John Forster

The Life of Charles Dickens

BOOK ELEVENTH: SUMMING UP (1868-70)

  1. LAST READINGS (1868-70)
  2. LAST BOOK (1869-70)
  3. PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS (1836-70)






I

LAST READINGS
1868-1870

Favourable weather helped Dickens pleasantly home. He had profited greatly by the sea voyage, perhaps greatly more by its repose; and on 25 May he described himself to his Boston friends as brown beyond belief, and causing the greatest disappointment in all quarters by looking so well. "My doctor was quite broken down in spirits on seeing me for the first time last Saturday. Good lord! seven years younger! said the doctor, recoiling." That he gave all the credit to "those fine days at sea," and none to the rest from such labours as he had passed through, the close of the letter too sadly showed. "We are already settling -- think of this! the details of my farewell course of readings."

Even on his way out to America that enterprise was in hand. From Halifax he had written to me. "I told the Chappells that when I got back to England, I would have a series of farewell readings in town and country; and then read No More. They at once offer in writing to pay all expenses whatever, to pay the ten per cent. for management, and to pay me, for a series of 75, six thousand pounds." The terms were raised and settled before the first Boston readings closed. The number was to be a hundred: and the payment, over and above expenses and per centage, eight thousand pounds. Such a temptation undoubtedly was great; and though it was a fatal mistake which Dickens committed in yielding to it, it was not an ignoble one. He did it under no excitement from the American gains, of which he knew nothing when he pledged himself to the enterprise. No man could care essentially less for mere money than he did. But the necessary provision for many sons was a constant anxiety; he was proud of what the Readings had done to abridge this care; and the very strain of them under which it seems that his health had first given way, and which he always steadily refused to connect especially with them, had also broken the old confidence of being at all times available for his higher pursuit. What affected his health only he would not regard as part of the question either way. That was to be borne as the lot more or less of all men; and the more thorough he could make his feeling of independence, and of ability to rest, by what was now in hand, the better his final chances of a perfect recovery would be. That was the spirit in which he entered on this last engagement. It was an opportunity offered for making a particular work really complete before he should abandon it for ever. Something of it will not be indiscernible even in the summary of his past acquisitions, which with a pardonable exultation he now sent me.

"We had great difficulty in getting our American accounts squared to the point of ascertaining what Dolby's commission amounted to in English money. After all, we were obliged to call in the aid of a money-changer, to determine what he should pay as his share of the average loss of conversion into gold. With this deduction made, I think his commission (I have not the figures at hand) was ʣ2,888; Ticknor and Fields had a commission of 1,000, besides 5 per cent. on all Boston receipts. The expenses in America to the day of our sailing were 38,948 dollars; -- roughly 39,000 dollars, or 13,000. The preliminary expenses were 614. The average price of gold was nearly 40 per cent. and yet my profit was within a hundred or so of 20,000. Supposing me to have got through the present engagement in good health, I shall have made by the Readings, in two years, 33,000: that is to say: 13,000 received from the Chappells, and 20,000 from America. What I had made by them before, I could only ascertain by a long examination of Coutts's books. I should say, certainly not less than 10,000: for I remember that I made half that money in the first town and country campaign with poor Arthur Smith. These figures are of course between ourselves; but don't you think them rather remarkable? The Chappell bargain began with 50 a night and everything paid; then became 60; and now rises to 80."

The last readings were appointed to begin with October; and at the request of an old friend, Chauncy Hare Townshend, who died during his absence in the States, he had accepted the trust, which occupied him some part of the summer, of examining and selecting for publication a bequest of some papers on matters of religious belief, which were issued in a small volume the following year. There came also in June a visit from Longfellow and his daughters, with later summer visits from the Eliot Nortons; and at the arrival of friends whom he loved and honoured as he did these, from the great country to which he owed so much, infinite were the rejoicings of Gadshill. Nothing could quench his old spirit in this way. But, in the intervals of my official work, I saw him frequently that summer, and never without the impression that America had told heavily upon him. There was manifest abatement of his natural force, the elasticity of bearing was impaired, and the wonderful brightness of eye was dimmed at times. One day, too, as he walked from his office with Miss Hogarth to dine at our house, he could read only the halves of the letters over the shop doors that were on his right as he looked. He attributed it to medicine. It was an additional unfavourable symptom that his right foot had become affected as well as the left, though not to anything like the same extent, during the journey from the Canada frontier to Boston. But all this disappeared upon any special cause for exertion; and he was never unprepared to lavish freely for others the reserved strength that should have been kept for himself. This indeed was the great danger, for it dulled the apprehension of us all to the fact that absolute and pressing danger did positively exist.

He had scarcely begun these last readings than he was beset by a misgiving, that, for a success large enough to repay Messrs. Chappell's liberality, the enterprise would require a new excitement to carry him over the old ground; and it was while engaged in Manchester and Liverpool at the outset of October that this announcement came. "I have made a short reading of the murder in Oliver Twist. I cannot make up my mind, however, whether to do it or not. I have no doubt that I could perfectly petrify an audience by carrying out the notion I have of the way of rendering it. But whether the impression would not be so horrible as to keep them away another time, is what I cannot satisfy myself upon. What do you think? It is in three short parts: 1. Where Fagin sets Noah Claypole on to watch Nancy. 2. The scene on London Bridge. 3. Where Fagin rouses Claypole from his sleep to tell his perverted story to Sikes: and the Murder, and the Murderer's sense of being haunted. I have adapted and cut about the text with great care, and it is very powerful. I have to-day referred the book and the question to the Chappells as so largely interested." I had a strong dislike to this proposal, less perhaps on the ground which ought to have been taken of the physical exertion it would involve, than because such a subject seemed to be altogether out of the province of reading; and it was resolved, that, before doing it, trial should be made to a limited private audience in St. James's Hall. The note announcing this, from Liverpool on 25 October, is for other reasons worth printing. "I give you earliest notice that the Chappells suggest to me the 18th of November" (the 14th was chosen) "for trial of the Oliver Twist murder, when everything in use for the previous day's reading can be made available. I hope this may suit you? We have been doing well here; and how it was arranged, nobody knows, but we had 410 at St. James's Hall last Tuesday, having advanced from our previous 360. The expenses are such, however, on the princely scale of the Chappells, that we never begin at a smaller, often at a larger, cost than 180. . . . I have not been well, and have been heavily tired. However, I have little to complain of -- nothing, nothing; though, like Mariana, I am aweary. But, think of this. If all go well and (like Mr. Dennis) I 'work off' this series triumphantly, I shall have made of these readings 28,000 in a year and a half." This did not better reconcile me to what had been too clearly forced upon him by the supposed necessity of some new excitement to ensure a triumphant result; and even the private rehearsal only led to a painful correspondence between us, of which a few words are all that need now be preserved. "We might have agreed," he wrote, "to differ about it very well, because we only wanted to find out the truth if we could, and because it was quite understood that I wanted to leave behind me the recollection of something very passionate and dramatic, done with simple means, if the art would justify the theme." Apart from mere personal considerations, the whole question lay in these last words. It was impossible for me to admit that the effect to be produced was legitimate, or such as it was desirable to associate with the recollection of his readings.

Mention should not be omitted of two sorrows which affected him at this time. At the close of the month before the readings began, his youngest son went forth from home to join an elder brother in Australia. "These partings are hard hard things" (26 September), "but they are the lot of us all, and might have to be done without means or influence, and then would be far harder. God bless him!" Hardly a month later, the last of his surviving brothers, Frederick, the next to himself, died at Darlington. "He had been tended" (24 October), "with the greatest care and affection by some local friends. It was a wasted life, but God forbid that one should be hard upon it, or upon anything in this world that is not deliberately and coldly wrong."

Before October closed the renewal of his labour had begun to tell upon him. He wrote to his sister-in-law on the 29th of sickness and sleepness nights, and of its having become necessary, when he had to read, that he should lie on the sofa all day. After arrival at Edinburgh in December, he had been making a calculation that the railway travelling over such a distance involved something more than thirty thousand shocks to the nerves; but he went on to Christmas, alternating these far-off places with nights regularly intervening in London, without much more complaint than of an inability to sleep. Trade reverses at Glasgow had checked the success there, but Edinburgh made compensation. "The affectionate regard of the people exceeds all bounds and is shown in every way. The audiences do everything but embrace me, and take as much pains with the reading as I do. . . . The keeper of the Edinburgh hall, a fine old soldier, presented me on Friday night with the most superb red camellia for my button-hole that ever was seen. Nobody can imagine how he came by it, as the florists had had a considerable demand for that colour, from ladies in the stalls, and could get no such thing."

The second portion of the enterprise opened with the New Year; and the Sikes and Nancy scenes, everywhere his prominent subject, exacted the most terrible physical exertion from him. In January he was at Clifton, where he had given, he told his sister-in-law, "by far the best Murder yet done;" while at the same date he wrote to his daughter: "At Clifton on Monday night we had a contagion of fainting; and yet the place was not hot. I should think we had from a dozen to twenty ladies taken out stiff and rigid, at various times! It became quite ridiculous." He was afterwards at Cheltenham. "Macready is of opinion that the Murder is two Macbeths. He declares that he heard every word of the reading, but I doubt it. Alas! he is sadly infirm." On the 27th he wrote to his daughter from Torquay that the place into which they had put him to read, and where a pantomime had been played the night before, was something between a Methodist chapel, a theatre, a circus, a riding-school, and a cow-house. That day he wrote to me from Bath: "Landor's ghost goes along the silent streets here before me. . . . The place looks to me like a cemetery which the Dead have succeeded in rising and taking. Having built streets of their old gravestones, they wander about scantly trying to 'look alive.' A dead failure."

In the second week of February he was in London, under engagement to return to Scotland (which he had just left) after the usual weekly reading at St. James's Hall, when there was a sudden interruption. "My foot has turned lame again!" was his announcement to me on the 15th, followed next day by this letter. "Henry Thompson will not let me read to-night, and will not let me go to Scotland to-morrow. Tremendous house here, and also in Edinburgh. Here is the certificate he drew up for himself and Beard to sign. 'We the undersigned hereby certify that Mr. C. D. is suffering from inflammation of the foot (caused by over-exertion), and that we have forbidden his appearance on the platform this evening, as he must keep his room for a day or two.' I have sent up to the Great Western Hotel for apartments, and, if I can get them, shall move there this evening. Heaven knows what engagements this may involve in April! It throws us all back, and will cost me some five hundred pounds."

A few days' rest again brought so much relief, that, against the urgent entreaties of members of his family as well as other friends, he was in the railway carriage bound for Edinburgh on the morning of 20 February, accompanied by Mr. Chappell himself. "I came down lazily on a sofa," he wrote to me from Edinburgh next day, "hardly changing my position the whole way. The railway authorities had done all sorts of things, and I was more comfortable than on the sofa at the hotel. The foot gave me no uneasiness, and has been quiet and steady all night." He was nevertheless under the necessity, two days later, of consulting Mr. Syme; and he told his daughter that this great authority had warned him against over-fatigue in the readings, and given him some slight remedies, but otherwise reported him in "just perfectly splendid condition." With care he thought the pain might be got rid of. "What made Thompson think it was gout? he said often, and seemed to take that opinion extremely ill." Again before leaving Scotland he saw Mr. Syme, and wrote to me on the second of March of the indignition with which he again treated the gout diagnosis, declaring the disorder to be an affection of the delicate nerves and muscles originating in cold. "I told him that it had shown itself in America in the other foot as well. 'Now I'll just swear,' said he, 'that beyond the fatigue of the readings you'd been tramping in the snow within two or three days.' I certainly had. 'Well,' said he triumphantly, 'and how did it first begin? In the snow. Gout? Bah! -- Thompson knew no other name for it, and just called it gout. Bah!'" Yet the famous pupil, Sir Henry Thompson, went certainly nearer the mark than the distinguished master, Mr. Syme, in giving to this distressing trouble a more than local character.

The whole of that March month he went on with the scenes from Oliver Twist. "The foot goes famously," he wrote to his daughter. "I feel the fatigue in it (four Murders in one week) but not overmuch. It merely aches at night; and so does the other, sympathetically I suppose." At Hull on the 8th he heard of the death of the old and dear friend, Emerson Tennent, to whom he had inscribed his last book; and on the morning of the 12th I met him at the funeral. He had read the Oliver Twist scenes the night before at York; had just been able to get to the express train, after shortening the pauses in the reading, by a violent rush when it was over; and had travelled through the night. He appeared to me "dazed" and worn. No man could well look more so than he did, that sorrowful morning.

The end was near. A public dinner, which will have mention on a later page, had been given him in Liverpool on 10 April, with Lord Dufferin in the chair, and a reading was due from him in Preston on the 22nd of that month. But on Sunday the 18th we had ill report of him from Chester, and on the 21st he wrote from Blackpool to his sister-in-law. "I have come to this Sea-Beach Hotel (charming) for a day's rest. I am much better than I was on Sunday; but shall want careful looking to, to get through the readings. My weakness and deadness are all on the left side; and if I don't look at anything I try to touch with my left hand, I don't know where it is. I am in (secret) consultation with Frank Beard, who says that I have given him indisputable evidences of overwork which he could wish to treat immediately; and so I have telegraphed for him. I have had a delicious walk by the sea to-day, and I sleep soundly, and have picked up amazingly in appetite. My foot is greatly better too, and I wear my own boot." Next day was appointed for the reading at Preston; and from that place he wrote to me, while waiting the arrival of Mr. Beard. "Don't say anything about it, but the tremendously severe nature of this work is a little shaking me. At Chester last Sunday I found myself extremely giddy, and extremely uncertain of my sense of touch, both in the left leg and the left hand and arms. I had been taking some slight medicine of Beard's; and immediately wrote to him describing exactly what I felt, and asking him whether those feelings could be referable to the medicine? He promptly replied: 'There can be no mistaking them from your exact account. The medicine cannot possibly have caused them. I recognise indisputable symptoms of overwork, and I wish to take you in hand without any loss of time.' They have greatly modified since, but he is coming down here this afternoon. To-morrow night at Warrington I shall have but 25 more nights to work through. If he can coach me up for them, I do not doubt that I shall get all right again -- as I did when I became free in America. The foot has given me very little trouble. Yet it is remarkable that it the left foot too; and that I told Henry Thompson (before I saw his old master Syme) that I had an inward conviction that whatever it was, it was not gout. I also told Beard, a year after the Staplehurst accident, that I was certain that my heart had been fluttered, and wanted a little helping. This the stethoscope confirmed; and considering the immense exertions I am undergoing, and the constant jarring of express trains, the case seems to me quite intelligible. Don't say anything in the Gad's direction about my being a little out of sorts. I have broached the matter of course; but very lightly. Indeed there is no reason for broaching it otherwise."

Even to the close of that letter he had buoyed himself up with the hope that he might yet be "coached" and that the readings need not be discontinued. But Mr. Beard stopped them at once, and brought his patient to London. On Friday morning the 23rd, the same envelope brought me a note from himself to say that he was well enough, but tired; in perfectly good spirits, not at all uneasy, and writing this himself that I should have it under his own hand; with a note from his eldest son to say that his father appeared to him to be very ill, and that a consultation had been appointed with Sir Thomas Watson. The statement of that distinguished physician, sent to myself in June 1872, completes for the present the sorrowful narrative.

"It was, I think, on 23 April, 1869 that I was asked to see Charles Dickens, in consultation with Mr. Carr Beard. After I got home I jotted down, from their joint account, what follows.

"After unusual irritability, C. D. found himself, last Saturday or Sunday, giddy, with a tendency to go backwards, and to turn round. Afterwards, desiring to put something on a small table, he pushed it and the table forwards, undesignedly. He had some odd feeling of insecurity about his left leg, as if there was something unnatural about his heel; but he could lift, and he did not drag, his leg. Also he spoke of some strangeness of his left hand and arm; missed the spot on which he wished to lay that hand, unless he carefully looked at it; felt an unreadiness to lift his hands towards his head, especially his left hand -- when, for instance, he was brushing his hair.

"He had written thus to Mr. Carr Beard.

"'Is it possible that anything in my medicine can have made me extremely giddy, extremely uncertain of my footing, especially on the left side, and extremely indisposed to raise my hands to my head. These symptoms made me very uncomfortable on Saturday (qy. Sunday?) night, and all yesterday, &c.'

"The state thus described showed plainly that C. D. had been on the brink of an attack of paralysis of his left side, and possibly of apoplexy. It was, no doubt, the result of extreme hurry, overwork, and excitement, incidental to his Readings.

"On hearing from him Mr. Carr Beard had gone at once to Preston, or Blackburn (I am not sure which), had forbidden his reading that same evening, and had brought him to London.

"When I saw him he appeared to be well. His mind was unclouded, his pulse quiet. His heart was beating with some slight excess of the natural impulse. He told me he had of late sometimes, but rarely, lost or missed a word; that he forgot names, and numbers, but had always done that; and he promised implicit obedience to our injunctions.

"We gave him the following certificate.

"'The undersigned certify that Mr. Charles Dickens has been seriously unwell, through great exhaustion and fatigue of body and mind consequent upon his public Readings and long and frequent railway journeys. In our judgment Mr. Dickens will not be able with safety to himself to resume his Readings for several months to come.

"'Thos. Watson, M.D.
"'F. Carr Beard.'

"However, after some weeks, he expressed a wish for my sanction to his endeavours to redeem, in a careful and moderate way, some of the reading engagements to which he had been pledged before those threatenings of brain-mischief in the North of England.

"As he had continued uniformly to seem and to feel perfectly well, I did not think myself warranted to refuse that sanction: and in writing to enforce great caution in the trials, I expressed some apprehension that he might fancy we had been too peremptory in our injunctions of mental and bodily repose in April; and I quoted the following remark, which occurs somewhere in one of Captain Cook's Voyages. 'Preventive measures are always invidious, for when most successful, the necessity for them is the least apparent.'

"I mention this to explain the letter which I send herewith, and which I must beg you to return to me, as a precious remembrance of the writer with whom I had long enjoyed very friendly and much valued relations.

"I scarcely need say that if what I have now written, can, in any way, be of use to you, it is entirely at your service and disposal -- nor need I say with how much interest I have read the first volume of your late friend's Life. I cannot help regretting that a great pressure of professional work at the time, prevented my making a fuller record of a case so interesting."

The twelve readings to which Sir Thomas Watson consented, with the condition that railway travel was not to accompany them, were farther to be delayed until the opening months of 1870. They were an offering from Dickens by way of small compensation to Messrs. Chappell for the break down of the enterprise on which they had staked so much. But here practically he finished his career as a public reader, and what remains will come with the sad winding-up of the story. One effort only intervened, by which he hoped to get happily back to his old pursuits; but to this, as to that which preceded it, sterner Fate said also No, and his Last Book, like his Last Readings, prematurely closed.





II

LAST BOOK
1869-1870

The last book undertaken by Dickens was to be published in illustrated monthly numbers, of the old form, but to close with the twelfth. It closed, unfinished, with the sixth number, which was itself underwritten by two pages.

His first fancy for the tale was expressed in a letter in the middle of July. "What should you think of the idea of a story beginning in this way? -- Two people, boy and girl, or very young, going apart from one another, pledged to be married after many years -- at the end of the book. The interest to arise out of the tracing of their separate ways, and the impossibility of telling what will be done with that impending fate." This was laid aside; but it left a marked trace on the story as afterwards designed, in the position of Edwin Drood and his betrothed.

I first heard of the later design in a letter dated "Fiday the 6th of August 1869," in which after speaking, with the usual unstinted praise he bestowed always on what moved him in others, of a little tale he had received for his journal, he spoke of the change that had occurred to him for the new tale by himself. "I laid aside the fancy I told you of, and have a very curious and new idea for my new story. Not a communicable idea (or the interest of the book would be gone), but a very strong one, though difficult to work." The story, I learnt immediately afterward, was to be that of the murder of a nephew by his uncle; the originality of which was to consist in the review of the murderer's career by himself at the close, when its temptations were to be dwelt upon as if, not he the culprit, but some other man, were the tempted. The last chapters were to be written in the condemned cell, to which his wickedness, all elaborately elicited from him as if told of another, had brought him. Discovery by the murderer of the utter needlessness of the murder for its object, was to follow hard upon commission of the deed; but all discovery of the murderer was to be baffled till towards the close, when, by means of a gold ring which had resisted the corrosive effects of the lime into which he had thrown the body, not only the person murdered was to be identified but the locality of the crime and the man who committed it. So much was told to me before any of the book was written; and it will be recollected that the ring, taken by Drood to be given to his betrothed only if their engagement went on, was brought away with him from their last interview. Rosa was to marry Tartar, and Crisparkle the sister of Landless, who was himself, I think, to have perished in assisting Tartar finally to unmask and seize the murderer.

Nothing had been written, however, of the main parts of the design excepting what is found in the published numbers; there was no hint or preparation for the sequel in any notes of chapters in advance; and there remained not even what he had himself so sadly written of the book by Thackeray also interrupted by death. The evidence of matured designs never to be accomplished, intentions planned never to be executed, roads of thought marked out never to be traversed, goals shining in the distance never to be reached, was wanting here. It was all a blank. Enough had been completed nevertheless to give promise of a much greater book than its immediate predecessor. "I hope his book is finished," wrote Longfellow when the news of his death was flashed to America. "It is certainly one of his most beautiful works, if not the most beautiful of all. It would be too sad to think the pen had fallen from his hand, and left it incomplete." Some of its characters are touched with subtlety, and in its description his imaginative power was at its best. Not a line was wanting to the reality, in the most minute local detail, of places the most widely contrasted; and we saw with equal vividness the lazy cathedral town and the lurid opium-eater's den. Something like the old lightness and buoyancy of animal spirits gave a new freshness to the humour; the scenes of the child-heroine and her luckless betrothed had both novelty and nicety of character in them; and Mr. Grewgious in chambers with his clerk and the two waiters, the conceited fool Sapsea, and the blustering philanthropist Honeythunder, were first-rate comedy. Miss Twinkleton was of the family of Miss La Creevy; and the lodging-house keeper, Miss Billickin, though she gave Miss Twinkleton but a sorry account of her blood, had that of Mrs. Todgers in her veins. "I was put in early life to a very genteel boarding-school, the mistress being no less a lady than yourself, of about your own age, or it may be some years younger, and a poorness of blood flowed from the table which has run through my life." Was ever anything better said of a school-fare of starved gentility?

The last page of Edwin Drood was written in the Chalet in the afternoon of his last day of consciousness; and I have thought there might be some interest in a fac-simile of the greater part of this final page of manuscript that ever came from his hand, at which he had worked unusually late in order to finish the chapter. It has very much the character, in its excessive care of correction and interlineation, of all his later manuscripts; and in order that comparison may be made with his earlier and easier method, I place beside it a portion of a page of the original of Oliver Twist. His greater pains and elaboration of writing, it may be mentioned, become first very obvious in the later parts of Martin Chuzzlewit; but not the least remarkable feature in all his manuscripts, is the accuracy with which the portions of each representing the several numbers are exactly adjusted to the space the printer has to fill. Whether without erasure or so interlined as to be illegible, nothing is wanting, and there is nothing in excess. So assured had the habit become, that we have seen him remarking upon an instance the other way, in Our Mutual Friend, as not having happened to him for thirty years. Certainly the exceptions had been few and unimportant; but Edwin Drood more startlingly showed him how unsettled the habit he most prized had become, in the clashing of old and new pursuits. "When I had written" (22 December, 1869) "and, as I thought, disposed of the first two Numbers of my story, Clowes informed me to my horror that they were, together, twelve printed pages too short!!! Consequently I had to transpose a chapter from number two to number one, and remodel number two altogether! This was the more unlucky, that it came upon me at the time when I was obliged to leave the book, in order to get up the Readings" (the additional twelve for which Sir Thomas Watson's consent had been obtained); "quite gone out of my mind since I left them off. However, I turned to it and got it done, and both numbers are now in type. Charles Collins has designed an excellent cover." It was his wish that his son-in-law should have illustrated the story; but this not being practicable, upon an opinion expressed by Mr. Millais which the result thoroughly justified, choice was maid of Mr. S. L. Fildes.

--------------------

This reference to the last effort of Dickens's genius had been written as it thus stands, when a discovery of some interest was made by the writer. Within the leaves of one of Dickens's other manuscripts were found some detached slips of his writing, on paper only half the size of that used for the tale, so cramped, interlined, and blotted as to be nearly illegible, which on close inspection proved to be a scene in which Sapsea the auctioneer is introduced as the principal figure, among a group of characters new to the story. The explanation of it perhaps is, that, having become a little nervous about the course of the tale, from a fear that he might have plunged too soon into the incidents leading on to the catastrophe, such as the Datchery assumption in the fifth number (a misgiving he had certainly expressed to his sister-in-law), it had occurred to him to open some fresh veins of character incidental to the interest, though not directly part of it, and so to handle them in connection with Sapsea as a little to suspend the final development even while assisting to strengthen it. Before beginning any number of a serial, he used, as we have seen in former instances, to plan briefly what he intended to put into it chapter by chapter; and his first number-plan of Drood had the following: "Mr. Sapsea. Old Tory jackass. Connect Jasper with him. (He will want a solemn donkey by and by)": which was effected by bringing together both Durdles and Jasper, for connection with Sapsea, in the matter of the epitaph for Mrs. Sapsea's tomb. The scene now discovered might in this view have been designed to strengthen and carry forward that element in the tale; and otherwise it very sufficiently expresses itself. It would supply an answer, if such were needed, to those who have asserted that the hopeless decadence of Dickens as a writer had set in before his death. Among the lines last written by him, these are the very last we can ever hope to receive; and they seem to me a delightful specimen of the power possessed by him in his prime, and the rarest which any novelist can have, of revealing a character by a touch. Here are a couple of people, Kimber and Peartree, not known to us before, whom we read off thoroughly in a dozen words; and as to Sapsea himself, auctioneer and mayor of Cloisterham, we are face to face with what before we only dimly realized, and we see the solemn jackass, in his business pulpit, playing off the airs of Mr. Dean in his Cathedral pulpit, with Cloisterham laughing at the impostor.


"How Mr. Sapsea Ceased To Be A Member Of The Eight Club

Told By Himself.


"Wishing to take the air, I proceeded by a circuitous route to the club, it being our weekly night of meeting. I found that we mustered our full strength, We were enrolled under the denomination of the Eight Club. We were eight in number; we met at eight o'clock during eight months of the year; we played eight games of four-handed cribbage, at eightpence the game; our frugal supper was composed of eight rolls, eight mutton chops, eight pork sausages, eight baked potatoes, eight marrow-bones, with eight toasts, and eight bottles of ale. There may, or may not, be a certain harmony of colour in the ruling idea of this (to adopt a phrase of our lively neighbours) reunion. It was a little idea of mine.

"A somewhat popular member of the Eight Club, was a member by the name of Kimber. By profession, a dancing-master. A common-place, hopeful sort of man, wholly destitute of dignity or knowledge of the world.

"As I entered the Club-room, Kimber was making the remark: 'And he still half-believes him to be very high in the Church.'"

"In the act of hanging up my hat on the eighth peg by the door, I caught Kimber's visual ray. He lowered it, and passed a remark on the next change of the moon. I did not take particular notice of this at the moment, because the world was often pleased to be a little shy of ecclesiastical topics in my presence. For I felt that I was picked out (though perhaps only through a coincidence) to a certain extent to represent what I call our glorious constitution in Church and State. The phrase may be objected to by captious minds; but I own to it as mine. I threw it off in argument some little time back. I said: 'Our Glorious Constitution in Church and State.'

"Another member of the Eight Club was Peartree; also member of the Royal College of Surgeons. Mr. Peartree is not accountable to me for his opinions, and I say no more of them here than that he attends the poor gratis whenever they want him, and is not the parish doctor. Mr. Peartree may justify it to the grasp of his mind thus to do his republican utmost to bring an appointed officer into contempt. Suffice it that Mr. Peartree can never justify it to the grasp of mine.

"Between Peartree and Kimber there was a sickly sort of feebleminded alliance. It came under my particular notice when I sold off Kimber by auction. (Goods taken in execution.) He was a widower in a white under-waistcoat, and slight shoes with bows, and had two daughters not ill-looking. Indeed, the reverse. Both daughters taught dancing in scholastic establishments for Young Ladies -- had done so at Mrs. Sapsea's; nay, Twinkleton's -and both, in giving lessons, presented the unwomanly spectacle of having little fiddles tucked under their chins. In spite of which the younger one might, if I am correctly informed -- I will raise the veil so far as to say I KNOW she might -- have soared for life from this degrading taint, but for having the class of mind allotted to what I call the common herd, and being so incredibly devoid of veneration as to become painfully ludicrous.

"When I sold off Kimber without reserve, Peartree (as poor as he can hold together) had several prime household lots knocked down to him. I am not to be blinded; and of course it was as plain to me what he was going to do with them, as it was that he was a brown hulking sort of revolutionary subject who had been in India with the soldiers, and ought (for the sake of society) to have his neck broke. I saw the lots shortly afterwards in Kimber's lodgings -- through the window -- and I easily made out that there had been a sneaking pretence of lending them till better times. A man with a smaller knowledge of the world than myself might have been led to suspect that Kimber had held back money from his creditors, and fraudulently bought the goods. But, besides that I knew for certain he had no money, I knew that this would involve a species of forethought not to be made compatible with the frivolity of a caperer, inoculating other people with capering, for his bread.

"As it was the first time I had seen either of those two since the sale, I kept myself in what I call Abeyance. When selling him up, I had delivered a few remarks -- shall I say a little homily? -- concerning Kimber, which the world did regard as more than usually worth notice. I had come up into my pulpit, it was said, uncommonly like -- and a murmur of recognition had repeated his (I will not name whose) title, before I spoke. I had then gone on to say that all present would find, in the first page of the catalogue that was lying before them, in the last paragraph before the first lot, the following words: 'Sold in pursuance of a writ of execution issued by a creditor.' I had then proceeded to remind my friends, that however frivolous, not to say contemptible, the business by which a man got his goods together, still his goods were as dear to him, and as cheap to society (if sold without reserve), as though his pursuits had been of a character that would bear serious contemplation. I had then divided my text (if I may be allowed so to call it) into three heads: firstly, Sold; secondly, In pursuance of a writ of execution; thirdly, Issued by a creditor; with a few moral reflections on each, and winding up with, 'Now to the first lot' in a manner that was complimented when I afterwards mingled with my hearers.

"So, not being certain on what terms I and Kimber stood, I was grave, I was chilling. Kimber, however, moving to me, I moved to Kimber. (I was the creditor who had issued the writ. Not that it matters.)

"'I was alluding, Mr. Sapsea,' said Kimber, 'to a stranger who entered into conversation with me in the street as I came to the Club. He had been speaking to you just before, it seemed, by the churchyard; and though you had told him who you were, I could hardly persuade him that you were not high in the Church.'

"'Idiot!' said Peartree.

"'Ass!' said Kimber.

"'Idiot and Ass!' said the other five members.

"'Idiot and Ass, gentlemen,' I remonstrated, looking around me,' are strong expressions to apply to a young man of good appearance and address.' My generosity was roused; I own it.

"'You'll admit that he must be a Fool,' said Peartree.

"'You can't deny that he must be a Blockhead,' said Kimber.

"Their tone of disgust amounted to being offensive. Why should the young man be so calumniated? What had he done? He had only made an innocent and natural mistake. I controlled my generous indignation, and said so.

"'Natural?' repeated Kimber. 'He's a Natural!'

"The remaining six members of the Eight Club laughed unanimously. It stung me. It was a scornful laugh. My anger was roused in behalf of an absent, friendless stranger. I rose (for I had been sitting down).

"'Gentlemen,' I said with dignity, 'I will not remain one of this Club allowing opprobrium to be cast on an unoffending person in his absence. I will not so violate what I call the sacred rites of hospitality. Gentlemen, until you know how to behave yourselves better, I leave you. Gentlemen, until then I withdraw, from this place of meeting, whatever personal qualifications I may have brought into it. Gentlemen, until then you cease to be the Eight Club, and must make the best you can of becoming the Seven.'

"I put on my hat and retired. As I went down stairs I distinctly heard them give a suppressed cheer. Such is the power of demeanour and knowledge of mankind. I had forced it out of them.


"II

"Whom should I meet in the street, within a few yards of the door of the inn where the Club was held, but the salf-same young man whose cause I had felt it my duty so warmly -- and I will add so disinterestedly -- to take up.

"'Is it Mr. Sapsea,' he said doubtfully,' or is it -----'

"'It is Mr. Sapsea,' I replied.

"'Pardon me, Mr. Sapsea; you appear warm, sir.'

"'I have been warm,' I said, 'and on your account.' Having stated the circumstances at some length (my generosity almost overpowered him), I asked him his name.

"'Mr. Sapsea,' he answered, looking down, 'your penetration is so acute, your glance into the souls of your fellow men is so penetrating, that if I was hardy enough to deny that my name is Poker, what would avail me?'

"I don't know that I had quite exactly made out to a fraction that his name was Poker, but I daresay I had been pretty near doing it.

"'Well, well,' said I, trying to put him at his ease by nodding my head in a soothing way. 'Your name is Poker, and there is no harm in being named Poker.'

"'Oh Mr. Sapsea!' cried the young man, in a very well-behaved manner. 'Bless you for those words!' He then, as if ashamed of having given way to his feelings, looked down again.

"'Come, Poker,' said I, 'let me hear more about you. Tell me. Where are you going to, Poker? and where do you come from?'

"'Ah Mr. Sapsea!' exclaimed the young man. 'Disguise from you is impossible. You know already that I come from somewhere, and am going somewhere else. If I was to deny it, what would it avail me?'

"'Then don't deny it,' was my remark.

"'Or,' pursued Poker, in a kind of despondent rapture, 'or if I was to deny that I came to this town to see and hear you sir, what would it avail me? Or if I was to deny -----------'"

The fragment ends there, and the hand that could alone have completed it is at rest for ever.

-------------------

Some personal characteristics remain for illustration before the end is briefly told.





III

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS
1836-70

Objection has been taken to this biography as likely to dissappoint its readers in not making them "talk to Dickens as Boswell makes them talk to Johnson." But where will the blame lie if a man takes up Pickwick and is disappointed to find that he is not reading Rasselas? A book must be judged for what it aims to be, and not for what it cannot by possibility be. I suppose so remarkable an author as Dickens hardly ever lived who carried so little of authorship into ordinary social intercourse. Potent as the sway of his writings was over him, it expressed itself in other ways. Traces or triumphs of literary labour, displays of conversational or other personal predominance, were no part of the influence he exerted over friends. To them he was only the pleasantest of companions, with whom they forgot that he had ever written anything, and felt only the charm which a nature of such capacity for supreme enjoyment causes every one around it to enjoy. His talk was unaffected and natural, never bookish in the smallest degree. He was quite up to the average of well-read men; but as there was no ostentation of it in his writing, so neither was there in his conversation. This was so attractive because so keenly observant, and lighted up with so many touches of humorous fancy; but, with every possible thing to give relish to it, there were not many things to bring away.

Of course a book must stand or fall by its contents. Macaulay said very truly that the place of books in the public estimation is fixed, not by what is written about them, but by what is written in them. I offer no complaint of any remark made upon these volumes, but there have been some misapprehensions. Though Dickens bore outwardly so little of the impress of his writings, they formed the whole of that inner life which essentially constituted the man; and as in this respect he was actually, I have thought that his biography should endeavour to present him. The story of his books, therefore, at all stages of their progress, and of the hopes and designs connected with them, was my first care. With that view, and to give also to the memoir what was attainable of the value of autobiography, letters to myself, such as were never addressed to any other of his correspondents, and covering all the important incidents in the life to be retraced, were used with few exceptions exclusively; and though the exceptions are much more numerous in the later sections, this general plan has guided me to the end. Such were my limits indeed, that half even of those letters had to be put aside; and to have added all such others as were opened to me would have doubled the size of my book, not contributed to it a new fact of life or character, and altered materially its design. It would have been so much lively illustration added to the subject, but out of place here. The purpose here was to make Dickens the sole central figure in the scenes revived, narrator as well as principal actor; and only by the means employed could consistency or unity be given to the self-revelation, and the picture made definite and clear. It is the peculiarity of few men to be to their most intimate friend neither more nor less than they are to themselves, but this was true of Dickens; and what kind or quality of nature such intercourse expressed in him, of what strength, tenderness, and delicacy susceptible, of what steady level warmth, of what daily unresting activity of intellect, of what unbroken continuity of kindly impulse through the change and vicissitude of three-and-thirty years, the letters to myself given in these volumes could alone express. Gathered from various and differing sources, their interest could not have been as the interest of these; in which everything comprised in the successive stages of a most attractive career is written with unexampled candour and truthfulness, and set forth in definite pictures of what he saw and stood in the midst of, unblurred by vagueness or reserve. Of the charge of obtruding myself to which their publication has exposed me, I can only say that I studied nothing so hard as to suppress my own personality, and have to regret my ill success where I supposed I had even too perfectly succeeded. But we have all of us frequent occasion to say, parodying Mrs. Peachem's remark, that we are bitter bad judges of ourselves.

The other properties of these letters are quite subordinate to this main fact that the man who wrote them is thus perfectly seen in them. But they do not lessen the estimate of his genius. Admiration rises higher at the writer's mental forces, who, putting so much of himself into his work for the public, had still so much overflowing for such private intercourse. The sunny health of nature in them is manifest; its largeness, spontaneity, and manliness; but they have also that which highest intellects appreciate best. "I have read them," Lord Russell wrote to me, "with delight and pain. His heart, his imagination, his qualities of painting what is noble, and finding diamonds hidden far away, are greater here than even his works convey to me. How I lament he was not spared to us longer. I shall have a fresh grief when he dies in your volumes." Shallower people are more apt to find other things. If the bonhomie of a man's genius is obvious to all the world, there are plenty of knowing ones ready to take the shine out of the genius, to discover that after all it is not so wonderful, that what is grave in it wants depth, and the humour has something mechanical. But it will be difficult even for these to look over letters so marvellous in the art of reproducing to the sight what has once been seen, so natural and unstudied in their wit and fun, and with such a constant wellspring of sprightly runnings of speech in them, point of epigram, ingenuity of quaint expression, absolute freedom from every touch of affectation, and to believe that the source of this man's humour, or of whatever gave wealth to his genius, as other than habitual, unbounded, and resistless.

There is another consideration of some importance. Sterne did not more incessantly fall back from his works upon himself than Dickens did, and undoubtedly one of the impressions left by the letters is that of the intensity and tenacity with which he recognized, realized, contemplated, cultivated, and thoroughly enjoyed, his own individuality in even its most trivial manifestations. But if any one is led to ascribe this to self-esteem, to a narrow exclusiveness, or to any other invidious form of egotism, let him correct the impression by observing how Dickens bore himself amid the universal blazing-up of America, at the beginning and at the end of his career. Of his hearty, undisguised, and unmistakeable enjoyment of his astonishing and indeed quite bewildering popularity, there can be as little doubt as that there is not a particle of vanity in it, any more than of false modesty or grimace. While realizing fully the fact of it, and the worth of the fact, there is not in his whole being a fibre that answers falsely to the charmer's voice. Few men in the world, one fancies, could have gone through such grand displays of fireworks, not merely with so marvellous an absence of what the French call pose, but unsoiled by the smoke of a cracker. No man's strong individuality was ever so free from conceit.

Other personal incidents and habits, and especially some matters of opinion of grave importance, will help to make his character better known. Much questioning followed a brief former reference to his religion, but, inconsistent or illogical as the conduct described may be, there is nothing to correct in my statement of it, and to any doubt there still may be in regard to the essentials of his faith, answer will be afforded by a letter written on the occasion of his youngest boy leaving home in September 1868 to join his brother in Australia, than which none worthier appears in his story. "I write this note to-day because your going away is much upon my mind, and because I want you to have a few parting words from me, to think of now and then at quiet times. I need not tell you that I love you dearly, and am very, very sorry in my heart to part with you. But this life is half made up of partings, and these pains must be borne. It is my comfort and my sincere conviction that you are going to try the life for which you are best fitted. I think its freedom and wildness more suited to you than any experiment in a study or office would have been; and without that training, you could have followed no other suitable occupation. What you have always wanted until now, has been a set, steady, constant purpose. I therefore exhort you to persevere in a thorough determination to do whatever you have to do as well as you can do it. I was not so old as you are now, when I first had to win my food, and to do it out of this determination; and I have never slackened in it since. Never take a mean advantage of any one in any transaction, and never be hard upon people who are in your power. Try to do to others as you would have them do to you, and do not be discouraged if they fail sometimes. It is much better for you that they should fail in obeying the greatest rule laid down by Our Saviour than that you should. I put a New Testament among your books for the very same reasons, and with the very same hopes, that made me write an easy account of it for you, when you were a little child. Because it is the best book that ever was, or will be, known in the world; and because it teaches you the best lessons by which any human creature, who tries to be truthful and faithful to duty, can possibly be guided. As your brothers have gone away, one by one, I have written to each such words as I am now writing to you, and have entreated them all to guide themselves by this Book, putting aside the interpretations and inventions of Man. You will remember that you have never at home been harassed about religious observances, or mere formalities. I have always been anxious not to weary my children with such things, before they are old enough to form opinions respecting them. You will therefore understand the better that I now most solemnly impress upon you the truth and beauty of the Christian Religion, as it came from Christ Himself, and the impossibility of your going far wrong if you humbly but heartily respect it. Only one thing more on this head. The more we are in earnest as to feeling it, the less we are disposed to hold forth about it. Never abandon the wholesome practice of saying your own private prayers, night and morning. I have never abandoned it myself, and I know the comfort of it. I hope you will always be able to say in after life, that you had a kind father. You cannot show your affection for him so well, or make him so happy, as by doing your duty." They who most intimately knew Dickens will know best that every word there is written from his heart, and is radiant with the truth of his nature.

To the same effect, in the leading matter, he expressed himself twelve years before, and again the day before his death; replying in both cases to correspondents who had addressed him as a public writer. A clergyman, the Rev. R. H. Davies, had been struck by the hymn in the Christmas tale of the Wreck of the Golden Mary (Household Words, 1856). "I beg to thank you" Dickens answered (Christmas Eve, 1856) "for your very acceptable letter -- not the less gratifying to me because I am myself the writer you refer to. . . . There cannot be many men, I believe, who have a more humble veneration for the New Testament, or a more profound conviction of its all-sufficiency, than I have. If I am ever (as you tell me I am) mistaken on this subject, it is because I discountenance all obtrusive professions of and tradings in religion, as one of the main causes why real Christianity has been retarded in this world; and because my observation of life induces me to hold in unspeakable dread and horror, those unseemly squabbles about the letter which drive the spirit out of hundreds of thousands." In precisely similar tone, to a reader of Edwin Drood (Mr. J. M. Makeham), who had pointed out to him that his employment as a figure of speech of a line from Holy Writ in his tenth chapter might be subject to misconstruction, he wrote from Gadshill on Wednesday the eighth of June, 1870. "It would be quite inconceivable to me, but for your letter, that any reasonable reader could possibly attach a scriptural reference to that passage. . . . I am truly shocked to find that any reader can make the mistake. I have always striven in my writings to express veneration for the life and lessons of our Saviour; because I feel it; and because I re-wrote that history for my children -- every one of whom knew it, from having it repeated to them, long before they could read, and almost as soon as they could speak. But I have never made proclamation of this from the house tops."

A dislike of all display was rooted in him; and his objection to posthumous honours, illustrated by the instructions in his will, was very strikingly expressed two years before his death, when Mr. Thomas Fairbairn asked his help to a proposed recognition of Rajah Brooke's services by a memorial in Westminster Abbey. "I am very strongly impelled "(24t June, 1868) "to comply with any request of yours. But these posthumous honours of committee, subscriptions, and Westminster Abbey are so profoundly unsatisfactory in my eyes that -- plainly -- I would rather have nothing to do with them in any case. My daughter and her aunt unite with me in kindest regards to Mrs. Fairbairn, and I hope you will believe in the possession of mine until I am quietly buried without any memorial but such as I have set up in my lifetime." Asked a year later (August 1869) to say something on the inauguration of Leigh Hunt's bust at his grave in Kensal-green, he told the committee that he had a very strong objection to speech-making beside graves. "I do not expect or wish my feelings in this wise to guide other men; still, it is so serious with me, and the idea of ever being the subject of such a ceremony myself is so repugnant to my soul, that I must decline to officiate."

His aversion to every form of what is called patronage of literature was part of the same feeling. A few months earlier he had received an application for support to such a scheme from a person assuming a title to which he had no pretension, but which appeared to sanction the request. "I beg to be excused," was his reply, "from complying with the request you do me the honour to prefer, simply because I hold the opinion that there is a great deal too much patronage in England. The better the design, the less (as I think) should it seek such adventitious aid, and the more composedly should it rest on its own merits." This was the belief Southey held; it extended to the support by way of patronage given by such societies as the Literary Fund, which Southey also strongly resisted; and it survived the failure of the Guild whereby it was hoped to establish a system of self-help, under which men engaged in literary pursuits might be as proud to receive as to give. Though there was no project of his life into which he flung himself with greater eagerness than the Guild, it was not taken up by the class it was meant to benefit, and every renewed exertion more largely added to the failure. There is no room in these pages for the story, which will add its chapter some day to the vanity of human wishes; but a passage from a letter to Bulwer Lytton at its outset will be some measure of the height from which the writer fell, when all hope for what he had so set his heart upon ceased. "I do devoutly believe that this plan carried by the support which I trust will be given to it, will change the status of the literary man in England, and make a revolution in his position which no government, no power on earth but his own, could ever effect. I have implicit confidence in the scheme -- so splendidly begun -- if we carry it out with a steadfast energy. I have a strong conviction that we hold in our hands the peace and honour of men of letters for centuries to come, and that you are destined to be their best and most enduring benefactor. . . . Oh what a procession of new years may walk out of all this for the class we belong to, after we are dust."

These views about patronage did not make him more indulgent to the clamour with which it is so often invoked for the ridiculously small. "You read that life of Clare?" he wrote (15 August, 1865). "Did you ever see such preposterous exaggeration of small claims? And isn't it expressive, the perpetual prating of him in the book as the Poet? So another Incompetent used to write to the Literary Fund when I was on the committee: 'This leaves the Poet at his divine mission in a corner of the single room. The Poet's father is wiping his spectacles. The Poet's mother is weaving.' -- Yah!" He was equally intolerant of every magnificent proposal that should render the literary man independent of the bookseller, and he sharply criticized even a compromise to replace the half-profit system by one of royalties on copies sold. "What does it come to?" he remarked of an ably written pamphlet in which this was urged (10 November, 1866): "what is the worth of the remedy after all? You and I know very well that in nine cases out of ten the author is at a disadvantage with the publisher because the publisher has capital and the author has not. We know perfectly well that in nine cases out of ten money is advanced by the publisher before the book is producible -- often, long before. No young or unsuccessful author (unless he were an amateur and an independent gentleman) would make a bargain for having that royalty, to-morrow, if he could have a certain sum of money, or an advance of money. The author who could command that bargain, could command it to-morrow, or command anything else. For the less fortunate or the less able, I make bold to say -- with some knowledge of the subject, as a writer who made a publisher's fortune long before he began to share in the real profits of his books -- that if the publishers met next week, and resolved henceforth to make this royalty bargain and no other, it would be an enormous hardship and misfortune because the authors could not live while they wrote. The pamphlet seems to me just another example of the old philosophical chess-playing, with human beings for pieces. 'Don't want money.' 'Be careful to be born with means, and have a banker's account.' 'Your publisher will settle with you, at such and such long periods according to the custom of his trade, and you will settle with your butcher and baker weekly, in the meantime, by drawing cheques as I do.' 'You must be sure not to want money, and then I have worked it out for you splendidly.'"

Less has been said in this work than might perhaps have been wished, of the way in which his editorship of Household Words and of All the Year Round was discharged. It was distinguished above all by liberality; and a scrupulous consideration and delicacy, evinced by him to all his contributors, was part of the esteem in which he held literature itself. It was said in a newspaper after his death, evidently by one of his contributors, that he always brought the best out of a man by encouragement and appreciation; that he liked his writers to feel unfettered; and that his last reply to a proposition for a series of articles had been: "Whatever you see your way to, I will see mine to, and we know and understand each other well enough to make the best of these conditions." Yet the strong feeling of personal responsibility was always present in his conduct of both journals; and varied as the contents of a number might be, and widely apart the writers, a certain individuality of his own was never absent. He took immense pains (as indeed was his habit about everything) with numbers in which he had written nothing; would often accept a paper from a young or unhandy contributor, because of some single notion in it which he thought it worth rewriting for; and in this way, or by helping generally to give strength and attractiveness to the work of others, he grudged no trouble. "I have had a story," he wrote (22 June, 1856) "to hack and hew into some form for Household Words this morning, which has taken me four hours of close attention. And I am perfectly addled by its horrible want of continuity after all, and the dreadful spectacle I have made of the proofs -- which look like an inky fishing-net." A few lines from another letter will show the difficulties in which he was often involved by the plan he adopted for Christmas numbers, of putting within a framework by himself a number of stories by separate writers to whom the leading notion had before been severally sent. "As yet" (25 November, 1859), "not a story has come to me in the least belonging to the idea (the simplest in the world; which I myself described in writing, in the most elaborate manner); and every one of them turns, by a strange fatality, on a criminal trial!" It had all to be set right by him, and editorship on such terms was not a sinecure.

It had its pleasures as well as pains, however, and the greatest was when he fancied he could descry unusual merit in any writer. A letter will give one instance for illustration of many; the lady to whom it was addressed, admired under her assumed name of Holme Lee, having placed it at my disposal. (Folkestone: 14 August, 1855.) "I read your tale with the strongest emotion, and with a very exalted admiration of the great power displayed in it. Both in severity and tenderness I thought it masterly. It moved me more than I can express to you. I wrote to Mr. Wills that it had completely unsettled me for the day, and that by whomsoever it was written, I felt the highest respect for the mind that had produced it. It so happened that I had been for some days at work upon a character externally like the Aunt. And it was very strange to me indeed to observe how the two people seemed to be near to one another at first, and then turned off on their own ways so wide asunder. I told Mr. Wills that I was not sure whether I could have prevailed upon myself to present to a large audience the terrible consideration of hereditary madness, when it was reasonably probable that there must be many -- or some -- among them whom it would awfully, because personally, address. But I was not obliged to ask myself the question, inasmuch as the length of the story rendered it unavailable for Household Words. I speak of its length in reference to that publication only; relatively to what is told in it, I would not spare a page of your manuscript. Experience shows me that a story in four portions is best suited to the peculiar requirements of such a journal, and I assure you it will be an uncommon satisfaction to me if this correspondence should lead to your enrolment among its contributors. But my strong and sincere conviction of the vigour and pathos of this beautiful tale, is quite apart from, and not to be influenced by, any ulterior results. You had no existence to me when I read it. The actions and sufferings of the characters affected me by their own force and truth, and left a profound impression on me." The experience there mentioned did not prevent him from admitting into his later periodical, All the Year Round, longer serial stories, published with the names of known writers; and to his own interference with these he properly placed limits. "When one of my literary brothers does me the honour to undertake such a task, I hold that he executes it on his own personal responsibility, and for the sustainment of his own reputation; and I do not consider myself at liberty to exercise that control over his text which I claim as to other contributions." Nor had he any greater pleasure, even in these cases, than to help younger novelists to popularity. "You asked me about new writers last night. If you will read Kissing the Rod, a book I have read to-day, you will not find it hard to take an interest in the author of such a book." That was Mr. Edmund Yates in whose literary successes he took the greatest interest himself and with whom he continued to the last an intimate personal intercourse which had dated from kindness shown at a very trying time. "I think," he wrote of another of his contributors, Mr. Percy Fitzgerald, for whom he had also much personal liking, and of whose powers he thought highly, "you will find Fatal Zero a very curious bit of mental development, deepening as the story goes on into a picture not more startling than true." My mention of these pleasures of editorship shall close with what I think to him was the greatest. He gave to the world while yet the name of the writer was unknown to him, the pure and pathetic verse of Adelaide Procter. "In the spring of the year 1853 I observed a short poem among the proffered contributions, very different, as I thought, from the shoal of verses perpetually setting through the office of such a periodical." The contributions had been large and frequent under an assumed name, when at Christmas 1854 he discovered that Miss Mary Berwick was the daughter of his old and dear friend, Barry Cornwall.

But periodical writing is not without its drawbacks, and its effect on Dickens, who engaged in it largely from time to time, was observable in the increased impatience of allusion to national institutions and conventional distinctions to be found in his later books. Party divisions he cared for less and less as life moved on; but the decisive, peremptory, dogmatic style into which a habit of rapid remark on topics of the day will betray the most candid and considerate commentator, displayed its influence, perhaps not always consciously to himself, in the underlying tone of bitterness that runs through the books which followed Copperfield. The resentment against remediable wrongs is as praiseworthy in them as in the earlier tales; but the exposure of Chancery abuses, administrative incompetence, politico-economic shortcomings, and social flunkeyism, in Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Hard Times, and Our Mutual Friend would not have been made less odious by the cheerier tone that had struck with much sharper effect at prison abuses, parish wrongs, Yorkshire schools, and hypocritical humbug, in Pickwick, Oliver Twist, Nickleby, and Chuzzlewit. It will be remembered of him always that he desired to set right what was wrong, that he held no abuse to be unimprovable, that he left none of the evils named exactly as he found them, and that to influences drawn from his writings were due not a few of the salutary changes which marked the age in which he lived; but anger does not improve satire, and it gave latterly, from the causes named, too aggressive a form to what, after all, was but a very wholesome hatred of the cant that everything English is perfect, and that to call a thing un-English is to doom it to abhorred extinction.

"I have got an idea for occasional papers in Household Words called the Member for Nowhere. They will contain an account of his views, votes, and speeches; and I think of starting with his speeches on the Sunday question. He is a member of the Government of course. The moment they found such a member in the House, they felt that he must be dragged (by force, if necessary) into the Cabinet." "I give it up reluctantly," he wrote afterwards, "and with it my hope to have made every man in England feel something of the contempt for the House of Commons that I have. We shall never begin to do anything until the sentiment is universal." That was in August 1854; and the breakdown in the Crimea that winter much embittered his radicalism. "I am hourly strengthened in my old belief," he wrote (3 February, 1855), "that our political aristocracy and our tuft-hunting are the death of England. In all this business I don't see a gleam of hope. As to the popular spirit, it has come to be so entirely separated from the Parliament and Government, and so perfectly apathetic about them both, that I seriously think it a most portentous sign." A couple of months later: "I have rather a bright idea, I think, for Household Words this morning: a fine little bit of satire: an account of an Arabic MS. lately discovered very like the Arabian Nights -- called the Thousand and One Humbugs. With new versions of the best known stories." This also had to be given up, and is only mentioned as another illustration of his political discontents and of their connection with his journal-work. The influence from his early life which unconsciously strengthened them in certain social directions has been hinted at, and of his absolute sincerity in the matter there can be no doubt. The mistakes of Dickens were never such as to cast a shade on his integrity. What he said with too much bitterness, in his heart he believed; and had, alas! too much ground for believing. "A country," he wrote (27 April, 1855), "which is discovered to be in this tremendous condition as to its war affairs; with an enormous black cloud of poverty in every town which is spreading and deepening every hour, and not one man in two thousand knowing anything about, or even believing in, its existence; with a non-working aristocracy, and a silent parliament, and everybody for himself and nobody for the rest; this is the prospect, and I think it a very deplorable one." Admirably did he say, of a notorious inquiry at that time: "0 what a fine aspect of political economy it is that the noble professors of the science on the adulteration committee should have tried to make Adulteration a question of Supply and Demand! We shall never get to the Millennium, sir, by the rounds of that ladder; and I, for one, won't hold by the skirts of that Great Mogul of impostors, Master M'Culloch!" Again he wrote (30 September, 1855): "I really am serious in thinking -- and I have given as painful consideration to the subject as a man with children to live and suffer after him can honestly give to it -- that representative government is become altogether a failure with us, that the English gentilities and subserviences render the people unfit for it, and that the whole thing has broken down since that great seventeenth-century time, and has no hope in it."

With the good sense that still overruled all his farthest extremes of opinion he yet never thought of parliament for himself. He could not mend matters, and for him it would have been a false position. The people of the town of Reading and others applied to him during the first half of his life, and in the last half some of the Metropolitan constituencies. To one of the latter a reply is before me in which he says: "I declare that as to all matters on the face of this teeming earth, it appears to me that the House of Commons and Parliament altogether is become just the dreariest failure and nuisance that ever bothered this much-bothered world." To a private inquiry of apparently about the same date he replied: "I have thoroughly satisfied myself, having often had occasion to consider the question, that I can be far more usefully and independently employed in my chosen sphere of action than I could hope to be in the House of Commons; and I believe that no consideration would induce me to become a member of that extraordinary assembly." Finally, upon a reported discussion in Finsbury whether or not he should be invited to sit for that borough, he promptly wrote (November 1861): "It may save some trouble if you will kindly confirm a sensible gentleman who doubted at that meeting whether I was quite the man for Finsbury. I am not at all the sort of man; for I believe nothing would induce me to offer myself as a parliamentary representative of that place, or of any other under the sun." The only direct attempt to join a political agitation was his speech at Drury Lane for administrative reform, and he never repeated it. But every movement for practical social reforms, to obtain more efficient sanitary legislation, to get the best compulsory education practicable for the poor, and to better the condition of labouring people, he assisted earnestly to his last hour; and the readiness with which he took the chair at meetings having such objects in view, the help he gave to important societies working in beneficent ways for themselves or the community, and the power and attractiveness of his oratory, made him one of the forces of the time. His speeches derived singular charm from the buoyancy of his perfect self-possession, and to this he added the advantages of a person and manner which had become as familiar and as popular as his books. The most miscellaneous assemblages listened to him as to a personal friend.

Two incidents at the close of his life will show what upon these matters his latest opinions were. At the great Liverpool dinner after his country readings in 1869, over which Lord Dufferin eloquently presided, he replied to a remonstrance from Lord Houghton against his objection to entering public life, that when he took literature for his profession he intended it to be his sole profession; that at that time it did not appear to him to be so well understood in England, as in some other countries, that literature was a dignified calling by which any man might stand or fall; and he resolved that in his person at least it should stand "by itself, of itself, and for itself"; a bargain which "no Consideration on earth would now induce him to break." Here however he probably failed to see the entire meaning of Lord Houghton's regret, which would seem to have been meant to say, in more polite form, that to have taken some part in public affairs might have shown him the difficulty in a free state of providing remedies very swiftly for evils of long growth. A half reproach from the same quarter for alleged unkindly sentiments to the House of Lords, he repelled with vehement warmth; insisting on his great regard for individual members, and declaring that there was no man in England he respected more in his public capacity, loved more in his private capacity, or from whom he had received more remarkable proofs of his honour and love of literature, than Lord Russell. In Birmingham shortly after, discoursing on education to the members of the Midland Institute, he told them they should value self-improvement, not because it led to fortune but because it was good and right in itself; counselled them in regard to it that Genius was not worth half so much as Attention, or the art of taking an immense deal of pains, which he declared to be, in every study and pursuit, the one sole, safe, certain, remunerative quality; and summed up briefly his political belief. "My faith in the people governing is, on the whole, infinitesimal; my faith in the People governed is, on the whole, illimitable." This he afterwards (January 1870) explained to mean that he had very little confidence in the people who govern us ("with a small p"), and very great confidence in the People whom they govern ("with a large P"). "My confession being shortly and elliptically stated, was, with no evil intention I am absolutely sure, in some quarters inversely explained." He added that his political opinions had already been not obscurely stated in an "idle book or two"; and he reminded his hearers that he was the inventor "of a certain fiction called the Circumlocution Office, said to be very extravagant, but which I do see rather frequently quoted as if there were grains of truth at the bottom of it." It may nevertheless be suspected, with some confidence, that the construction of his real meaning was not far wrong which assumed it as the condition precedent to his illimitable faith, that the people, even with the big P, should be "governed." It was his constant complaint that, being much in want of government, they had only sham governors; and he had returned from his second American visit, as he came back from his first, indisposed to believe that the political problem had been solved in the land of the free. From the pages of his last book, the bitterness of allusion so frequent in the books just named was absent altogether; and his old unaltered wish to better what was bad in English institutions, carried with it no desire to replace them by new ones.

In a memoir published shortly after his death there appeared this statement. For many years past Her Majesty the Queen has taken the liveliest interest in Mr. Dickens's literary labours and has frequently expressed a desire for an interview with him. . . . This interview took place on the 9th of April, when he received her commands to attend her at Buckingham Palace and was introduced by his friend Mr. Arthur Helps, the clerk of the Privy Council. . . . Since our author's decease the journal with which he was formerly connected has said: 'The Queen was ready to confer any distinction which Mr. Dickens's known views and tastes would permit him to accept, and after more than one title of honour had been declined Her Majesty desired that he would, at least, accept a place in her Privy Council.'" As nothing is too absurd for belief, it will not be superfluous to say that Dickens knew of no such desire on her Majesty's part, and though all the probabilities are on the side of his un willingness to accept any title or place of honour, certainly none was offered to him.

It had been hoped to obtain her Majesty's name for the Jerrold performances in 1857, but, being a public effort in behalf of an individual, assent would have involved "either perpetual compliance or the giving of perpetual offence." Her Majesty however then sent, through Colonel Phipps, a request to Dickens that he would select a room in the palace, do what he would with it, and let her see the play there. "I said to Col. Phipps thereupon" (21 June, 1857) "that the idea was not quite new to me; that I did not feel easy as to the social position of my daughters, etc., at a Court under those circumstances; and that I would beg her Majesty to excuse me, if any other way of her seeing the play could be devised. To this Phipps said he had not thought of the objection, but had not the slightest doubt I was right. I then proposed that the Queen should come to the Gallery of Illustration a week before the subscription night and should have the room entirely at her own disposal, and should invite her own company. This, with the good sense that seems to accompany her good nature on all occasions, she resolved within a few hours to do." The effect of the performance was a great gratification. "My gracious sovereign" (5 July, 1857) "was so pleased that she sent round begging me to go and see her and accept her thanks. I replied that I was in my Farce dress, and must beg to be excused. Whereupon she sent again, saying that the dress 'could not be so ridiculous as that,' and repeating the request. I sent my duty in reply, but again hoped her Majesty would have the kindness to excuse my presenting myself in a costume and appearance that were not my own. I was mighty glad to think, when I woke this morning, that I had carried the point."

The opportunity of presenting himself in his own costume did not arrive till the year of his death, another effort meanwhile made having proved also unsuccessful. "I was put into a state of much perplexity on Sunday" (30 March, 1858). "I don't know who had spoken to my informant, but it seems that the Queen is bent upon hearing the Carol read, and has expressed her desire to bring it about without offence; hesitating about the manner of it, in consequence of my having begged to be excused from going to her when she sent for me after the Frozen Deep. I parried the thing as well as I could; but being asked to be prepared with a considerate and obliging answer, as it was known the request would be preferred, I said, 'Well! I supposed Col. Phipps would speak to me about it, and if it were he who did so, I should assure him of my desire to meet any wish of her Majesty's, and should express my hope that she would indulge me by making one of some audience or other -- for I thought an audience necessary to the effect.' Thus it stands; but it bothers me." The difficulty remained, but her Majesty's continued interest in the Carol was alleged to have been shown by her purchase of it with Dickens's autograph at Thackeray's sale; and at last there came, in the year of his death, the interview with the author whose popularity dated from her accession, whose books had entertained larger numbers of her subjects than those of any other contemporary writer, and whose genius will be counted among the glories of her reign. Accident led to it. Dickens had brought with him from America some large and striking photographs of the Battle Fields of the Civil War, which the Queen, having heard of them through Mr. Helps, expressed a wish to look at. Dickens sent them at once; and went afterwards to Buckingham Palace with Mr. Helps, at her Majesty's request, that she might see and thank him in person.

It was in the middle of March, not April. "Come now, sir, this is an interesting matter; do favour us with it," was the cry of Johnson's friends after his conversation with George the Third; and again and again the story was told to listeners ready to make marvels of its commonplaces. But the romance even of the eighteenth century in such a matter is clean gone out of the nineteenth. Suffice it that the Queen's kindness left a strong impression on Dickens. Upon her Majesty's regret not to have heard his readings, Dickens intimated that they were become now a thing of the past, while he acknowledged gratefully her Majesty's compliment in regard to them. She spoke to him of the impression made upon her by his acting in the Frozen Deep; and on his stating, in reply to her inquiry, that the little play had not been very successful on the public stage, said this did not surprise her, since it no longer had the advantage of his performance in it. Then arose a mention of some alleged discourtesy shown to Prince Arthur in New York, and he begged her Majesty not to confound the true Americans of that city with the Fenian portion of its Irish population; on which she made the quiet comment that she was convinced the people about the Prince had made too much of the affair. He related to her the story of President Lincoln's dream on the night before his murder. She asked him to give her his writings, and could she have them that afternoon? but he begged to be allowed to send a bound copy. Her Majesty then took from a table her own book upon the Highlands, with an autograph inscription "to Charles Dickens"; and, saying that the "humblest" of writers would be ashamed to offer it to "one of the greatest" but that Mr. Helps, being asked to give it, had remarked that it would be valued most from herself, closed the interview by placing it in his hands. "Sir," said Johnson, "they may say what they like of the young King, but Louis the Fourteenth could not have shown a more refined courtliness"; and Dickens was not disposed to say less of the young king's granddaughter. That the grateful impression sufficed to carry him into new ways, I had immediate proof, coupled with intimation of the still surviving strength of old memories. "As my sovereign desires " (26 March, 1870) "that I should attend the next levee, don't faint with amazement if you see my name in that unwonted connection. I have scrupulously kept myself free for the second of April, in case you should be accessible." The name appeared at the levee accordingly, his daughter was at the drawing-room that followed, and Lady Houghton writes to me: "I never saw Mr. Dickens more agreeable than at a dinner at our house about a fortnight before his death, when he met the King of the Belgians and the Prince of Wales at the special desire of the latter." Up to nearly the hour of dinner, it was doubtful if he could go. He was suffering from the distress in his foot; and on arrival at the house, being unable to ascend the stairs, had to be assisted at once into the dining-room.

The friend who had accompanied Dickens to Buckingham Palace, writing of him after his death, briefly but with admirable knowledge and taste, said that he ardently desired, and confidently looked forward to, a time when there would be a more intimate union than exists at present between the different classes in the state, a union that should embrace alike the highest and the lowest. This perhaps expresses, as well as a few words could, what certainly was always at his heart; and he might have come to think it, when his life was closing, more possible of realisation some day than he ever thought it before. The hope of it was on his friend Talfourd's lips when he died, and his own most jarring opinions might at last have joined in the effort to bring about such reconcilement. More on this head it needs not to say. Whatever may be the objection to special views held by him, he would, wanting even the most objection able, have been less himself. It was by something of the despot seldom separable from genius, joined to a truthfulness of nature belonging to the highest characters, that men themselves of a rare faculty were attracted to find in Dickens what Sir Arthur Helps has described, "a man to confide in, and look up to as a leader, in the midst of any great peril."

Mr. Layard also held that opinion of him. He was at Gadshill during the Christmas before Dickens went for the last time to America, and witnessed one of those scenes, not infrequent there, in which the master of the house was pre-eminently at home. They took generally the form of cricket matches; but this was, to use the phrase of his friend Bobadil, more popular and diffused; and of course he rose with the occasion. "The more you want of the master, the more you'll find in him," said the gasman employed about his readings. "Footraces for the villagers," he wrote on Christmas Day, "come off in my field to-morrow. We have been all hard at work all day, building a course, making countless flags, and I don't know what else. Layard is chief commissioner of the domestic police. The country police predict an immense crowd." There were between two and three thousand people; and somehow, by a magical kind of influence, said Layard, Dickens seemed to have bound every creature present, upon what honour the creature had, to keep order. What was the special means used or the art employed, it might have been difficult to say; but this was the result. Writing on New Year's Day, Dickens himself described it to me. "We had made a Very pretty course, and taken great pains. Encouraged by the cricket matches experience, I allowed the landlord of the Falstaff to have a drinking-booth on the ground. Not to seem to dictate or distrust, I gave all the prizes (about ten pounds in the aggregate) in money. The great mass of the crowd were labouring men of all kinds, soldiers, sailors, and navvies. They did not, between half-past ten, when we began, and sunset, displace a rope or a stake; and they left every barrier and flag as neat as they found it. There was not a dispute, and there was no drunkenness whatever. I made them a little speech from the lawn, at the end of the games, saying that please God we would do it again next year. They cheered most lustily and dispersed. The road between this and Chatham was like a Fair all day; and surely it is a fine thing to get such perfect behaviour out of a reckless seaport town. Among other oddities we had A Hurdle Race for Strangers. One man (he came in second) ran 120 yards and leaped over ten hurdles in twenty seconds, with a pipe in his mouth, and smoking it all the time. 'If it hadn't been for your pipe,' I said to him at the winning-post, 'you would have been first.' 'I beg your pardon sir,' he answered, 'but if it hadn't been for my pipe, I should have been nowhere.'" The close of the letter had this rather memorable announcement. "The sale of the Christmas number was, yesterday evening, 255,380." Would it be absurd to say that there is something in such a vast popularity in itself electrical, and, though founded on books, felt where books never reach?

It is also very noticeable that what would have constituted the strength of Dickens if he had entered public life, the attractive as well as the commanding side of his nature, was that which kept him most within the circle of home pursuits and enjoyments. This "better part" of him had now long survived that sorrowful period of 1857-8, when, for reasons which I have not thought myself free to suppress, a vaguely disturbed feeling for the time took possession of him, and occurrences led to his adoption of other pursuits than those to which till then he had given himself exclusively. It was a sad interval in his life; but, though changes incident to the new occupation then taken up remained, and with them many adverse influences which brought his life prematurely to a close, it was, with any reference to that feeling, an interval only; and the dominant impression of the later years, as of the earlier, takes the marvellously domestic home-loving shape in which also the strength of his genius is found. It will not do to draw round any part of such a man too hard a line, and the writer must not be charged with inconsistency who says that Dickens's childish sufferings, and the sense they burnt into him of the misery of loneliness and a craving for joys of home, though they led to what was weakest in him, led also to what was greatest. It was his defect as well as his merit in maturer life not to be able to live alone. When the fancies of his novels were upon him and he was under their restless influence, though he often talked of shutting himself up in out of the way solitary places, he never went anywhere unaccompanied by members of his family. His habits of daily living he carried with him wherever he went. In Albaro and Genoa, at Lausanne and Geneva, in Paris and Boulogne, his ways were as entirely those of home as in London and Broadstairs. If it is the property of a domestic nature to be personally interested in every detail, the smallest as the greatest, of the four walls within which one lives, then no man had it so essentially as Dickens. No man was so inclined naturally to derive his happiness from home concerns. Even the kind of interest in a house which is commonly confined to women, he was full of. Not to speak of changes of importance, there was not an additional hook put up wherever he inhabited, without his knowledge, or otherwise than as part of some small ingenuity of his own. Nothing was too minute for his personal superintendence. Whatever might be in hand, theatricals for the little children, entertainments for those of larger growth, cricket matches, dinners, field sports, from the first New Year's Eve dance in Doughty Street to the last musical party in Hyde Park Place, he was the centre and soul of it. He did not care to take measure of its greater or less importance. It was enough that a thing was to do, to be worth his while to do it as if there was nothing else to be done in the world. The cry of Laud and Wentworth was his, alike in small and great things; and to no man was more applicable the German "Echt," which expresses reality as well as thoroughness. The usual result followed, in all his homes, of an absolute reliance on him for everything. Under every difficulty, and in every emergency, his was the encouraging influence, the bright and ready help. In illness, whether of the children or any of the servants, he was better than a doctor. He was so full of resource, for which everyone eagerly turned to him, that his mere presence in the sick-room was a healing influence, as if nothing could fail if he were only there. So that at last, when, all through the awful night which preceded his departure, he lay senseless in the room where he had fallen, the stricken and bewildered ones who tended him found it impossible to believe that what they saw before them alone was left, or to shut out wholly the strange wild hope that he might again be suddenly among them like himself, and revive what they could not connect, even then, with death's despairing helplessness.

It was not a feeling confined to the relatives whom he had thus taught to have such exclusive dependence on him. Among the consolations addressed to those mourners came words from one whom in life he had most honoured, and who also found it difficult to connect him with death, or to think that he should never see that blithe face any more. "It is almost thirty years," Mr. Carlyle wrote, "since my acquaintance with him began; and on my side, I may say, every new meeting ripened it into more and more clear discernment of his rare and great worth as a brother man; a most cordial, sincere, clear-sighted, quietly decisive, just and loving man: till at length he had grown to such a recognition with me as I have rarely had for any man of my time. This I can tell you three, for it is true and will be welcome to you: to others less concerned I had as soon not speak on such a subject." "I am profoundly sorry for you," Mr. Carlyle at the same time wrote to me; "and indeed for myself and for us all. It is an event world-wide; a unique of talents suddenly extinct; and has 'eclipsed,' we too may say, 'the harmless gaiety of nations.' No death since 1866 has fallen on me with such a stroke. No literary man's hitherto ever did. The good, the gentle, high-gifted, ever-friendly, noble Dickens -- every inch of him an Honest Man."

Of his ordinary habits of activity I have spoken, and they were doubtless carried too far. In youth it was all well, but he did not make allowance for years. This has had abundant illustration, but will admit of a few words more. To all men who do much, rule and order are essential; method in everything was Dickens's peculiarity; and between breakfast and luncheon, with rare exceptions, was his time of work. But his daily walks were less of rule than of enjoyment and necessity. In the midst of his Writing they were indispensable, and especially, as it has often been shown, at night. Mr. Sala is an authority on London streets, and, in the eloquent and generous tribute he was among the first to offer to his memory, has described himself encountering Dickens in the oddest places and most inclement weather, in Ratcliffe Highway, on Haverstock Hill, on Camberwell Green, in Gray's Inn Lane, in the Wandsworth Road, at Hammersmith Broadway, in Norton Folgate, and at Kensal New Town. "A hansom whirled you by the Bell and Horns at Brompton, and there he was striding, as with seven-league boots, seemingly in the direction of North End, Fulham. The Metropolitan Railway sent you forth at Lisson Grove, and you met him plodding speedily towards the Yorkshire Stingo. He was to be met rapidly skirting the grim brick wall of the prison in Coldbath Fields, or trudging along the Seven Sisters Road at Holloway, or bearing, under a steady press of sail, underneath Highgate Archway, or pursuing the even tenor of his way up the Vauxhall Bridge Road." But he was equally at home in the intricate byways of narrow streets as in the lengthy thoroughfares. Wherever there was "matter to be heard and learned," in back streets behind Holborn, in Borough courts and passages, in City wharfs or alleys, about the poorer lodging-houses, in prisons, workhouses, ragged-schools, police-courts, rag-shops, chandlers' shops, and all sorts of markets for the poor he carried his keen observation and untiring study. "I was among the Italian Boys from 12 to 2 this morning," says one of his letters. "I am going out to-night in their boat with the Thames Police," says another. It was the same when he was in Italy or Switzerland, as we have seen; and when, in later life, he was in French provincial places. "I walk miles away into the country, and you can scarcely imagine by what deserted ramparts and silent little cathedral closes, or how I pass over rusty drawbridges and stagnant ditches out of and into the decaying town." For several consecutive years I accompanied him every Christmas Eve to see the marketings for Christmas down the road from Aldgate to Bow; and he had a surprising fondness for wandering about in poor neighbourhoods on Christmas Day, past the areas of shabby genteel houses in Somers or Kentish Towns, and watching the dinners preparing or coming in. But the temptations of his country life led him on to excesses in walking. "Coming in just now," he wrote in his third year at Gadshill, "after twelve miles in the rain, I was so wet that I have had to change and get my feet into warm water before I could do anything." Again, two years later: "A south-easter blowing enough to cut one's throat. I am keeping the house for my cold, as I did yesterday. But the remedy is so new to me, that I doubt if it does me half the good of a dozen miles in the snow. So, if this mode of treatment fails to-day, I shall try that to-morrow." He tried it perhaps too often. In the winter of 1865 he first had the attack in his left foot which materially disabled his walking-power for the rest of his life. He supposed its cause to be overwalking in the snow, and that this had aggravated the suffering is very likely; but, read by the light of what followed, it may now be presumed to have had more serious origin. It recurred at intervals, before America, without any such provocation; in America it came back, not when he had most been walking in the snow, but when nervous exhaustion was at its worst with him; after America, it became prominent on the eve of the occurrence at Preston which first revealed the progress that disease had been making in the vessels of the brain; and in the last year of his life, as will immediately be seen, it was a constant trouble and most intense suffering, extending then gravely to his left hand also, which had before been only slightly affected.

It was from a letter of 21 February, 1865, I first learnt that he was suffering tortures from a "frost-bitten" foot, and ten days later brought more detailed account. "I got frostbitten by walking continually in the snow, and getting wet in the feet daily. My boots hardened and softened, hardened and softened, my left foot swelled, and I still forced the boot on; sat in it to write, half the day; walked in it through the snow, the other half; forced the boot on again next morning; sat and walked again; and being accustomed to all sorts of changes in my feet, took no heed. At length, going out as usual, I fell lame on the walk, and had to limp home dead lame, through the snow, for the last three miles -- to the remarkable terror, by the by, of the two big dogs." The dogs were Turk and Linda. Boisterous companions as they always were, the sudden change in him brought them to a standstill; and for the rest of the journey they crept by the side of their master as slowly as he did, never turning from him. He was greatly moved by the circumstance, and often referred to it. Turk's look upward to his face was one of sympathy as well as fear, he said; but Linda was wholly struck down.

The saying in his letter to his youngest son that he was to do to others what he would that they should do to him, without being discouraged if they did not do it, and his saying to the Birmingham people that they were to attend to self-improvement not because it led to fortune, but because it was right; express a principle that at all times guided himself. Capable of strong attachments, he was not what is called an effusive man; but he had no half-heartedness in any of his likings. The one thing entirely hateful to him, was indifference. "I give my heart to very few people but I would sooner love the most implacable man in the world than a careless one, who, if my place were empty to-morrow, would rub on and never miss me." There was nothing he more repeatedly told his children than that they were not to let indifference in others appear to justify it. in themselves. "All kind things," he wrote, "must be done on their own account, and for their own sake, and without the least reference to any gratitude." Again he laid it down, while he was making some exertion for the sake of a dead friend that did not seem likely to win proper appreciation from those it was to serve. "As to gratitude from the family -- as I have often remarked to you, one does a generous thing because it is right and pleasant, and not for any response it is to awaken in others." The rule in another form frequently appears in his letters; and it was enforced in many ways upon all who were dear to him. It is worth while to add his comment on a regret of a member of his family at an act of self-devotion supposed to have been thrown away: "Nothing of what is nobly done can ever be lost." It is also to be noted as in the same spirit, that it was not the loud but the silent heroisms he most admired. Of Sir John Richardson, one of the few who have lived in our days entitled to the name of a hero, he wrote from Paris in 1856. "Lady Franklin sent me the whole of that Richardson memoir; and I think Richardson's manly friendship, and love of Franklin, one of the noblest things I ever knew in my life. It makes one's heart beat high, with a sort of sacred joy." (It is the feeling as strongly awakened by the earlier exploits of the same gallant man to be found at the end of Franklin's first voyage, and never to be read without the most exalted emotion.) It was for something higher than mere literature he valued the most original writer and powerful teacher of the age. "I would go at all times farther to see Carlyle than any man alive."

Of his attractive points in society and conversation I have particularised little, because in truth they were himself. Such as they were, they were never absent from him. His acute sense of enjoyment gave such relish to his social qualities that probably no man, not a great wit or a professed talker, ever left, in leaving any social gathering, a blank so impossible to fill up. In quick and varied sympathy, in ready adaptation to every whim or humour, in help to any mirth or game, he stood for a dozen men. If one may say such a thing, he seemed to be always the more himself for being somebody else, for continually putting off his personality. His versatility made him unique. What he said once of his own love of acting, applied to him equally when at his happiest among friends he loved; sketching a character, telling a story, acting a charade, taking part in a game; turning into comedy an incident of the day, describing the last good or bad thing he had seen, reproducing in quaint, tragical, or humorous form and figure, some part of the passionate life with which all his being overflowed. "Assumption has charms for me so delightful -- I hardly know for how many wild reasons -- that I feel a loss of Oh I can't say what exquisite foolery, when I lose a chance of being someone not in the remotest degree like myself." How it was, that from one of such boundless resource in contributing to the pleasure of his friends, there was yet, as I have said, so comparatively little to bring away, may be thus explained. But it has been also seen that no one at times said better things, and to happy examples formerly given I will add one or two of a kind he more rarely indulged. "He is below par on the Exchange," a friend remarked of a notorious puffing actor; "he doesn't stand well at Lloyd's." "Yet no one stands so well with the underwriters," said Dickens; a pun that Swift would have envied. "I call him an incubus!" said a non-literary friend, at a loss to express the boredom inflicted on him by a popular author. "Pen-and-ink-ubus, you mean," interposed Dickens. So, when Stanfield said of his midshipman son, then absent on his first cruise, "your boy has got his sea-legs on by this time!" "I don't know," remarked Dickens, "about his getting his sea-legs on; but if I may judge from his Writing, he certainly has not got his A B C legs on."

Other agreeable pleasantries might be largely cited from his letters. "An old priest" (he wrote from France in 1862), "the express image of Frédéric Lemaître got up for the part, and very cross with the toothache, told me in a railway carriage the other day, that we had no antiquities in heretical England. 'None at all,' I said. 'You have some ships, however?' 'Yes; a few.' 'Are they strong?' 'Well,' said I, 'your trade is spiritual, my father: ask the ghost of Nelson.' A French captain who was in the carriage was immensely delighted with this small joke. I met him at Calais yesterday going somewhere with a detachment; and he said -- Pardon! But he had been so limited as to suppose an Englishman incapable of that bonhommie!" In humouring a joke he was excellent, both in letters and talk; and for this kind of enjoyment his least important little notes are often worth preserving. Take one small instance. So freely had he admired a tale told by his friend and solicitor Mr. Frederic Ouvry, that he had to reply to a humorous proposal for publication of it, in his own manner, in his own periodical. "Your modesty is equal to your merit. . . . I think your way of describing that rustic courtship in middle life, quite matchless. . . . A cheque for 1,000 is lying with the publisher. We would willingly make it more, but that we find our law charges so exceedingly heavy." His letters have also examples now and then of what he called his conversational triumphs. "I have distinguished myself" (28 April, 1861) "in two respects lately. I took a young lady, unknown, down to dinner, and, talking to her about the Bishop of Durham's Nepotism in the matter of Mr. Cheese, I found she was Mrs. Cheese. And I expatiated to the member for Marylebone, Lord Fermoy, generally conceiving him to be an Irish member, on the contemptible character of the Marylebone constituency and Marylebone representation."

Among his good things should not be omitted his telling of a ghost story. He had something of a hankering after them, as the readers of his briefer pieces will know; and such was his interest generally in things supernatural, that, but for the strong restraining power of his common sense, he might have fallen into the follies of spiritualism. As it was, no man was readier to apply sharp tests to such a ghost narrative as will be found, for example, in the 125th number of All the Year Round, which before its publication both Mr. Layard and myself saw at Cadshill, and identified as one related by Lord Lytton. It was published in September, and a day or two afterwards Dickens wrote to Lytton: "The artist himself who is the hero of that story has sent me in black and white his own account of the whole experience, so very original, so very extraordinary, so very far beyond the version I have published, that all other like stories turn pale before it." The ghost thus reinforced came out in the number published on 5 October; and the reader who cares to turn to it, and compare what Dickens in the interval (17 September) wrote to myself, will have some measure of his readiness to believe in such things. "Upon the publication of the ghost story, up has started the portrait-painter who saw the phantoms! He had been, it seems, engaged to write his adventure elsewhere as a story for Christmas, and not unnaturally supposed, when he saw himself anticipated by us, that there had been treachery at his printers'. 'In particular,' says he, 'how else was it possible that the date, the 13th of September, could have been got at? For I never told the date, until I wrote it.' Now, my story had NO DATE; but seeing when I looked over the proof, the great importance of having a date, I (C. D.) wrote in, unconsciously, the exact date on the margin of the proof!" The reader will remember the Doncaster race story; and to other like illustrations of the subject already given, may be added this dream. "Here is a curious case at first-band" (30 May, 1863). "On Thursday night in last week being at the office here, I dreamed that I saw a lady in a red shawl with her back towards me (whom I supposed to be E.). On her turning round I found that I didn't know her, and she said 'I am Miss Napier.' All the time I was dressing next morning, I thought -- What a preposterous thing to have so very distinct a dream about nothing! and why Miss Napier? for I never heard of any Miss Napier. That same Friday night I read. After the reading, came into my retiring-room, Mary Boyle and her brother, and the Lady in the red shawl whom they present as 'Miss Napier'! These are all the circumstances, exactly told."

Another kind of dream has had previous record, with no superstition to build itself upon but the loving devotion to one tender memory. With longer or shorter intervals this was with him all his days. Never from his waking thoughts was the recollection altogether absent; and though the dream would leave him for a time, it unfailingly came back. It was the feeling of his life that always had a mastery over him. What he said on the sixth anniversary of the death of his sister in law, that friend of his youth whom he had made his ideal of all moral excellence, he might have said as truly after twenty six years more; for in the very year before he died, the influence was potently upon him. "She is so much in my thoughts at all times, especially when I am successful, and have greatly prospered in anything, that the recollection of her is an essential part of my being, and is as inseparable from my existence as the beating of my heart is." Through later troubled years, whatever was worthiest in him found in this an ark of safety; and it was the nobler part of his being which had thus become also the essential. It gave to success what success by itself had no power to give; and nothing could consist with it, for any length of time, that was not of good report and pure. What more could I say that was not better said from the pulpit of the Abbey where he rests?

"He whom we mourn was the friend of mankind, a philanthropist in the true sense; the friend of youth, the friend of the poor, the enemy of every form of meanness and oppression. I am not going to attempt to draw a portrait of him. Men of genius are different from what we suppose them to be. They have greater pleasures and greater pains, greater affections and greater temptations, than the generality of mankind, and they can never be altogether understood by their fellow-men. . . . But we feel that a light has gone out, that the world is darker to us, when they depart. There are so very few of them that we cannot afford to lose them one by one, and we look vainly round for others who may supply their places. He whose loss we now mourn occupied a greater space than any other writer in the minds of Englishmen during the last thirty-three years. We read him, talked about him, acted him; we laughed with him; we were roused by him to a consciousness of the misery of others, and to a pathetic interest in human life. Works of fiction, indirectly, are great instructors of this world; and we can hardly exaggerate the debt of gratitude which is due to a writer who has led us to sympathise with these good, true, sincere, honest English characters of ordinary life, and to laugh at the egotism, the hypocrisy, the false respectability of religious professors and others. To another great humorist who lies in this church the words have been applied that his death eclipsed the gaiety of nations. But of him who has been recently taken I would rather say, in humbler language, that no one was ever so much beloved or so much mourned."



BOOK TWELFTH: THE CLOSE (1870)

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