John Forster

The Life of Charles Dickens

BOOK SEVENTH: CONTINENT REVISITED (1852-6)

  1. "BLEAK HOUSE" AND "HARD TIMES" (1852-6)
  2. HOME INCIDENTS (1853-4-5)
  3. IN SWITZERLAND AND ITALY (1853)
  4. THREE SUMMERS AT BOULOGNE (1853, 1854, and 1856)
  5. RESIDENCE IN PARIS (1855-6)






I

"BLEAK HOUSE" AND "HARD TIMES"
1852-6

These books were written between 1851 and 1854, when for a portion of the time the author was living abroad; and, reserving to another section the home life that filled the same interval, some account of both novels will be given here. Little Dorrit, though begun in Paris, was not finished until some time after the Continental residence had closed, and belongs therefore to a later division. David Copperfield had been written between the opening of 1849 and October 1850, its publication covering that time; and its sale, which has since taken that lead of all his books but Pickwick, never then exceeding twenty-five thousand. But though it remained thus steady for the time, the popularity of the book added largely to the sale of its successor. Bleak House was begun in his new abode of Tavistock House at the end of November 1851; was carried on, amid the excitements of the Guild performances, through the following year; was finished at Boulogne in the August of 1853; and was dedicated to "his friends and companions in the Guild of Literature and Art." Hard Times was planned and begun in the winter of 1853, amid the busy preparation of Christmas theatricals for his children to be presently described; was finished at Boulogne in the summer of 1854; and was dedicated to Carlyle.

The autobiographical form of Copperfield was in some respects continued in Bleak House by means of extracts from the personal relation of its heroine. But the distinction between the narrative of David and the diary of Esther, like that between Micawber and Skimpole, marks the superiority of the first to its successor. To represent a storyteller as giving the most surprising vividness to manners, motives, and characters of which we are to believe her, all the time, as artlessly unconscious, as she is also entirely ignorant of the good qualities in herself she is naïvely revealing in the story, was a difficult enterprise, full of hazard in any case, not worth success, and certainly not successful. Ingenuity is more apparent than freshness, the invention is neither easy nor unstrained, and though the old marvellous power over the real is again abundantly manifest, there is some alloy of the artificial. Nor can this be said of Esther's relation without some general application to the book of which it forms so large a part. The novel is nevertheless, in the very important particular of construction, perhaps the best thing done by Dickens.

In his later writings he had been assiduously cultivating this essential of his art, and here he brought it very nearly to perfection. Of the tendency of composing a story piecemeal to induce greater concern for the part than for the whole, he had been always conscious; but I remember a remark also made by him to the effect that to read a story in parts had no less a tendency to prevent the readers' noticing how thoroughly a work so presented might be calculated for perusal as a whole. Look back from the last to the first page of the present novel, and not even in the highest examples of this kind of elaborate care will it be found that event leads more closely to event, or that the separate incidents have been planned with a more studied consideration of the bearing they are severally to have on the general result. Nothing is introduced at random, everything tends to the catastrophe, the various lines of the plot converge and fit to its centre, and to the larger interest all the rest is irresistibly drawn. The heart of the story is a Chancery suit. On this the plot hinges; and on incidents connected with it, trivial or important, the passion and suffering turn exclusively. Chance words, or the deeds of chance people, to appearance irrelevant, are found everywhere influencing the course taken by a train of incidents of which the issue is life or death, happiness or misery, to men and women perfectly unknown to them, and to whom they are unknown. Attorneys of all possible grades, law clerks of every conceivable kind, the copyist, the law stationer, the usurer, all sorts of money lenders, suitors of every description, haunters of the Chancery court and their victims, are for ever moving round about the lives of the chief persons in the tale, and drawing them on insensibly, but very certainly, to the issues that await them. Even the fits of the little law-stationer's servant help directly in the chain of small things that lead indirectly to Lady Dedlock's death. One strong chain of interest holds together Chesney Wold and its inmates, Bleak House and the Jarndyce group, Chancery with its sorry and sordid neighbourhood. The characters multiply as the tale advances, but in each the drift is the same. "There's no great odds betwixt my noble and learned brother and myself," says the grotesque proprietor of the rag and bottle shop under the wall of Lincoln's-inn, "they call me Lord Chancellor and my shop Chancery, and we both of us grub on in a muddle." Edax rerum the motto of both, but with a difference. Out of the lumber of the shop emerge slowly some fragments of evidence by which the chief actors in the story are sensibly affected, and to which Chancery itself might have succumbed if its devouring capacities had been less complete. But by the time there is found among the lumber the will which puts all to rights in the Jarndyce suit, it is found to be too late to put anything to rights. The costs have swallowed up the estate, and there is an end of the matter.

What in one sense is a merit however may in others be a defect, and this book has suffered by the very completeness with which its Chancery moral is worked out. The didactic in Dickens's earlier novels derived its strength from being merely incidental to interest of a higher and more permanent kind, and not in a small degree from the playful sportiveness and fancy that lighted up its graver illustrations. Here it is of sterner stuff, too little relieved, and all-pervading. The fog so marvellously painted in the opening chapter has hardly cleared away when there arises, in Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, as bad an atmosphere to breathe in; and thenceforward to the end, clinging round the people of the story as they come or go, in dreary mist or in heavy cloud, it is rarely absent. Dickens has himself described his purpose to have been to dwell on the romantic side of familiar things. But it is the romance of discontent and misery, with a very restless dissatisfied moral, and is too much brought about by agencies disagreeable and sordid. The Guppys, Weevles, Snagsbys, Chadbands, Krooks, and Smallweeds, even the Kenges, Vholeses, and Tulkinghorns, are much too real to be pleasant; and the necessity becomes urgent for the reliefs and contrasts of a finer humanity. These last are not wanting; yet it must be said that we hardly escape, even with them, into the old freedom and freshness of the author's imaginative worlds, and that the too conscious unconsciousness of Esther flings something of a shade on the radiant goodness of John Jarndyce himself. Nevertheless there are very fine delineations in the story. The crazed little Chancery lunatic, Miss Flite; the loud-voiced tender-souled Chancery victim, Gridley; the poor good-hearted youth, Richard, broken up in life and character by the suspense of the Chancery suit on whose success he is to "begin the world," believing himself to be saving money when he is stopped from squandering it, and thinking that having saved it he is entitled to fling it away; trooper George, with the Bagnets and their household, where the most ludicrous points are more forcible for the pathetic touches underlying them; the Jellyby interior, and its philanthropic strongminded mistress, placid and smiling amid a household muddle out-muddling Chancery itself; the model of deportment, Turveydrop the elder, whose relations to the young people, whom he so superbly patronizes by being dependent on them for everything, touch delightfully some subtle points of truth; the inscrutable Tulkinghorn, and the immortal Bucket; all these, and especially the last, have been added by this book to the list of people more intimately and permanently known to us than the scores of actual familiar acquaintance whom we see around us living and dying.

But how do we know them? There are plenty to tell us that it is by vividness of external observation rather than by depth of imaginative insight, by tricks of manner and phrase rather than by truth of character, by manifestion outwardly rather than what lies behind. Another opportunity will present itself for some remark on this kind of criticism, which has always had a special pride in the subtlety of its differences from what the world may have shown itself prone to admire. "In my father's library," wrote Landor to Southey's daughter Edith, "was the Critical Review from its commencement; and it would have taught me, if I could not even at a very early age teach myself better, that Fielding, Sterne, and Goldsmith were really worth nothing." It is a style that will never be without cultivators, and its frequent application to Dickens will be shown hereafter. But in speaking of a book in which some want of all the freshness of his genius first became apparent, it would be wrong to omit to add that this method of handling a character is as strongly impressed on the better portions of it as on the best of his writings. It is difficult to say when a peculiarity becomes too grotesque, or an extravagance too farcical, to be within the limits of art, for it is the truth of these as of graver things that they exist in the world in just the proportions and degree in which genius can discover them. But no man had ever so surprising a faculty as Dickens of becoming himself what he was representing; and of entering into mental phases and processes so absolutely, in conditions of life the most varied, as to reproduce them completely in dialogue without need of an explanatory word. (He only departed from this method once, with a result which will then be pointed out.) In speaking on a former page of the impression of reality thus to a singular degree conveyed by him, it was remarked that where characters so revealed themselves the author's part in them was done; and in the book under notice there is none, not excepting those least attractive which apparently present only prominent or salient qualities, in which it will not be found that the characteristic feature embodied, or the main idea personified, contains as certainly also some human truth universally applicable. To expound or discuss his creations, to lay them psychologically bare, to analyse their organisms, to subject to minute demonstration their fibrous and other tissues, was not at all Dickens's way. His genius was his fellow feeling with his race; his mere personality was never the bound or limit to his perceptions, however strongly sometimes it might colour them; he never stopped to dissect or anatomize his own work; but no man could better adjust the outward and visible oddities in a delineation to its inner and unchangeable veracities. The rough estimates we form of character, if we have any truth of perception, are on the whole correct: but men touch and interfere with one another by the contact of their extremes, and it may very often become necessarily the main business of a novelist to display the salient points, the sharp angles, or the prominences merely.

The pathetic parts of Bleak House do not live largely in remembrance, but the deaths of Richard and of Gridley, the wandering fancies of Miss Flite, and the extremely touching way in which the gentleman-nature of the pompous old baronet, Dedlock, asserts itself under suffering, belong to a high order of writing. There is another most affecting example, taking the lead of the rest, in the poor street-sweeper Jo; which has made perhaps as deep an impression as anything in Dickens. "We have been reading Bleak House aloud," the good Dean Ramsay wrote to me very shortly before his death. "Surely it is one of his most powerful and successful! What a triumph is Jo! Uncultured nature is there indeed; the intimations of true heartfeeling, the glimmerings of higher feeling, all are there; but everything still consistent and in harmony. Wonderful is the genius that can show all this, yet keep it only and really part of the character itself, low or common as it may be, and use no morbid or fictitious colouring. To my mind, nothing in the field of fiction is to be found in English literature surpassing the death of Jo!" What occurs at and after the inquest is as worth remembering. Jo's evidence is rejected because he cannot exactly say what will be done to him after he is dead if he should tell a lie; but he manages to say afterwards very exactly what the deceased while he lived did to him. That one cold winter night, when he was shivering in a doorway near his crossing, a man turned to look at him, and came back, and, having questioned him and found he had not a friend in the world, said, "Neither have I. Not one!" and gave him the price of a supper and a night's lodging. That the man had often spoken to him since, and asked him if he slept of a night, and how he bore cold and hunger, or if he ever wished to die; and would say in passing "I am as poor as you to-day, Jo" When he had no money, but when he had any would always give some. "He wos wery good to me," says the boy, wiping his eyes with his wretched sleeve. "Wen I see him a-layin' so stritched out just now, I wished he could have heerd me tell him so. He wos wery good to me, he wos! "The inquest over, the body is flung into a pestiferous churchyard in the next street, houses overlooking it on every side, and a reeking little tunnel of a court giving access to its iron gate. "With the night, comes a slouching figure through the tunnel-court, to the outside of the iron gate. It holds the gate with his hands, and looks in within the bars; stands looking in, for a little while. It then, with an old broom it carries, softly sweeps the step, and makes the archway clean. It does so, very busily, and trimly; looks in again, a little while; and so departs." These are among the things in Dickens that cannot be forgotten; and if Bleak House had many more faults than have been found in it, such salt and savour as this might freshen it for some generations.

The first intention was to have made Jo more prominent in the story, and its earliest title was taken from the tumbling tenements in Chancery, "Tom-all-Alone's," where he finds his wretched habitation; but this was abandoned. On the other hand, Dickens was encouraged and strengthened in his design of assailing Chancery abuses and delays by receiving, a few days after the appearance of his first number, a striking pamphlet on the subject containing details so apposite that he took from them, without change in any material point, the memorable case related in his fifteenth chapter. Any one who examines the tract will see how exactly true is the reference to it made by Dickens in his preface. "The case of Gridley is in no essential altered from one of actual occurrence, made public by a disinterested person who was professionally acquainted with the whole of the monstrous wrong from beginning to end." The suit, of which all particulars are given, affected a single farm, in value not more than 1,200, but all that its owner possessed in the world, against which a bill had been filed for a 300 legacy left in the will bequeathing the farm. In reality there was only one defendant, but in the bill, by the rule of the Court, there were seventeen; and, after two years had been occupied over the seventeen answers, everything had to begin over again because an eighteenth had been accidentally omitted. "What a mockery of justice this is," says Mr. Challinor, "the facts speak for themselves, and I can personally vouch for their accuracy. The costs already incurred in reference to this 300 legacy are not less than from 800 to 900, and the parties are no forwarder. Already near five years have passed by, and the plaintiff would be glad to give up his chance of the legacy if he could escape from his liability to costs, while the defendants who own the little farm left by the testator, have scarce any other prospect before them than ruin."

"I wish you would look," Dickens wrote on 20 January, 1854, "at the enclosed titles for the Household Words story, between this and two o'clock or so, when I will call. It is my usual day, you observe, on which I have jotted them down -- Friday! It seems to me that there are three very good ones among them. I should like to know whether you hit upon the same." On the paper enclosed was written: 1. According to Cocker. 2. Prove it. 3. Stubborn Things. 4. Mr. Gradgrind's Facts. 5. The Grindstone. 6. Hard Times. 7. Two and Two are Four. 8. Something Tangible. 9. Our Hard-headed Friend. 10. Rust and Dust. 11. Simple Arithmetic. 12. A Matter of Calculation. 13. A Mere Question of Figures. 14. The Gradgrind Philosophy. The three selected by me were 2, 6, and 11; the three that were his own favourites were 6, 13, and 14; and as 6 had been chosen by both, that title was taken.

It was the first story written by him for his weekly periodical; and in the course of it the old troubles of the Clock came back, with the difference that the greater brevity of the weekly portions made it easier to write them up to time, but much more difficult to get sufficient interest into each. "The difficulty of the space," he wrote after a few weeks' trial, "is crushing. Nobody can have an idea of it who has not had an experience of patient fiction-writing with some elbow-room always, and open places in perspective. In this form, with any kind of regard to the current number, there is absolutely no such thing." He went on, however; and, of the two designs he started with, accomplished one very perfectly and the other at least partially. He more than doubled the circulation of his journal; and he wrote a story which, though not among his best, contains things as characteristic as any he has written. I may not go as far as Mr. Ruskin in giving it a high place; but to anything falling from that writer, however one may differ from it, great respect is due, and every word here said of Dickens's intention is in the most strict sense just. "The essential value and truth of Dickens's writings," he says, "have been unwisely lost sight of by many thoughtful persons, merely because he presents his truth with some colour of caricature. Unwisely, because Dickens's caricature, though often gross, is never mistaken. Allowing for his manner of telling them, the things he tells us are always true. I wish that he could think it right to limit his brilliant exaggeration to works written only for public amusement; and when he takes up a subject of high national importance, such as that which he handled in Hard Times, that he would use severer and more accurate analysis The usefulness of that work (to my mind, in several respects, the greatest he has written) is with many persons seriously diminished, because Mr. Bounderby is a dramatic monster instead of a characteristic example of a worldly master; and Stephen Blackpool a dramatic perfection, instead of a characteristic example of an honest workman. But let us not lose the use of Dickens's wit and insight, because he chooses to speak in a circle of stage fire. He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written; and all of them, but especially Hard Times, should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social questions. They will find much that is partial, and, because partial, apparently unjust; but if they examine all the evidence on the other side, which Dickens seems to overlook, it will appear, after all their trouble, that his view was the finally right one, grossly and sharply told." The best points in it, out of the circle of stage fire (an expression of wider application to this part of Dickens's life than its inventor supposed it to be), were some sketches among the riding-circus people and the Bounderby household; but it is a wise hint of Mr. Ruskin's that there may be, in the drift of a story, truths of sufficient importance to set against defects of workmanship; and here they challenged wide attention. You cannot train any one properly, unless you cultivate the fancy, and allow fair scope to the affections. You cannot govern men on a principle of averages; and to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market is not the summum bonum of life. You cannot treat the working man fairly unless, in dealing with his wrongs and his delusions, you take equally into account the simplicity and tenacity of his nature, arising partly from limited knowledge, but more from honesty and singleness of intention. Fiction cannot prove a case, but it can express forcibly a righteous sentiment; and this is here done unsparingly upon matters of universal concern. The book was finished at Boulogne in the middle of July, and is inscribed to Carlyle.

An American admirer accounted for the vivacity of the circus-scenes by declaring that Dickens had "arranged with the master of Astley's Circus to spend many hours behind the scenes with the riders and among the horses;" a thing just as likely as that he went into training as a stroller to qualify for Mr. Crummles in Nickleby. Such successes belonged to the experiences of his youth; he had nothing to add to what his marvellous observation had made familiar from almost childish days; and the glimpses we get of them in the Sketches by Boz are in these points as perfect as anything his later experience could supply. There was one thing nevertheless which the choice of his subject made him anxious to verify while Hard Times was in hand; and this was a strike in a manufacturing town. He had gone to Preston to see one at the end of January, and was somewhat disappointed. "I am afraid I shall not be able to get much here. Except the crowds at the street-corners reading the placards pro and con; and the cold absence of smoke from the mill-chimneys; there is very little in the streets to make the town remarkable. I am told that the people 'sit at home and mope.' The delegates with the money from the neighbouring places come in to-day to report the amounts they bring; and to-morrow the people are paid. When I have seen both these ceremonies, I shall return. It is a nasty place (I thought it was a model town); and I am in the Bull Hotel, before which some time ago the people assembled supposing the masters to be here, and on demanding to have them out were remonstrated with by the landlady in person. I saw the account in an Italian paper, in which it was stated that 'the populace then environed the Palazzo Bull, until the padrona of the Palazzo heroically appeared at one of the upper windows and addressed them!' One can hardly conceive anything less likely to be represented to an Italian mind by this description, than the old, grubby, smoky, mean, intensely formal red brick house with a narrow gateway and a dingy yard, to which it applies. At the theatre last night I saw Hamlet, and should have done better to 'sit at home and mope' like the idle workmen. In the last scene, Laertes on being asked how it was with him replied (verbatim) 'Why, like a woodcock -- on account of my treachery.'"





II

HOME INCIDENTS
1853-4-5

The first number of Bleak House had appeared in March 1852, and its sale was mentioned in the same letter from Tavistock House (7 March) which told of his troubles in the tale at its outset, and of other anxieties incident to the common lot and inseparable equally from its joys and sorrows, through which his life was passing at the time. "My Highgate journey yesterday was a sad one. Sad to think how all journeys tend that way. I went up to the cemetery to look for a piece of ground. In no hope of a Government bill, and in a foolish dislike to leaving the little child shut up in the vault there, I think of pitching a tent under the sky. . . . Nothing has taken place here: but I believe, every hour, that it must next hour. Wild ideas are upon me of going to Paris -- Rouen -- Switzerland -- somewhere -- and writing the remaining two-thirds of the next No. aloft in some queer inn room. I have been hanging over it, and have got restless. Want a change I think. Stupid. We were at 30,000 when I last heard. . . . I am sorry to say that after all kinds of evasions, I am obliged to dine at Lansdowne House to-morrow. But maybe the affair will come off to-night and give me an excuse! I enclose proofs of No. 2. Browne has done Skimpole, and helped to make him singularly unlike the great original. Look it over, and say what occurs to you. . . . Don't you think Mrs. Gaskell charming? With one ill-considered thing that looks like a want of natural perception, I think it masterly." His last allusion is to the story by a delightful writer then appearing in Household Words; and of the others it only needs to say that the family affair which might have excused his absence at the Lansdowne dinner did not come off until four days later. On the 13th of March his last child was born; and the boy, his seventh son, bears his godfather's distinguished name, Edward Bulwer Lytton.

The inability to "grind sparks out of this dull blade," as he characterized his present labour at Bleak House, still fretting him, he struck out a scheme for Paris. "I could not get to Switzerland very well at this time of year. The Jura would be covered with snow. And if I went to Geneva I don't know where I might not go to." It ended at last in a flight to Dover; but he found time before he left, amid many occupations and some anxieties, for a good-natured journey to Walworth to see a youth rehearse who was supposed to have talents for the stage, and he was able to gladden Mr. Toole's friends by thinking favourably of his chances of success. "I remember what I once myself wanted in that way," he said, "and I should like to serve him."

At one of the last dinners in Tavistock House before his departure, Mr. Watson of Rockingham was present; and he was settled in Camden-cresent, Dover, when he had news of the death of that excellent friend. "Poor dear Watson! It was this day two weeks when you rode with us and he dined with us. We all remarked after he had gone how happy he seemed to have got over his election troubles, and how cheerful he was. He was full of Christmas plans for Rockingham, and was very anxious that we should get up a little French piece I had been telling him the plot of. He went abroad next day to join Mrs. Watson and the children at Homburg, and then go to Lausanne, where they had taken a house for a month. He was seized at Homburg with violent internal inflammation, and died -- without much pain -- in four days. . . . I was so fond of him that I am sorry you didn't know him better. I believe he was as thoroughly good and true a man as ever lived; and I am sure I can have no greater affection for him than he felt for me. When I think of that bright house, and his fine simple honest heart, both so open to me, the blank and loss are like a dream." Other deaths followed. "Poor d'Orsay!" he wrote after only seven days (8 August). "It is a tremendous consideration that friends should fall around us in such awful numbers as we attain middle life. What a field of battle it is!" Nor had another month quite passed before he lost, in Mrs. Macready, a very dear family friend. "Ah me! ah me!" he wrote. "This tremendous sickle certainly does cut deep into the surrounding corn, when one's own small blade has ripened. But this is all a Dream, may be, and death will wake us."

Able at last to settle to his work, he stayed in Dover three months; and early in October, sending home his family caravan, crossed to Boulogne to try it as a resort for seaside holiday. "I never saw a better instance of our countrymen than this place. Because it is accessible it is genteel to say it is of no character, quite English, nothing continental about it, and so forth. It is as quaint, picturesque, good a place as I know; the boatmen and fishing-people quite a race apart, and some of their villages as good as the fishing-villages on the Mediterranean. The Haute Ville, with a walk all round it on the ramparts, charming. The country walks, delightful. It is the best mixture of town and country (with sea air into the bargain) I ever saw; everything cheap, everything good; and please God I shall be writing on those said ramparts next July!"

Before the year closed, the time to which his publishing arrangements with Messrs. Bradbury and Evans were limited had expired, but at his suggestion the fourth share in such books as he might write, which they had now received for eight years, was continued to them on the understanding that the publishers' percentage should no longer be charged in the partnership accounts, and with a power reserved to himself to withdraw when he pleased. In the new year his first adventure was an ovation in Birmingham, where a silver-gilt salver and a diamond ring were presented to him, as well for eloquent service specially rendered to the Institution, as in general testimony of "varied literary acquirements, genial philosophy, and high moral teaching." A great banquet followed on Twelfth Night, made memorable by an offer to give a couple of readings from his books at the following Christmas, in aid of the new Midland Institute. It might seem to have been drawn from him as a grateful return for the enthusiastic greeting of his entertainers, but it was in his mind before he left London. It was his first formal undertaking to read in public.

His eldest son had now left Eton, and the boy's wishes pointing at the time to a mercantile career, he was sent to Leipzig for completion of his education. At this date it seemed to me that the overstrain of attempting too much, brought upon him by the necessities of his weekly periodical, became first apparent in Dickens. Not unfrequently a complaint strange upon his lips fell from him. "Hypochondriacal whisperings tell me that I am rather overworked. The spring does not seem to fly back again directly, as it always did when I put my own work aside, and had nothing else to do. Yet I have everything to keep me going with a brave heart, Heaven knows!" Courage and hopefulness he might well derive from the increasing sale of Bleak House, which had risen to nearly forty thousand; but he could no longer bear easily what he carried so lightly of old, and enjoyments with work were too much for him. "What with Bleak House and Household Words and Child's History" (he dictated from week to week the papers which formed that little book, and cannot be said to have quite hit the mark with it), "and Miss Coutts's Home, and the invitations to feasts and festivals, I really feel as if my head would split like a fired shell if I remained here." He tried Brighton first, but did not find it answer and returned. A few days of unalloyed enjoyment were afterwards given to the visit of his excellent American friend Felton; and on the 13th of June he was again in Boulogne, thanking heaven for escape from a breakdown. "If I had substituted anybody's knowledge of myself for my own, and lingered in London, I never could have got through."

What befell him in Boulogne will be given, with the incidents of his second and third summer visits to the place, on a later page. He completed Bleak House by the third week of August, and it was resolved to celebrate the event by a two months' trip to Italy, in company with Mr. Wilkie Collins and Mr. Augustus Egg. The start was to be made from Boulogne in the middle of October, when he would send his family home; and he described the intervening weeks as a fearful "reaction and prostration of laziness" only broken by the Child's History. At the end of September he wrote: "I finished the little History yesterday, and am trying to think of something for the Christmas number. After which I shall knock off; having had quite enough to do, small as it would have seemed to me at any other time, since I finished Bleak House." He added, a week before his departure: "I get letters from Genoa and Lausanne as if I were going to stay in each place at least a month. If I were to measure my deserts by people's remembrance of me, I should be a prodigy of intolerability. Have recovered my Italian, which I had all but forgotten, and am one entire and perfect chrysolite of idleness."

From this trip, of which the incidents have an interest independent of my ordinary narrative, Dickens was home again in the middle of December 1853, and kept his promise to his Birmingham friends by reading in their Town Hall his Christmas Carol on the 27th, and his Cricket on the Hearth on the 29th. The enthusiasm was great, and he consented to read his Carol a second time, on Friday the 30th, if seats were reserved for working men at prices within their means. The result was an addition of between four and five hundred pounds to the funds for establishment of the new Institute; and a prettily worked flower-basket in silver, presented to Mrs. Dickens, commemorated these first public readings "to nearly six thousand people," and the design they had generously helped. Other applications then followed to such extent that limits to compliance had to be put; and a letter of 16 May, 1854 is one of many that express both the difficulty in which he found himself, and his much desired expedient for solving it. "The objection you suggest to paid public lecturing does not strike me at all. It is worth consideration, but I do not think there is anything in it. On the contrary, if the lecturing would have any motive power at all (like my poor father this, in the sound!) I believe it would tend the other way. In the Colchester matter I had already received a letter from a Cochester magnate; to whom I had honestly replied that I stood pledged to Christmas readings at Bradford and at Reading, and could in no kind of reason do more in the public way." The promise to the people of Reading was for Talfourd's sake; the other was given after the Birmingham nights, when an institute in Bradford asked similar help, and offered a fee of fifty pounds. At first this was entertained; but was abandoned, with some reluctance, upon the argument that to become publicly a reader must alter without improving his position publicly as a writer, and that it was a change to be justified only when the higher calling should have failed of the old success. Thus yielding for the time, he nevertheless soon found the question rising again with the same importunity; his own position to it being always that of a man assenting against his will that it should rest in abeyance. But nothing farther was resolved on yet. The readings mentioned came off as promised, in aid of public objects, and besides others two years later for the family of a friend, he had given the like liberal help to institutes in Folkestone, Chatham, and again in Birmingham, Peterborough, Sheffield, Coventry, and Edinburgh, before the question settled itself finally in the announcement for paid public readings issued by him in 1858.

Carrying memory back to his home in the first half of 1854, there are few things that rise more pleasantly in connection with it than the children's theatricals. These began with the first Twelfth Night at Tavistock House, and were renewed until the principal actors ceased to be children. The best of the performances were Tom Thumb and Fortunio, in '54 and '55; Dickens now joining first in the revel, and Mr. Mark Lemon bringing into it his own clever children and a very mountain of child-pleasing fun in himself. Dickens had become very intimate with him, and his merry genial ways had given him unbounded popularity with the "young 'uns," who had no such favourite as "Uncle Mark." In Fielding's burlesque he was the giantess Glumdalca, and Dickens was the Ghost of Gaffer Thumb; the names by which they respectively appeared being the Infant Phenomenon and the modern Garrick. But the younger actors carried off the palm. There was a Lord Grizzle, at whose ballad of Miss Villikins, introduced by desire, Thackeray rolled off his seat in a burst of laughter that became absurdly contagious. Yet even this, with hardly less fun from the Noodles, Doodles, and King Arthurs, was not so good as the pretty, fantastic, comic grace of Dollalolla, Huncamunca, and Tom. The girls wore steadily the grave airs irresistible when put on by little children; and an actor not out of his fourth year, who went through the comic songs and the tragic exploits without a wrong note or a victim unslain, represented the small helmeted hero. He was in the bills as Mr. H---- , but bore in fact the name of the illustrious author whose conception he embodied; and who certainly would have hugged him for Tom's opening song, delivered in the arms of Huncamunca, if he could have forgiven the later master in his own craft for having composed it afresh to the air of a ditty then wildly popular at the "Coal Hole." The encores were frequent, and for the most part the little fellow responded to them; but the misplaced enthusiasm that took similar form at the heroic intensity with which he stabbed Dollalolla, he rebuked by going gravely on to the close. His Fortunio, the next Twelfth Night, was not so great; yet when, as a prelude to getting the better of the Dragon, he adulterated his drink (Mr. Lemon played the Dragon) with sherry, the sly relish with which he watched the demoralization, by this means, of his formidable adversary into a helpless imbecility, was perfect. Here Dickens played the testy old Baron, and took advantage of the excitement against the Czar raging in 1855 to denounce him (in a song) as no other than own cousin to the very Bear that Fortunio had gone forth to subdue. He depicted him in his desolation of autocracy, as the Robinson Crusoe of absolute state, who had at his court many a show-day and many a high-day, but hadn't in all his dominions a Friday. The bill, which attributed these interpolations to "the Dramatic Poet of the Establishment," deserves allusion also for the fun of the six large-lettered announcements which stood at the head of it, and could not have been bettered by Mr. Crummles himself. Reengagement of that irresistible comedian" (the performer of Lord Grizzle) "Mr. Ainger!" "Reappearance of Mr. H. who created so powerful an impression last year!" "Return of Mr. Charles Dickens Junior from his German engagements!" "Engagement of Miss Kate, who declined the munificent offers of the Management last season!" "Mr. Passe, Mr. Mudperiod, Mr. Measly Servile, and Mr. Wilkini Collini!" "First appearance on any stage of Mr. Plornishmaroontigoonter (who has been kept out of bed at a vast expense)." The last performer mentioned was yet at some distance from the third year of his age. Dickens was Mr. Passé.

The home incidents of the summer and autumn of 1855 may be mentioned briefly. It was a year of much unsettled discontent with him, and upon return from a short trip to Paris with Mr. Wilkie Collins, he flung himself rather hotly into agitation with the administrative reformers, and spoke at one of the great meetings in Drury-lane Theatre. "Generally I quite agree with you that they hardly know what to be at; but it is an immensely difficult subject to start, and they must have every allowance. At any rate, it is not by leaving them alone and giving them no help, that they can be urged on to success." In the following month (April) he took occasion, even from the chair of the General Theatrical Fund, to give renewed expression to political dissatisfactions. "The Government hit took immensely; but I'm afraid to look at the report, these things are so ill done." In the summer he threw open to many friends his Tavistock House Theatre, having secured for its "lessee and manager Mr. Crummles;" for its poet Mr. Wilkie Collins, in "an entirely new and original domestic melodrama;" and for its scene-painter "Mr. Stanfield, R.A." The Lighthouse, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, was then produced, its actors being Mr. Crummles the manager (Dickens in other words), the Author of the play, Mr. Lemon, and Mr. Egg, and the manager's sister-in-law and eldest daughter. It was followed by the Guild farce of Mr. Nightingale's Diary, in which, besides the performers named, and Dickens in his old personation part, the manager's youngest daughter and Mr. Frank Stone assisted. The success was wonderful; and in the three delighted audiences who crowded to what the bills described as "the smallest theatre in the world," were not a few of the notabilities of London. Mr. Carlyle compared Dickens's wild picturesqueness in the old lighthouse keeper to the famous figure in Nicholas Poussin's bacchanalian dance in the National Gallery; and at one of the joyous suppers that followed on each night of the play, Lord Campbell told the company that he had much rather have written Pickwick than be Chief Justice of England and a peer of Parliament.

Then came the beginning of Nobody's Fault, as Little Dorrit continued to be called by him up to the eve of its publication; a flight to Folkestone, to help his sluggish fancy; and his return to London in October, to preside at a dinner to Thackeray on his going to lecture in America. It was a muster of more than sixty admiring entertainers, and Dickens's speech gave happy expression to the spirit that animated all, telling Thackeray not alone how much his friendship was prized by those present, and how proud they were of his genius, but offering him in the name of the tens of thousands absent who had never touched his hand or seen his face, life-long thanks for the treasures of mirth, wit, and wisdom within the yellow-covered numbers of Pendennis and Vanity Fair. Peter Cunningham, one of the sons of Allan, was secretary to the banquet; and for many pleasures given to the subject of this memoir, who had a hearty regard for him, should have a few words to his memory.

His presence was always welcome to Dickens, and indeed to all who knew him, for his relish of social life was great, and something of his keen enjoyment could not but be shared by his company. His geniality would have carried with it a pleasurable glow even if it had stood alone, and it was invigorated by very considerable acquirements. He had some knowledge of the works of eminent authors and artists; and he had an eager interest in their lives and haunts, which he had made the subject of minute and novel inquiry. This store of knowledge gave substance to his talk, yet never interrupted his buoyancy and pleasantry, because only introduced when called for, and not made matter of parade or display. But the happy combination of qualities that rendered him a favourite companion, and won him many friends, proved in the end injurious to himself. He had done much while young in certain lines of investigation which he had made almost his own, and there was every promise that, in the department of biographical and literary research, he would have produced much weightier works with advancing years. This however was not to be. The fascinations of good fellowship encroached more and more upon literary pursuits, until he nearly abandoned his former favourite studies, and sacrified all the deeper purposes of his life to the present temptation of a festive hour. Then his health gave way, and he became lost to friends as well as to literature. But the impression of the bright and amiable intercourse of his better time survived, and his old associates never ceased to think of Peter Cunningham with regret and kindness.

Dickens went to Paris early in October, and at its close was brought again to London by the sudden death of a friend, much deplored by himself, and still more so by a distinguished lady who had his loyal service at all times. An incident before his return to France is worth brief relation. He had sallied out for one of his night walks, full of thoughts of his story, one wintery rainy evening (8 November), and "pulled himself up," outside the door of Whitechapel Workhouse, at a strange sight which arrested him there. Against the dreary enclosure of the house were leaning, in the midst of the downpouring rain and storm, what seemed to be seven heaps of rags: "dumb, wet, silent horrors" he described them, "sphinxes set up against that dead wall, and no one likely to be at the pains of solving them until the General Overthrow." He sent in his card to the Master. Against him there was no ground of complaint; he gave prompt personal attention; but the casual ward was full, and there was no help. The rag-heaps were all girls, and Dickens gave each as hilling. One girl, "twenty or so," had been without food a day and night. "Look at me," she said, as she clutched the shilling, and without thanks shuffled off. So with the rest. There was not a single "thank you." A crowd meanwhile, only less poor than these objects of misery, had gathered round the scene; but though they saw the seven shillings given away they asked for no relief to themselves, they recognised in their sad wild way the other greater wretchedness, and made room in silence for Dickens to walk on.

Not more tolerant of the way in which laws meant to be most humane are too often administered in England, he left in a day or two to resume his Little Dorrit in Paris. But before his life there is described, some sketches from his holiday trip to Italy with Mr. Wilkie Collins and Mr. Augustus Egg, and from his three summer visits to Boulogne, claim to themselves two intervening chapters.





III

IN SWITZERLAND AND ITALY
1853

The first news of the three travellers was from Chamounix, on 20 October; and in it there was little made of the fatigue, and much of the enjoyment, of their Swiss travel. Great attention and cleanliness at the inns, very small windows and very bleak passages, doors opening to wintry blasts, overhanging eaves and external galleries, plenty of milk, honey, cows, and goats, much singing towards sunset on the mountain sides, mountains almost too solemn to look at -- that was the picture of it, with the country everywhere in one of its finest aspects, as winter began to close in. They had started from Geneva the previous morning at four, and in their day's travel Dickens had again noticed what he spoke of formerly, the ill-favoured look of the people in the valleys owing to their hard and stern climate. "All the women were like used up men, and all the men like a sort of fagged dogs. But the good, genuine, grateful Swiss recognition of the commonest kind word -- not too often thrown to them by our countrymen -- made them quite radiant. I walked the greater part of the way, which was like going up the Monument." On the day the letter was written they had been up to the Mer de Glace, finding it not so beautiful in colour as in summer, but grander in its desolation; the green ice, like the greater part of the ascent, being covered with snow. "We were alarmingly near to a very dismal accident. We were a train of four mules and two guides, going along an immense height like a chimney-piece, with sheer precipice below, when there came rolling from above, with fearful velocity, a block of stone about the size of one of the fountains in Trafalgar-square, which Egg, the last of the party, had preceded by not a yard, when it swept over the ledge, breaking away a tree, and rolled and tumbled down into the valley. It had been loosened by the heavy rains, or by some woodcutters afterwards reported to be above." The only place new to Dickens was Berne: "a surprisingly picturesque old Swiss town, with a view of the Alps from the outside of it singularly beautiful in the morning light." Everything else was familiar to him: though at that winter season, when the inns were shutting up, and all who could afford it were off to Geneva, most things in the valley struck him with a new aspect. From such of his old friends as he found at Lausanne, where a day or two's rest was taken, he had the gladdest of greetings; "and the wonderful manner in which they turned out in the wettest morning ever beheld for a Godspeed down the Lake was really quite pathetic."

He had found time to see again the deaf, dumb, and blind youth at Mr. Haldimand's Institution (ante, 396) who had aroused so deep an interest in him seven years before, but, in his brief present visit, the old associations would not reawaken. "Tremendous efforts were made by Hertzel to impress him with an idea of me, and the associations belonging to me; but it seemed in my eyes quite a failure, and I much doubt if he had the least perception of his old acquaintance. According to his custom, he went on muttering strange eager sounds like Town and Down and Mown, but nothing more. I left ten francs to be spent in cigars for my old friend. If I had taken one with me, I think I could, more successfully than his master, have established my identity." The child similarly afflicted, the little girl whom he saw at the same old time, had been after some trial discharged as an idiot.

Before October closed, the travellers had reached Genoa, having been thirty-one consecutive hours on the road from Milan. They arrived in somewhat damaged condition, and took up their lodging in the top rooms of the Croce di Malta, "overlooking the port and sea pleasantly and airily enough, but it was no joke to get so high, and the apartment is rather vast and faded." The warmth of personal greeting that here awaited Dickens was given no less to the friends who accompanied him, and though the reader may not share in such private confidences as would show the sensation created by his reappearance, and the jovial hours that were passed among old associates, he will perhaps be interested to know how far the intervening years had changed the aspect of things and places made pleasantly familiar to us in his former letters. He wrote to his sister-in-law that the old walks were pretty much the same as ever, except that there had been building behind the Peschiere up the San Bartolomeo hill, and the whole town towards San Pietro d'Arena had been quite changed. The Bisagno looked just the same, stony just then, having very little water in it; the vicoli were fragrant with the same old flavour of "very rotten cheese kept in very hot blankets;" and everywhere he saw the mezzaro as of yore. The Jesuits' College in the Strada Nuova was become, under the changed government, the Hôtel de Ville, and a splendid cafè with a terrace-garden had arisen between it and Palaviccini's old palace. "Pal himself has gone to the dogs." Another new and handsome cafè has been built in the Piazza Carlo Felice, between the old one of the Bei Arti and the Strada Carlo Felice; and the Teatro Diurno had no stone galleries and seats like an ancient amphitheatre. "The beastly gate and guardhouse in the Albaro road are still in their dear old beastly state; and the whole of that road is just as it was. The man without legs is still in the Strada Nuova; but the beggars in general are all cleared off, and our old one-arm'd Belisario made a sudden evaporation a year or two ago. I am going to the Peschiere to-day." To myself he described his former favourite abode as converted into a girls' college; all the paintings of gods and goddesses canvassed over, and the gardens gone to ruin; "but O! what a wonderful place!" He observed an extraordinary increase everywhere else, since he was last in the splendid city, of "life, growth, and enterprise;" and he declared his first conviction to be confirmed that for picturesque beauty and character there was nothing in Italy, Venice excepted, "near brilliant old Genoa."

The voyage thence to Naples, written from the latter place, is too capital a description to be lost. The steamer in which they embarked was "the new express English ship," but they found her to be already more than full of passengers from Marseilles (among them an old friend, Sir Emerson Tennent, with his family), and everything in confusion. There were no places at the captain's table, dinner had to be taken on deck, no berth or sleeping accommodation was available, and heavy first-class fares had to be paid. Thus they made their way to Leghorn, where worse awaited them. The authorities proved to be not favourable to the "crack" English-officered vessel (she had just been started for the India mail); and her papers not being examined in time, it was too late to steam away again that day, and she had to lie all night long off the lighthouse. "The scene on board beggars description. Ladies on the tables; gentlemen under the tables; bedroom appliances not usually beheld in public airing themselves in positions where soup-tureens had been lately developing themselves; and ladies and gentlemen lying indiscriminately on the open deck, arranged like spoons on a sideboard. No mattresses, no blankets, nothing. Towards midnight attempts were made, by means of awning and flags, to make this latter scene remotely approach an Australian encampment; and we three (Collins, Egg, and self) lay together on the bare planks covered with our coats. We were all gradually dozing off, when a perfectly tropical rain fell, and in a moment drowned the whole ship. The rest of the night we passed upon the stairs, with an immense jumble of men and women. When anybody came up for any purpose we all fell down, and when anybody came down we all fell up again. Still, the good-humour in the English part of the passengers was quite extraordinary. . . . There were excellent officers aboard, and, in the morning, the first mate lent me his cabin to wash in -- which I afterwards lent to Egg and Collins. Then we, the Emerson Tennents, the captain, the doctor, and the second officer, went off on a jaunt together to Pisa, as the ship was to lie all day at Leghorn. The captain was a capital fellow, but I led him, facetiously, such a life the whole day, that I got most things altered at night. Emerson Tennent's son, with the greatest amiability, insisted on turning out of his state-room for me, and I got a good bed there. The store-room down by the hold was opened for Collins and Egg; and they slept with the moist sugar, the cheese in cut, the spices, the cruets, the apples and pears, in a perfect chandler's shop -- in company with what a friend of ours would call a hold gent, who had been so horribly wet through overnight that his condition frightened the authorities; a cat; and the steward, how dozed in an arm-chair, and all-night-long fell head foremost, once every five minutes, on Egg, who slept on the counter or dresser. Last night, I had the steward's own cabin, opening on deck, all to myself. It had been previously occupied by some desolate lady who went ashore at Civita Vecchia. There was little or no sea, thank Heaven, all the trip; but the rain was heavier than any I have ever seen, and the lightning very constant and vivid. We were, with the crew -- some 200 people -- provided with boats, at the utmost stretch, for one hundred perhaps. I could not help thinking what would happen if we met with any accident; the crew being chiefly Maltese, and evidently fellows who would cut off alone in the largest boat, on the least alarm; the speed very high; and the running, thro' all the narrow rocky channels. Thank God, however, here we are."

A whimsical postscript closed the amusing narrative. "We towed from Civita Vecchia, the entire Greek navy, I believe; consisting of a little brig of war with no guns, fitted as a steamer, but disabled by having burnt the bottoms of her boilers out, in her first run. She was just big enough to carry the captain and a crew of six or so; but the captain was so covered with buttons and gold that there never would have been room for him on board to put those valuables away, if he hadn't worn them -- which he consequently did, all night. Whenever anything was wanted to be done, as slackening the tow-rope or anything of that sort, our officers roared at this miserable potentate, in violent English, through a speaking trumpet; of which he couldn't have understood a word in the most favourable circumstances. So he did all the wrong things first, and the right thing always last. The absence of any knowledge of anything but English on the part of the officers and stewards was most ridiculous. I met an Italian gentleman on the cabin steps yesterday morning, vainly endeavouring to explain that he wanted a cup of tea for his sick wife. And when we were coming out of the harbour at Genoa, and it was necessary to order away that boat of music you remember the chief officer (called 'aft' for the purpose, as 'knowing something of Italian') delivered himself in this explicit and clear Italian to the principal performer -- 'Now Signora, if you don't sheer off you'll be run down, so you had better trice up that guitar of yours and put about.'"

At Naples some days were passed very merrily; going up Vesuvius and into the buried cities, with Layard who had joined them, and with the Tennents. Here a small adventure befell Dickens specially, in itself extremely unimportant, but told by him with delightful humour in a letter to his sister-in-law. The old idle Frenchman, to whom all things are possible, with his snuff-box and dusty umbrella and all the delicate and kindly observation, would have enchanted Leigh Hunt, and made his way to the heart of Charles Lamb. After mentioning Mr. Lowther, then English chargé d'affaires in Naples, as a very agreeable fellow who had been at the Rockingham play, he alludes to a meeting at his house. "We had an exceedingly pleasant dinner of eight, preparatory to which I was near having the ridiculous adventure of not being able to find the house and coming back dinnerless. I went in an open carriage from the hotel in all state, and the coachman to my surprise pulled up at the end of the Chiaja. 'Behold the house,' says he, 'of Il Signor Larthoor!' -- at the same time pointing with his whip into the seventh heaven where the early stars were shining. 'But the Signor Larthorr,' says I, 'lives at Pausilippo.' 'It is true,' says the coachman (still pointing to the evening star), 'but he lives high up the Salita Sant' Antonio where no carriage ever yet ascended, and that is the house' (evening star as aforesaid), 'and one must go on foot. Behold the Salita Sant' Antonio!' I went up it, a mile and a half I should think. I got into the strangest places among the wildest Neapolitans; kitchens, washing-places, archways, stables, vineyards; was baited by dogs, and answered, in profoundly unintelligible language, from behind lonely locked doors in cracked female voices, quaking with fear; but could hear of no such Englishman, nor any Englishman. Bye and bye, I came upon a polenta-shop in the clouds, where an old Frenchman with an umbrella like a faded tropical leaf (it had not rained in Naples for six weeks) was staring at nothing at all, with a snuff-box in his hand. To him I appealed, concerning the Signor Larthoor. 'Sir,' said he, with the sweetest politeness, 'can you speak French?' 'Sir,' said I, 'a little.' 'Sir,' said he, 'I presume the Signor Loothere' -- you will observe that he changed the name according to the custom of his country -- 'is an Englishman?' I admitted that he was the victim of circumstances and had that misfortune. 'Sir,' said he, 'one word more. Has he a servant with a wooden leg?' 'Great heaven, sir,' said I, 'how do I know? I should think not, but it is possible.' 'It is always,' said the Frenchman, 'possible. Almost all the things of the world are always possible.' 'Sir,' said I -- you may imagine my condition and dismal sense of my own absurdity by this time -- 'that is true.' He then took an immense pinch of snuff, wiped the dust off his umbrella, led me to an arch commanding a wonderful view of the Bay of Naples, and pointed deep into the earth from which I had mounted. 'Below there, near the lamp, one finds an Englishman with a servant with a wooden leg. It is always possible that he is the Signor Loothere.' I had been asked at six o'clock, and it was now getting on for seven. I went back in a state of perspiration and misery not to be described, and without the faintest hope of finding the spot. But as I was going farther down to the lamp, I saw the strangest staircase up a dark corner, with a man in a white waistcoat (evidently hired) standing on the top of it fuming. I dashed in at a venture, found it was the house, made the most of the whole story, and achieved much popularity. The best of it was that as nobody ever did find the place, Lowther had put a servant at the bottom of the Salita to wait 'for an English gentleman;' but the servant (as he presently pleaded), deceived by the moustache, had allowed the English gentleman to pass unchallenged."

From Naples they went to Rome, where they found Lockhart, "fearfully weak and broken, yet hopeful of himself too" (he died the following year); smoked and drank punch with David Roberts, then painting every day with Louis Haghe in St. Peter's; and took the old walks. The Coliseum, Appian Way, and Streets of Tombs, seemed desolate and grand as ever; but generally, Dickens adds, "I discovered the Roman antiquities to be smaller than my imagination in nine years had made them. The Electric Telegraph now goes like a sunbeam through the cruel old heart of the Coliseum -- a suggestive thing to think about, I fancied. The Pantheon I thought even nobler than of yore." The amusements were of course an attraction; and nothing at the Opera amused the party of three English more, than another party of four Americans who sat behind them in the pit. "All the seats are numbered arm-chairs, and you buy your number at the pay-place, and go to it with the easiest direction on the ticket itself. We were early, and the four places of the Americans were on the next row behind us -- all together. After looking about them for some time, and seeing the greater part of the seats empty (because the audience generally wait in a caffè which is part of the theatre), one of them said 'Waal I dunno -- I expect we aint no call to set so nigh to one another neither -- will you scatter Kernel, will you scatter sir?' -- Upon this the Kernel 'scattered' some twenty benches off; and they distributed themselves (for no earthly reason apparently but to get rid of one another) all over the pit. As soon as the overture began, in came the audience in a mass. Then the people who had got the numbers into which they had scattered,' had to get them out; and as they understood nothing that was said to them, and could make no reply but 'A-mericani,' you may imagine the number of cocked hats it took to dislodge them. At last they were all got back into their right places, except one. About an hour afterwards when Moses (Moses in Egypt was the opera) was invoking the darkness, and there was dead silence all over the house, unwonted sounds of disturbance broke out from a distant corner of the pit, and here and there a beard got up to look. 'What is it neow, sir?' said one of the Americans to another; 'some person seems to be getting along, again streeem.' 'Waal sir' he replied 'I dunno. But I xpect 'tis the Kernel sir, a holding on.' So it was. The Kernel was ignominiously escorted back to his right place, not in the least disconcerted, and in perfectly good spirits and temper." The opera was excellently done, and the price of the stalls one and threepence English. At Milan, on the other hand, the Scala was fallen from its old estate, dirty, gloomy, dull, and the performance execrable.

Another theatre of the smallest pretension Dickens sought out with avidity in Rome, and eagerly enjoyed. He had heard it said in his old time in Genoa that the finest Marionetti were here; and now, after great difficulty, he discovered the company in a sort of stable attached to a decayed palace. "It was a wet night, and there was no audience but a party of French officers and ourselves. We all sat together. I never saw anything more amazing than the performance -- altogether only an hour long, but managed by as many as ten people, for we saw them all go behind, at the ringing of a bell. The saving of a young lady by a good fairy from the machinations of an enchanter, coupled with the comic business of her servant Pulcinella (the Roman Punch) formed the plot of the first piece. A scolding old peasant woman, who always leaned forward to scold and put her hands in the pockets of her apron, was incredibly natural. Pulcinella, so airy, so merry, so life-like, so graceful, he was irresistible. To see him carrying an umbrella over his mistress's head in a storm, talking to a prodigious giant whom he met in the forest, and going to bed with a pony, were things never to be forgotten. And so delicate are the hands of the people who move them, that every puppet was an Italian, and did exactly what an Italian does. If he pointed out any object, if he saluted anybody, if he laughed, if he cried, he did it as never Englishman did it since Britain first at Heaven's command arose -- arose -- arose, &c. There was a ballet afterwards, on the same scale, and we came away really quite enchanted with the delicate drollery of the thing. French officers more than ditto."

Of the great enemy to the health of the now capital of the kingdom of Italy, Dickens remarked in the same letter. "I have been led into some curious speculations by the existence and progress of the Malaria about Rome. Isn't it very extraordinary to think of its encroaching and encroaching on the Eternal City as if it were commissioned to swallow it up? This year it has been extremely bad, and has long outstayed its usual time. Rome has been very unhealthy, and is not free now. Few people care to be out at the bad times of sunset and sunrise, and the streets are like a desert at night. There is a church, a very little way outside the walls, destroyed by fire some 16 or 18 years ago, and now restored and re-created at an enormous expense. It stands in a wilderness. For any human creature who goes near it, or can sleep near it, after nightfall, it might as well be at the bottom of the uppermost cataract of the Nile. Along the whole extent of the Pontine Marshes (which we came across the other day), no creature in Adam's likeness lives, except the sallow people at the lonely posting-stations. I walk out from the Coliseum through the Street of Tombs to the ruins of the old Appian Way -- pass no human being, and see no human habitation but ruined houses from which the people have fled, and where it is death to sleep; these houses being three miles outside a gate of Rome at its farthest extent. Leaving Rome by the opposite side, we travel for many many hours over the dreary Campagna, shunned and avoided by all but the wretched shepherds. Thirteen hours' good posting brings us to Bolsena (I slept there once before), on the margin of a stagnant lake whence the workpeople fly as the sun goes down -- where it is a risk to go; where from a distance we saw a mist hang on the place; where, in the inconceivably wretched inn, no window can be opened; where our dinner was a pale ghost of a fish with an oily omelette, and we slept in great mouldering rooms tainted with ruined arches and heaps of dung -- and coming from which we saw no colour in the cheek of man, woman, or child for another twenty miles. Imagine this phantom knocking at the gates of Rome; passing them; creeping along the streets; haunting the aisles and pillars of the churches; year by year more encroaching, and more impossible of avoidance."

From Rome they posted to Florence, reaching it in three days and a half, on the morning of 20 November; having then been out six weeks, with only three days' rain; and in another week they were at Venice. "The fine weather has accompanied us here," Dickens wrote on 28 November, "the place of all others where it is necessary, and the city has been a blaze of sunlight and blue sky (with an extremely clear cold air) ever since we have been in it. If you could see it at this moment you would never forget it. We live in the same house that I lived in nine years ago, and have the same sitting room -- close to the Bridge of Sighs and the Palace of the Doges. The room is at the corner of the house, and there is a narrow street of water running round the side: so that we have the Grand Canal before the two front windows, and this wild little street at the corner window: into which, too, our three bedrooms look. We established a gondola as soon as we arrived, and we slide out of the hall on to the water twenty times a day. The gondoliers have queer old customs that belong to their class, and some are sufficiently disconcerting. . . . It is a point of honour with them, while they are engaged, to be always at your disposal. Hence it is no use telling them they may go home for an hour or two -- for they won't go. They roll themselves in shaggy capuccins, great coats with hoods, and lie down on the stone or marble pavement until they are wanted again. So that when I come in or go out, on foot -- which can be done from this house for some miles, over little bridges and by narrow ways -- I usually walk over the principal of my vassals, whose custom it is to snore immediately across the doorway. Conceive the oddity of the most familiar things in this place, from one instance: Last night we go downstairs at half-past eight, step into the gondola, slide away on the black water, ripple and plash swiftly along for a mile or two, land at a broad flight of steps, and instantly walk into the most brilliant and beautiful theatre conceivable -- all silver and blue, and precious little fringes made of glittering prisms of glass. There we sit until half-past eleven, come out again (gondolier asleep outside the box door), and in a moment are on the black silent water, floating away as if there were no dry building in the world. It stops, and in a moment we are out again, upon the broad solid Piazza of St. Mark, brilliantly lighted with gas, very like the Palais Royal at Paris, only far more handsome, and shining with no end of caffès. The two old pillars and the enormous bell-tower are as gruff and solid against the exquisite starlight as if they were a thousand miles from the sea or any undermining water; and the front of the cathedral, overlaid with golden mosaics and beautiful colours, is like a thousand rainbows even in the night."

His formerly expressed notions as to art and pictures in Italy received confirmation at this visit. "I am more than ever confirmed in my conviction that one of the great uses of travelling is to encourage a man to think for himself, to be bold enough always to declare without offence that he does think for himself, and to overcome the villainous meanness of professing what other people have professed when he knows (if he has capacity to originate an opinion) that his profession is untrue. The intolerable nonsense against which genteel taste and subserviency are afraid to rise, in connection with art, is astounding. Egg's honest amazement and consternation when he saw some of the most trumpeted things was what the Americans call a 'caution.' In the very same hour and minute there were scores of people falling into conventional raptures with that very poor Apollo, and passing over the most beautiful little figures and heads in the whole Vatican because they were not expressly set up to be worshipped. So in this place. There are pictures by Tintoretto in Venice more delightful and masterly than it is possible sufficiently to express. His Assembly of the Blest I do believe to be, take it all in all, the most wonderful and charming picture ever painted. Your guide-book writer, representing the general swarming of humbugs, rather patronizes Tintoretto as a man of some sort of merit; and (bound to follow Eustace, Forsyth, and all the rest of them) directs you, on pain of being broke for want of gentility in appreciation, to go into ecstacies with things that have neither imagination, nature, proportion, possibility, nor anything else in them. You immediately obey, and tell your son to obey. He tells his son, and he tells his, and so the world gets at three-fourths of its frauds and miseries."

The last place visited was Turin, where the travellers arrived on 5 December, finding it, with a brightly shining sun, intensely cold and freezing hard. "There are double windows to all the rooms, but the Alpine air comes down and numbs my feet as I write (in a cap and shawl) within six feet of the fire." There was yet something better than this to report of that bracing Alpine air. To Dickens's remarks on the Sardinian race, and to what he says of the exile of the noblest Italians, the momentous events of the few following years gave striking comment; nor could better proof be afforded of the judgment he brought to the observation of what passed before him. The letter had in all respects much interest and attractiveness. "This is a remarkably agreeable place. A beautiful town, prosperous, thriving, growing prodigiously, as Genoa is; crowded with busy inhabitants; full of noble streets and squares. The Alps, now covered deep with snow, are close upon it, and here and there seem almost ready to tumble into the houses. The contrast this part of Italy presents to the rest, is amazing. Beautifully made railroads, admirably managed; cheerful, active people; spirit, energy, life, progress. In Milan, in every street, the noble palace of some exile is a barrack, and dirty soldiers are lolling out of the magnificent windows -- it seems as if the whole place were being gradually absorbed into soldiers. In Naples, something like a hundred thousand troops. 'I knew,' I said to a certain Neapolitan Marchese there whom I had known before, and who came to see me the night after I arrived, 'I knew a very remarkable gentleman when I was last here; who had never been out of his own country, but was perfectly acquainted with English literature, and had taught himself to speak English in that wonderful manner that no one could have known him for a foreigner; I am very anxious to see him again, but I forget his name.' -- He named him, and his face fell directly. 'Dead?' said I. -- 'In exile.' -- 'O dear me!' said I, 'I had looked forward to seeing him again, more than any one I was acquainted with in the country!' -- 'What would you have?' says the Marchese in a low voice. 'He was a remarkable man -- full of knowledge, full of spirit, full of generosity. Where should he be but in exile! Where could he be!' We said not another word about it, but I shall always remember the short dialogue."

On the other hand there were incidents of the Austrian occupation as to which Dickens thought the ordinary style of comment unfair; and his closing remark on their police is well worth preserving. "I am strongly inclined to think that our countrymen are to blame in the matter of the Austrian vexations to travellers that have been complained of. Their manner is so very bad, they are so extraordinarily suspicious, so determined to be done by everybody, and give so much offence. Now, the Austrian police are very strict, but they really know how to do business, and they do it. And if you treat them like gentlemen, they will always respond. When we first crossed the Austrian frontier, and were ushered into the police office, I took off my hat. The officer immediately took off his, and was as polite -- still doing his duty, without any compromise -- as it was possible to be. When we came to Venice, the arrangements were very strict, but were so business-like that the smallest possible amount of inconvenience consistent with strictness ensued. Here is the scene. A soldier has come into the railway carnage (a saloon on the American plan) some miles off, has touched his hat, and asked for my passport. I have given it. Soldier has touched his hat again, and retired as from the presence of a superior officer. Alighted from carriage, we pass into a place like a banking-house, lighted up with gas. Nobody bullies us or drives us there, but we must go, because the road ends there. Several soldierly clerks. One very sharp chief. My passport is brought out of an inner room, certified to be en règle. Very sharp chief takes it, looks at it (it is rather longer, now, than Hamlet); calls out -- 'Signor Carlo Dickens!' 'Here I am sir.' 'Do you intend remaining long in Venice sir?' 'Probably four days sir!' 'Italian is known to you sir. You have been in Venice before?' 'Once before sir.' 'Perhaps you remained longer then sir?' 'No indeed; I merely came to see, and went as I came.' 'Truly sir? Do I infer that you are going by Trieste?' 'No. I am going to Parma, and Turin, and by Paris home.' 'A cold journey sir, I hope it may be a pleasant one.' 'Thank you.' -- He gives me one very sharp look all over, and wishes me a very happy night. I wish him a very happy night and it's done. The thing being done at all, could not be better done, or more politely -- though I dare say if I had been sucking a gentish cane all the time, or talking in English to my compatriots, it might not unnaturally have been different. At Turin and at Genoa there are no such stoppages at all; but in any other part of Italy, give me an Austrian in preference to a native functionary. At Naples it is done in a beggarly, shambling, bungling, tardy, vulgar way; but I am strengthened in my old impression that Naples is one of the most odious places on the face of the earth. The general degradation oppresses me like foul air."





IV

THREE SUMMERS AT BOULOGNE
1853, 1854, and 1856

Dickens was in Boulogne, in 1853, from the middle of June to the end of September, and for the next three months, as we have seen, was in Switzerland and Italy. In the following year he went again to Boulogne in June, and stayed, after finishing Hard Times, until far into October. In February of 1855 he was for a fortnight in Paris with Mr. Wilkie Collins; not taking up his more prolonged residence there until the winter. From November 1855 to the end of April 1856 he made the French capital his home, working at Little Dorrit during all those months. Then, after a month's interval in Dover and London, he took up his third summer residence in Boulogne, whither his younger children had gone direct from Paris; and stayed until September, finishing Little Dorrit in London in the spring of 1857.

Of the first of these visits, a few lively notes of humour and character out of his letters will tell the story sufficiently. The second and third had points of more attractiveness. Those were the years of the French-English alliance, of the great exposition of English paintings, of the return of the troops from the Crimea, and of the visit of the Prince Consort to the Emperor; such interest as Dickens took in these several matters appearing in his letters with the usual vividness, and the story of his continental life coming out with amusing distinctness in the successive pictures they paint with so much warmth and colour. Another chapter will be given to Paris. This deals only with Boulogne.

For his first summer residence, in June 1583, he had taken a house on the high ground near the Calais road; an odd French place with the strangest little rooms and halls, but standing in the midst of a large garden, with wood and waterfall, a conservatory opening on a great bank of roses, and paths and gates on one side to the ramparts, on the other to the sea. Above all there was a capital proprietor and landlord, by whom the cost of keeping up gardens and wood (which he called a forest) was defrayed, while he gave his tenant the whole range of both and all the flowers for nothing, sold him the garden produce as it was wanted, and kept a cow on the estate to supply the family milk. "If this were but 300 miles farther off," wrote Dickens, "how the English would rave about it! I do assure you that there are picturesque people, and town, and country, about this place, that quite fill up the eye and fancy. As to the fishing people (whose dress can have changed neither in colour nor in form for many, many years), and their quarter of the town cobweb-hung with great brown nets across the narrow up-hill streets, they are as good as "Naples, every bit." His description both of house and landlord, of which I tested the exactness when I visited him, was in the old pleasant vein; requiring no connection with himself to give it interest, but, by the charm and ease with which everything picturesque or characteristic was disclosed, placed in the domain of art.

"O the rain here yesterday!" (26 June.) "A great sea-fog rolling in, a strong wind blowing, and the rain coming down in torrents all day long. . . . This house is on a great hillside, backed up by woods of young trees. It faces the Haute Ville with the ramparts and the unfinished cathedral -- which capital object is exactly opposite the windows. On the slope in front, going steep down to the right, all Boulogne is piled and jumbled about in a very picturesque manner. The view is charming -- closed in at last by the tops of swelling hills; and the door is within ten minutes of the post-office, and within quarter of an hour of the sea. The garden is made in terraces up the hill-side, like an Italian garden; the top walks being in the before-mentioned woods. The best part of it begins at the level of the house, and goes up at the back, a couple of hundred feet perhaps. There are at present thousands of roses all about the house, and no end of other flowers. There are five great summer-houses, and (I think) fifteen fountains -- not one of which (according to the invariable French custom) ever plays. The house is a doll's house of many rooms. It is one story high, with eight and thirty steps up and down -- tribune wise -- to the front door: the noblest French demonstration I have ever seen I think. It is a double house; and as there are only four windows and a pigeon-hole to be beheld in front, you would suppose it to contain about four rooms. Being built on the hill-side, the top story of the house at the back -- there are two stories there -- opens on the level of another garden. On the ground floor there is a very pretty hall, almost all glass; a little dining-room opening on a beautiful conservatory, which is also looked into through a great transparent glass in a mirror-frame over the chimney-piece, just as in Paxton's room at Chatsworth; a spare bed-room, two little drawing-rooms opening into one another, the family bed-rooms, a bath-room, a glass corridor, an open yard, and a kind of kitchen with a machinery of stoves and boilers. Above, there are eight tiny bed-rooms all opening on one great room in the roof, originally intended for a billiard-room. In the basement there is an admirable kitchen with every conceivable requisite in it, a noble cellar, first-rate man's room and pantry; coach-house, stable, coal-store and wood-store; and in the garden is a pavilion, containing an excellent spare bed-room on the ground floor. The getting-up of these places, the looking-glasses, clocks, little stoves, all manner of fittings, must be seen to be appreciated. The conservatory is full of choice flowers and perfectly beautiful."

Then came the charm of the letter, his description of his landlord, lightly sketched by him in print as M. Loyal-Devasseur, but here filled in with the most attractive touches his loving hand could give. "But the landlord -- M. Beaucourt -- is wonderful. Everybody here has two surnames (I cannot conceive why and M. Beaucourt, as he is always called, is by rights M. Beaucourt-Mutuel. He is a portly jolly fellow with a fine open face; lives on the hill behind, just outside the top of the garden; and was a linen draper in the town, where he still has a shop, but is supposed to have mortgaged his business and to be in difficulties -- all along of this place, which he has planted with his own hands; which he cultivates all day; and which he never on any consideration speaks of but as 'the property.' He is extraordinarily popular in Boulogne (the people in the shops invariably brightening up at the mention of his name, and congratulating us on being his tenants), and really seems to deserve it. He is such a liberal fellow that I can't bear to ask him for anything, since he instantly supplies it whatever it is. The things he has done in respect of unreasonable bedsteads and washing-stands, I blush to think of. I observed the other day in one of the side gardens -- there are gardens at each side of the house too -- a place where I thought the Comic Countryman" (a name he was giving just then to his youngest boy) "must infallibly trip over, and make a little descent of a dozen feet. So I said 'M. Beaucourt' -- who instantly pulled off his cap and stood bareheaded -- 'there are some spare pieces of wood lying by the cow-house, if you would have the kindness to have one laid across here I think it would be safer.' 'Ah, mon dieu sir,' said M. Beaucourt,' it must be iron. This is not a portion of the property where you would like to see wood.' 'But iron is so expensive,' said I, 'and it really is not worth while ---' 'Sir, pardon me a thousands times,' said M. Beaucourt,' it shall be iron. Assuredly and perfectly it shall be iron.' 'Then M. Beaucourt,' said I, 'I shall be glad to pay a moiety of the cost.' 'Sir,' said, 'M. Beaucourt, 'Never!' Then to change the subject, he slided from his firmness and gravity into a graceful conversational tone, and said, 'In the moonlight last night, the flowers on the property appeared, O heaven, to be bathing themselves in the sky. You like the property?' 'M. Beaucourt,' said I, 'I am enchanted with it; I am more than satisfied with everything.' 'And I sir,' said M. Beaucourt, laying his cap upon his breast, and kissing his hand -- 'I equally! Yesterday two blacksmiths came for a day's work, and put up a good solid handsome bit of iron-railing, morticed into the stone parapet. . . . If the extraordinary things in the house defy description, the amazing phenomena in the gardens never could have been dreamed of by anybody but a Frenchmen bent upon one idea. Besides a portrait of the house in the dining-room, there is a plan of the property in the hall. It looks about the size of Ireland; and to every one of the extraordinary objects there is a reference with some portentous name. There are fifty-one such references, including the Cottage of Tom Thumb, the Bridge of Austerlitz, the Bridge of Jena, the Hermitage, the Bower of the Old Guard, the Labyrinth (I have no idea which is which); and there is guidance to every room in the house, as if it were a place on that stupendous scale that without such a clue you must infallibly lose your way, and perhaps perish of starvation between bedroom and bedroom."

On 3 July there came a fresh trait of the good fellow of a landlord. "Fancy what Beaucourt told me last night. When he 'conceived the inspiration' of planting the property ten years ago, he went over to England to buy the trees, took a small cottage in the market-gardens at Putney, lived there three months, held a symposium every night attended by the principal gardeners of Fulham, Putney, Kew, and Hammersmith (which he calls amsterdam), and wound up with a supper at which the market-gardeners rose, clinked their glasses, and exclaimed with one accord (I quote him exactly) VIVE BEAUCOURT! He was a captain in the National Guard, and Cavaignac his general. Brave Capitaine Beaucourt! said Cavaignac, you must receive a decoration. My General, said Beaucourt, No! It is enough for me that I have done my duty. I go to lay the first stone of a house upon a Property I have -- that house shall be my decoration (Regard that house!)" Addition to the picture came in a letter of 24 July: with a droll glimpse of Shakespeare at the theatre, and of the Saturday's pig-market.

"I may mention that the great Beaucourt daily changes the orthography of this place. He has now fixed it, by having painted up outside the garden gate, 'Entrée particuliere de la Villa des Moulineaux.' On another gate a little higher up, he has had painted 'Entrée des Ecuries de la Villa des Moulineaux.' On another gate a little lower down (applicable to one of the innumerable buildings in the garden),' Entrée du Tom Pouce.' On the highest gate of the lot, leading to his own house,' Entrée du Château Napoléonienne.' All of which inscriptions you will behold in black and white when you come. I see little of him now, as, all things being 'bien arrangées,' he is delicate of appearing. His wife has been making a trip in the country during the last three weeks, but (as he mentioned to me with his hat in his hand) it was necessary that he should remain here, to be continually at the disposition of the tenant of the Property. (The better to do this, he has had roaring dinner parties of fifteen daily; and the old woman who milks the cows has been fainting up the hill under vast burdens of champagne.)

"We went to the theatre last night, to see the Midsummer Night's Dream -- of the Opéra Comique. It is a beautiful little theatre now, with a very good company; and the nonsense of the piece was done with a sense quite confounding in that connecxion. Willy Am Shay Kes Peer; Sirzhon Foll Stayffe; Lor Lattimeer; and that celebrated Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth, Meees Oleeveeir -- were the principal characters.

"Outside the old town, an army of workmen are (and have been for a week or so, already) employed upon an immense building which I supposed might be a Fort, or a Monastery, or a Barrack, or other something designed to last for ages. I find it is for the annual fair, which begins on the fifth of August and lasts a fortnight. Almost every Sunday we have a fete, where there is dancing in the open air, and where immense men with prodigious beards revolve on little wooden horses like Italian irons, in what we islanders call a roundabout, by the hour together. But really the good humour and cheerfulness are very delightful. Among the other sights of the place, there is a pig-market every Saturday, perfectly insupportable in its absurdity. An excited French peasant, male or female, with a determined young pig, is the most amazing spectacle. I saw a little Drama enacted yesterday week, the drollery of which was perfect. Dram. Pers. 1. A pretty young woman with short petticoats and trim blue stockings, riding a donkey with two baskets and a pig in each. 2. An ancient farmer in a blouse, driving four pigs, his four in hand, with an enormous whip -- and being drawn against walls and into smoking shops by any one of the four. 3. A cart, with an old pig (manacled) looking out of it, and terrifying six hundred and fifty young pigs in the market by his terrific grunts. 4. Collector of Octroi in an immense cocked hat, with a stream of young pigs running, night and day, between his military boots and rendering accounts impossible. 5. Inimitable, confronted by a radiation of elderly pigs, fastened each by one leg to a bunch of stakes in the ground. 6. John Edmund Reade, poet, expressing eternal devotion to and admiration of Landor, unconscious of approaching pig recently escaped from barrow. 7. Priests, peasants, soldiers, &c. &c."

He had meanwhile gathered friendly faces round him. Frank Stone went over with his family to a house taken for him on the St. Omer road by Dickens, who was joined in the château by Mr. and Mrs. Leech and Mr. Wilkie Collins. "Leech says that when he stepped from the boat after their stormy passage, he was received by the congregated spectators with a distinct round of applause as by far the most intensely and unutterably miserable looking object that had yet appeared. The laughter was tumultuous, and he wishes his friends to know that altogether he made an immense hit." So passed the summer months: excursions with these friends to Amiens and Beauvais relieving the work upon his novel, and the trip to Italy, already described, following on its completion.

In June, 1854, M. Beaucourt had again received his famous tenant, but in another cottage or château (to him convertible terms) on the much cherished property, placed on the very summit of the hill with a private road leading out to the Column, a really pretty place, rooms larger than in the other house, a noble sea view, everywhere nice prospects, good garden, and plenty of sloping turf. It was called the Villa du Camp de Droite, and here Dickens stayed, as I have intimated, until the eve of his winter residence in Paris.

The formation of the Northern Camp at Boulogne began the week after he had finished Hard Times, and he watched its progress, as it increased and extended itself along the cliffs towards Calais, with the liveliest amusement. At first he was startled by the suddenness with which soldiers overran the roads, became billeted in every house, made the bridges red with their trousers, and "sprang upon the pier like fantastic mustard and cress when boats were expected, many of them never having seen the sea before." But the good behaviour of the men had a reconciling effect, and their ingenuity delighted him. The quickness with which they raised whole streets of mud-huts, less picturesque than the tents, but (like most unpicturesque things) more comfortable, was like an Arabian Nights' tale. "Each little street holds 144 men, and every corner-door has the number of the street upon it as soon as it is put up; and the postmen can fall to work as easily as in the Rue de Rivoli at Paris." His patience was again a little tried when he found baggage-wagons ploughing up his favourite walks, and trumpeters in twos and threes teaching newly-recruited trumpeters in all the sylvan places, and making the echoes hideous. But this had its amusement too. "I met to-day a weazen sun-burnt youth from the south with such an immense regimental shako on, that he looked like a sort of lucifer match-box, evidently blowing his life rapidly out, under the auspices of two magnificent creatures all hair and lungs, of such breadth across the shoulders that I couldn't see their breast-buttons when I stood in front of them."

The interest culminated as the visit of the Prince Consort approached with its attendant glories of illuminations and reviews. Beaucourt's excitement became intense. The Villa du Camp de Droite was to be a blaze of triumph on the night of the arrival; Dickens, who had carried over with him the meteor flag of England and set it streaming over a haystack in his field, now hoisted the French colours over the British Jack in honour of the national alliance; the Emperor was to subside to the station of a general officer, so that all the rejoicings should be in honour of the Prince; and there was to be a review in the open country near Wimereaux, when "at one stage of the maneuvres (I am too excited to spell the word, but you know what I mean)" the whole hundred thousand men in the camp of the North were to be placed before the Prince's eyes, to show what a division of the French army might be. "I believe everything I hear," said Dickens. It was the state of mind of Hood's country gentleman after the fire at the Houses of Parliament. "Beaucourt, as one of the town council, receives summonses to turn out and debate about something, or receive somebody, every five minutes. Whenever I look out of window, or go to the door, I see an immense black object at Beaucourt's porch like a boat set up on end in the air with a pair of white trousers below it. This is the cocked hat of an official Huissier, newly arrived with a summons, whose head is thrown back as he is in the act of drinking Beaucourt's wine." The day came at last, and all Boulogne turned out for its holiday; "but I" Dickens wrote, "had by this cooled down a little, and, reserving myself for the illuminations, I abandoned the great men and set off upon my usual country walk. See my reward. Coming home by the Calais road, covered with dust, I suddenly find myself face to face with Albert and Napoleon, jogging along in the pleasantest way, a little in front, talking extremely loud about the view, and attended by a brilliant staff of some sixty or seventy horsemen, with a couple of our royal grooms with their red coats riding oddly enough in the midst of the magnates. I took off my wide-awake without stopping to stare, whereupon the Emperor pulled off his cocked hat; and Albert (seeing, I suppose, that it was an Englishman) pulled off his. Then we went our several ways. The Emperor is broader across the chest than in the old times when we used to see him so often at Gore-House, and stoops more in the shoulders. Indeed his carriage thereabouts is like Fonblanque's." The town he described as "one great flag" for the rest of the visit; and to the success of the illuminations he contributed largely himself by leading off splendidly with a hundred and twenty wax candles blazing in his seventeen front windows, and visible from that great height over all the place. "On the first eruption Beaucourt danced and screamed on the grass before the door; and when he was more composed , set off with Madame Beaucourt to look at the house from every possible quarter, and, he said, collect the suffrages of his compatriots."

Their suffrages seem to have gone, however, mainly in another direction. "It was wonderful," Dickens wrote, "to behold about the streets the small French soldiers of the line seizing our Guards by the hand and embracing them. It was wonderful, too, to behold the English sailors in the town, shaking hands with everybody and generally patronizing everything. When the people could not get hold of either a soldier or a sailor, they rejoiced in the royal grooms, and embraced them. I don't think the Boulogne people were surprised by anything so much, as by the three cheers the crew of the yacht gave when the Emperor went aboard to lunch. The prodigious volume of them, and the precision, and the circumstance that no man was left straggling on his own account either before or afterwards, seemed to strike the general mind with amazement. Beaucourt said it was like boxing." That was written on 10 September; but in a very few days Dickens was unwillingly convinced that whatever the friendly disposition to England might be, the war with Russia was decidedly unpopular. He was present when the false report of the taking of Sebastopol reached the Emperor and Empress. "I was at the review" (8 October) "yesterday week, very near the Emperor and Empress, when the taking of Sebastopol was announced. It was a magnificent show on a magnificent day; and if any circumstance could make it special, the arrival of the telegraphic dispatch would be the culminating point one might suppose. It quite disturbed and mortified me to find how faintly, feebly, miserably, the men responded to the call of the officers to cheer, as each regiment passed by. Fifty excited Englishmen would make a greater sign and sound than a thousand of these men do. . . . The Empress was very pretty, and her slight figure sat capitally on her grey horse. When the Emperor gave her the dispatch to read, she flushed and fired up in a very pleasant way, and kissed it with as natural an impulse as one could desire to see."

On the night of that day Dickens went up to see a play acted at a cafe at the camp, and found himself one of an audience composed wholly of officers and men, with only four ladies among them, officers' wives. The steady, working, sensible faces all about him told their own story; "and as to kindness and consideration towards the poor actors, it was real benevolence." Another attraction at the camp was a conjuror, who had been called to exhibit twice before the imperial party, and whom Dickens always afterwards referred to as the most consummate master of legerdemain he had seen. Nor was he a mean authority as to this, being himself, with his tools at hand, a capital conjuror, but the Frenchman scorned help, stood among the company without any sort of apparatus, and, by the mere force of sleight of hand and an astonishing memory, performed feats having no likeness to anything Dickens had ever seen done, and totally inexplicable to his most vigilant reflection. "So far as I know, a perfectly original genius, and that puts any sort of knowledge of legerdemain, such as I supposed that I possessed,at utter defiance." The account he gave dealt with two exploits only, the easiest to describe, and, not being with cards, not the most remarkable; for he would also say of this Frenchman that he transformed cards into very demons. He never saw a human hand touch them in the same way, fling them about so amazingly, or change them in his, one's own, or another's hand, with a skill so impossible to follow.

"You are to observe that he was with the company, not in the least removed from them; and that we occupied the front row. He brought in some writing paper with him when he entered, and a black-lead pencil; and he wrote some words on half-sheets of paper. One of these half-sheets he folded into two, and gave to Catherine to hold. Madame, he says aloud, will you think of any class of objects? I have done so. -- Of what class, Madame? Animals. -- Will you think of a particular animal, Madame? I have done so. -- Of what animal? The Lion. -- Will you think of another class of objects, Madame? I have done so. -- Of what class? Flowers. -- The particular flower? The Rose. Will you open the paper you hold in your hand? She opened it, and there was neatly and plainly written in pencil -- The Lion. The Rose. Nothing whatever had led up to these words, and they were the most distant conceivable from Catherine's thoughts when she entered the room. He had several common school-slates about a foot square. He took one of these to a field-officer from the camp, decorè and what not, who sat about six from us, with a grave saturnine friend next him. My General, says he, will you write a name on this slate, after your friend has done so? Don't show it to me. The friend wrote a name, and the General wrote a name. The conjuror took the slate rapidly from the officer, threw it violently down on the ground with its written side to the floor, and asked the officer to put his foot upon it, and keep it there: which he did. The conjuror considered for about a minute, looking devilish hard at the General. -- My General, says he, your friend wrote Dagobert, upon the slate under your foot. The friend admits it. -- And you, my General, wrote Nicholas. General admits it, and everybody laughs and applauds. -- My General, will you excuse me, if I change that name into a name expressive of the power of a great nation, which, in happy alliance with the gallantry and spirit of France will shake that name to its centre? Certainly I will excuse it. -- My General, take up the slate and read. General reads: DAGOBERT, VICTORIA. The first in his friend's writing; the second in a new hand. I never saw anything in the least like this; or at all approaching to the absolute certainty, the familiarity, quickness, absence of all machinery, and actual face-to-face, hand-to-hand fairness between the conjuror and the audience, with which it was done. I have not the slightest idea of the secret. -- One more. He was blinded with several table napkins, and then a great cloth was bodily thrown over them and his head too, so that his voice sounded as if he were under a bed. Perhaps half a dozen dates were written on a slate. He takes the slate in his hand, and throws it violently down on the floor, as before, remains silent a minute, seems to become agitated, and bursts out thus: 'What is this I see? A great city, but of narrow streets and old-fashioned houses, many of which are of wood, resolving itself into ruins! How is it falling into ruins? Hark! I hear the crackling of a great conflagration, and, looking up, I behold a vast cloud of flame and smoke. The ground is covered with hot cinders too, and people are flying into the fields and endeavouring to save their goods. This great fire, this great wind, this roaring noise! This is the great fire of London, and the first date upon the slate must be one, six, six, six -- the year in which it happened!' And so on with all the other dates. There! Now, if you will take a cab and impart these mysteries to Rogers, I shall be very glad to have his opinion of them." Rogers had taxed our credulity with some wonderful clairvoyant experiences of his own in Paris, to which here was a parallel at last!

When leaving Paris for his third visit to Boulogne, at the beginning of June 1856, he had not written a word of the ninth number of his new book, and did not expect for another month to "see land from the running sea of Little Dorrit." He had resumed the house he first occupied, the cottage or villa "des Moulineaux," and after dawdling about his garden for a few days with surprising industry in a French farmer garb of blue blouse, leathern belt, and military cap, which he had mounted as "the only one for complete comfort," he wrote to me that he was getting "Now to work again -- to work! The story lies before me, I hope, strong and clear. Not to be easily told; but nothing of that sort Is to be easily done that I know of." At work it became his habit to sit late, and then, putting off his usual walk until night, to lie down among the roses reading until after tea ("middle-aged Love in a blouse and belt"), when he went down to the pier. "The said pier at evening is a phase of the place we never see, and which I hardly knew. But I never did behold such specimens of the youth of my country, male and female, as pervade that place. They are really, in their vulgarity and insolence, quite disheartening. One is so fearfully ashamed of them, and they contrast so very unfavourably with the natives." Mr. Wilkie Collins was again his companion in the summer weeks, and the presence of Jerrold for the greater part of the time added much to his enjoyment.

The last of the camp was now at hand. It had only a battalion of men in it, and a few days would see them out. At first there was horrible weather, "storms of wind, rushes of rain, heavy squalls, cold airs, sea fogs, banging shutters, flapping doors, and beaten down rose-trees by the hundred"; but then came a delightful week among the corn fields and bean fields, and afterwards the end. "It looks very singular and very miserable. The soil being sand, and the grass having been trodden away these two years, the wind from the sea carries the sand into the chinks and ledges of all the doors and windows, and chokes them; -- just as if they belonged to Arab huts in the desert. A number of the non-commissioned officers made turf-couches outside their huts, and there were turf orchestras for the bands to play in; all of which are fast getting sanded over in a most Egyptian manner. The Fair is on, under the walls of the haute ville over the way. At one popular show, the Malakhoff is taken every half-hour between 4 and 11. Bouncing explosions announce every triumph of the French arms (the English have nothing to do with it); and in the intervals a man outside blows a railway whistle -- straight into the dining-room. Do you know that the French soldiers call their English medal 'The Salvage Medal' -- meaning that they got it for saving the English army? I don't suppose there are a thousand people in all France who believe that we did anything but get rescued by the French. And I am confident that the no-result of our precious Chelsea inquiry has wonderfully strengthened this conviction. Nobody at home has yet any adequate idea, I am deplorably sure, of what the Barnacles and the Circumlocution Office have done for us. But whenever we get into war again, the people will begin to find out."

His own household had got into a small war already, of which the commander-in-chief was his man-servant "French," the bulk of the forces engaged being his children, and the invaders two cats. Business brought him to London on the hostilities breaking out, and on his return after a few days the story of the war was told. "Dick," it should be said, was a canary very dear both to Dickens and his eldest daughter, who had so tamed to her loving hand its wild little heart that it was become the most docile of companions. "The only thing new in this garden is that war is raging against two particularly tigerish and fearful cats (from the mill, I suppose), which are always glaring in dark corners, after our wonderful little Dick. Keeping the house open at all points, it is impossible to shut them out, and they hide themselves in the most terrific manner: hanging themselves up behind draperies, like bats, and tumbling out in the dead of night with frightful caterwaulings. Hereupon French borrows Beaucourt's gun, loads the same to the muzzle, discharges it twice in vain and throws himself over with the recoil, exactly like a clown. But at last (while I was in town) he aims at the more amiable cat of the two, and shoots that animal dead. Insufferably elated by this victory, he is now engaged from morning to night in hiding behind bushes to get aim at the other. He does nothing else whatever. All the boys encourage him and watch for the enemy -- on whose appearance they give an alarm which immediately serves as a warning to the creature, who runs away. They are at this moment (ready dressed for church) all lying on their stomachs in various parts of the garden. Horrible whistles give notice to the gun what point it is to approach. I am afraid to go out, lest I should be shot. Mr. Plornish says his prayers at night in a whisper, lest the cat should overhear him and take offence. The tradesmen cry out as they come up the avenue, 'Me voici! C'est moi -- boulanger -- ne tirez pas, Monsieur Franche!' It is like living in a state of siege; and the wonderful manner in which the cat preserves the character of being the only person not much put out by the intensity of this monomania, is most ridiculous." (6 July.) . . . "About four pounds of powder and half a ton of shot have been" (13 July) "fired off at the cat (and the public in general) during the week. The finest thing is that immediately after I have heard the noble sportsman blazing away at her in the garden in front, I look out of my room door into the drawing-room, and am pretty sure to see her coming in after the birds, in the calmest manner, by the back window. Intelligence has been brought to me from a source on which I can rely, that French has newly conceived the atrocious project of tempting her into the coach-house by meat and kindness, and there, from an elevated portmanteau, blowing her head off. This I mean sternly to interdict, and to do so to-day as a work of piety."

Besides the graver work which Mr. Wilkie Collins and himself were busy with, in these months, and by which Household Words mainly was to profit, some lighter matters occupied the leisure of both. There were to be, at Christmas, theatricals again at Tavistock House; in which the children, with the help of their father and other friends, were to follow up the success of the Lighthouse by again acquitting themselves as grown-up actors; and Mr. Collins was busy preparing for them a new drama to be called The Frozen Deep, while Dickens was sketching a farce for Mr. Lemon to fill in. But this pleasant employment had sudden and sad interruption.

An epidemic broke out in the town, affecting the children of several families known to Dickens, among them that of his friend Mr. Gilbert A'Beckett; who, upon arriving from Paris, and finding a favourite little son stricken dangerously, sank himself under an illness from which he had been suffering, and died two days after the boy. "He had for three days shown symptoms of rallying, and we had some hope of his recovery; but he sank and died, and never even knew that the child had gone before him. A sad, sad story." Dickens meanwhile had sent his own children home with his wife, and the rest soon followed. Poor M. Beaucourt was inconsolable. "The desolation of the place is wretched. When Mamey and Katey went, Beaucourt came in and wept. He really is almost broken-hearted about it. He had planted all manner of flowers for next month, and had thrown down the spade and left off weeding the garden, so that it looks something like a dreary bird-cage with all manner of grasses and chickweeds sticking through the bars and lying in the sand. 'Such a loss too,' he says, 'for Monsieur Dickens!' Then he looks in at the kitchen window (which seems to be his only relief), and sighs himself up the hill home."

Another word is to be said of this excellent man. The most touching traits recorded of him by Dickens have not had mention here, because they refer to the generosity shown by him to an English family in occupation of another of his houses, in connection with whom his losses must have been considerable, but for whom he had nothing but help and sympathy. Replying to some questions about them, put by Dickens one day, he had only enlarged on their sacrifices and self-denials. "Ah, that family, unfortunate! 'And you, Monsieur Beaucourt,' I said to him, 'you are unfortunate too, God knows!' Upon which he said in the pleasantest way in the world, Ah, Monsieur Dickens, thank you, don't speak of it! -- And backed himself down the avenue with his cap in his hand, as if he were going to back himself straight into the evening star, without the ceremony of dying first. I never did see such a gentle, kind heart." The interval of residence in Paris between these two last visits to Boulogne is now to be described.





V

RESIDENCE IN PARIS
1855-6

In Paris Dickens's life was passed among artists, and in the exercise of his own art. His associates were writers, painters, actors, or musicians, and when he wanted relief from any strain of work he found it at the theatre. The years since his last residence in the great city had made him better known, and the increased attentions pleased him. He had to help in preparing for a translation of his books into French; and this, with continued labour at the story he had in hand, occupied him as long as he remained. It will be all best told by extracts from his letters; in which the people he met, the theatres he visited, and the incidents, public or private, that seemed to him worthy of mention, reappear with the old force and liveliness.

Nor is anything better worth preserving from them than choice bits of description of an actor or a drama, for this perishable enjoyment has only so much as may survive out of such recollections to witness for itself to another generation; and an unusually high place may be challenged for the subtlety and delicacy of what is said in these letters of things theatrical, when the writer was especially attracted by a performer or a play. Frédéric Lemaître has never had a higher tribute than Dickens paid to him during his few days' earlier stay at Paris in the spring.

"Incomparably the finest acting I ever saw, I saw last night at the Ambigu. They have revived that old piece, once immensely popular in London under the name of Thirty Years of a Gambler's Life. Old Lemaitre plays his famous character, and never did I see anything, in art, so exaltedly horrible and awful. In the earlier acts he was so well made up, and so light and active, that he really looked sufficiently young. But in the last two, when he had grown old and miserable, he did the finest things, I really believe, that are within the power of acting. Two or three times a great cry of horror went all round the house. When he met, in the inn yard, the traveller whom he murders, and first saw his money, the manner in which the crime came into his head -- and eyes -- was as truthful as it was terrific. This traveller, being a good fellow, gives him wine. You should see the dim remembrance of his better days that comes over him as he takes the glass, and in a strange dazed way makes as if he were going to touch the other man's, or do some airy thing with it; and then stops and flings the contents down his hot throat, as if he were pouring it into a lime-kiln. But this was nothing to what follows after he has done the murder, and comes home, with a basket of provisions, a ragged pocket full of money, and a badly-washed bloody right hand which his little girl finds out. After the child asked him if he had hurt his hand, his going aside, turning himself round, and looking over all his clothes for spots, was so inexpressibly dreadful that it really scared one. He called for wine, and the sickness that came upon him when he saw the colour was one of the things that brought out the curious cry I have spoken of from the audience. Then he fell into a sort of bloody mist, and went on to the end groping about, with no mind for anything, except making his fortune by staking this money, and a faint dull kind of love for the child. It is quite impossible to satisfy one's-self by saying enough of this magnificent performance. I have never seen him come near its finest points in anything else. He said two things in a way that alone would put him far apart from all other actors. One to his wife, when he has exultingly shown her the money, and she has asked him how he got it -- 'I found it' -- and the other to his old companion and tempter, when he was charged by him with having killed that traveller, and suddenly went headlong mad and took him by the throat and howled out, 'It wasn't I who murdered him -- it was Misery!' And such a dress; such a face; and, above all, such an extraordinary guilty wicked thing as he made of a knotted branch of a tree which was his walking-stick, from the moment when the idea of the murder came into his head! I could write pages about him. It is an impression quite ineffaceable. He got half-boastful of that walking-staff to himself, and half-afraid of it; and didn't know whether to be grimly pleased that it had the jagged end, or to hate it and be horrified at it. He sat at a little table in the inn-yard, drinking with the traveller; and this horrible stick got between them like the Devil, while he counted on his fingers the uses he could put the money to."

That was at the close of February. In October, Dickens's longer residence began. He betook himself with his family, after two unsuccessful attempts in the new region of the Rue Balzac and Rue Lord Byron, to an apartment in the Avenue des Champs Elysees. Over him was an English bachelor with an establishment consisting of an English groom and five English horses. "The concierge and his wife told us that his name was Six, which drove me nearly mad until we discovered it to be Sykes." The situation was a good one, very cheerful for himself and with amusement for his children. It was a quarter of a mile above Franconi's on the other side of the way, and within a door or two of the Jardin d'Hiver. The Exposition was just below; the Barrière de l'Etoile from a quarter to half a mile below; and all Paris, including Emperor and Empress, coming from and returning to St. Cloud, thronged past the windows in open carriages or on horseback, all day long. Now it was he found himself more of a celebrity than when he had wintered in the city nine years before, the feuilleton of the Moniteur was filled daily with a translation of Chuzzlewit; and he had soon to consider the proposal I have named, to publish in French his collected novels and tales. Before he had been a week in his new abode, Ary Scheffer, "a frank and noble fellow," had made his acquaintance; introduced him to several distinguished Frenchmen; and expressed the wish to paint him. To Scheffer was also due an advantage obtained for my friend's two little daughters of which they may always keep the memory with pride. "Mamey and Katie are learning Italian, and their Master is Manin of Venetian fame , the best and the noblest of those unhappy gentlemen. He came here with a wife and a beloved daughter, and they are both dead. Scheffer made him known to me, and has been, I understand, wonderfully generous and good to him." Nor may I omit to state the enjoyment afforded him, not only by the presence in Paris during the winter of Mr. Wilkie Collins and of Mr. and Mrs. White of Bonchurch, but by the many friends from England whom the Art Exposition brought over. Sir Alexander Cockburn was one of these; Edwin Landseer, Charles Robert Leslie, and William Boxall, were others. Macready left his retreat at Sherborne to make him a visit of several days. Thackeray went to and fro all the time between London and his mother's house, in the Champs Elysées too, where his daughters were. Paris for the time was also the home of Robert Lytton, who belonged to the Embassy, of the Sartorises, of the Brownings, and of others whom Dickens liked and cared for.

At the first play he went to, the performance was stopped while the news of the last Crimean engagement, just issued in a supplement to the Moniteur, was read from the stage. "It made not the faintest effect upon the audience; and even the hired claqueurs who had been absurdly loud during the piece, seemed to consider the war not at all within their contract, and were as stagnant as ditchwater. The theatre was full. It is quite impossible to see such apathy, and suppose the war to be popular, whatever may be asserted to the contrary." The day before, he had met the Emperor and the King of Sardinia in the streets, "and, as usual, no man touching his hat, and very very few so much as looking round."

The success of a most agreeable little piece by our old friend Regnier took him next to the Français, where Plessy's acting enchanted him. "Of course the interest of it turns upon a flawed piece of living china (that seems to be positively essential), but as in most of these cases, if you will accept the position in which you find the people, you have nothing more to bother your morality about." The theatre in the Rue Richelieu, however, was not generally his favourite resort. He used to talk of it whimsically as a kind of tomb, where you went, as the Eastern people did in the stories, to think of your unsuccessful loves and dead relations. "There is a dreary classicality at that establishment calculated to freeze the marrow. Between ourselves, even one's best friends there are at times very aggravating. One tires of seeing a man, through any number of acts, remembering everything by patting his forehead with the flat of his hand, jerking out sentences by shaking himself, and piling them up in pyramids over his head with his right forefinger. And they have a generic small comedy-piece, where you see two sofas and three little tables, to which a man enters with his hat on, to talk to another man -- and in respect of which you know exactly when he will get up from one sofa to sit on the other, and take his hat off one table to put it upon the other -- which strikes one quite as ludicrously as a good farce . . . . There seems to be a good piece at the Vaudeville, on the idea of the Town and Country Mouse. It is too respectable and inoffensive for me to-night, but I hope to see it before I leave. . . . I have a horrible idea of making friends with Franconi, and sauntering when I am at work into their sawdust green-room."

At a theatre of a yet heavier school than the Français he had a drearier experience. "On Wednesday we went to the Odéon to see a new piece, in four acts and in verse, called Michel Cervantes. I suppose such an infernal dose of ditchwater never was concocted. But there were certain passages, describing the suppression of public opinion in Madrid, which were received with a shout of savage application to France that made one stare again. And once more, here again, at every pause, steady, compact, regular as military drums, the Ça Ira!" On another night, even at the Porte St. Martin, drawn there doubtless by the attraction of repulsion, he supped full with the horrors of classicality at a performance of Orestes versified by Alexandre Dumas. "Nothing have I ever seen so weighty and so ridiculous. If I had not already learnt to tremble at the sight of classic drapery on the human form, I should have plumbed the utmost depths of terrified boredom in this achievement. The chorus is not preserved otherwise than that bits of it are taken out for characters to speak. It is really so bad as to be almost good. Some of the Frenchified classical anguish struck me as so unspeakably ridiculous that it puts me on the broad grin as I write."

At the same theatre, in the early spring, he had a somewhat livelier entertainment. "I was at the Porte St. Martin last night, where there is a rather good melodrama called Sang Mêlé, in which one of the characters is an English Lord -- Lord William Falkland -- who is called throughout the piece Milor Williams Fack Lorn, and is a hundred times described by others and described by himself as Williams. He is admirably played; but two English travelling ladies are beyond expression ridiculous, and there is something positively vicious in their utter want of truth. One 'set,' where the action of a whole act is supposed to take place in the great wooden verandah of a Swiss hotel overhanging a mountain ravine, is the best piece of stage carpentering I have seen in France. Next week we are to have at the Ambigu Paradise Lost, with the murder of Abel and the Deluge. The wildest rumours are afloat as to the un-dressing of our first parents." Anticipation far outdoes a reality of this kind; and at the fever-pitch to which rumours raised it here, Dickens might vainly have attempted to get admission on the first night, if Mr. Webster, the English manager and comedian, had not obtained a ticket for him. He went with Mr. Wilkie Collins. "We were rung in (out of the café below the Ambigu) at 8, and the play was over at half-past 1: the waits between the acts being very much longer than the acts themselves. The house was crammed to excess in every part, and the galleries awful with Blouses, who again, during the whole of the waits, beat with the regularity of military drums the revolutionary tune of famous memory -- Ça Ira! The play is a compound of Paradise Lost and Byron's Cain; and some of the controversies between the archangel and the devil, when the celestial power argues with the infernal in conversational French, as 'Eh bien! Satan, crois-tu donc que notre Seigneur t'aurait exposé aux tourments que t'endures à présent, sans avoir prévu,' &c. &c., are very ridiculous. All the supernatural personages are alarmingly natural (as theatre nature goes), and walk about in the stupidest way. Which has occasioned Collins and myself to institute a perquisition whether the French ever have shown any kind of idea of the supernatural; and to decide this rather in the negative. The people are very well dressed, and Eve very modestly. All Paris and the provinces had been ransacked for a woman who had brown hair that would fall to the calves of her legs -- and she was found at last at the Odeon. There was nothing attractive until the 4th act, when there was a pretty good scene of the children of Cain dancing in, and desecrating, a temple, while Abel and his family were hammering hard at the Ark, outside, in all the pauses of the revel. The Deluge in the fifth act was up to about the mark of a drowning scene at the Adelphi; but it had one new feature. When the rain ceased, and the Ark drove in on the great expanse of water, then lying waveless as the mists cleared and the sun broke out, numbers of bodies drifted up and down. These were all real men and boys, each separate, on a new kind of horizontal sloat. They looked horrible and real. Altogether, a really dull business; but I dare say it will go for a long while."

A piece of honest farce is a relief from these profane absurdities. "An uncommonly droll piece with an original comic idea in it has been in course of representation here. It is called Les Cheveux de ma Femme. A man who is dotingly fond of his wife, and who wishes to know whether she loved anybody else before they were married, cuts off a lock of her hair by stealth, and takes it to a great mesmeriser, who submits it to a clairvoyante who never was wrong. It is discovered that the owner of this hair has been up to the most frightful dissipations, insomuch that the clairvoyante can't mention half of them. The distracted husband goes home to reproach his wife, and she then reveals that she wears a wig, and takes it off."

The last piece he went to see before leaving Paris was a French version of As You Like It; but he found two acts of it to be more than enough. "In Comme il vous Plaira nobody has anything to do but to sit down as often as possible on as many trunks of trees as possible. When I had seen Jacques seat himself on 17 roots of trees, and 25 grey stones, which was at the end of the second act, I came away." Only one more sketch taken in a theatre, and perhaps the best, I will give from these letters. It simply tells what is necessary to understand a particular "tag" to a play, but it is related so prettily that the thing it celebrates could not have a nicer effect than is produced by this account of it. The play in question, Mémoires du Diable, and another piece of enchanting interest, the Médecin des Enfants, were his favourites among all he saw at this time. "As I have no news, I may as well tell you about the tag that I thought so pretty to the Mémoires du Diable; in which piece by the way, there is a most admirable part, most admirably played, in which a man says merely 'Yes' or 'No' all through the piece, until the last scene. A certain M. Robin has got hold of the papers of a deceased lawyer, concerning a certain estate which has been swindled away from its rightful owner, a Baron's widow, into other hands. They disclose so much roguery that he binds them up into a volume lettered 'Mémoires du Diable.' The knowledge he derives from these papers not only enables him to unmask the hypocrites all through the piece (in an excellent manner), but induces him to propose to the Baroness that if he restores to her her estate and good name -- for even her marriage to the deceased Baron is denied -- she shall give him her daughter in marriage. The daughter herself, on hearing the offer, accepts it; and a part of the plot is, her going to a masked ball, to which he goes as the Devil, to see how she likes him (when she finds, of course, that she likes him very much). The country people about the Château in dispute, suppose him to be really the Devil, because of his strange knowledge, and his strange comings and goings; and he, being with this girl in one of its old rooms, in the beginning of the 3rd act, shows her a little coffer on the table with a bell in it. 'They suppose,' he tells her, 'that whenever this bell is rung, I appear and obey the summons. Very ignorant, isn't it? But, if you ever want me particularly -- very particularly -- ring the little bell and try.' The plot proceeds to its development. The wrong-doers are exposed; the missing document, proving the marriage is found; everything is finished; they are all on the stage; and M. Robin hands the paper to the Baroness. ' You are reinstated in your rights, Madame; you are happy; I will not hold you to a compact made when you didn't know me; I release you and your fair daughter; the pleasure of doing what I have done, is my sufficient reward; I kiss your hand and take my leave. Farewell!' He backs himself courteously out; the piece seems concluded, everybody wonders, the girl (little Mdlle. Luther) stands amazed; when she suddenly remembers the little bell. In the prettiest way possible, she runs to the coffer on the table, takes out the little bell, rings it, and he comes rushing back and folds her to his heart. I never saw a prettier thing in my life. It made me laugh in that most delightful of ways, with the tears in my eyes; so that I can never forget it, and must go and see it again."

But great as was the pleasure thus derived from the theatre, he was, in the matter of social intercourse, even more indebted to distinguished men connected with it by authorship or acting. At Scribe's he was entertained frequently; and "very handsome and pleasant" was his account of the dinners, as of all the belongings, of the prolific dramatist -- a charming place in Paris, a fine estate in the country, capital carriage, handsome pair of horses, "all made, as he says, by his pen." One of the guests the first evening was Auber, "a stolid little elderly man, rather petulant in manner," who told Dickens he had once lived at "Stock Noonton" (Stoke Newington) to study English, but had forgotten it all. "Louis Philippe had invited him to meet the Queen of England, and when L. P. presented him, the Queen said, 'We are such old acquaintances through M. Auber's works, that an introduction is quite unnecessary.'" They met again a few nights later, with the author of the History of the Girondins, at the hospitable table of M. Pichot, to whom Lamartine had expressed a strong desire again to meet Dickens as "un des grands amis de son imagination." "He continues to be precisely as we formerly knew him, both in appearance and manner; highly prepossessing, and with a sort of calm passion about him, very taking indeed. We talked of De Foe and Richardson, and of that wonderful genius for the minutest details in a narrative which has given them so much fame in France. I found him frank and unaffected, and full of curious knowledge of the French common people. He informed the company at dinner that he had rarely met a foreigner who spoke French so easily as your inimitable correspondent, whereat your correspondent blushed modestly, and almost immediately afterwards so nearly choked himself with the bone of a fowl (which is still in his throat), that he sat in torture for ten minutes with a strong apprehension that he was going to make the good Pichot famous by dying like the little Hunchback at his table. Scribe and his wife were of the party, but had to go away at the ice-time because it was the first representation at the Opéra Comique of a new opera by Auber and himself, of which very great expectations had been formed. It was very curious to see him -- the author of 400 pieces -- getting nervous as the time approached, and pulling out his watch every minute. At last he dashed out as if he were going into what a friend of mine calls a plunge-bath. Whereat she rose and followed. She is the most extraordinary woman I ever beheld; for her eldest son must be thirty, and she has the figure of five-and-twenty, and is strikingly handsome. So graceful too, that her manner of rising, curtseying, laughing, and going out after him, was pleasanter than the pleasantest thing I have ever seen done on the stage." The opera Dickens himself saw a week later, and wrote of it as "most charming. Delightful music, an excellent story, immense stage tact, capital scenic arrangements, and the most delightful little prima donna ever seen or heard, in the person of Marie Cabel. It is called Manon Lescaut -- from the old romance -- and is charming throughout. She sings a laughing song in it which is received with madness, and which is the only real laughing song that ever was written. Auber told me that when it was first rehearsed, it made a great effect upon the orchestra; and that he could not have had a better compliment upon its freshness than the musical director paid him, in coming and clapping him on the shoulder with 'Bravo, jeune homme! Cela promet bien!'"

At dinner at Regnier's he met M. Legouvet, in whose tragedy Rachel, after its acceptance, had refused to act Medea; a caprice which had led not only to her condemnation in costs of so much a night until she did act it, but to a quasi rivalry against her by Ristori, who was now on her way to Paris to play it in Italian. To this performance Dickens and Macready subsequently went together, and pronounced it to be hopelessly bad. "In the day entertainments, and little melodrama theatres, of Italy, I have seen the same thing fifty times, only not at once so conventional and so exaggerated. The papers have all been in fits respecting the sublimity of the performance, and the genuineness of the applause -- particularly of the bouquets; which were thrown on at the most preposterous times in the midst of agonizing scenes, so that the characters had to pick their way among them, and a certain stout gentleman who played King Creon was obliged to keep a wary eye, all night, on the proscenium boxes, and dodge them as they came down. Now Scribe, who dined here next day (and who follows on the Ristori side, being offended, as everybody has been, by the insolence of Rachel), could not resist the temptation of telling us, that, going round at the end of the first act to offer his congratulations, he met all the bouquets coming back in men's arms to be thrown on again in the second act. . . . By the bye, I see a fine actor lost in Scribe. In all his pieces he has everything done in his own way; and on that same night he was showing what Rachel did not do, and wouldn't do, in the last scene of Adrienne Lecouvreur, with extraordinary force and intensity."

At the house of another great artist, Madame Viardot, the sister of Malibran, Dickens dined to meet Georges Sand, that lady having appointed the day and hour for the interesting festival, which came off duly on 10 January. "I suppose it to be impossible to imagine anybody more unlike my preconceptions than the illustrious Sand. Just the kind of woman in appearance whom you might suppose to be the Queen's monthly nurse. Chubby, matronly, swarthy, black-eyed. Nothing of the blue-stocking about her, except a little final way of settling all your opinions with hers, which I take to have been acquired in the country, where she lives, and in the domination of a small circle. A singularly ordinary woman in appearance and manner. The dinner was very good and remarkably unpretending. Ourselves, Madame and her son, the Scheffers, the Sartorises, and some Lady somebody (from the Crimea last) who wore a species of paletot and smoked. The Viardots have a house away in the new part of Paris, which looks exactly as if they had moved into it last week and were going away next. Notwithstanding which, they have lived in it eight years. The opera the very last thing on earth you would associate with the family. Piano not even opened. Her husband is an extremely good fellow, and she is as natural as it is possible to be."

Dickens was hardly the man to take fair measure of Madame Dudevant in meeting her thus. He was not familiar with her writings, and had no very special liking for such of them as he knew. But no disappointment, nothing but amazement, awaited him at a dinner that followed soon after. Emile de Girardin gave a banquet in his honour. his description of it, which he declares to he strictly prosaic, sounds a little Oriental, but not inappropriately so. "No man unacquainted with my determination never to embellish or fancify such accounts, could believe in the description I shall let off when we meet, of dining at Emile Girardin's -- of the three gorgeous drawing-rooms with ten thousand wax candles in golden sconces, terminating in a dining-room of unprecedented magnificence with two enormous transparent plate-glass doors in it, looking (across an antechamber full of clean plates) straight into the kitchen, with the cooks in their white paper caps dishing the dinner. From his seat in the midst of the table, the host (like a Giant in a Fairy story) beholds the kitchen, and the snow-white tables, and the profound order and silence there prevailing. Forth from the plate-glass doors issues the Banquet -- the most wonderful feast ever tasted by mortal: at the present price of Truffles, that article alone costing (for eight people) at least five pounds. On the table are ground glass jugs of peculiar construction, laden with the finest growth of Champagne and the coolest ice. With the third course is issued Port Wine (previously unheard of in a good state on this continent), which would fetch two guineas a bottle at any sale. The dinner done, Oriental flowers in vases of golden cobweb are placed upon the board. With the ice is issued Brandy, buried for 100 years. To that succeeds Coffee, brought by the brother of one of the convives from the remotest East, in exchange for an equal quantity of Californian gold dust. The company being returned to the drawing-room -- tables roll in by unseen agency, laden with Cigarettes from the Hareem of the Sultan, and with cool drinks in which the flavour of the Lemon arrived yesterday from Algeria, struggles voluptuously with the delicate Orange arrived this morning from Lisbon. That period past, and the guests reposing on Divans worked with many-coloured blossoms, big table rolls in, heavy with massive furniture of silver, and breathing incense in the form of a little present of Tea direct from China -- table and all, I believe; but cannot swear to it, and am resolved to be prosaic. All this time the host perpetually repeats 'Ce petit dîner-ci n'est que pour faire la connaissance de Monsieur Dirkens; il ne compte pas; ce n'est rien.' And even now I have forgotten to set down half of it -- in particular the item of a far larger plum pudding than ever was seen in England at Christmas time, served with a celestial sauce in colour like the orange blossom, and in substance like the blossom powdered and bathed in dew, and called in the carte (carte in a gold frame like a little fish-slice to be handed about) 'Hommage è l'illustre écrivain d'Angleterre.' That illustrious man staggered out at the last drawing-room door, speechless with wonder, finally; and even at that moment his host, holding to his lips a chalice set with precious stones and containing nectar distilled from the air that blew over the fields of beans in bloom for fifteen summers, remarked 'Le dîner que nous avons eu, mon cher, n'est rien -- il ne compte pas -- il a été tout-à-fait en famille -- il faut dîner (en vérité, dîner) bientôt. Au plaisir! Au revoir! Au dîner!'"

The second dinner came, wonderful as the first; among the company were Regnier, Jules Sandeau, and the new Director of the Français; and his host again played Lucullus in the same style, with success even more consummate. The only absolutely new incident however was that "After dinner he asked me if I would come into another room and smoke a cigar? and on my saying Yes, coolly opened a drawer, containing about 5,000 inestimable cigars in prodigious bundles -- just as the Captain of the Robbers in Ali Baba might have gone to a corner of the cave for bales of brocade. A little man dined who was blacking shoes 8 years ago, and is now enormously rich -- the richest man in Paris -- having ascended with rapidity up the usual ladder of the Bourse. By merely observing that perhaps he might come down again, I clouded so many faces as to render it very clear to me that everybody present was at the same game for some stake or other!" He returned to that subject in a letter a few days later. "If you were to see the steps of the Bourse at about 4 in the afternoon, and the crowd of blouses and patches among the speculators there assembled, all howling and haggard with speculation, you would stand aghast at the consideration of what must be going on. Concierges and people like that perpetually blow their brains out, or fly into the Seine, 'à cause des pertes sur la Bourse.' I hardly ever take up a French paper without lighting on such a paragraph. On the other hand, thoroughbred horses without end, and red velvet carriages with white kid harness on jet black horses, go by here all day long; and the pedestrians who turn to look at them laugh, and say, 'C'est la Bourse!' Such crashes must be staved off every week as have not been seen since Law's time."

Another picture connects itself with this, and throws light on the speculation thus raging. The French loans connected with the war, so much puffed and praised in England at the time for the supposed spirit in which they were taken up, had in fact only ministered to the commonest and lowest gambling; and the war had never in the least been popular. "Emile Girardin," wrote Dickens on 23 March, "was here yesterday, and he says that Peace is to be formally announced at Paris to-morrow amid general apathy." But the French are never wholly apathetic to their own exploits; and a display with a touch of excitement in it had been witnessed a couple of months before on the entry of the troops from the Crimea, when the Zouaves, as they marched past, pleased Dickens most. "A remarkable body of men," he wrote, "wild, dangerous, and picturesque. Close-cropped head, red skull cap, Greek jacket, full red petticoat trowsers trimmed with yellow, and high white gaiters -- the most sensible things for the purpose I know, and coming into use in the line. A man with such things on his legs is always free there, and ready for a muddy march; and might flounder through roads two feet deep in mud, and, simply by changing his gaiters (he has another pair in his haversack), be clean and comfortable and wholesome again, directly. Plenty of beard and moustache, and the musket carried reversewise with the stock over the shoulder, make up the sun-burnt Zouave. He strides like Bobadil, smoking as he goes; and when he laughs (they were under my window for half-an-hour or so), plunges backward in the wildest way, as if he were going to throw a summersault. They have a black dog belonging to the regiment, and, when they now marched along with their medals, this dog marched after the one non-commissioned officer he invariably follows with a profound conviction that he was decorated. I couldn't see whether he had a medal, his hair being long; but he was perfectly up to what had befallen his regiment; and I never saw anything so capital as his way of regarding the public. Whatever the regiment does, he is always in his place; and it was impossible to mistake the air of modest triumph which was now upon him. A small dog corporeally, but of great mind." On that night there was an illumination in honour of the army, when the "whole of Paris, by streets and lanes and all sorts of out of the way places, was most brilliantly illuminated. It looked in the dark like Venice and Genoa rolled into one, and split up through the middle by the Corso at Rome in the carnival time. The French people certainly do know how to humour their own countrymen, in a most marvellous way." It was the festival time of the New Year, and Dickens was fairly lost in a mystery of amazement at where the money could come from that everybody was spending on the étrennes they were giving to everybody else. All the famous shops on the Boulevards had been blockaded for more than a week. "There is now a line of wooden stalls, three miles long on each side of that immense thoroughfare; and wherever a retiring house or two admits of a double line, there it is. All sorts of objects from shoes and sabots, through porcelain and crystal, up to live fowls and rabbits which are played for at a sort of dwarf skittles (to their immense disturbance, as the ball rolls under them and shakes them off their shelves and perches whenever it is delivered by a vigorous hand), are on sale in this great Fair. And what you may get in the way of ornament for twopence, is astounding." Unhappily there came dark and rainy weather, and one of the improvements of the Empire ended, as so many others did, in slush and misery.

Some sketches connected with the Art Exposition in this winter of 1855, and with the fulfilment of Ary Scheffer's design to paint the portrait of Dickens, may close these Paris pictures. He did not think that English art showed to advantage beside the French. It seemed to him small, shrunken, insignificant, "niggling." He thought the general absence of ideas horribly apparent; "and even when one comes to Mulready, and sees two old men talking over a much-too-prominent table-cloth, and reads the French explanation of their proceedings, 'La discussion sur les principes de Docteur Whiston,' one is dissatisfied. Somehow or other they don't tell. Even Leslie's Sancho wants go, and Stanny is too much like a set-scene. It is of no use disguising the fact that what we know to be wanting in the men is wanting in their works -- character, fire, purpose, and the power of using the vehicle and the model as mere means to an end. There is a horrid respectability about most of the best of them -- a little, finite, systematic routine in them, strangely expressive to me of the state of England itself. As a mere fact, Frith, Ward, and Egg, come out the best in such pictures as are here, and attract to the greatest extent. The first, in the picture from the Good-natured Man; the second, in the Royal Family in the Temple; the third, in Peter the Great first seeing Catherine -- which I always thought a good picture, and in which foreigners evidently descry a sudden dramatic touch that pleases them. There are no end of bad pictures among the French, but, Lord! the goodness also! -- the fearlessness of them; the bold drawing; the dashing conception; the passion and action in them! The Belgian department is full of merit. It has the best landscape in it, the best portrait, and the best scene of homely life, to be found in the building. Don't think it a part of my despondency about public affairs, and my fear that our national glory is on the decline, when I say that mere form and conventionalities usurp, in English art, as in English government and social relations, the place of living force and truth. I tried to resist the impression yesterday, and went to the English gallery first, and praised and admired with great diligence; but it was of no use. I could not make anything better of it than what I tell you. Of course this is between ourselves. Friendship is better than criticism, and I shall steadily hold my tongue. Discussion is worse than useless when you cannot agree about what you are going to discuss." French nature is all wrong, said the English artists whom Dickens talked to; but surely not because it is French, was his reply. The English point of view is not the only one to take men and women from. The French pictures are "theatrical," was the rejoinder. But the French themselves are a demonstrative and gesticulating people, was Dickens's retort; and what thus is rendered by their artists is the truth through an immense part of the world. "I never saw anything so strange. They seem to me to have got a fixed idea that there is no natural manner but the English manner (in itself so exceptional that it is a thing apart, in all countries); and that unless a Frenchman -- represented as going to the guillotine for example -- is as calm as Clapham, or as respectable as Richmond Hill, he cannot be right."

To the sittings at Ary Scheffer's some troubles as well as many pleasures were incident, and both had mention in his letters. "You may faintly imagine what I have suffered from sitting to Scheffer every day since I came back. He is a most noble fellow, and I have the greatest pleasure in his society, and have made all sorts of acquaintances at his house; but I can scarcely express how uneasy and unsettled it makes me to have to sit, sit, sit, with Little Dorrit on my mind, and the Christmas business too -- though that is now happily dismissed. On Monday afternoon, and all day on Wednesday, I am going to sit again. And the crowning feature is, that I do not discern the slightest resemblance, either in his portrait or his brother's! They both peg away at me at the same time." The sittings were varied by a special entertainment, when Scheffer received some sixty people in his "long atelier" -- "including a lot of French who say (but I don't believe it) that they know English" -- to whom Dickens, by special entreaty, read his Cricket on the Hearth.

That was at the close of November. January came, and the end of the sittings was supposed to be at hand. "The nightmare portrait is nearly done; and Scheffer promises that an interminable sitting next Saturday, beginning at 10 o'clock in the morning, shall finish it. It is a fine spirited head, painted at his very best, and with a very easy and natural appearance in it. But it does not look to me at all like, nor does it strike me that if I saw it in a gallery I should suppose myself to be the original. It is always possible that I don't know my own face. It is going to he engraved here, in two sizes and ways -- the mere head and the whole thing." A fortnight later the interminable sitting came. "Imagine me if you please with No. 5 on my head and hands, sitting to Scheffer yesterday four hours! At this stage of a story, no one can conceive how it distresses me." Still this was not the last. March had come before the portrait was done. "Scheffer finished yesterday; and Collins, who has a good eye for pictures, says that there is no man living who could do the painting about the eyes. As a work of art I see in it spirit combined with perfect ease, and yet I don't see myself. So I come to the conclusion that I never do see myself. I shall be very curious to know the effect of it upon you." March had then begun; and at its close Dickens, who had meanwhile been in England, thus wrote: "I have not seen Scheffer since I came back but he told Catherine a few days ago that he was not satisfied with the likeness after all, and thought he must do more to it. My own impression of it, you remember?" In these few words he anticipated the impression made upon myself. I was not satisfied with it. The picture had much merit, but not as a portrait. From its very resemblance in the eyes and mouth one derived the sense of a general unlikeness. But the work of the artist's brother, Henri Scheffer, painted from the same sittings, was in all ways greatly inferior.

Before Dickens left Paris in May he had completed the arrangements for a published translation of all his books, and had sent over two descriptions that the reader most anxious to follow him to a new scene would perhaps be sorry to lose. A Duchess was murdered in the Champs Elysées. "The murder over the way (the third or fourth event of that nature in the Champs Elysées since we have been here) seems to disclose the strangest state of things. The Duchess who is murdered lived alone in a great house which was always shut up, and passed her time entirely in the dark. In a little lodge outside lived a coachman (the murderer), and there had been a long succession of coachmen who had been unable to stay there, and upon whom, whenever they asked for their wages, she plunged out with an immense knife, by way of an immediate settlement. The coachman never had anything to do, for the coach hadn't been driven out for years; neither would she ever allow the horses to be taken out for exercise. Between the lodge and the house, is a miserable bit of garden, all overgrown with long rank grass, weeds, and nettles; and in this, the horses used to be taken out to swim -- in a dead green vegetable sea, up to their haunches. On the day of the murder there was a great crowd, of course; and in the midst of it up comes the Duke her husband (from whom she was separated), and rings at the gate. The police open the grate. C'est vrai donc,' says the Duke, 'que Madame la Duchesse n'est plus?' -- 'C'est trop vrai, Monseigneur.' -- 'Tant mieux,' says the Duke, and walks off deliberately, to the great satisfaction of the assemblage."

The second description relates an occurrence in England of only three years' previous date, belonging to that wildly improbable class of realities which Dickens always held, with Fielding, to be (properly) closed to fiction. Only, he would add, critics should not be so eager to assume that what had never happened to themselves could not, by any human possibility, ever be supposed to have happened to anybody else. "B. was with me the other day, and, among other things that he told me, described an extraordinary adventure in his life, at a place not a thousand miles from my 'property' at Gadshill, three years ago. He lived at the tavern and was sketching one day when an open carriage came by with a gentleman and lady in it. He was sitting in the same place working at the same sketch, next day, when it came by again. So, another day, when the gentleman got out and introduced himself. Fond of art; lived at the great house yonder, which perhaps he knew; was an Oxford man and a Devonshire squire, but not resident on his estate, for domestic reasons; would be glad to see him to dinner to-morrow. He went, and found among other things a very fine library. 'At your disposition,' said the Squire, to whom he had now described himself and his pursuits. 'Use it for your writing and drawing. Nobody else uses it.' He stayed in the house six months. The lady was a mistress, aged five-and-twenty, and very beautiful, drinking her life away. The Squire was drunken, and utterly depraved and wicked; but an excellent scholar, an admirable linguist, and a great theologian. Two other mad visitors stayed the six months. One, a man well known in Paris here, who goes about the world with a crimson silk stocking in his breast pocket, containing a tooth-brush and an immense quantity of ready money. The other, a college chum of the Squire's, now ruined; with an insatiate thirst for drink; who constantly got up in the middle of the night, crept down to the dining-room, and emptied all the decanters. . . B. stayed on in the place, under a sort of devilish fascination to discover what might come of it. . . . Tea or coffee never seen in the house, and very seldom water. Beer, champagne, and brandy, were the three drinkables. Breakfast: leg of mutton, champagne, beer, and brandy. Lunch: shoulder of mutton, champagne, beer, and brandy. Dinner: every conceivable dish (Squire's income, 7,000 a year), champagne, beer, and brandy. The Squire had married a woman of the town from whom he was now separated, but by whom he had a daughter. The mother, to spite the father, had bred the daughter in every conceivable vice. Daughter, then 13, came from school once a month. Intensely coarse in talk, and always drunk. As they drove about the country in two open carriages, the drunken mistress would be perpetually tumbling out of one, and the drunken daughter perpetually tumbling out of the other. At last the drunken mistress drank her stomach away, and began to die on the sofa. Got worse and worse, and was always raving about Somebody's where she had once been a lodger, and perpetually shrieking that she would cut somebody else's heart out. At last she died on the sofa, and, after the funeral the party broke up. A few months ago, B. met the man with the crimson silk stocking at Brighton, who told him that the Squire was dead 'of a broken heart'; that the chum was dead of delirium tremens; and that the daughter was heiress to the fortune. He told me all this, which I fully believe to be true without any embellishment -- just in the off-hand way in which I have told it to you."

Dickens left Paris at the end of April, and, after the summer in Boulogne which has been described, passed the winter in London, giving to his theatrical enterprise nearly all the time that Little Dorrit did not claim from him. His book was finished in the following spring; was inscribed to Clarkson Stanfield and now claims to have something said about it. The theatrical enterprise to be at the same time related, with what it led to, will be found to open a new phase in the life of Dickens.



BOOK EIGHTH: PUBLIC READER (1856-67)

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