Office of “All the Year Round,”
Thursday, 21st April, 1870.
My dear Mackay,
I have placed “God’s Acre.” The prose paper, “The False Friend,” has lingered, because it seems to me that the idea is to be found in an introduced story of mine called “The Baron of Grogzwig” in “Pickwick.”
Be pleasant with the Scottish people in handling Johnson, because I love them.
Sir John Bowring.
Gad’s Hill, Thursday, 5th May, 1870.
My dear Sir John,
I send you many cordial thanks for your note, and the very curious drawing accompanying it. I ought to tell you, perhaps, that the opium smoking I have described, I saw (exactly as I have described it, penny ink-bottle and all) down in Shadwell this last autumn. A couple of the Inspectors of Lodging-Houses knew the woman and took me to her as I was making a round with them to see for myself the working of Lord Shaftesbury’s Bill.
Believe me, always faithfully yours.
Mr. J. B. Buckstone.
Sunday, 15th May, 1870.
My dear Buckstone,
I send a duplicate of this note to the Haymarket, in case it should miss you out of town. For a few years I have been liable, at wholly uncertain and incalculable times, to a severe attack of neuralgia in the foot, about once in the course of a year. It began in an injury to the finer muscles or nerves, occasioned by over-walking in the deep snow. When it comes on I cannot stand, and can bear no covering whatever on the sensitive place. One of these seizures is upon me now. Until it leaves me I could no more walk into St. James’s Hall than I could fly in the air. I hope you will present my duty to the Prince of Wales, and assure his Royal Highness that nothing short of my being (most unfortunately) disabled for the moment would have prevented my attending, as trustee of the Fund, at the dinner, and warmly expressing my poor sense of the great and inestimable service his Royal Highness renders to a most deserving institution by so kindly commending it to the public.
Faithfully yours always.
Athenæum, Friday Evening, 20th May, 1870.
My dear Mr. Rusden,
I received your most interesting and clear-sighted letter about Plorn just before the departure of the last mail from here to you. I did not answer then because another incoming mail was nearly due, and I expected (knowing Plorn so well) that some communication from him such as he made to you would come to me. I was not mistaken. The same arguing of the squatter question—vegetables and all—appeared. This gave me an opportunity of touching on those points by this mail, without in the least compromising you. I cannot too completely express my concurrence with your excellent idea that his correspondence with you should be regarded as confidential. Just as I could not possibly suggest a word more neatly to the point, or more thoughtfully addressed, to such a young man than your reply to his letter, I hope you will excuse my saying that it is a perfect model of tact, good sense, and good feeling. I had been struck by his persistently ignoring the possibility of his holding any other position in Australasia than his present position, and had inferred from it a homeward tendency. What is most curious to me is that he is very sensible, and yet does not seem to understand that he has qualified himself for no public examinations in the old country, and could not possibly hold his own against any competition for anything to which I could get him nominated.
But I must not trouble you about my boys as if they were yours. It is enough that I can never thank you for your goodness to them in a generous consideration of me.
I believe the truth as to France to be that a citizen Frenchman never forgives, and that Napoleon will never live down the coup d’état. This makes it enormously difficult for any well-advised English newspaper to support him, and pretend not to know on what a volcano his throne is set. Informed as to his designs on the one hand, and the perpetual uneasiness of his police on the other (to say nothing of a doubtful army), The Times has a difficult game to play. My own impression is that if it were played too boldly for him, the old deplorable national antagonism would revive in his going down. That the wind will pass over his Imperiality on the sands of France I have not the slightest doubt. In no country on the earth, but least of all there, can you seize people in their houses on political warrants, and kill in the streets, on no warrant at all, without raising a gigantic Nemesis—not very reasonable in detail, perhaps, but none the less terrible for that.
The commonest dog or man driven mad is a much more alarming creature than the same individuality in a sober and commonplace condition.
Your friend —— —— is setting the world right generally all round (including the flattened ends, the two poles), and, as a Minister said to me the other day, “has the one little fault of omniscience.”
You will probably have read before now that I am going to be everything the Queen can make me. If my authority be worth anything believe on it that I am going to be nothing but what I am, and that that includes my being as long as I live,
Your faithful and heartily obliged.
Mr. Alfred Tennyson Dickens.
Athenæum Club, Friday Night, 20th May, 1870.
My dear Alfred,
I have just time to tell you under my own hand that I invited Mr. Bear to a dinner of such guests as he would naturally like to see, and that we took to him very much, and got on with him capitally.
I am doubtful whether Plorn is taking to Australia. Can you find out his real mind? I notice that he always writes as if his present life were the be-all and the end-all of his emigration, and as if I had no idea of you two becoming proprietors, and aspiring to the first positions in the colony, without casting off the old connection.
From Mr. Bear I had the best accounts of you. I told him that they did not surprise me, for I had unbounded faith in you. For which take my love and blessing.
They will have told you all the news here, and that I am hard at work. This is not a letter so much as an assurance that I never think of you without hope and comfort.
Ever, my dear Alfred,
Your affectionate Father.
This Letter did not reach Australia until after these two absent sons of Charles Dickens had heard, by telegraph, the news of their father’s death.