John Forster

The Life of Charles Dickens

BOOK EIGHTH: PUBLIC READER (1856-67)

  1. "LITTLE DORRIT," AND A LAZY TOUR (1855-7)
  2. WHAT HAPPENED AT THIS TIME (1857-8)
  3. GADSHILL PLACE (I856-70)
  4. FIRST PAID READINGS (1858-9)
  5. "ALL THE YEAR ROUND" AND "UNCOMMERCIAL TRAVELLER" (1859-61)
  6. SECOND SERIES OF READINGS (1861-3)
  7. THIRD SERIES OF READINGS (1864-7)






I

"LITTLE DORRIT," AND A LAZY TOUR
1855-7

Between Hard Times and Little Dorrit, Dickens's principal literary work had been the contribution to Household Words of two tales for Christmas (1854 and 1855) which his readings afterwards made widely popular, the Story of Richard Doubledick, and Boots at the Holly-Tree Inn. In the latter was related, with a charming naturalness and spirit, the elopement, to get married at Gretna Green, of two little children of the mature respective ages of eight and seven. At Christmas 1855 came out the first number of Little Dorrit, and in April 1857 the last.

The book took its origin from the notion he had of a leading man for a story who should bring about all the mischief in it, lay it all on Providence, and say at every fresh calamity, "Well, it's a mercy, however, nobody was to blame you know!" The title first chosen, out of many suggested, was Nobody's Fault; and four numbers had been written, of which the first was on the eve of appearing, before this was changed. When about to fall to work he excused himself from an engagement he should have kept because "the story is breaking out all round me, and I am going off down the railroad to humour it." The humouring was a little difficult, however; and such indications of a droop in his invention as presented themselves in portions of Bleak House, were noticeable again. "As to the story I am in the second number, and last night and this morning had half a mind to begin again, and work in what I have done, afterwards" (Aug. 19). It had occurred to him, that, by making the fellow-travellers at once known to each other, as the opening of the story stands, he had missed an effect. "It struck me that it would be a new thing to show people coming together, in a chance way, as fellow-travellers, and being in the same place, ignorant of one another, as happens in life; and to connect them afterwards, and to make the waiting for that connection a part of the interest." The change was not made; but the mention of it was one of several intimations to me of the altered conditions under which he was writing, and that the old, unstinted, irrepressible flow of fancy had received temporary check. In this view I have found it very interesting to compare the original notes, which as usual he prepared for each number of the tale, and which with the rest are in my possession, with those of Chuzzlewit or Copperfield; observing in the former the labour and pains, and in the latter the lightness and confidence of handling. "I am just now getting to work on number three: sometimes enthusiastic, more often dull enough. There is an enormous outlay in the Father of the Marshalsea chapter, in the way of getting a great lot of matter into a small space. I am not quite resolved, but I have a great idea of overwhelming that family with wealth. Their condition would be very curious. I can make Dorrit very strong in the story, I hope" (Sept. 16). The Marshalsea part of the tale undoubtedly was excellent, and there was masterly treatment of character in the contrasts of the brothers Dorrit; but of the family generally it may be said that its least important members had most of his genius in them. The younger of the brothers, the scapegrace son, and "Fanny dear," are perfectly real people in what makes them unattractive; but what is meant for attractiveness in the heroine becomes often tiresome by want of reality.

The first number appeared in December, 1855, and on its sale there was an exultant note. "Little Dorrit has beaten even Bleak House out of the field. It is a most tremendous start, and I am overjoyed at it"; to which he added, writing from Paris on the 6th of the month following, "You know that they had sold 35,000 of number two on new year's day." He was still in Paris on the day of the appearance of that portion of the tale by which it will always be most vividly remembered, and thus wrote on 30 January, 1856: "I have a grim pleasure upon me to-night in thinking that the Circumlocution Office sees the light, and in wondering what effect it will make. But my head really stings with the visions of the book, and I am going, as we French say, to disembarrass it by plunging out into some of the strange places I glide into of nights in these latitudes." The Circumlocution heroes led to the Society scenes, the Hampton-court dowager-sketches, and Mr. Gowan; all parts of one satire levelled against prevailing political and social vices. Aim had been taken, in the course of it, at some living originals, disguised sufficiently from recognition to enable him to make his thrust more sure; but there was one exception self-revealed. "I had the general idea," he wrote while engaged on the sixth number, "of the Society business before the Sadleir affair, but I shaped Mr. Merdle himself out of that precious rascality. Society, the Circumlocution Office, and Mr. Gowan, are of course three parts of one idea and design. Mr. Merdle's complaint, which you will find in the end to be fraud and forgery, came into my mind as the last drop in the silver cream-jug on Hampstead Heath. I shall beg, when you have read the present number, to enquire whether you consider 'Bar' an instance, in reference to K F, of a suggested likeness in not many touches?" The likeness no one could mistake; and, though that particular Bar has since been moved into a higher and happier sphere, Westminster-hall is in no danger of losing "the insinuating Jury-droop, and persuasive double eye-glass," by which this keen observer could express a type of character in half a dozen words.

Of the other portions of the book that had a strong personal interest for him I have spoken on a former page (ante, 49), and I will now only add an allusion of his own. "There are some things in Flora in number seven that seem to me to be extraordinarily droll, with something serious at the bottom of them after all. Ah, well! was there not something very serious in it once? I am glad to think of being in the country with the long summer mornings as I approach number ten, where I have finally resolved to make Dorrit rich. It should be a very fine point in the story. . . . Nothing in Flora made me laugh so much as the confusion of ideas between gout flying upwards, and its soaring with Mr. F ----- to another sphere" (April 7). He had himself no inconsiderable enjoyment also of Mr. F.'s Aunt; and in the old rascal of a patriarch, the smooth-surfaced Casby, and other surroundings of poor Flora, there was fun enough to float an argosy of second-rates, assuming such to have formed the staple of the tale. It would be far from fair to say they did. The defect in the book was less the absence of excellent character or keen observation, than the want of ease and coherence among the figures of the story, and of a central interest in the plan of it. The agencies that bring about its catastrophe, too, are less agreeable even than in Bleak House; and, most unlike that well-constructed story, some of the most deeply-considered things that occur in it have really little to do with the tale itself. The surface-painting of both Miss Wade and Tattycoram, to take an instance, is anything but attractive, yet there is under it a rare force of likeness in the unlikeness between the two which has much subtlety of intention; and they must both have had, as well as Mr. Gowan himself, a striking effect in the novel, if they had been made to contribute in a more essential way to its interest or development. The failure nevertheless had not been for want of care and study, as well of his own design as of models by masters in his art. A happier hint of apology, for example, could hardly be given for Fielding's introduction of such an episode as the Man of the Hill between the youth and manhood of Blifil and Tom Jones, than is suggested by what Dickens wrote of the least interesting part of Little Dorrit. In the mere form, Fielding of course was only following the lead of Cervantes and Le Sage; but Dickens rightly judged his purpose also to have been, to supply a kind of connection between the episode and the story. "I don't see the practicability of making the History of a Self-Tormentor, with which I took great pains, a written narrative. But I do see the possibility" (he saw the other practicability before the number was published) "of making it a chapter by itself, which might enable me to dispense with the necessity of the turned commas. Do you think that would be better? I have no doubt that a great part of Fielding's reason for the introduced story, and Smollett's also, was, that it is sometimes really impossible to present, in a full book, the idea it contains (which yet it may be on all accounts desirable to present), without supposing the reader to be possessed of almost as much romantic allowance as would put him on a level with the writer. In Miss Wade I had an idea, which I thought a new one, of making the introduced story so fit into surroundings impossible of separation from the main story, as to make the blood of the book circulate through both. But I can only suppose, from what you say, that I have not exactly succeeded in this."

Shortly after the date of his letter he was in London on business connected with the purchase of Gadshill Place, and he went over to the Borough to see what traces were left of the prison of which his first impression was taken in his boyhood, which had played so important a part in this latest novel, and every brick and stone of which he had been able to rebuild in his book by the mere vividness of his marvellous memory. "Went to the Borough yesterday morning before going to Gadshill, to see if I could find any ruins of the Marshalsea. Found a great part of the original building -- now 'Marshalsea Place.' Found the rooms that have been in my mind's eye in the story. Found, nursing a very big boy, a very small boy, who, seeing me standing on the Marshalsea pavement, looking about, told me how it all used to be. God knows how he learned it (for he was a world too young to know anything about it), but he was right enough. . . . There is a room there -- still standing, to my amazement -- that I think of taking! It is the room through which the ever-memorable signers of Captain Porter's petition filed off in my boyhood" (ante, 33). "The spikes are gone, and the wall is lowered, and anybody can go out now who likes to go, and is not bedridden; and I said to the boy, 'Who lives there?' and he said, 'Jack Pithick.' 'Who is Jack Pithick?' I asked him. And he said, 'Joe Pithick's uncle.'"

Mention was made of this visit in the preface that appeared with the last number; and all it is necessary to add of the completed book will be, that, though in the humour and satire of its finer parts not unworthy of him, and though it had the clear design, worthy of him in an especial degree, of contrasting, both in private and in public life, and in poverty equally as in wealth, duty done and duty not done, it made no material addition to his reputation. His public, however, showed no falling-off in its enormous numbers; and what is said in one of his letters, noticeable for this touch of character, illustrates his anxiety to avoid any set-off from the disquiet that critical discourtesies might give. "I was ludicrously foiled here the other night in a resolution I have kept for twenty years not to know of any attack upon my self, by stumbling, before I could pick myself up, on a short extract in the Globe from Blackwood's Magazine, informing me that Little Dorrit is 'Twaddle.' I was sufficiently put out by it to be angry with myself for being such a fool, and then pleased with myself for having so long been constant to a good resolution." There was a scene that made itself part of history not four months after his death, which, if he could have lived to hear of it, might have more than consoled him. It was the meeting of Bismarck and Jules Favre under the walls of Paris. The Prussian was waiting to open fire on the city; the Frenchman was engaged in the arduous task of showing the wisdom of not doing it; and "we learn," say the papers of the day, "that while the two eminent statesmen were trying to find a basis of negotiation, Von Moltke was seated in a corner reading Little Dorrit." Who will doubt that the chapter on How NOT TO DO IT was then absorbing the old soldier's attention?

Preparations for the private play had gone on incessantly up to Christmas, and, in turning the schoolroom into a theatre, sawing and hammering worthy of Babel continued for weeks. The priceless help of Stanfield had again been secured, and I remember finding him one day at Tavistock House in the act of upsetting some elaborate arrangements by Dickens, with a proscenium before him made up of chairs, and the scenery planned out with walking-sticks. But Dickens's art in a matter of this kind was to know how to take advice; and no suggestion came to him that he was not ready to act upon, if it presented the remotest likelihood. In one of his great difficulties of obtaining more space, for audience as well as actors, he was told that Mr. Cooke of Astley's was a man of much resource in that way; and to Mr. Cooke he applied, with the following result. "One of the finest things" (18 October, 1856) "I have ever seen in my life of that kind was the arrival of my friend Mr. Cooke one morning this week, in an open phaeton drawn by two white ponies with black spots all over them (evidently stencilled), who came in at the gate with a little jolt and a rattle, exactly as they come into the Ring when they draw anything, and went round and round the centre bed of the front court, apparently looking for the clown. A multitude of boys who felt them to be no common ponies rushed up in a breathless state -- twined themselves like ivy about the railings -- and were only deterred from storming the enclosure by the glare of the Inimitable's eye. Some of these boys had evidently followed from Astley's. I grieve to add that my friend, being taken to the point of difficulty, had no sort of suggestion in him; no gleam of an idea; and might just as well have been the popular minister from the Tabernacle in Tottenham Court Road. All he could say was -- answering me, posed in the garden, precisely as if I were the clown asking him a riddle at night -- that two of their stable tents would be home in November, and that they were '20 foot square,' and I was heartily welcome to 'em. Also, he said, 'You might have half a dozen of my trapezes, or my middle-distance tables, but they're all 6 foot and all too low sir.' Since then, I have arranged to do it in my own way, and with my own carpenter. You will be surprised by the look of the place. It is no more like the schoolroom than it is like the sign of the Salutation Inn at Ambleside in Westmoreland. The sounds in the house remind me, as to the present time, of Chatham dockyard -- as to a remote epoch, of the building of Noah's ark. Joiners are never out of the house, and the carpenter appears to be unsettled (or settled) for life."

Of course time did not mend matters, and as Christmas approached the house was in a state of siege. "All day long, a labourer heats size over the fire in a great crucible. We eat it, drink it, breathe it, and smell it. Seventy paint-pots (which came in a van) adorn the stage; and thereon may be beheld, Stanny, and three Dansons (from the Surrey Zoological Gardens), all painting at once!! Meanwhile, Telbin, in a secluded bower in Brewer-street, Golden-square, plies his part of the little undertaking." How worthily it turned out in the end, the excellence of the performances and the delight of the audiences, became known to all London; and the pressure for admittance at last took the form of a tragi-comedy, composed of ludicrous makeshifts and gloomy disappointments, with which even Dickens's resources could not deal. "My audience is now 93," he wrote one day in despair, "and at least 10 will neither hear nor see." There was nothing for it but to increase the number of nights; and it was not until 20 January he described "the workmen smashing the last atoms of the theatre."

His book was finished soon after at Gadshill Place, to be presently described, which he had purchased the previous year, and taken possession of in February; subscribing himself, in the letter announcing the fact, as "the Kentish Freeholder on his native heath, his name Protection." The new abode occupied him in various ways in the early part of the summer; and Hans Andersen the Dane had just arrived upon a visit to him there, when Douglas Jerrold's unexpected death befell. It was a shock to every one, and an especial grief to Dickens. Jerrold's wit, and the bright shrewd intellect that had so many triumphs, need no celebration from me; but the keenest of satirists was one of the kindliest of men, and Dickens had a fondness for Jerrold as genuine as his admiration for him. "I chance to know a good deal about the poor fellow's illness, for I was with him on the last day he was out. It was ten days ago, when we dined at a dinner given by Russell at Greenwich. He was complaining much when we met, said he had been sick three days, and attributed it to the inhaling of white paint from his study window. I did not think much of it at the moment, as we were very social; but while we walked through Leicester-square he suddenly fell into a white, hot, sick perspiration, and had to lean against the railings. Then, at my urgent request he was to let me put him in a cab and send him home; but he rallied a little after that, and, on our meeting Russell, determined to come with us. We three went down by steamboat that we might see the great ship, and then got an open fly and rode about Blackheath: poor Jerrold mightily enjoying the air, and constantly saying that it set him up. He was rather quiet at dinner -- sat next Delane -- but was very humorous and good, and in spirits, though he took hardly anything. We parted with references to coming down here" (Gadshill) "and I never saw him again. Next morning he was taken very ill when he tried to get up. On the Wednesday and Thursday he was very bad, but rallied on the Friday, and was quite confident of getting well. On the Sunday he was very ill again, and on the Monday forenoon died; `at peace with all the world' he said, and asking to be remembered to friends. He had become indistinct and insensible, until for but a few minutes at the end. I knew nothing about it, except that he had been ill and was better, until, going up by railway yesterday morning, I heard a man in the carriage, unfolding his newspaper, say to another 'Douglas Jerrold is dead.' I immediately went up there, and then to Whitefriars. . . . I propose that there shall be a night at a theatre when the actors (with old Cooke) shall play the Rent Day and Black-ey'd Susan; another night elsewhere, with a lecture from Thackeray; a day reading by me; a night reading by me; a lecture by Russell; and a subscription performance of the Frozen Deep, as at Tavistock House. I don't mean to do it beggingly; but merely to announce the whole series, the day after the funeral, 'In memory of the late Mr. Douglas Jerrold,' or some such phrase. I have got hold of Arthur Smith as the best man of business I know, and go to work with him to-morrow morning -- inquiries being made in the meantime as to the likeliest places to be had for these various purposes. My confident hope is that we shall get close upon two thousand pounds."

The friendly enterprise was carried to the close with a vigour, promptitude, and success, that well corresponded with this opening. In addition to the performances named, there were others in the country also organized by Dickens, in which he took active personal part; and the result did not fall short of his expectations. The sum was invested ultimately for our friend's unmarried daughter, who now receives, under direction of the Court of Chancery, the income of it until lately paid by myself, the last surviving trustee.

So passed the greater part of the summer, and when the country performances were over at the end of August I had this intimation. "I have arranged with Collins that he and I will start next Monday on a ten or twelve days' expedition to out-of-the-way places, to do (in inns and coast-corners) a little tour in search of an article and in avoidance of railroads. I must get a good name for it, and I propose it in five articles, one for the beginning of every number in the October part." Next day: "Our decision is for a foray upon the fells of Cumberland; I having discovered in the books some promising moors and bleak places thereabout." Into the lake-country they went accordingly; and The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, contributed to Household Words, related the trip. But his letters had descriptive touches, and some whimsical experiences, not in the published account.

Looking over the Beauties of England and Wales before he left London, his ambition was fired by mention of Carrick Fell, "a gloomy old mountain 1500 feet high," which he secretly resolved to go up. "We came straight to it yesterday" (9 September). "Nobody goes up. Guides have forgotten it. Master of a little inn, excellent north-countryman, volunteered. Went up, in a tremendous rain. C. D. beat Mr. Porter (name of landlord) in half a mile. Mr. P. done up in no time. Three nevertheless went on. Mr. P. again leading; C. D. and C." (Mr. Wilkie Collins) "following. Rain terrific, black mists, darkness of night. Mr. P. agitated. C. D. confident. C. (a long way down in perspective) submissive. All wet through. No poles. Not so much as a walking-stick in the party. Reach the summit at about one in the day. Dead darkness as of night. Mr. P. (excellent fellow to the last) uneasy. C. D. produces compass from pocket. Mr. P. reassured. Farm-house where dog-cart was left, N.N.W. Mr. P. complimentary. Descent commenced. C. D. with compass triumphant, until compass, with the heat and wet of C. D.'s pocket, breaks. Mr. P. (who never had a compass), inconsolable, confesses he has not been on Carrick Fell for twenty years, and he don't know the way down. Darker and darker. Nobody discernible two yards off, by the other two. Mr. P. makes suggestions, but no way . It becomes clear to C. D. and to C. that Mr. P. is going round and round the mountain, and never coming down. Mr. P. sits on angular granite, and says he is 'just fairly doon.' C. D. revives Mr. P. with laughter, the only restorative in the company. Mr. P. again complimentary. Descent tried once more. Mr. P. worse and worse. Council of war. Proposals from C. D. to go 'slap down.' Seconded by C. Mr. P. objects, on account of precipice called The Black Arches, and terror of the countryside. More wandering. Mr. P. terror-stricken, but game. Watercourse, thundering and roaring reached. C. D. suggests that it must run to the river, and had best be followed, subject to all gymnastic hazards. Mr. P. opposes, but gives in. Watercourse followed accordingly. Leaps, splashes, and tumbles, for two hours. C. lost. C. D. whoops. Cries for assistance from behind. C. D. returns. C. with horribly sprained ankle, lying in rivulet!"

All the danger was over when Dickens sent his description; but great had been the trouble in binding up the sufferer's ankle and getting him painfully on, shoving, shouldering, carrying alternately, till terra firma was reached. "We got down at last in the wildest place, preposterously out of the course; and, propping up C. against stones, sent Mr. P. to the other side of Cumberland for dog-cart, so got back to his inn, and changed. Shoe or stocking on the bad foot out of the question. Foot bundled up in a flannel waistcoat. C. D. carrying C. melo-dramatically (Wardour to the life!) everywhere; into and out of carriages; up and down stairs; to bed; every step. And so to Wigton, got doctor, and here we are!! A pretty business, we flatter ourselves!"

Wigton, Dickens described as a place of little houses all in half-mourning, yellow stone or white stone and black, with the wonderful peculiarity that though it had no population, no business, and no streets to speak of of, it had five linendrapers within range of their single window, one linendraper next door, and five more linendrapers round the corner. "I ordered a night light in my bed-room. A queer little old woman brought me one of the common Child's night lights, and seeming to think that I looked at it with interest, said, 'It's joost a vara keeyourious thing, sir, and joost new coom oop. It'll burn awt hoors a' end, and no gootther, nor no waste, nor ony sike a thing, if ye can creedit what I say, seein' the airticle.'" In these primitive quarters there befell a difficulty about letters, which Dickens solved in a fashion especially his own. "The day after Carrick there was a mess about her letters, through our not going to a place called Mayport. So, while the landlord was planning how to get them (they were only twelve miles off), I walked off, to his great astonishment, and brought them over." The night after leaving Wigton they were at the Ship Hotel in Allonby.

Allonby his letters presented as a small untidy outlandish place: rough stone houses in half mourning, a few coarse yellow-stone lodging-houses with black roofs (bills in all the windows), five bathing-machines, five girls in straw hats, five men in straw hats (wishing they had not come); very much what Broadstairs would have been if it had been born Irish, and had not inherited a cliff. "But this is a capital little homely inn, looking out upon the sea; with the coast of Scotland, mountainous and romantic, over against the windows; and though I can just stand upright in my bedroom, we are really well lodged. It is a clean nice place in a rough wild country, and we have a very obliging and comfortable landlady." He had found indeed, in the latter, an acquaintance of old date. "The landlady at the little inn at Allonby, lived at Greta-Bridge in Yorkshire when I went down there before Nickleby; and was smuggled into the room to see me, after I was secretly found out. She is an immensely fat woman now. 'But I could tuck my arm round her waist then, Mr. Dickens,' the landlord said when she told me the story as I was going to bed the night before last. 'And can't you do it now,' I said. 'You insensible dog! Look at me! Here's a picture!' Accordingly, I got round as much of her as I could; and this gallant action was the most successful I have ever performed, on the whole."

On their way home the friends were at Doncaster, and this was Dickens's first experience of the St. Leger and its saturnalia. His companion had by this time so far recovered as to be able, doubled-up, to walk with a thick stick; in which condition, "being exactly like the gouty admiral in a comedy I have given him that name." The impressions received from the race-week were not favourable. It was noise and turmoil all day long, and a gathering of vagabonds from all parts of the racing earth. Every bad face that had ever caught wickedness from an innocent horse had its representative in the streets; and as Dickens, like Gulliver looking down upon his fellow-men after coming from the horse-country, looked down into Doncaster High Street from his inn-window, he seemed to see everywhere a then notorious personage who had just poisoned his betting-companion. "Everywhere I see the late Mr. Palmer with his betting-book in his hand. Mr. Palmer sits next me at the theatre; Mr. Palmer goes before me down the street; Mr. Palmer follows me into the chemist's shop where I go to buy rose-water after breakfast, and says to the chemist 'Give us soom sal volatile or soom damned thing o' that soort, in wather -- my head's bad!' And I look at the back of his bad head repeated in long, long lines on the race course, and in the betting-stand and outside the betting-rooms in the town, and I vow to God that I can see nothing in it but cruelty, covetousness, calculation, insensibility, and low wickedness."

Even a half-appalling kind of luck was not absent from my friend's experiences at the race course, when, what he called a "wonderful, paralysing, coincidence" befell him. He bought the card; facetiously wrote down three names for the winners of the three chief races (never in his life having heard or thought of any of the horses, except that the winner of the Derby who proved to be nowhere, had been mentioned to him); "and if you can believe it without your hair standing on end, those three races were won, one after another, by those three horses!!!" That was the St. Leger Day, of which he also thought it notice able, that, though the losses were enormous, nobody had won for there was nothing but grinding of teeth and blaspheming of ill-luck. Nor had matters mended on the Cup-day, after which celebration "a groaning phantom" lay in the doorway of his bedroom and howled all night. The landlord came up in the morning to apologise, "and said it was a gentleman who had lost 1,500 or 2,000; and he had drunk a deal afterwards; and then they put him to bed, and then he -- took the 'orrors, and got up, and yelled till morning." Dickens might well believe, as he declared at the end of his letter, that if a boy with any good in him, but with a dawning propensity to sporting and betting, were but brought to the Doncaster races soon enough, it would cure him.





II

WHAT HAPPENED AT THIS TIME
1857-8

An unsettled feeling greatly in excess of what was usual with Dickens, more or less observable since his first residence at Boulogne, became at this time almost habitual, and the satisfactions which home should have supplied, and which indeed were essential requirements of his nature, he had failed to find in his home. He had not the alternative that under this disappointment some can discover in what is called society. It did not suit him, and he set no store by it. No man was better fitted to adorn any circle he entered, but beyond that of friends and equals he rarely passed. He would take as much pains to keep out of the houses of the great as others take to get into them. Not always wisely, it may be admitted. Mere contempt for toadyism and flunkeyism was not at all times the prevailing motive with him which he supposed it to be. Beneath his horror of those vices of Englishmen in his own rank of life, there was a still stronger resentment at the social inequalities that engender them, of which he was not so conscious and to which he owned less freely. Not the less it served secretly to justify what he might otherwise have had no mind to. To say he was not a gentleman would be as true as to say he was not a writer; but if any one should assert his occasional preference for what was even beneath his level over that which was above it, this would be difficult of disproof. It was among those defects of temperament for which his early trials and his early successes were accountable in perhaps equal measure. He was sensitive in a passionate degree to praise and blame, which yet he made it for the most part a point of pride to assume indifference to; the inequalities of rank which he secretly resented took more galling as well as glaring prominence from the contrast of the necessities he had gone through with the fame that had come to him; and when the forces he most affected to despise assumed the form of barriers he could not easily overleap, he was led to appear frequently intolerant (for he very seldom was really so) in opinions and language. His early sufferings brought with them the healing powers of energy, will, and persistence, and taught him the inexpressible value of a determined resolve to live down difficulties; but the habit, in small as in great things, of renunciation and self-sacrifice, they did not teach; and, by his sudden leap into a world-wide popularity and influence, he became master of everything that might seem to be attainable in life, before he had mastered what a man must undergo to be equal to its hardest trials.

Nothing of all this has yet presented itself to notice, except in occasional forms of restlessness and desire of change of place, which were themselves, when his books were in progress, so incident as well to the active requirements of his fancy as to call, thus far, for no other explanation. Up to the date of the completion of Copperfield he had felt himself to be in possession of an all-sufficient resource. Against whatever might befall he had a set-off in his imaginative creations, a compensation derived from his art that never failed him, because there he was supreme. It was the world he could bend to his will, and make subserve to all his desires. He had otherwise, underneath his exterior of a singular precision, method, and strictly orderly arrangement in all things, and notwithstanding a temperament to which home and home interests were really a necessity, something in common with those eager, impetuous, somewhat overbearing natures, that rush at existence without heeding the cost of it, and are not more ready to accept and make the most of its enjoyments than to be easily and quickly overthrown by its burdens. But the world he had called into being had thus far borne him safely through these perils. He had his own creations always by his side. They were living, speaking companions. With them only he was everywhere thoroughly identified. He laughed and wept with them; was as much elated by their fun as cast down by their grief; and brought to the consideration of them a belief in their reality as well as in the influences they were meant to exercise, which in every circumstance sustained him.

It was during the composition of Little Dorrit that I think he first felt a certain strain upon his invention which brought with it other misgivings. In a modified form this was present during the later portions of Bleak House, of which not a few of the defects might be traced to the acting excitements amid which it was written; but the succeeding book made it plainer to him; and it is remarkable that in the interval between them he resorted for the first and only time in his life to a practice, which he abandoned at the close of his next and last story published in the twenty-number form, of putting down written "Memoranda" of suggestions for characters or incidents by way of resource to him in his writing. Never before had his teeming fancy seemed to want such help; the need being less to contribute to its fullness than to check its overflowing; but it is another proof that he had been secretly bringing before himself, at least, the possibility that what had ever been his great support might some day desert him. It was strange that he should have had such doubt, and he would hardly have confessed it openly; but apart from that wonderful world of his books, the range of his thoughts was not always proportioned to the width and largeness of his nature. His ordinary circle of activity, whether in likings or thinkings, was full of such surprising animation, that one was apt to believe it more comprehensive than it really was; and again and again, when a wide horizon might seem to be ahead of him he would pull up suddenly and stop short, as though nothing lay beyond. For the time, though each had its term and change, he was very much a man of one idea, each having its turn of absolute predominance; and this was one of the secrets of the thoroughness with which everything he took in hand was done. As to the matter of his writings, the actual truth was that his creative genius never really failed him. Not a few of his inventions of character and humour, up to the very close of his life, his Marigolds, Lirripers, Gargerys, Pips, Sapseas and many others, were as fresh and fine as in his greatest day. He had however lost the free and fertile method of the earlier time. He could no longer fill a wide-spread canvas with the same facility and certainty as of old; and he had frequently a quite unfounded apprehension of some possible breakdown, of which the end might be at any moment beginning. There came accordingly, from time to time, intervals of unusual impatience and restlessness, strange to me in connection with his home; his old pursuits were too often laid aside for other excitements and occupations; he joined a public political agitation, set on foot by administrative reformers; he got up various quasipublic private theatricals, in which he took the leading place; and though it was but part of his always generous devotion in any friendly duty to organize the series of performances on his friend Jerrold's death, yet the eagerness with which he flung himself into them, so arranging them as to assume an amount of labour in acting and travelling that might have appalled an experienced comedian, and carrying them on week after week unceasingly in London and the provinces, expressed but the craving which still had possession of him to get by some means at some change that should make existence easier. What was highest in his nature had ceased for the time to be highest in his life, and he had put himself at the mercy of lower accidents and conditions. The mere effect of the strolling wandering ways into which this acting led him could not be other than unfavourable. But remonstrance as yet was unavailing.

To one very earnestly made in the early autumn of 1857, in which opportunity was taken to compare his recent rush up Carrick Fell to his rush into other difficulties, here was the reply. "Too late to say, put the curb on, and don't rush at hills -- the wrong man to say it to. I have now no relief but in action. I am become incapable of rest. I am quite confident I should rust, break, and die, if I spared myself. Much better to die, doing. What I am in that way, nature made me first, and my way of life has of late, alas! confirmed. I must accept the drawback -- since it is one -- with the powers I have; and I must hold upon the tenure prescribed to me." Something of the same sad feeling, it is right to say, had been expressed from time to time, in connection also with home dissatisfactions and misgivings, through the three years preceding; but I attributed it to other causes, and gave little attention to it. During his absences abroad for the greater part of 1854, '55, and '56, while the elder of his children were growing out of childhood, and his books were less easy to him than in his earlier manhood, evidences presented themselves in his letters of the old "unhappy loss or want of something" to which he had given a pervading prominence in Copperfield. In the first of those years he made express allusion to the kind of experience which had been one of his descriptions in that favourite book, and, mentioning the drawbacks of his present life, had first identified it with his own: "the so happy and yet so unhappy existence which seeks its realities in unrealities, and finds its dangerous comfort in a perpetual escape from the disappointment of heart around it."

Later in the same year he thus wrote from Boulogne: "I have had dreadful thoughts of getting away somewhere altogether by myself. If I could have managed it, I think possibly I might have gone to the Pyreennees (you know what I mean that word for, so I won't re-write it) for six months! I have put the idea into the perspective of six months, but have not abandoned it. I have visions of living for half a year or so, in all sorts of inaccessible places, and opening a new book therein. A floating idea of going up above the snow-line in Switzerland, and living in some astonishing convent, hovers about me. If Household Words could be got into a good train, in short, I don't know in what strange place, or at what remote elevation above the level of the sea, I might fall to work next. Restlessness, you will say. Whatever it is, it is always driving me, and I cannot help it. I have rested nine or ten weeks, and sometimes feel as if it had been a year -- though I had the strangest nervous miseries before I stopped. If I couldn't walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish." Again, four months later he wrote: "You will hear of me in Paris, probably next Sunday, and I may go on to Bordeaux. Have general ideas of emigrating in the summer to the mountain-ground between France and Spain. Am altogether in a dishevelled state of mind -- motes of new books in the dirty air, miseries of older growth threatening to close upon me. Why is it, that as with poor David, a sense comes always crushing on me now, when I fall into low spirits, as of one happiness I have missed in life, and one friend and companion I have never made?"

Early in 1856 (20 January) the notion revisited him of writing a book in solitude. "Again I am beset by my former notions of a book whereof the whole story shall be on the top of the Great St. Bernard. As I accept and reject ideas for Little Dorrit, it perpetually comes back to me. Two or three years hence, perhaps you'll find me living with the Monks and the Dogs a whole winter -- among the blinding snows that fall about that monastery. I have a serious idea that I shall do it, if I live." He was at this date in Paris; and during the visit to him of Macready in the following April, the self-revelations were resumed. The great actor was then living in retirement at Sherborne, to which he had gone on quitting the stage; and Dickens gave favourable report of his enjoyment of the change to his little holiday at Paris. Then, after recurring to his own old notion of having some slight idea of going to settle in Australia, only he could not do it until he should have finished Little Dorrit, he went on to say that perhaps Macready, if he could get into harness again, would not be the worse for some such troubles as were worrying himself. "It fills me with pity to think of him away in that lonely Sherborne place. I have always felt of myself that I must, please God, die in harness, but I have never felt it more strongly than in looking at, and thinking of, him. However strange it is to be never at rest, and never satisfied, and ever trying after something that is never reached, and to be always laden with plot and plan and care and worry, how clear it is that it must be, and that one is driven by an irresistible might until the journey is worked out! It is much better to go on and fret, than to stop and fret. As to repose -- for some men there's no such thing in this life. The foregoing has the appearance of a small sermon; but it is so often in my head in these days that it cannot help coming out. The old days -- the old days! Shall I ever, I wonder, get the frame of mind back as it used to be then? Something of it perhaps -- but never quite as it used to be. I find that the skeleton in my domestic closet is becoming a pretty big one."

It would be unjust and uncandid not to admit that these and other similar passages in the letters that extended over the years while he lived abroad, had served in some degree as a preparation for what came after his return to England in the following year. It came with a great shock nevertheless; because it told plainly what before had never been avowed, but only hinted at more or less obscurely. The opening reference is to the reply which had been made to a previous expression of his wish for some confidences as in the old time. I give only what is strictly necessary to account for what followed, and even this with deep reluctance. "Your letter of yesterday was so kind and hearty, and sounded so gently the many chords we have touched together, that I cannot leave it unanswered, though I have not much (to any purpose) to say. My reference to 'confidences' was merely to the relief of saying a word of what has long been pent up in my mind. Poor Catherine and I are not made for each other, and there is no help for it. It is not only that she makes me uneasy and unhappy, but that I make her so too -- and much more so. She is exactly what you know, in the way of being amiable and complying; but we are strangely ill-assorted for the bond there is between us. God knows she would have been a thousand times happier if she had married another kind of man, and that her avoidance of this destiny would have been at least equally good for us both. I am often cut to the heart by thinking what a pity it is, for her own sake, that I ever fell in her way; and if I were sick or disabled to-morrow, I know how sorry she would be, and how deeply grieved myself, to think how we had lost each other. But exactly the same incompatibility would arise, the moment I was well again; and nothing on earth could make her understand me, or suit us to each other. Her temperament will not go with mine. It mattered not so much when we had only ourselves to consider, but reasons have been growing since which make it all but hopeless that we should even try to struggle on. What is now befalling me I have seen steadily coming, ever since the days you remember when Mary was born; and I know too well that you cannot, and no one can, help me. Why I have even written I hardly know; but it is a miserable sort of comfort that you should be clearly aware how matters stand. The mere mention of the fact, without any complaint or blame of any sort, is a relief to my present state of spirits -- and I can get this only from you, because I can speak of it to no one else." In the same tone was his rejoinder to my reply. "To the most part of what you say -- Amen! You are not so tolerant as perhaps you might be of the wayward and unsettled feeling which is part (I suppose) of the tenure on which one holds an imaginative life, and which I have, as you ought to know well, often only kept down by riding over it like a dragoon -- but let that go by. I make no maudlin complaint. I agree with you as to the very possible incidents, even not less bearable than mine, that might and must often occur to the married condition when it is entered into very young. I am always deeply sensible of the wonderful exercise I have of life and its highest sensations, and have said to myself for years, and have honestly and truly felt, This is the drawback to such a career, and is not to be complained of. I say it and feel it now as strongly as ever I did; and, as I told you in my last, I do not with that view put all this forward. But the years have not made it easier to bear for either of us; and, for her sake as well as mine, the wish will force itself upon me that something might be done. I know too well it is impossible. There is the fact, and that is all one can say. Nor are you to suppose that I disguise from myself what might be urged on the other side. I claim no immunity from blame. There is plenty of fault on my side, I dare say, in the way of a thousand uncertainties, caprices, and difficulties of disposition; but only one thing will alter all that, and that is, the end which alters everything."

It will not seem to most people that there was anything here which in happier circumstances might not have been susceptible of considerate adjustment; but all the circumstances were unfavourable, and the moderate middle course which the admissions in that letter might wisely have prompted and wholly justified, was unfortunately not taken. Compare what before was said of his temperament, with what is there said by himself of its defects, and the explanation will not be difficult. Every counteracting influence against the one idea which now predominated over him had been so weakened as to be almost powerless. His elder children were no longer children; his books had lost for the time the importance they formerly had over every other consideration in his life; and he had not in himself the resource that such a man, judging him from the surface, might be expected to have had. Not his genius only, but his whole nature, was too exclusively made up of sympathy for, and with, the real in its most intense form, to be sufficiently provided against failure in the realities around him. There was for him no "city of the mind" against outward ills, for inner consolation and shelter. It was in and from the actual he still stretched forward to find the freedom and satisfactions of an ideal, and by his very attempts to escape the world he was driven back into the thick of it. But what he would have sought there, it supplies to none; and to get the infinite out of anything so finite, has broken many a stout heart.

At the close of that last letter from Gadshill (5t September) was this question -- "What do you think of my paying for this place, by reviving that old idea of some Readings from my books? I am very strongly tempted. Think of it." The reasons against it had great force, and took, in my judgment, greater from the time at which it was again proposed. The old ground of opposition remained. It was a substitution of lower for higher aims; a change to commonplace from more elevated pursuits; and it had so much of the character of a public exhibition for money as to raise, in the question of respect for his calling as a writer, a question also of respect for himself as a gentleman. This opinion, now strongly reiterated, was referred ultimately to two distinguished ladies of his acquaintance, who decided against it. Yet not without such momentary misgiving in the direction of "the stage," as pointed strongly to the danger, which, by those who took the opposite view, as most of all thought incident to the particular time of the proposal. It might be a wild exaggeration to fear that he was in danger of being led to adopt the stage as a calling, but he was certainly about to place himself within reach of not a few of its drawbacks and disadvantages. To the full extent he perhaps did not himself know, how much his eager present wish to become a public reader was but the outcome of the restless domestic discontents of the last four years; and that to indulge it, and the unsettled habits inseparable from it, was to abandon every hope of resettling his disordered home. There is nothing, in its application to so divine a genius as Shakespeare, more affecting than his expressed dislike to a profession, which, in the jealous self-watchfulness of his noble nature, he feared might hurt his mind. The long subsequent line of actors, admirable in private as in public life, and all the gentle and generous associations of the histrionic art, have not weakened the testimony of its greatest name against its less favourable influences; against the laxity of habits it may encourage; and its public manners, bred of public means, not always compatible with home felicities and duties. But, freely open as Dickens was to counsel in regard of his books, he was, for reasons formerly stated, less accessible to it on points of personal conduct; and when he had neither self-distrust nor self-denial to hold him back, he would push persistently forward to whatever object he had in view.

An occurrence of the time hastened the decision in this case. An enterprise had been set on foot for establishment of a hospital for sick children, a large old-fashioned mansion in Great Ormond street, with spacious garden, had been fitted up with more than thirty beds; during the four or five years of its existence, outdoor and indoor relief had been afforded by it to nearly fifty thousand children, of whom thirty thousand were under five years of age; but, want of funds having threatened to arrest the merciful work, it was resolved to try a public dinner by way of charitable appeal, and for president the happy choice was made of one who had enchanted everybody with the joys and sorrows of little children. Dickens threw himself into the service heart and soul. There was a simple pathos in his address from the chair quite startling in its effect at such a meeting; and he probably never moved any audience so much as by the strong personal feeling with which he referred to the sacrifices made for the Hospital by the very poor themselves: from whom a subscription of fifty pounds, contributed in single pennies, had come to the treasurer during almost every year it had been open. The whole speech, indeed, is the best of the kind spoken by him; and two little pictures from it, one of the misery he had witnessed, the other of the remedy he had found, should not be absent from the picture of his own life.

"Some years ago, being in Scotland, I went with one of the most humane members of the most humane of professions, on a morning tour among some of the worst lodged inhabitants of the old town of Edinburgh. In the closes and wynds of that picturesque place (I am sorry to remind you what fast friends picturesqueness and typhus often are), we saw more poverty and sickness in an hour than many people would believe in, in a life. Our way lay from one to another of the most wretched dwellings, reeking with horrible odours; shut out from the sky and from the air, mere pits and dens. In a room in one of these places, where there was an empty porridge-pot on the cold hearth, a ragged woman and some ragged children crouching on the bare ground near it -- and, I remember as I speak, where the very light, refracted from a high damp-stained wall outside, came in trembling, as if the fever which had shaken everything else had shaken even it -- there lay, in an old egg box which the mother had begged from a shop, a little, feeble wan, sick child. With his little wasted face, and his little hot worn hands folded over his breast, and his little bright attentive eyes, I can see him now, as I have seen him for several years looking steadily at us. There he lay in his small frail box which was not at all a bad emblem of the small body from which he was slowly parting -- there he lay, quite quiet, quite patient saying never a word. He seldom cried, the mother said he seldom complained; 'he lay there, seemin' to woonder what it was a' aboot.' God knows, I thought, as I stood looking at him, he had his reasons for wondering. . . . Many a poor child sick and neglected, I have seen since that time in London many have I also seen most affectionately tended, in unwholesome houses and hard circumstances where recovery was impossible: but at all such times I have seen my little drooping friend in his egg-box, and he has always addressed his dumb wonder to me what it meant, and why, in the name of a gracious God such things should be! . . . But, ladies and gentlemen," Dickens added, "such things need NOT be, and will not be, if this company, which is a drop of the life-blood of the great compassionate public heart, will only accept the means of rescue and prevention which it is mine to offer. Within a quarter of a mile of this place where I speak, stands a once courtly old house, where blooming children were born, and grew up to be men and women and married, and brought their own blooming children back to patter up the old oak staircase which stood but the other day and to wonder at the old oak carvings on the chimney pieces In the airy wards into which the old state drawing-rooms and family bed-chambers of that house are now converted, are lodged such small patients that the attendant nurses look like reclaimed giantesses, and the kind medical practitioner like an amiable Christian ogre. Grouped about the little low tables in the centre of the rooms, are such tiny convalescents that they seem to be playing at having been ill. On the doll's beds are such diminutive creatures that each poor sufferer is supplied with its trays of toys: and, looking round, you may see how the little tired flushed cheek has toppled over half the brute creation on its way into the ark; or how one little dimpled arm has mowed down (as I saw myself) the whole tin soldiery of Europe. On the walls of these rooms are graceful, pleasant, bright, childish pictures. At the beds' heads, hang representations of the figure of Him who was once a child Himself, and a poor one. But alas l reckoning up the number of beds that are there, the visitor to this Child's Hospital will find himself perforce obliged to stop at very little over thirty; and will learn, with sorrow and surprise, that even that small number, so forlornly, so miserably diminutive compared with this vast London, cannot possibly be maintained unless the Hospital be made better known. I limit myself to saying better known, because I will not believe that in a Christian community of fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, it can fail, being better known, to be well and richly endowed." It was a brave and true prediction. The Child's Hospital has never since known want. That night alone added greatly more than three thousand pounds to its funds, and Dickens put the crown to his good work by reading on its behalf, shortly afterwards, his Christmas Carol; when the sum realised, and the urgent demand that followed for a repetition of the pleasure given by the reading, bore down further opposition to the project of his engaging publicly in such readings for himself.

The Child's Hospital night was 9 February, its reading was appointed for 15 April, and, nearly a month before renewed efforts at remonstrance had been made. "Your view of the reading matter," Dickens replied, "I still think is unconsciously taken from your own particular point. You don't seem to me to get out of yourself in considering it. A word more upon it. You are not to think I have made up my mind. If I had, why should I not say so? I find very great difficulty in doing so because of what you urge, because I know the question to be a balance of doubts, and because I most honestly feel in my innermost heart, in this matter (as in all others for years and years), the honour of the calling by which I have always stood most conscientiously. But do you quite consider that the public exhibition of oneself takes place equally, whosoever may get the money? And have you any idea that at this moment -- this very time -- half the public at least supposes me to be paid? My dear F., out of the twenty or five-and-twenty letters a week that I get about readings, twenty will ask at what price, or on what terms, it can be done. The only exceptions, in truth, are when the correspondent is a clergyman, or a banker, or the member for the place in question. Why, at this very time half Scotland believes that I am paid for going to Edinburgh! -- Here is Greenock writes to me, and asks could it be done for a hundred pounds? There is Aberdeen writes, and states the capacity of its hall, and says, though far less profitable than the very large hall in Edinburgh, is it not enough to come on for? W. answers such letters continually. (-- At this place enter Beale. He called here yesterday morning, and then wrote to ask if I would see him to-day. I replied 'Yes,' so here he came in. With long preface called to know whether it was possible to arrange anything in the way of readings for this autumn -- say six months. Large capital at command. Could produce partners, in such an enterprise, also with large capital. Represented such. Returns would be enormous. Would I name a sum? a minimum sum that I required to have, in any case? Would I look at it as a Fortune, and in no other point of view? I shook my head, and said, my tongue was tied on the subject for the present; I might be more communicative at another time. Exit Beale in confusion and disappointment.) -- You will he happy to hear that at one on Friday, the Lord Provost, Dean of Guild, Magistrates, and Council of the ancient city of Edinburgh will wait (in procession) on their brother freeman, at the Music Hall, to give him hospitable welcome. Their brother freeman has been cursing their stars and his own, ever since the receipt of solemn notification to this effect." But very grateful, when it came, was the enthusiasm of the greeting, and welcome the gift of the silver wassail-bowl which followed the reading of the Carol. "I had no opportunity of asking anyone's advice in Edinburgh," he wrote on his return. "The crowd was too enormous, and the excitement in it much too great. But my determination is all but taken. I must do something, or I shall wear my heart away. I can see no better thing to do that is half so hopeful in itself, or half so well suited to my restless state."

What is pointed at in those last words had been taken as a ground of objection, and thus he turned it into an argument the other way. During all these months many sorrowful misunderstandings had continued in his home, and the relief sought from the misery had but the effect of making desperate any hope of a better understanding. "It becomes necessary," he wrote at the end of March, "with a view to the arrangements that would have to be begun next month if I decided on the readings, to consider and settle the question of the Plunge. Quite dismiss from your mind any reference whatever to present circumstances at home. Nothing can put them right, until we are all dead and buried and risen. It is not, with me, a matter of will, or trial, or sufferance, or good humour, or making the best of it, or making the worst of it, any longer. It is all despairingly over. Have no lingering hope of, or for, me in this association. A dismal failure has to be borne, and there an end. Will you then try to think of this reading project (as I do) apart from all personal likings and dislikings, and solely with a view to its effect on that particular relation (personally affectionate and like no other man's) which subsists between me and the public? I want your most careful consideration. If you would like, when you have gone over it in your mind, to discuss the matter with me and Arthur Smith (who would manage the whole of the Business, which I should never touch); we will make an appointment. But I ought to add that Arthur Smith plainly says, 'Of the immense return in money, I have no doubt. Of the Dash into the new position, however, I am not so good a judge.' I enclose you a rough note of my project, as it stands in my mind."

Mr. Arthur Smith, a man possessed of many qualities that justified the confidence Dickens placed in him, might not have been a good judge of the "Dash" into the new position, but no man knew better every disadvantage incident to it, or was less likely to be disconcerted by any. His exact fitness to manage the scheme successfully, made him an unsafe counsellor respecting it. Within a week from this time the reading for the Charity was to be given. "They have let," Dickens wrote on 9 April, "five hundred stalls for the Hospital night; and as people come every day for more, and it is out of the question to make more, they cannot be restrained at St. Martin's Hall from taking down names for other readings." This closed the attempt at further objection. Exactly a fortnight after the reading for the children's hospital, on Thursday, 29 April, came the first public reading for his own benefit; and before the next month was over, this launch into a new life had been followed by a change in his old home. Thenceforward he and his wife lived apart. The eldest son went with his mother, Dickens at once giving effect to her expressed wish in this respect; and the other children remained with himself, their intercourse with Mrs. Dickens being left entirely to themselves. It was thus far an arrangement of a strictly private nature, and no decent person could have had excuse for regarding it in any other light, if public attention had not been unexpectedly invited to it by a printed statement in Household Words. Dickens was stung into this by some miserable gossip at which in ordinary circumstances no man would more determinedly have been silent; but he had now publicly to show himself, at stated times, as a public entertainer, and this, with his name even so aspersed, he found to be impossible. All he would concede to my strenuous resistance against such a publication, was an offer to suppress it, if, upon reference to the opinion of a certain distinguished man (still living), that opinion should prove to be in agreement with mine. Unhappily it fell in with his own, and the publication went on. It was followed by another statement, a letter subscribed with his name, which got into print without his sanction; nothing publicly being known of it (I was not among those who had read it privately) until it appeared in the New York Tribune. It had been addressed and given to Mr. Arthur Smith as an authority for correction of false rumours and scandals, and Mr. Smith had given a copy of it, with like intention, to the Tribune correspondent in London. Its writer referred to it always afterwards as his "violated letter."

The course taken by the author of this book at the time of these occurrences, will not be departed from here. Such illustration of grave defects in Dickens's character as the passage in his life affords, I have not shrunk from placing side by side with such excuses in regard to it as he had unquestionable right to claim should be put forward also. How far what remained of his story took tone or colour from it, and especially from the altered career on which at the same time he entered, will thus be sufficiently explained; and with anything else the public have nothing to do.





III

GADSHILL PLACE
1856-1870

"I was better pleased with Gadshill Place last Saturday," he wrote to me from Paris on the 13th of February 1856, "on going down there, even than I had prepared myself to be. The country, against every disadvantage of season, is beautiful; and the house is so old-fashioned, cheerful, and comfortable, that it is really pleasant to look at. The good old Rector now there, has lived in it six and twenty years, so I have not the heart to turn him out. He is to remain till Lady-Day next year, when I shall go in, please God; make my alterations; furnish the house; and keep it for myself that summer." Returning to England through the Kentish country with Mr. Wilkie Collins in July, other advantages occurred to him. "A railroad opened from Rochester to Maidstone, which connects Gadshill at once with the whole sea coast, is certainly an addition to the place, and an enhancement of its value. Bye and bye we shall have the London, Chatham and Dover, too; and that will bring it within an hour of Canterbury and an hour and a half of Dover. I am glad to hear of your having been in the neighbourhood. There is no healthier (marshes avoided), and none in my eyes more beautiful. One of these days I shall show you some places up the Medway with which you will be charmed."

The association with his youthful fancy that first made the place attractive to him has been told; and it was with wonder he had heard one day, from his friend and fellow worker at Household Words, Mr. W. H. Wills, that not only was the house for sale to which he had so often looked wistfully, but that the lady chiefly interested as its owner had been long known and much esteemed by himself. Such curious chances led Dickens to the saying he so frequently repeated about the smallness of the world; but the close relation often found thus existing between things and persons far apart, suggests not so much the smallness of the world as the possible importance of the least things done in it, and is better explained by the grander teaching of Carlyle, that causes and effects, connecting every man and thing with every other, extend through all space and time.

It was at the close of 1855 the negociation for its purchase began. "They wouldn't," he wrote (25 November), "take 1,700 for the Gadshill property, but 'finally' wanted 1,800. I have finally offered 1,750. It will require an expenditure of about 300 more before yielding 100 a year." The usual discovery of course awaited him that this first estimate would have to be increased threefold. "The changes absolutely necessary" (9 February, 1856) "will take a thousand pounds; which sum I am always resolving to squeeze out of this, grind out of that, and wring out of the other; this, that, and the other generally all three declining to come up to the scratch for the purpose." "This day," he wrote on 14 March, "I have paid the purchase-money for Gadshill Place. After drawing the cheque (1,790) I turned round to give it to Wills, and said, 'Now isn't it an extraordinary thing -- look at the Day -- Friday! I have been nearly drawing it half a dozen times when the lawyers have not been ready, and here it comes round upon a Friday as a matter of course.'" He had no thought at this time of reserving the place wholly for himself, or of making it his own residence except at intervals of summer. He looked upon it as an investment only. "You will hardly know Gadshill again," he wrote in January 1858, "I am improving it so much -- yet I have no interest in the place." But continued ownership brought increased liking; he took more and more interest in his own improvements, which were just the kind of occasional occupation and resource his life most wanted in its next seven or eight years; and any farther idea of letting it he soon abandoned altogether. It only once passed out of his possession thus, for four months in 1859; in the following year, on the sale of Tavistock House, he transferred to it his books and pictures and choicer furniture; and thenceforward, varied only by houses taken from time to time for the London season, he made it his permanent family abode. Now and then, even during those years, he would talk of selling it; and on his final return from America, when he had sent the last of his sons out into the world, he really might have sold it if he could then have found a house in London suitable to him, and such as he could purchase. But in this he failed; secretly to his own satisfaction, as I believe; and thereupon, in that last autumn of his life, he projected and carried out his most costly addition to Gadshill. Already of course more money had been spent upon it than his first intention in buying it would have justified. He had so enlarged the accommodation, improved the grounds and offices, and added to the land, that, taking also into account this closing outlay, the reserved price placed upon the whole after his death more than quadrupled what he had given in 1856, for the house, shrubbery, and twenty years' lease of a meadow field. It was then purchased, and is now inhabited, by his eldest son.

Its position has been described, and a history of Rochester published a hundred years ago quaintly mentions the principal interest of the locality. "Near the twenty-seventh stone from London is Gadshill, supposed to have been the scene of the robbery mentioned by Shakespeare in his play of Henry IV.; there being reason to think also that it was Sir John Falstaff, of truly comic memory, who under the name of Oldcastle inhabited Cooling Castle, of which the ruins are in the neighbourhood. A small distance to the left appears on an eminence the Hermitage, the seat of the late Sir Francis Head, Bart.; and close to the road, on a small ascent, is a neat building lately erected by Mr. Day. In descending Strood-hill is a fine prospect of Strood, Rochester, and Chatham, which three towns form a continued street extending above two miles in length." It has been supposed that "the neat building lately erected by Mr. Day" was that which the great novelist made famous; but Gadshill Place had no existence until eight years after the date of the history. The good rector who so long lived in it told me, in 1859, that it had been built eighty years before by a well-known character in those parts, one Stevens, grand-father-in-law of Henslow the Cambridge professor of botany. Stevens, who could only with much difficulty manage to write his name, had begun life as ostler at an inn; had become husband to the landlord's widow; then a brewer; and finally, as he subscribed himself on one occasion, "mare" of Rochester. Afterwards the house was inhabited by Mr. Lynn (from some of the members of whose family Dickens made his purchase); and, before the Rev. Mr. Hindle became its tenant, it was inhabited by a Macaroni parson named Townshend, whose horses the Prince Regent bought, throwing into the bargain a box of much desired cigars. Altogether the place had notable associations even apart from those which have connected it with the masterpieces of English humour. "THIS HOUSE, GADSHILL PLACE, stands on the summit of Shakespeare's Gadshill, ever memorable for its association with Sir John Falstaff in his noble fancy. But, my lads, my lads, to-morrow morning, by four o'clock, early at Gadshill! there are pilgrims going to Canterbury with rich offerings, and traders riding to London with fat purses: I have vizards for you all; you have horses for yourselves." Illuminated by Mr. Owen Jones, and placed in a frame on the first-floor landing, these words were the greeting of the new tenant to his visitors. It was his first act of ownership.

All his improvements, it should perhaps be remarked, were not exclusively matters of choice; and to illustrate by his letters what befell at the beginning of his changes, will show what attended them to the close. His earliest difficulty was very grave. There was only one spring of water for gentlefolk and villagers, and from some of the houses or cottages it was two miles away. "We are still" (6 July) "boring for water here, at the rate of two pounds per day for wages. The men seem to like it very much, and to be perfectly comfortable." Another of his earliest experiences (5 September) was thus expressed: "Hop-picking is going on, and people sleep in the garden, and breathe in at the keyhole of the house door. I have been amazed, before this year, by the number of miserable lean wretches, hardly able to crawl, who go hop-picking. I find it is a superstition that the dust of the newly picked hop, falling freshly into the throat, is a cure for consumption. So the poor creatures drag themselves along the roads, and sleep under wet hedges, and get cured soon and finally." Towards the close of the same month (24 September) he wrote: "Here are six men perpetually going up and down the well (I know that somebody will be killed), in the course of fitting a pump: which is quite a railway terminus -- it is so iron and so big. The process is much more like putting Oxford-street endwise, and laying gas along it, than anything else. By the time it is finished, the cost of this water will be something absolutely frightful. But of course it proportionately increases the value of the property, and that's my only comfort. . . . The horse has gone lame from a sprain, the big dog has run a tenpenny nail into one of his hind feet, the bolts have all flown out of the basket-carriage, and the gardener says all the fruit trees want replacing with new ones." Another note came in three days. "I have discovered that the seven miles between Maidstone and Rochester is one of the most beautiful walks in England. Five men have been looking attentively at the pump for a week, and (I should hope) may begin to fit it in the course of October." . . . .

With even such varying fortune he effected other changes. The exterior remained to the last much as it was when he used as a boy to see it first; a plain, old-fashioned, two-story, brick-built country house, with a bell-turret on the roof, and over the front door a quaint neat wooden porch with pillars and seats. But, among his additions and alterations, was a new drawing-room built out from the smaller existing one, both being thrown together ultimately; two good bedrooms built on a third-floor at the back; and such re-arrangement of the ground floor as, besides its handsome drawing-room, and its dining-room which he hung with pictures, transformed its bedroom into a study which he lined with books and sometimes wrote in, and changed its breakfast-parlour into a retreat fitted up for smokers into which he put a small billiard-table. These several rooms opened from a hall having in it a series of Hogarth prints, until, after the artist's death, Stanfield's noble scenes were placed there, when the Hogarths were moved to his bedroom; and in this hall, during his last absence in America, a parquet floor was laid down. Nor did he omit such changes as might increase the comfort of his servants. He built entirely new offices and stables, and replaced a very old coach-house by a capital servants' hall, transforming the loft above into a commodious school-room or study for his boys. He made at the same time an excellent croquet-ground out of a waste piece of orchard.

Belonging to the house, but unfortunately placed on the other side of the high road, was a shrubbery, well wooded though in desolate condition, in which stood two magnificent cedars; and having obtained, in 1859, the consent of the local authorities for the necessary underground work, Dickens constructed a passage beneath the road from his front lawn; and in the shrubbery thus rendered accessible, and which he then laid out very prettily, he placed afterwards a Swiss chalet presented to him by Mr. Fechter, which arrived from Paris in ninety-four pieces fitting like the joints of a puzzle, but which proved to be somewhat costly in setting on its legs by means of a foundation of brickwork. "It will really be a very pretty thing," he wrote (January 1865), "and in the summer (supposing it not to be blown away in the spring), the upper room will make a charming study. It is much higher than we supposed." Once up, it did really become a great resource in the summer months, and much of Dickens's work was done there. "I have put five mirrors in the chalet where I write," 0 he told an American friend, "and they reflect and refract, in all kinds of ways, the leaves that are quivering at the windows, and the great fields of waving corn, and the sail-dotted river. My room is up among the branches of the trees; and the birds and the butterflies fly in and out, and the green branches shoot in at the open windows, and the lights and shadows of the clouds come and go with the rest of the company. The scent of the flowers, and indeed of everything that is growing for miles and miles, is most delicious." He used to make great boast, too, not only of his crowds of singing birds all day, but of his nightingales at night.

One or two more extracts from letters having reference to these changes may show something of the interest to him with which Gadshill thus grew under his hands. A sun-dial on his back-lawn had a bit of historic interest about it. "One of the balustrades of the destroyed old Rochester Bridge," he wrote to his daughter in June 1859, "has been (very nicely) presented to me by the contractors for the workss, and has been duly stone-masoned and set up on the lawn behind the house. I have ordered a sun-dial for the top of it, and it will be a very good object indeed." "When you come down here next month," he wrote to me, "we have an idea that we shall show you rather a net house. What terrific adventures have been in action; how many overladen vans were knocked up at Gravesend, and had to be dragged out of Chalk-turnpike in the dead of the night by the whole equine power of this establishment; shall be revealed at another time." That was in the autumn of 1860, when, on the sale of his London house, its contents were transferred to his country home. "I shall have an alteration or two to show you at Gadshill that greatly improve the little property; and when I get the workmen out this time, I think I'll leave off." October 1861 had now come, when the new bedrooms were built; but in the same month of 1863 he announced his transformation of the old coach-house. "I shall have a small new improvement to show you at Gads, which I think you will accept as the crowning ingenuity of the inimitable." But of course it was not over yet. "My small work and planting," he wrote in the spring of 1866, "really, truly, and positively the last, are nearly at an end in these regions, and the result will await summer inspection." No, nor even yet. He afterwards obtained, by exchange of some land with the trustees of Watts's Charity, the much coveted meadow at the back of the house of which heretofore he had the lease only; and he was then able to plant a number of young limes and chesnuts and other quick-growing trees. He had already planted a row of limes in front. He had no idea, he would say, of planting only for the benefit of posterity, but would put into the ground what he might himself enjoy the sight and shade of. He put them in two or three clumps in the meadow, and in a belt all round.

Still there were "more last words," for the limit was only to be set by his last year of life. On abandoning his notion, after the American readings, of exchanging Gadshill for London, a new staircase was put up from the hall; a parquet floor laid on the first landing; and a conservatory built, opening into both drawing-room and dining-room, "glass and iron," as he described it, "brilliant but expensive, with foundations as of an ancient Roman work of horrible solidity." This last addition had long been an object of desire with him; though he would hardly even now have given himself the indulgence but for the golden shower from America. He saw it first in a completed state on the Sunday before his death, when his younger daughter was on a visit to him. "Well, Katey," he said to her, "now you see positively the last improvement at Gadshill"; and every one laughed at the joke against himself. The success of the new conservatory was unquestionable. It was the remark of all around him that he was certainly, from this last of his improvements, drawing more enjoyment than from any of its predecessors, when the scene for ever closed.

Of the course of his daily life in the country there is not much to be said. Perhaps there was never a man who changed places so much and habits so little. He was always methodical and regular; and passed his life from day to day, divided for the most part between working and walking, the same wherever he was. The only exception was when special or infrequent visitors were with him. When such friends as Longfellow and his daughters, or Charles Eliot Norton and his wife, came, or when Mr. Fields brought his wife and Professor Lowell's daughter, or when he received other Americans to whom he owed special courtesy, he would compress into infinitely few days an enormous amount of sight seeing and country enjoyment, castles, cathedrals, and fortified lines, lunches and picnics among cherry orchards and hop-gardens, excursions to Canterbury or Maidstone and their beautiful neighbourhoods, Druid-stone and Blue Bell Hill. "All the neighbouring country that could be shown in so short a time," he wrote of the Longfellow visit, "they saw. I turned out a couple of postilions in the old red jackets of the old red royal Dover road for our ride, and it was like a holiday ride in England fifty years ago." For Lord Lytton he did the same, for the Emerson Tennents, for Mr. Layard and Mr. Helps, for Lady Molesworth and the Higginses (Jacob Omnium), and such other less frequent visitors.

Excepting on such particular occasions however, and not always even then, his mornings were reserved wholly to himself; and he would generally preface his morning work (such was his love of order in everything around him) by seeing that all was in its place in the several rooms, visiting also the dogs, stables, and kitchen garden, and closing, unless the weather was very bad indeed, with a turn or two round the meadow before settling to his desk. His dogs were a great enjoyment to him; and, with his high road traversed as frequently as any in England by tramps and wayfarers of a singularly undesirable description, they were also a necessity. There were always two, of the mastiff kind, but latterly the number increased. His own favourite was Turk, a noble animal, full of affection and intelligence, whose death by a railway-accident, shortly after the Staplehurst catastrophe, caused him great grief. Turk's sole companion up to that date was Linda, puppy of a great St. Bernard brought over by Mr. Albert Smith, and grown into a superbly beautiful creature. After Turk there was an interval of an Irish dog, Sultan, given by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald 7; a cross between a St. Bernard and a bloodhound, built and coloured like a lioness and of splendid proportions, but of such indomitably aggressive propensities, that, after breaking his kennel-chain and nearly devouring a luckless little sister of one of the servants, he had to be killed. Dickens always protested that Sultan was a Fenian, for that no dog, not a secretly sworn member of that body, would ever have made such a point, muzzled as he was, of rushing at and bearing down with fury anything in scarlet with the remotest resemblance to a British uniform. Sultan's successor was Don, presented by Mr. Frederick Lehmann, a grand Newfoundland brought over very young, who with Linda became parent to a couple of Newfoundlands, that were still gambolling about their master, huge, though hardly out of puppydom, when they lost him. He had given to one of them the name of Bumble, from having observed, as he described it, "a peculiarly pompous and overbearing manner he had of appearing to mount guard over the yard when he was an absolute infant." Bumble was often in scrapes. Describing to Mr. Fields a drought in the summer of 1868, when their poor supply of ponds and surface wells had become waterless, he wrote: "I do not let the great dogs swim in the canal, because the people have to drink of it. But when they get into the Medway, it is hard to get them out again. The other day Bumble (the son, Newfoundland dog) got into difficulties among some floating timber, and became frightened. Don (the father) was standing by me, shaking off the wet and looking on carelessly, when all of a sudden he perceived something amiss, and went in with a bound and brought Bumble out by the ear. The scientific way in which he towed him along was charming." The description of his own reception, on his reappearance after America, by Bumble and his brother, by the big and beautiful Linda, and by his daughter Mary's handsome little Pomeranian, may be added from his letters to the same correspondent. "The two Newfoundland dogs coming to meet me, with the usual carriage and the usual driver, and beholding me coming in my usual dress out at the usual door, it struck me that their recollection of my having been absent for any unusual time was at once cancelled. They behaved (they are both young dogs) exactly in their usual manner; coming behind the basket phaeton as we trotted along, and lifting their heads to have their ears pulled, a special attention which they receive from no one else. But when I drove into the stable-yard, Linda (the St. Bernard) was greatly excited; weeping profusely, and throwing herself on her back that she might caress my foot with her great fore-paws. Mary's little dog too, Mrs. Bouncer, barked in the greatest agitation on being called down and asked by Mary, 'Who is this?' and tore round and round me like the dog in the Faust outlines." The father and mother and their two sons, four formidable-looking companions, were with him generally in his later walks.

Round Cobham, skirting the park and village, and passing the Leather Bottle famous in the page of Pickwick, was a favourite walk with Dickens. By Rochester and the Medway, to the Chatham Lines, was another. He would turn out of Rochester High Street through The Vines (where some old buildings, from one of which called Restoration House he took Satis House for Great Expectations, had a curious attraction for him), would pass round by Fort Pitt, and coming back by Frindsbury would bring himself by some cross fields again into the high road. Or, taking the other side, he would walk through the marshes to Gravesend, return by Chalk church, and stop always to have greeting with a comical old monk who for some incomprehensible reason sits carved in stone, cross-legged with a jovial pot, over the porch of that sacred edifice. To another drearier churchyard, itself forming part of the marshes beyond the Medway, he often took friends to show them the dozen small tombstones of various sizes adapted to the respective ages of a dozen small children of one family which he made part of his story of Great Expectations, though, with the reserves always necessary in copying nature not to overstep her modesty by copying too closely, he makes the number that appalled little Pip not more than half the reality. About the whole of this Cooling churchyard, indeed, and the neighbouring castle ruins, there was a weird strangeness that made it one of his attractive walks in the late year or winter, when from Higham he could get to it across country over the stubble fields; and, for a shorter summer walk, he was not less fond of going round the village of Shorn and sitting on a hot afternoon in its pretty shaded churchyard. But, on the whole, though Maidstone had also much that attracted him to its neighbourhood, the Cobham neighbourhood was certainly that which he had greatest pleasure in; and he would have taken oftener than he did the walk through Cobham park and woods, which was the last he enjoyed before life suddenly closed upon him, but that here he did not like his dogs to follow.

Don now has his home there with Lord Darnley, and Linda lies under one of the cedars at Gadshill.





IV

FIRST PAID READINGS
1858-9

Dickens gave his paid public Readings successively, with not long intervals, at four several dates; in 1858-59, in 1861-63, in 1866-67, and in 1868-70; the first series under Mr. Arthur Smith's management, the second under Mr. Headland's, and the third and fourth, in America as well as before and after it, under that of Mr. George Dolby, who, excepting in America, acted for the Messrs. Chappell. The references in the present chapter are to the first series only.

It began with sixteen nights at St. Martin's Hall, the first on 29 April, the last on 22 July, 1858; and there was afterwards a provincial tour of 87 Readings, beginning at Clifton on 2 August, ending at Brighton on the 13th of November, and taking in Ireland and Scotland as well as the principal English cities: to which were added, in London, three Christmas readings, three in January, with two in the following month; and, in the provinces in the month of October, fourteen, beginning at Ipswich and Norwich, taking in Cambridge and Oxford, and closing with Birmingham and Cheltenham. The series had comprised altogether 125 Readings when it ended on 27 October, 1859; and without the touches of character and interest afforded by his letters written while thus employed, the picture of the man would not be complete.

Here was one day's work at the opening which will show something of the fatigue they involved even at their outset. "On Friday we came from Shrewsbury to Chester; saw all right for the evening; and then went to Liverpool. Came back from Liverpool and read at Chester. Left Chester at 11 at night, after the reading, and went to London. Got to Tavistock House at 5 A.M. on Saturday, left it at a quarter past 10 that morning, and came down here "(Gadshill: 15 August, 1858).

The "greatest personal affection and respect" had greeted him everywhere. Nothing could have been "more strongly marked or warmly expressed;" and the readings had "gone" quite wonderfully. What in this respect had most impressed him, at the outset of his adventures, was Exeter. "I think they were the finest audience I ever read to; I don't think I ever read in some respects so well; and I never beheld anything like the personal affection which they poured out upon me at the end. I shall always look back upon it with pleasure." He often lost his voice in these early days, having still to acquire the art of husbanding it; and in the trial to recover it would again waste its power. "I think I sang half the Irish melodies to myself as I walked about, to test it."

An audience of two thousand three hundred people (the largest he had had) greeted him at Liverpool on his way to Dublin, and, besides the tickets sold, more than two hundred pounds in money was taken at the doors. This taxed his business staff a little. "They turned away hundreds, sold all the books, rolled on the ground of my room knee-deep in checks, and made a perfect pantomime of the whole thing." (20 August.) He had to repeat the reading thrice.

It was the first time he had seen Ireland, and Dublin greatly surprised him by appearing to be so much larger and more populous than he had supposed. He found it to have altogether an unexpectedly thriving look, being pretty nigh as big, he first thought, as Paris; of which some places in it, such as the quays on the river, reminded him. Half the first day he was there, he took to explore it; walking till tired, and then hiring a car. "Power, dressed for the character of Tedy the Tiler, drove me: in a suit of patches, and with his hat unbrushed for twenty years. Wonderfully pleasant, light, intelligent, and careless." A letter to his eldest daughter makes humorous addition. "The man who drove our jaunting car yesterday hadn't a piece in his coat as big as a penny roll . . . . but he was remarkably intelligent and agreeable, with something to say about everything. When we got into the Phoenix Park, he looked round him as if it were his own, and said 'THAT's a Park, sir, av ye plase!' I complimented it, and he said 'Gintlemen tills me as they iv bin, sir, over Europe and never see a Park aqualling ov it. Yander's the Vice-regal Lodge, sir; in thim two corners lives the two Sicretaries, wishing I was thim sir. There's air here, sir, av yer plase! There's scenery here sir! There's mountains thim sir!'" The number of common people he saw in his drive, also "riding about in cars as hard as they could split," brought to his recollection a more distant scene, and but for the dresses he could have thought himself on the Toledo at Naples.

In respect of the number of his audience, and their reception of him, Dublin was one of his marked successes. He came to have some doubt of their capacity of receiving the pathetic, but of their quickness as to the humorous there could be no question, any more than of their heartiness. He got on wonderfully well with the Dublin people; and the Irish girls outdid the American in one particular. He wrote to his sister-in-law: "Every night since I have been in Ireland, they have beguiled my dresser out of the bouquet from my coat; and yesterday morning, as I had showered the leaves from my geranium in reading Little Dombey, they mounted the platform after I was gone, and picked them all up as a keepsake." The Boots at Morrison's expressed the general feeling in a patriotic point of view. "He was waiting for me at the hotel door last night. 'Whaat sart of a hoose sur?' he asked me.' Capital.' 'The Lard be praised fur the 'onor o' Dooblin!'" Within the hotel, on getting up next morning, he had a dialogue with a smaller resident, landlord's son he supposed, a little boy of the ripe age of six, which he presented, in his letter to his sister-in-law, as a colloquy between Old England and Young Ireland inadequately reported for want of the "imitation "it required for its full effect. "I am sitting on the sofa, writing, and find him sitting beside me.

"Old England. Holloa old chap.

"Young Ireland. Hal-loo!

"Old England (in his delightful way). What a nice old fellow you are. I am very fond of little boys.

"Young Ireland. Air yes? Ye'r right.

"Old England. What do you learn, old fellow?

"Young Ireland (very intent on Old England, and always childish except in his brogue). I lairn wureds of three sillibils -- and wureds of two sillibils -- and wureds of one sillibil.

"Old England (cheerfully). Get out, you humbug! You learn only words of one syllable.

"Young Ireland (laughs heartily). You may say that it is mostly wureds of one sillibil.

"Old England. Can you write?

"Young Ireland. Not yet. Things comes by deegrays

"Old England. Can you cipher?

"Young Ireland (very quickly). Whaat's that?

"Old England. Can you make figures?

"Young Ireland. I can make a nought, which is not asy, being round.

"Old England. I say, old boy! Wasn't it you I saw on Sunday morning in the hall, in a soldier's cap? You know! -- In a soldier's cap?

"Young Ireland (cogitating deeply). Was it a very good cap?

"Old England. Yes.

"Young Ireland. Did it fit ankommon?

"Old England. Yes.

"Young Ireland. Dat was me!"

The last night in Dublin was an extraordinary scene. "You can hardly imagine it. All the way from the hotel to the Rotunda (a mile), I had to contend against the stream of people who were turned away. When I got there, they had broken the glass in the pay-boxes, and were offering freely for a stall. Half of my platform had to be taken down, and people heaped in among the ruins. You never saw such a scene." "Ladies stood all night with their chins against my platform," he wrote to his daughter. "Other ladies sat all night upon my steps. We turned away people enough to make immense houses for a week." But he would not return after his other Irish engagements. "I have positively said No. The work is too hard. It is not like doing it in one easy room, and always the same room. With a different place every night, and a different audience with its own peculiarity every night, it is a tremendous strain. . . . I seem to be always either in a railway carriage or reading, or going to bed; and I get so knocked up whenever I have a minute to remember it, that then I go to bed as a matter of course."

Belfast he liked quite as much as Dublin in another way. "A fine place with a rough people; everything looking prosperous; the railway ride from Dublin quite amazing in the order, neatness, and cleanness of all you see; every cottage looking as if it had been whitewashed the day before; and many with charming gardens, prettily kept with bright flowers." The success, too, was quite as great. "Enormous audiences. We turn away half the town. I think them a better audience on the whole than Dublin; and the personal affection is something overwhelming. I wish you and the dear girls" (he is writing to his sister-in-law) "could have seen the people look at me in the street; or heard them ask me, as I hurried to the hotel after the reading last night, to 'do me the honour to shake hands Misther Dickens and God bless you sir; not ounly for the light you've been to me this night, but for the light you've been in mee house sir (and God love your face!) this many a year!'" He had never seen men "go in to cry so undisguisedly," as they did at the Belfast Dombey reading; "and as to the Boots and Mrs. Gamp it was just one roar with me and them. For they made me laugh so, that sometimes I could not compose my face to go on." His greatest trial in this way however was a little later at Harrogate -- "the queerest place, with the strangest prople in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper -- reading, and tables d'hote" -- where he noticed, at the same reading, embodiments respectively of the tears and laughter to which he has moved his fellow creatures so largely. "There was one gentleman at the Little Dombey yesterday morning" (he is still writing to his sister-in-law) "who exhibited -- or rather concealed -- the profoundest grief. After crying a good deal without hiding it, he covered his face with both his hands and laid it down on the back of the seat before him, and really shook with emotion. He was not in mourning, but I supposed him to have lost some child in old time. . . . There was a remarkably good fellow too, of thirty or so, who found something so very ludicrous in Toots that he could not compose himself at all, but laughed until he sat wiping his eyes with his handkerchief; and whenever he felt Toots coming again, he began to laugh and wipe his eyes afresh; and when Toots came once more, he gave a kind of cry, as if it were too much for him. It was uncommonly droll, and made me laugh heartily."

At Harrogate he read twice on one day (a Saturday), and had to engage a special engine to take him back that night to York, which, having reached at one o'clock in the morning, he had to leave, because of Sunday restrictions on travel, the same morning at half-past four, to enable him to fulfil a Monday's reading at Scarborough. Such fatigues became matters of course; but their effect, not noted at the time, was grave. Here again he was greatly touched by the personal greeting. "I was brought very near to what I sometimes dream may be my Fame," he wrote to me in October from York, "when a lady whose face I had never seen stopped me yesterday in the street, and said to me, Mr. Dickens, will you let me touch the hand that has filled my house with many friends." Of the reading he adds, "I had a most magnificent assemblage, and might have filled the place for a week. . . . I think the audience possessed of a better knowledge of character than any I have seen. But I recollect Doctor Belcombe to have told me long ago that they first found out Charles Mathews's father, and to the last understood him (he used to say) better than any other people. . . . The let is enormous for next Saturday at Manchester, stalls alone four hundred! I shall soon be able to send you the list of places to 15 November, the end. I shall be, O most heartily glad, when that time comes! But I must say that the intelligence and warmth of the audiences are an immense sustainment, and one that always sets me up. Sometimes before I go down to read (especially when it is in the day), I am so oppressed by having to do it that I feel perfectly unequal to the task. But the people lift me out of this directly; and I find that I have quite forgotten everything but them and the book, in a quarter of an hour."

The reception that awaited him at Manchester had very special warmth in it, occasioned by an adverse tone taken in the comment of one of the Manchester daily papers on the letter which by a breach of confidence had been then recently printed. "My violated letter" Dickens always called it. (ante,206). "When I came to Manchester on Saturday I found seven hundred stalls taken! When I went into the room at night 2,500 people had paid, and more were being turned away from every door. The welcome they gave me was astounding in its affectionate recognition of the late trouble, and fairly for once unmanned me. I never saw such a sight or heard such a sound. When they had thoroughly done it, they settled down to enjoy themselves; and certainly did enjoy themselves most heartily to the last minute." Nor, for the rest of his English tour, in any of the towns that remained, had he reason to complain of any want of hearty greeting. At Sheffield great crowds in excess of the places came. At Leeds the hall overflowed in half an hour. At Hull the vast concourse had to be addressed by Mr. Smith on the gallery stairs, and additional Readings had to be given, day and night, "for the people out of town and for the people in town."

The net profit to himself, thus far, had been upwards of three hundred pounds a week; but this was nothing to the success in Scotland, where his profit in a week, with all expenses paid, was five hundred pounds. The pleasure was enhanced, too, by the presence of his two daughters, who had joined him over the Border. At first the look of Edinburgh was not promising. "We began with, for us, a poor room. . . . But the effect of that reading (it was the Chimes) was immense; and on the next night, for Little Dombey, we had a full room. It is our greatest triumph everywhere. Next night (Poor Traveller, Boots, and Gamp) we turned away hundreds upon hundreds of people; and last night, for the Carol, in spite of advertisements in the morning that the tickets were gone, the people had to be got in through such a crowd as rendered it a work of the utmost difficulty to keep an alley into the room. They were seated about me on the platform, put into the doorway of the waiting-room, squeezed into every conceivable place, and a multitude turned away once more. I think I am better pleased with what was done in Edinburgh than with what has been done anywhere, almost. It was so completely taken by storm, and carried in spite of itself. Mary and Katey had been infinitely pleased and interested with Edinburgh. We are just going to sit down to dinner and therefore I cut my missive short. Travelling, dinner, reading, and everything else, come crowding together into this strange life."

Then came Dundee: "An odd place," he wrote, "like Wapping, with high rugged hills behind it. We had the strangest journey here -- bits of sea, and bits of railroad, alternately; which carried my mind back to travelling in America. The room is an immense new one, belonging to Lord Kinnaird, and Lord Panmure, and some others of that sort. It looks something between the Crystal-palace and Westminster-hall (I can't imagine who wants it in this place), and has never been tried yet for speaking in. Quite disinterestedly of course, I hope it will succeed." The people he thought, in respect of taste and intelligence, below any other of his Scotch audiences; but they woke up surprisingly, and the rest of his Caledonian tour was a succession of triumphs. "At Aberdeen we were crammed to the street, twice in one day. At Perth (where I thought when I arrived, there literally could be nobody to come) the gentlefolk came posting in from thirty miles round, and the whole town came besides, and filled an immense hall. They were as full of perception, fire, and enthusiasm as any people I have seen. At Glasgow, where I read three evenings and one morning, we took the prodigiously large sum of six hundred pounds! And this at the Manchester prices, which are lower than St. Martin's Hall. As to the effect -- I wish you could have seen them after Lilian died in the Chimes, or when Scrooge woke in the Carol and talked to the boy outside the window. And at the end of Dombey yesterday afternoon, in the cold light of day, they all got up, after a short pause, gentle and simple, and thundered and waved their hats with such astonishing heartiness and fondness that, for the first time in all my public career, they took me completely off my legs, and I saw the whole eighteen hundred of them reel to one side as if a shock from without had shaken the hall. Notwithstanding which, I must confess to you, I am very anxious to get to the end of my Readings, and to be at home again, and able to sit down and think in my own study. There has been only one thing quite without alloy. The dear girls have enjoyed themselves immensely, and their trip with me has been a great success."

The subjects of his Readings during this first circuit were the Carol, the Chimes, the Trial in Pickwick, the chapters containing Paul Dombey, Boots at the Holly Tree Inn, the Poor Traveller (Captain Doubledick), and Mrs. Gamp: to which he continued to restrict himself through the supplementary nights that closed in the autumn of 1859. Of these the most successful in their uniform effect upon his audiences were undoubtedly the Carol, the Pickwick scene, Mrs. Gamp, and the Dombey -- the quickness, variety, and completeness of his assumption of character, having greatest scope in these. Here, I think, more than in the pathos or graver level passages, his strength lay; but this is entitled to no weight other than as an individual opinion, and his audiences gave him many reasons for thinking differently.

The incidents of the period covered by this chapter that had any general interest in them, claim to be mentioned briefly. At the close of 1857 he presided at the fourth anniversary of the Warehousemen and Clerks' Schools, describing and discriminating, with keenest wit and kindliest fun, the sort of schools he liked and he disliked. To the spring and summer of 1858 belongs the first collection of his writings into a succinct library form, each of the larger novels occupying two volumes. In March he paid warm public tribute to Thackeray (who had been induced to take the chair at the General Theatrical Fund) as one for whose genius he entertained the warmest admiration, who did honour to literature, and in whom literature was honoured. In May he presided at the Artists' Benevolent Fund dinner, and made striking appeal for that excellent charity. In July he took earnest part in the opening efforts on behalf of the Royal Dramatic College, which he supplemented later by a speech for the establishment of schools for actors' children; in which he took occasion to declare his belief that there were no institutions in England so socially liberal as its public schools, and that there was nowhere in the country so complete an absence of servility to mere rank, position, or riches. "A boy there, is always what his abilities or his personal qualities make him. We may differ about the curriculum and other matters, but of the frank, free, manly, independent spirit preserved in our public schools, I apprehend there can be no kind of question." In December he was entertained at a public dinner in Coventry on the occasion of receiving, by way of thanks for help rendered to their Institute, a gold repeater of special construction by the watchmakers of the town; as to which he kept faithfully his pledge to the givers, that it should be thenceforward the inseparable companion of his workings and wanderings, and reckon off the future labours of his days until he should have done with the measurement of time. Within a day from this celebration he presided at the Institutional Association of Lancashire and Cheshire in Manchester Free Trade Hall; gave prizes to candidates from a hundred and fourteen local mechanics' institutes affiliated to the Association; described in his most attractive language the gallant toiling fellows by whom the prizes had been won; and ended with the monition he never failed to couple with his eulogies of Knowledge, that it should follow the teaching of the Saviour, and not satisfy the understanding merely. "Knowledge has a very limited power when it informs the head only; but when it informs the heart as well, it has a power over life and death, the body and the soul, and dominates the universe."

This too was the year when Mr. Frith completed Dickens's portrait for me, and it was upon the walls of the Academy in the following spring. "I wish," said Edwin Landseer as he stood before it, "he looked less eager and busy, and not so much out of himself, or beyond himself. I should like to catch him asleep and quiet now and then." There is something in the objection, and he also would be envious at times of what he too surely knew could never be his lot. On the other hand who would willingly have lost the fruits of an activity on the whole so healthy and beneficent?





V

"ALL THE YEAR ROUND" AND "UNCOMMERCIAL TRAVELLER"
1859-61

In the interval before the close of the first circuit of readings, painful personal disputes arising out of the occurrences of the previous year were settled by the discontinuance of Household Words, and the establishment in its place of All the Year Round. The disputes turned upon matters of feeling exclusively, and involved no charge on either side that would render any detailed reference here other than gravely out of place. The question into which the difference ultimately resolved itself was that of the respective rights of the parties as proprietors of Household Words; and this, upon a bill filed in Chancery, was settled by a winding-up order, under which the property was sold. It was bought by Dickens, who, even before the sale, exactly fulfilling a previous announcement of the proposed discontinuance of the existing periodical and establishment of another in its place, precisely similar but under a different title, had started All the Year Round. It was to be regretted perhaps that he should have thought it necessary to move at all, but he moved strictly within his rights.

To the publishers first associated with his great success in literature, Messrs. Chapman and Hall, he now returned for the issue of the remainder of his books; of which he always in future reserved the copyrights, making each the subject of such arrangement as for the time might seem to him desirable. In this he was met by no difficulty; and indeed it will be only proper to add, that, in any points affecting his relations with those concerned in the production of his books, though his resentments were easily and quickly roused, they were never very lasting. The only fair rule therefore was, in a memoir of his life, to confine the mention of such things to what was strictly necessary to explain its narrative. This accordingly has been done; and, in the several disagreements it has been necessary to advert to, I cannot charge myself with having in a single instance overstepped the rule. Objection has been made to my revival of the early differences with Mr. Bentley. But silence respecting them was incompatible with what absolutely required to be said, if the picture of Dickens in his most interesting time, at the outset of his career in letters, was not to be omitted altogether; and, suppressing everything of mere temper that gathered round the dispute, use was made of those letters only containing the young writer's urgent appeal to be absolved, rightly or wrongly, from engagements he had too precipitately entered into. Wrongly, some might say, because the law was undoubtedly on Mr. Bentley's side; but all subsequent reflection has confirmed the view I was led strongly to take at the time, that in the facts there had come to be involved what the law could not afford to overlook, and that the sale of brain-work can never be adjusted by agreement with the same exactness and certainty as that of ordinary goods and chattels. Quitting the subject once for all with this remark, it is not less incumbent on me to say that there was no stage of the dispute in which Mr. Bentley, holding as strongly the other view, might not think it to have sufficient justification; and certainly in later years there was no absence of friendly feeling on the part of Dickens to his old publisher. This already has been mentioned; and on the occasion of Hans Andersen's recent visit to Gadshill, Mr. Bentley was invited to meet the celebrated Dane. Nor should I omit to say, that, in the year to which this narrative has now arrived, his prompt compliance with an intercession made to him for a common friend pleased Dickens greatly.

At the opening of 1859, bent upon such a successor to Household Words as should carry on the associations connected with its name, Dickens was deep in search of a title to give expression to them. "My determination to settle the title arises out of my knowledge that I shall never be able to do anything for the work until it has a fixed name; also out of my observation that the same odd feeling affects everybody else." He had proposed to himself a title that, as in Household Words, might be capable of illustration by a line from Shakespeare; and alighting upon that wherein poor Henry the Sixth is fain to solace his captivity by the fancy, that, like birds encaged he might soothe himself for loss of liberty "at last by notes of household harmony," he for the time forgot that this might hardly be accepted as a happy comment on the occurrences out of which the supposed necessity had arisen of replacing the old by a new household friend. "Don't you think," he wrote on 24 January, "this is a good name and quotation? I have been quite delighted to get hold of it for our title.


"HOUSEHOLD HARMONY.

'At last by notes of Household Harmony.' -- Shakespeare."

He was at first reluctant even to admit the objection when stated to him. "I am afraid we must not be too particular about the possibility of personal references and applications: otherwise it is manifest that I never can write another book. I could not invent a story of any sort, it is quite plain, incapable of being twisted into some such nonsensical shape. It would be wholly impossible to turn one through half a dozen chapters." Of course he yielded, nevertheless; and much consideration followed over sundry other titles submitted. Reviving none of those formerly rejected, here were a few of these now rejected in their turn. THE HEARTH. THE FORGE. THE CRUCIBLE. THE ANVIL OF THE TIME. CHARLES DICKENS'S OWN. SEASONABLE LEAVES. EVERGREEN LEAVES. HOME. HOME-MUSIC. CHANGE. TIME AND TIDE. TWOPENCE. ENGLISH BELLS. WEEKLY BELLS. THE ROCKET. GOOD HUMOUR. Still the great want was the line adaptable from Shakespeare, which at last exultingly he sent on 28 January. "I am dining early, before reading, and write literally with my mouth full. But I have just hit upon a name that I think really an admirable one -- especially with the quotation before it, in the place where our present H. W. quotation stands.


"'The story of our lives, from year to year.' -- Shakespeare.

ALL THE YEAR ROUND.

A weekly journal conducted by Charles Dickens."

	With the same resolution and energy other things necessary to the adventure were as promptly done. "I have taken the new office,"  he wrote from Tavistock House on  21 February; "have got workmen in; have ordered the paper; settled with the printer; and am getting an immense system of advertising ready. Blow to be struck on the 12th of March. . . . Meantime I cannot please myself with the opening of my story" (the Tale of Two Cities, which All the Year Round was to start with), "and cannot in the least settle at it or take to it. . . . I wish you would come and look at what I flatter myself is a rather ingenious account to which I have turned the Stanfield scenery here." He had placed the Lighthouse scene in a single frame; had divided the scene of the Frozen Deep into two subjects, a British man-of-war and an Arctic sea, which he had also framed; and the schoolroom that had been the theatre was now hung with sea-pieces by a great painter of the sea. To believe them to have been but the amusement of a few mornings was difficult indeed. Seen from the due distance there was nothing wanting to the most masterly and elaborate art.

The first number of All the Year Round appeared on 30 April, and the result of the first quarter's accounts of the sale will tell everything that needs to be said of a success that went on without intermission to the close. "A word before I go back to Gadshill," he wrote from Tavistock House in July, "which I know you will be glad to receive. So well has All the Year Round gone that it was yesterday able to repay me, with five per cent. interest, all the money I advanced for its establishment (paper, print etc. all paid, down to the last number), and yet to leave a good 500 balance at the banker's!" Beside the opening of his Tale of Two Cities its first number had contained another piece of his writing, the "Poor Man and his Beer"; as to which an interesting note has been sent me. The Rev. T. B. Lawes, of Rothamsted, St. Albans, had been associated upon a sanitary commission with Mr. Henry Austin, Dickens's brother-in-law and counsellor in regard to all such matters in his own houses, or in the houses of the poor; and this connection led to Dickens's knowledge of a club that Mr. Lawes had established at Rothamsted, which he became eager to recommend as an example to other country neighbourhoods. The club had been set on foot to enable the agricultural labourers of the parish to have their beer and pipes independent of the public-house; and the description of it, says Mr. Lawes, "was the occupation of a drive between this place (Rothamsted) and London, twenty-five miles, Mr. Dickens refusing the offer of a bed, and saying that he could arrange his ideas on the journey. In the course of our conversation I mentioned that the labourers were very jealous of the small tradesmen, blacksmiths and others, holding allotment-gardens; but that the latter did so indirectly by paying higher rents to the labourers for a share. This circumstance is not forgotten in the verses on the Blacksmith in the same number, composed by Mr. Dickens and repeated to me while he was walking about, and which close the mention of his gains with allusion to

ENTER>re (concealed) in the poor man's field,
Which adds to the poor man's store.

It is pleasant to be able to add that the club was still flourishing when I received Mr. Lawes's letter, on 18 December, 1871.

The periodical thus established was in all respects, save one, so exactly the counterpart of what it replaced, that a mention of this point of difference is the only description of it called for. Besides his own three-volume stories of the Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, Dickens admitted into it other stories of the same length by writers of character and name, of which the authorship was avowed. It published tales of varied merit and success by Mr. Edmund Yates, Mr. Percy Fitzgerald, and Mr. Charles Lever. Mr. Wilkie Collins contributed to it his Woman in White, No Name, and Moonstone, the first of which had a pre-eminent success; Mr. Reade his Hard Cash; and Lord Lytton his Strange Story. Conferring about the latter Dickens passed a week at Knebworth, accompanied by his daughter and sister-in-law, in the summer of 1861, as soon as he had closed Great Expectations; and there met Mr. Arthur Helps, with whom and Lord Orford he visited the so-called "Hermit" near Stevenage, whom he described as Mr. Mopes in Tom Tiddler's Ground. With his great brother-artist he thoroughly enjoyed himself, as he invariably did; and reported him as "in better health and spirits than I have seen him in, in all these years -- a little weird occasionally regarding magic and spirits, but always fair and frank under opposition. He was brilliantly talkative, anecdotical, and droll; looked young and well; laughed heartily; and enjoyed with great zest some games we played. In his artist-character and talk, he was full of interest and matter, saying the subtlest and finest things -- but that he never fails in. I enjoyed myself immensely, as we all did."

In All the Year Round, as in its predecessor, the tales for Christmas were of course continued, but with a surprisingly increased popularity; and Dickens never had such sale for any of his writings as for his Christmas pieces in the latter periodical. It had reached before he died, to nearly three hundred thousand. The first was called the Haunted House, and had a small mention of a true occurrence in his boyhood which is not included in the bitter record on a former page. "I was taken home, and there was debt at home as well as death, and we had a sale there. My own little bed was so superciliously looked upon by a power unknown to me hazily called The Trade, that a brass coal-scuttle, a roasting-jack, and a bird-cage were obliged to be put into it to make a lot of it, and then it went for a song. So I heard mentioned, and I wondered what song, and thought what a dismal song it must have been to sing!" The other subjects will have mention in another chapter.

His tales were not his only important work in All the Year Round. The detached papers written by him there had a character and completeness derived from their plan, and from the personal tone, as well as frequent individual confessions, by which their interest is enhanced, and which will always make them specially attractive. Their title expressed a personal liking. Of all the societies, charitable or self-assisting, which his tact and eloquence in the "chair" so often helped, none had interested him by the character of its service to its members, and the perfection of its management, so much as that of the Commercial Travellers. His admiration of their schools introduced him to one who then acted as their treasurer, and whom, of all the men he had known, I think he rated highest for the union of business qualities in an incomparable measure to a nature comprehensive enough to deal with masses of men, however differing in creed or opinion, humanely and justly. He never afterwards wanted support for any good work that he did not think first of Mr. George Moore, and appeal was never made to him in vain. "Integrity, enterprise, public spirit, and benevolence," he told the Commercial Travellers on one occasion, "had their synonym in Mr. Moore's name"; and it was another form of the same liking when he took to himself the character and title of a Traveller Uncommercial. "I am both a town traveller and a country traveller, and am always on the road. Figuratively speaking, I travel for the great house of Human-interest Brothers, and have rather a large connection in the fancy goods way. Literally speaking, I am always wandering here and there from my rooms in Covent Garden, London: now about the city streets, now about the country by-roads: seeing many little things, and some great things, which, because they interest me, I think may interest others." In a few words, that was the plan and drift of the papers which he began in 1860, and continued to write from time to time until the last autumn of his life.

Many of them, such as "Travelling Abroad," "City Churches," "Dullborough," "Nurses' Stories" and "Birthday Celebrations," have supplied traits, chiefly of his younger days, to portions of this memoir; and parts of his later life receive illustration from others, such as "Tramps," "Night Walks," "Shy Neighbourhoods," "The Italian Prisoner," and "Chatham Dockyard." Indeed hardly any is without its personal interest or illustration. One may learn from them, among other things, what kind of treatment he resorted to for the disorder of sleeplessness from which he had often suffered amid his late anxieties. Experimenting upon it in bed, he found to be too slow and doubtful a process for him; but he very soon defeated his enemy by the brisker treatment, of getting up directly after lying down, going out, and coming home tired at sunrise. "My last special feat was turning out of bed at two, after a hard day pedestrian and otherwise, and walking thirty miles into the country to breakfast." One description he did not give in his paper, but I recollect his saying that he had seldom seen anything so striking as the way in which the wonders of an equinoctial dawn (it was 15 October, 1857) presented themselves during that walk. He had never before happened to see night so completely at odds with morning, "which was which." Another experience of his night ramblings used to be given in vivid sketches of the restlessness of a great city, and the manner in which it also tumbles and tosses before it can get to sleep. Nor should anyone curious about his habits and ways omit to accompany him with his "Tramps" into Gadshill lanes; or to follow him into his "Shy Neighbourhoods" of the Hackney Road, Waterloo Road Spitalfields, or Bethnal Green. For delightful observation both of country and town, for the wit that finds analogies between remote and familiar things, and for humorous personal sketches and experience, these are perfect of their kind.

"I have my eye upon a piece of Kentish road, bordered on either side by a wood, and having on one hand, between the road-dust and the trees, a skirting patch of grass. Wild flowers grow in abundance on this spot, and it lies high and airy, with a distant river stealing steadily away to the ocean, like a man's life. To gain the milestone here, which the moss, primroses, violets, blue-bells, and wild roses, would soon render illegible but for peering travellers pushing them aside with their sticks, you must come up a steep hill, come which way you may. So, all the tramps with carts or caravans -- the Gipsy-tramp, the Show-tramp, the Cheap Jack -- find it impossible to resist the temptations of the place; and all turn the horse loose when they come to it, and boil the pot. Bless the place, I love the ashes of the vagabond fires that have scorched its grass!" It was there he found Dr. Marigold, and Chops the Dwarf, and the Whitehaired Lady with the pink eyes eating meat-pie with the Giant. So, too, in his "Shy Neighbourhoods," when he relates his experiences of the bad company that birds are fond of, and of the effect upon domestic fowls of living in low districts, his method of handling the subject has all the charm of a discovery. "That anything born of an egg and invested with wings should have got to the pass that it hops contentedly down a ladder into a cellar, and calls that going home, is a circumstance so amazing as to leave one nothing more in this connection to wonder at." One of his illustrations is a reduced bantam family in the Hackney Road deriving their sole enjoyment from crowding together in a pawnbroker's side-entry; but seeming as if only newly come down in the world, and always in a feeble flutter of fear that they may be found out. He contrasts them with others. "I know a low fellow, originally of a good family from Dorking, who takes his whole establishment of wives, in single file, in at the door of the Jug Department of a disorderly tavern near the Haymarket, manoeuvres them among the company's legs, emerges with them at the Bottle Entrance, and so passes his life: seldom, in the season, going to bed before two in the morning. . . . But the family I am best acquainted with reside in the densest part of Bethnal Green. Their abstraction from the objects among which they live, or rather their conviction that those objects have all come into existence in express subservience to fowls, has so enchanted me that I have made them the subject of many journeys at divers hours. After careful observation of the two lords and the ten ladies of whom this family consists, I have come to the conclusion that their opinions are represented by the leading lord and leading lady: the latter, as I judge, an aged personage, afflicted with a paucity of feather and visibility of quill that gives her the appearance of a bundle of office pens. When a railway goods-van that would crush an elephant comes round the corner, tearing over these fowls, they emerge unharmed from under the horses, perfectly satisfied that the whole rush was a passing property in the air, which may have left something to eat behind it. They look upon old shoes, wrecks of kettles and saucepans, and fragments of bonnets, as a kind of meteoric discharge, for fowls to peck at. . . . Gaslight comes quite as natural to them as any other light; and I have more than a suspicion that, in the minds of the two lords, the early public-house at the corner has superseded the sun. They always begin to crow when the public-house shutters begin to be taken down, and they salute the Potboy, the instant he appears to perform that duty, as if he were Phoebus in person." For the truth of the personal adventure in the same essay, which he tells in proof of a propensity to bad company in more refined members of the feathered race, I am myself in a position to vouch. Walking by a dirty court in Spitalfields one day, the quick little busy intelligence of a goldfinch, drawing water for himself in his cage, so attracted him that he bought the bird, which had other accomplishments; but not one of them would the little creature show off in his new abode in Doughty Street, and he drew no water but by stealth or under the cloak of night. "After an interval of futile and at length hopeless expectation, the merchant who had educated him was appealed to. The merchant was a bow-legged character, with a flat and cushiony nose, like the last new strawberry. He wore a fur cap, and shorts, and was of the velveteen race, velveteeny. He sent word that he would 'look round.' He looked round, appeared in the doorway of the room, and slightly cocked up his evil eye at the goldfinch. Instantly a raging thirst beset that bird; and when it was appeased, he still drew several unnecessary buckets of water, leaping about his perch and sharpening his bill with irrepressible satisfaction."

The Uncommercial Traveller papers, his two serial stories and his Christmas tales, were all the contributions of any importance made by Dickens to All the Year Round; but he reprinted in it, on the completion of his first story, a short tale called Hunted Down, written for a newspaper in America called the New York Ledger. Its subject had been taken from the life of a notorious criminal already named, and its principal claim to notice was the price paid for it. For a story not longer than half of one of the numbers of Chuzzlewit or Copperfield, he had received a thousand pounds. It was one of the indications of the eager desire which his entry on the career of a public reader had aroused in America to induce him again to visit that continent; and at the very time he had this magnificent offer from the New York journal, Mr. Fields of Boston who was then on a visit to Europe, was pressing him so much to go that his resolution was almost shaken. "I am now," he wrote to me from Gadshill on 9 July, 1859, "getting the Tale of Two Cities into that state that IF I should decide to go to America late in September, I could turn to at any time, and write on with great vigour. Mr. Fields has been down here for a day, and with the strongest intensity urges that there is no drawback, no commercial excitement or crisis, no political agitation; and that so favourable an opportunity, in all respects, might not occur again for years and years. I should be one of the most unhappy of men if I were to go, and yet I cannot help being much stirred and influenced by the golden prospect held before me."

He yielded nevertheless to other persuasion, and for that time the visit was not to be. In six months more the Civil War began, and America was closed to any such enterprise for nearly five years.





VI

SECOND SERIES OF READINGS
1861-3

At the end of the first year of residence at Gadshill it was the remark of Dickens that nothing had gratified him so much as the confidence with which his poorer neighbours treated him. He had tested generally their worth and good conduct, and they had been encouraged in any illness or trouble to resort to him for help. There was pleasant indication of the feeling thus awakened, when, in the summer of 1860, his younger daughter Kate was married to Charles Alston Collins, brother of the novelist, and younger son of the painter and academician, who might have found, if spared to witness that summer-morning scene, subjects not unworthy of his delightful pencil in many a rustic group near Gadshill. All the villagers had turned out in honour of Dickens, and the carriages could hardly get to and from the little church for the succession of triumphal arches they had to pass through. It was quite unexpected by him; and when the feu de joie of the blacksmith in the lane, whose enthusiasm had smuggled a couple of small cannon into his forge, exploded upon him at the return, I doubt if the shyest of men was ever so taken aback at an ovation.

To name the principal persons present that day will indicate the faces that (with addition of Miss Mary Boyle, Miss Marguerite Power, Mr. Fechter, Mr. Charles Kent, Mr. Edmund Yates, Mr. Percy Fitzgerald, and members of the family of Mr. Frank Stone, whose sudden death in the preceding year had been a great grief to Dickens) were most familiar at Gadshill in these later years. Mr. Frederic Lehmann was there with his wife, whose sister, Miss Chambers, was one of the bridesmaids; Mr. and Mrs. Wills were there, and Dickens's old fast friend Mr. Thomas Beard; the two nearest country neighbours with whom the family had become very intimate, Mr. Hulkes and Mr. Malleson, with their wives, joined the party; among the others were Henry Chorley, Chauncy Hare Townshend, and Wilkie Collins; and, for friend special to the occasion, the bridegroom had brought his old fellow-student in art, Mr. Holman Hunt. O Mr. Charles Collins had himself been bred as a painter, for success in which line he had some rare gifts; but inclination and capacity led him also to literature, and, after much indecision between the two callings, he took finally to letters. His contributions to All the Year Round were among the most charming of its detached papers, and two stories published independently showed strength of wing for higher flights. But his health broke down, and his taste was too fastidious for his failing power. It is possible however that he may live by two small books of description, the New Sentimental Journey and the Cruise on Wheels, which have in them unusual delicacy and refinement of humour; and if those volumes should make any readers in another generation curious about the writer, they will learn, if correct reply is given to their inquiries, that no man disappointed so many reasonable hopes with so little fault or failure of his own, that his difficulty always was to please himself, and that an inferior mind would have been more successful in both the arts he followed. He died in 1873 in his forty-fifth year; and until then it was not known, even by those nearest to him, how great must have been the suffering which he had borne, through many trying years, with uncomplaining patience.

His daughter's marriage was the chief event that had crossed the even tenor of Dickens's life since his first paid readings closed; and it was followed by the sale of Tavistock House, with the resolve to make his future home at Gadshill. In the brief interval (29 July) he wrote to me of his brother Alfred's death. "I was telegraphed for to Manchester on Friday night. Arrived there at a quarter past ten, but he had been dead three hours, poor fellow! He is to be buried at Highgate on Wednesday. I brought the poor young widow back with me yesterday." All that this death involved, the troubles of his change of home, and some difficulties in working out his story, gave him more than sufficient occupation till the following spring; and as the time arrived for the new readings, the change was a not unwelcome one.

The first portion of this second series was planned by Mr. Arthur Smith, but he only superintended the six readings in London which opened it. These were the first at St. James's Hall (St. Martin's Hall having been burnt since the last readings there), and were given in March and April 1861. "We are all well here and flourishing," he wrote to me from Gadshill on 28 April. "On the 18th I finished the readings as I purposed. We had between seventy and eighty pounds in the stalls, which, at four shillings apiece, is something quite unprecedented in these times. . . . The result of the six was, that, after paying a large staff of men and all other charges, and Arthur Smith's ten per cent. on the receipts, and replacing everything destroyed in the fire at St. Martin's Hall (including all our tickets, country baggage, cheque-boxes, books, and a quantity of gas-fittings and what not), I got upwards of 500. A very great result. We certainly might have gone on through the season, but I am heartily glad to be concentrated on my story."

It had been part of his plan that the Provincial Readings should not begin until a certain interval after the close of his story of Great Expectations. They were delayed accordingly until 28 October, from which date, when they opened at Norwich, they went on with the Christmas intervals to be presently named to 30 January, 1862, when they closed at Chester. Kept within England and Scotland, they took in the border town of Berwick, and, besides the Scotch cities, comprised the contrasts and varieties of Norwich and Lancaster, Bury St. Edmunds and Cheltenham, Carlisle and Hastings, Plymouth and Birmingham, Canterbury and Torquay, Preston and Ipswich, Manchester and Brighton, Colchester and Dover, Newcastle and Chester. They were followed by ten readings at the St. James's Hall, between 13 March and 27 June, 1862; and by four at Paris in January 1863, given at the Embassy in aid of the British Charitable Fund. The second series had thus in the number of the readings nearly equalled the first, when it closed at London in June 1863 with thirteen readings in the Hanover Square Rooms; and it is exclusively the subject of such illustrations or references as this chapter will supply.

On Great Expectations closing in June 1861, Bulwer Lytton, at Dickens's earnest wish, took his place in All the Year Round with the Strange Story; and he then indulged himself in idleness for a little while. "The subsidence of those distressing pains in my face the moment I had done my work, made me resolve to do nothing in that way for some time if I could help it." But his "doing nothing" was seldom more than a figure of speech, and what it meant in this case was soon told. "Every day for two or three hours, I practise my new readings, and (except in my office work) do nothing else. With great pains I have made a continuous narrative out of Copperfield, that I think will reward the exertion it is likely to cost me. Unless I am much mistaken, it will be very valuable in London. I have also done Nicholas Nickleby at the Yorkshire school, and hope I have got something droll out of Squeers, John Browdie, & Co. Also, the Bastille prisoner from the Tale of Two Cities. Also, the Dwarf from one of our Christmas numbers." Only the first two were added to the list for the present circuit.

It was in the midst of these active preparations that painful news reached him. An illness under which Mr. Arthur Smith had been some time suffering took unexpectedly a dangerous turn, and there came to be but small chance of his recovery. A distressing interview on 28 September gave Dickens little hope. "And yet his wakings and wanderings so perpetually turn on his arrangements for the Readings, and he is so desperately unwilling to relinquish the idea of "going on with the business to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow, that I had not the heart to press him for the papers. He told me that he believed he had by him '70 or 80 letters unanswered.' You may imagine how anxious it makes me, and at what a deadstop I stand." Another week passed, and with it the time fixed at the places where his work was to have opened; but he could not bring himself to act as if all hope had gone. "With a sick man who has been so zealous and faithful, I feel bound to be very tender and patient. When I told him the other day about my having engaged Headland -- 'to do all the personally bustling and fatiguing part of your work,' I said -- he nodded his heavy head with great satisfaction, and faintly got of himself the words, 'Of course I pay him, and not you.'" The poor fellow died in October 3; and on the day after attending the funeral, Dickens heard of the death of his brother-in-law and friend, Mr. Henry Austin, whose abilities and character he respected as much as he liked the man. He lost much in losing the judicious and safe counsel which had guided him on many public guestions in which he took lively interest, and it was with a heavy heart he set out at last upon his second circuit. "With what difficulty I get myself back to the readings after all this loss and trouble, or with what unwillingness I work myself up to the mark of looking them in the face, I can hardly say. As for poor Arthur Smith at this time, it is as if my right arm were gone. It is only just now that I am able to open one of the books, and screw the text out of myself in a flat dull way. Enclosed is the list of what I have to do. You will see that I have left ten days in November for the Christmas number, and also a good Christmas margin for our meeting at Gadshill. I shall be very glad to have the money that I expect to get; but it will be earned." That November interval was also the date of the marriage of his eldest son to the daughter of Mr. Evans, so long, in connection with Mr. Bradbury, his publisher and printer.

The start of the readings at Norwich was not good, so many changes of vexation having been incident to the opening announcements as to leave some doubt of their fulfilment. But the second night, when trial was made of the Nickleby scenes, "we had a splendid hall, and I think Nickleby will top all the readings. Somehow it seems to have got in it, by accident, exactly the qualities best suited to the purpose; and it went last night, not only with roars, but with a general hilarity and pleasure that I have never seen surpassed." From this night onward, the success was uninterrupted, and here was his report to me from Brighton on 8 November. "We turned away half Dover and half Hastings and half Colchester; and, if you can believe such a thing, I may tell you that in round numbers we find 1,000 stalls already taken here in Brighton! I left Colchester in a heavy snow-storm. To-day it is so warm here that I can hardly bear the fire, and am writing with the window open down to the ground. Last night I had a most charming audience for Copperfield, with a delicacy of perception that really made the work delightful. It is very pretty to see the girls and women generally, in the matter of Dora; and everywhere I have found that peculiar personal relation between my audience and myself on which I counted most when I entered on this enterprise. Nickleby continues to go in the wildest manner."

A storm was at this time sweeping round the coast, and while at Dover he had written of it to his sister-in-law (7 November): "The bad weather has not in the least touched us, and the storm was most magnificent at Dover. All the great side of the Lord Warden next to the sea had to be emptied, the break of the waves was so prodigious, and the noise so utterly confounding. The sea came in like a great sky of immense clouds, for ever breaking suddenly into furious rain; all kinds of wreck were washed in, among other things a very pretty brass-bound chest being thrown about like a feather. . . . The unhappy Ostend packet, unable to get in or go back, beat about the Channel all Tuesday night, and until noon yesterday, when I saw her come in, with five men at the wheel, a picture of misery inconceivable. . . . The effect of the readings at Hastings and Dover really seems to have outdone the best usual impression; and at Dover they wouldn't go, but sat applauding like mad. The most delicate audience I have seen in any provincial place, is Canterbury" ("an intelligent and delightful response in them," he wrote to his daughter, "like the touch of a beautiful instrument"); "but the audience with the greatest sense of humour, certainly is Dover. The people in the stalls set the example of laughing, in the most curiously unreserved way; and they laughed with such really cordial enjoyment, when Squeers read the boys' letters, that the contagion extended to me. For, one couldn't hear them without laughing too. . . . So, I am thankful to say, all goes well, and the recompense for the trouble is in every way Great."

From the opposite quarter of Berwick-on-Tweed he wrote again in the midst of storm. But first his mention of Newcastle, which he had also taken on his way to Edinburgh, reading two nights there, should be given. "At Newcastle, against the very heavy expenses, I made more than a hundred guineas profit. A finer audience there is not in England, and I suppose them to be a specially earnest people; for, while they can laugh till they shake the roof, they have a very unusual sympathy with what is pathetic or passionate. An extraordinary thing occurred on the second night. The room was tremendously crowded and my gas-apparatus fell down. There was a terrible wave among the people for an instant, and God knows what destruction of life a rush to the stairs would have caused. Fortunately a lady in the front of the stalls ran out towards me, exactly in a place where I knew that the whole hall could see her. So I addressed her, laughing, and half-asked and half-ordered her to sit down again; and, in a moment, it was all over. But the men in attendance had such a fearful sense of what might have happened (besides the real danger of Fire) that they positively shook the boards I stood on, with their trembling, when they came up to put things right. I am proud to record that the gas-man's sentiment, as delivered afterwards, was, 'The more you want of the master, the more you'll find in him.' With which complimentary homage, and with the wind blowing so that I can hardly hear myself write, I conclude."

It was still blowing, in shape of a gale from the sea, when, an hour before the reading, he wrote from the King's Arms at Berwick-on-Tweed. "As odd and out of the way a place to be at, it appears to me, as ever was seen! And such a ridiculous room designed for me to read in! An immense Corn Exchange, made of glass and iron, round, dome-topp'd, lofty, utterly absurd for any such purpose, and full of thundering echoes; with a little lofty crow's nest of a stone gallery, breast high, deep in the wall, into which it was designed to put ---- me! I instantly struck, of course; and said I would either read in a room attached to this house (a very snug one, capable of holding 500 people), or not at all. Terrified local agents glowered, but fell prostrate, and my men took the primitive accommodation in hand. Ever since, I am alarmed to add, the people (who besought the honour of the visit) have been coming in numbers quite irreconcileable with the appearance of the place, and what is to be the end I do not know. It was poor Arthur Smith's principle that a town on the way paid the expenses of a long through-journey, and therefore I came." The Reading paid more than those expenses.

Enthusiastic greeting awaited him in Edinburgh. "We had in the hall exactly double what we had on our first night last time. The success of Copperfield was perfectly unexampled. Four great rounds of applause with a burst of cheering at the end, and every point taken in the finest manner." But this was nothing to what befell on the second night, when, by some mistake of the local agents, the tickets issued were out of proportion to the space available. Writing from Glasgow next day (3 December) he described the scene. "Such a pouring of hundreds into a place already full to the throat, such indescribable confusion, such a rending and tearing of dresses, and yet such a scene of good humour on the whole, I never saw the faintest approach to. While I addressed the crowd in the room, G addressed the crowd in the street. Fifty frantic men got up in all parts of the hall and addressed me all at once. Other frantic men made speeches to the walls. The whole B family were borne in on the top of a wave, and landed with their faces against the front of the platform. I read with the platform crammed with people. I got them to lie down upon it, and it was like some impossible tableau or gigantic pic-nic -- one pretty girl in full dress, lying on her side all night, holding on to one of the legs of my table! It was the most extraordinary sight. And yet, from the moment I began to the moment of my leaving off, they never missed a point, and they ended with a burst of cheers. . . . The expenditure of lungs and spirits was (as you may suppose) rather great; and to sleep well was out of the question. I am therefore rather fagged to-day; and as the hall in which I read to-night is a large one, I must make my letter a short one. . . . My people were torn to ribbons last night. They have not a hat among them -- and scarcely a coat." He came home for his Christmas rest by way of Manchester, and thus spoke of the reading there on 14 December. "Copperfield in the Free Trade Hall last Saturday was really a grand scene."

He was in southern latitude after Christmas, and on 8 January wrote from Torquay: "We are now in the region of small rooms, and therefore this trip will not be as profitable as the long one. I imagine the room here to be very small. Exeter I know, and that is small too. I am very much used up on the whole, for I cannot bear this moist warm climate. It would kill me very soon. And I have now got to the point of taking so much out of myself with Copperfield that I might as well do Richard Wardour . . . . This is a very pretty place -- a compound of Hastings, Tunbridge Wells, and little bits of the hills about Naples; but I met four respirators as I came up from the station, and three pale curates without them who seemed in a bad way." They had been not bad omens, however. The success was good, at both Torquay and Exeter; and he closed the month and this series of the country readings, at the great towns of Liverpool and Chester. "The beautiful St. George's Hall crowded to excess last night" (28t January, 1862) "and numbers turned away. Brilliant to see when lighted up, and for a reading simply perfect. You remember that a Liverpool audience is usually dull; but they put me on my mettle last night, for I never saw such an audience -- no, not even in Edinburgh! The agents (alone, and of course without any reference to ready money at the doors) had taken for the two readings two hundred pounds." But as the end approached the fatigues had told severely on him. He described himself sleeping horribly, and with head dazed and worn by gas and heat. Rest, before he could resume at the St. James's Hall in March, was become an absolute necessity.

Two brief extracts from letters of the dates respectively of 8 April and 28 June will sufficiently describe the London readings. "The money returns have been quite astounding. Think of 190 a night! The effect of Copperfield exceeds all the expectations which its success in the country led me to form. It seems to take people entirely by surprise. If this is not new to you, I have not a word of news. The rain that raineth every day seems to have washed news away or got it under water." That was in April. In June he wrote: "I finished my readings on Friday night to an enormous hall -- nearly 200. The success has been throughout complete. It seems almost suicidal to leave off with the town so full, but I don't like to depart from my public pledge. A man from Australia is in London ready to pay 10,000 for eight months there. If----" It was an If that troubled him for some time, and led to agitating discussion. The civil war having closed America, an increase made upon the just-named offer tempted him to Australia. He tried to familiarize himself with the fancy that he should thus also get new material for observation, and he went so far as to plan an Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down. It is however very doubtful if such a scheme would have been entertained for a moment, but for the unwonted difficulties of invention that were now found to beset a twenty-number story. Such a story had lately been in his mind, and he had just chosen the title for it (Our Mutual Friend); but still he halted and hesitated sorely. "If it was not" (he wrote on 5 October, 1862) "for the hope of a gain that would make me more independent of the worst, I could not look the travel and absence and exertion in the face. I know perfectly well before-hand how unspeakably wretched I should be. But these renewed and larger offers tempt me. I can force myself to go aboard a ship, and I can force myself to do at that reading-desk what I have done a hundred times; but whether, with all this unsettled fluctuating distress in my mind, I could force an original book out of it, is another question." On the 22nd, still striving hard to find reasons to cope with the all but irresistible arguments against any such adventure, which indeed, with everything that then surrounded him, would have been little short of madness, he thus stated his experience of his two circuits of public reading. "Remember that at home here the thing has never missed fire, but invariably does more the second time than it did the first; and also that I have got so used to it, and have worked so hard at it, as to get out of it more than I ever thought was in it for that purpose. I think all the probabilities for such a country as Australia are immense." The terrible difficulty was that the home argument struck both ways. "If I were to go it would be a penance and a misery, and I dread the thought more than I can possibly express. The domestic life of the Readings is all but intolerable to me when I am away for a few weeks at a time merely, and what would it be----" On the other hand it was also a thought of home, far beyond the mere personal loss or gain of it, that made him willing still to risk even so much misery and penance; and he had a fancy that it might be possible to take his eldest daughter with him. "It is useless and needless for me to say what the conflict in my own mind is. How painfully unwilling I am to go, and yet how painfully sensible that perhaps I ought to go -- with all the hands upon my skirts that I cannot fail to feel and see there, whenever I look round. It is a struggle of no common sort, as you will suppose, you who know the circumstances of the struggler." It closed at once when he clearly saw that to take any of his family with him, and make satisfactory arrangement for the rest during such an absence, would be impossible. By this time also he began to find his way to the new story, and better hopes and spirits had returned.

In January 1863 he had taken his daughter and his sister-in-law to Paris, and he read twice at the Embassy in behalf of the British Charitable Fund, the success being such that he consented to road twice again. He passed his birthday of that year (the 7th of the following month) at Arras. "You will remember me to-day, I know. Thanks for it. An odd birthday, but I am as little out of heart as you would have me be -- floored now and then, but coming up again at the call of Time. I wanted to see this town, birthplace of our amiable Sea Green" (Robespierre); "and I find a Grande Place so very remarkable and picturesque that it is astonishing how people miss it. Here too I found, in a by-country place just near, a Fair going on, with a Religious Richardson's in it -- THÉATRE RELIGIEUX -- 'donnant six fois par jour, l'histoire de la Croix en tableaux vivants, depuis la naissance de notre Seigneur jusqu'à son sépulture. Aussi l'immolation d'Isaac, par son père Abraham.' It was just before nightfall when I came upon it; and one of the three wise men was up to his eyes in lamp oil, hanging the moderators. A woman in blue and fleshings (whether an angel or Joseph's wife I don't know) was addressing the crowd through an enormous speaking-trumpet; and a very small boy with a property lamb (I leave you to judge who he was) was standing on his head on a barrel-organ." Returning to England by Boulogne in the same year, as he stepped into the Folkestone boat he encountered a friend, Mr. Charles Manby (in recording a trait of character so pleasing and honourable it is not necessary that I should suppress the name), also passing over to England. "Taking leave of Manby was a shabby man of whom I had some remembrance, but whom I could not get into his place in my mind. Noticing when we stood out of the harbour that he was on the brink of the pier, waving his hat in a desolate manner, I said to Manby, 'Surely I know that man.' -- 'I should think you did,' said he; 'Hudson!' He is living -- just living -- at Paris, and Manby had brought him on. He said to Manby at parting, 'I shall not have a good dinner again, till you come back.' I asked Manby why he stuck to him. He said, Because he (Hudson) had so many people in his power, and had held his peace, and because he (Manby) saw so many Notabilities grand with him now, who were always grovelling for 'shares' in the days of his grandeur."

Upon arrival in London the second series of the readings was brought to a close.





VII

THIRD SERIES OF READINGS
1864-7

The sudden death of Thackeray on the Christmas eve of 1863 was a painful shock to Dickens. It would not become me to speak, when he has himself spoken, of his relations with so great a writer and so old a friend.

"I saw him first, nearly twenty-eight years ago, when he proposed to become the illustrator of my earliest book. I saw him last, shortly before Christmas, at the Athenaeum Club, when he told me that he had been in bed three days. . . . and that he had it in his mind to try a new remedy which he laughingly described. He was cheerful, and looked very bright. In the night of that day week, he died. The long interval between these two periods is marked in my remembrance of him by many occasions when he was extremely humorous, when he was irresistibly extravagant, when he was softened and serious, when he was charming with children. . . . No one can be surer than I, of the greatness and goodness of his heart. . . . In no place should I take it upon myself at this time to discourse of his books, of his refined knowledge of character, of his subtle acquaintance with the weaknesses of human nature, of his delightful playfulness as an essayist, of his quaint and touching ballads, of his mastery over the English language. . . . But before me lies all that he had written of his latest story . . . . and the pain I have felt in perusing it has not been deeper than the conviction that he was in the healthiest vigour of his powers when he worked on this last labour. . . . The last words he corrected in print were 'And my heart throbbed with an exquisite bliss.' God grant that on that Christmas Eve when he laid his head back on his pillow and threw up his arms as he had been wont to do when very weary, some consciousness of duty done, and of Christian hope throughout life humbly cherished, may have caused his own heart so to throb, when he passed away to his Redeemer's rest. He was found peacefully lying as above described, composed, undisturbed, and to all appearance asleep." Other griefs were with Dickens at this time, and close upon them came the too certain evidence that his own health was yielding to the overstrain which had been placed upon it by the occurrences and anxieties of the few preceding years. His mother, whose infirm health had been tending for more than two years to the close, died in September 1863; and on his own birthday in the following February he had tidings of the death of his second son Walter, on the last day of the old year, in the officers' hospital at Calcutta; to which he had been sent up invalided from his station, on his way home. He was a lieutenant in the 26th Native Infantry regiment, and had been doing duty with the 42nd Highlanders. In 1853 his father had thus written to the youth's godfather, Walter Savage Landor: "Walter is a very good boy, and comes home from school with honourable commendation and a prize into the bargain. He never gets into trouble, for he is a great favourite with the whole house and one of the most amiable boys in the boy-world. He comes out on birthdays in a blaze of shirt pin." The pin was a present from Landor; to whom, three years later, when the boy had obtained his cadetship through the kindness of Miss Coutts, Dickens wrote again. "Walter has done extremely well at school; has brought home a prize in triumph; and will be eligible to 'go up' for his India examination soon after next Easter. Having a direct appointment he will probably be sent out soon after he has passed, and so will fall into that strange life 'up the country' before he well knows he is alive, or what life is -- which indeed seems to be rather an advanced state of knowledge." If he had lived another month he would have reached his twenty-third year, and perhaps not then the advanced state of knowledge his father speaks of. But, never forfeiting his claim to those kindly paternal words, he had the goodness and simplicity of boyhood to the close.

Dickens had at this time begun his last story in twenty numbers, and my next chapter will show through what unwonted troubles, in this and the following year, he had to fight his way. What otherwise during its progress chiefly interested him, was the enterprise of Mr. Fechter at the Lyceum, of which he had become the lessee; and Dickens was moved to this quite as much by generous sympathy with the difficulties of such a position to an artist who was not an Englishman, as by genuine admiration of Mr. Fechter's acting. He became his helper in disputes, adviser on literary points, referee in matters of management; and for some years no face was more familiar than the French comedian's at Gadshill or in the office of his journal. But theatres and their affairs are things at a season, and even Dickens's whim and humour will not revive for us any interest in these. No bad example, however, of the difficulties in which a French actor may find himself with English play wrights, will appear in a few amusing words from one of his letters about a piece played at the Princess's before the Lyceum management was taken in hand.

"I have been cautioning Fechter about the play whereof he gave the plot and scenes to B; and out of which I have struck some enormities, my account of which will (I think) amuse you. It has one of the best first acts I ever saw; but if he can do much with the last two, not to say three, there are resources in his art that I know nothing about. When I went over the play this day week, he was at least 20 minutes, in a boat, in the last scene, discussing with another gentleman (also in the boat) whether he should kill him or not; after which the gentleman dived overboard and swam for it. Also, in the most important and dangerous parts of the play, there was a young person of the name of Pickles who was constantly being mentioned by name, in conjunction with the powers of light or darkness; as, 'Great Heaven! Pickles? ' -- ' By Hell, 'tis Pickles!' -- 'Pickles? a thousand Devils!' -- 'Distraction! Pickles?'"

The old year ended and the new one opened sadly enough. The death of Leech in November affected Dickens very much, and a severe attack of illness in February put a broad mark between his past life and what remained to him of the future. The lameness now began in his left foot which never afterwards wholly left him, which was attended by great suffering, and which baffled experienced physicians. He had persisted in his ordinary exercise during heavy snow-storms, and to the last he had the fancy that the illness was merely local. But that this was an error is now certain; and it is more than probable that if the nervous danger and disturbance it implied had been correctly appreciated at the time, its warning might have been of priceless value to Dickens. Unhappily he never thought of husbanding his strength except for the purpose of making fresh demands upon it, and it was for this he took a brief holiday in France during the summer. "Before I went away," he wrote to his daughter, "I had certainly worked myself into a damaged state. But the moment I got away, I began, thank God, to get well. I hope to profit by this experience, and to make future dashes from my desk before I want them." At his return he was in the terrible railway accident at Staplehurst, on a day which proved afterwards more fatal to him; and it was with shaken nerves but unsubdued energy he resumed the labour to be presently described. He was beset by nervous apprehensions which the accident had caused to himself, not lessened by his generous anxiety to assuage the severe sufferings inflicted by it on others; his foot also troubled him more or less throughout the autumn 0 and that he should nevertheless have determined, on the close of his book, to undertake a series of readings involving greater strain and fatigue than any hitherto, was a startling circumstance. He had perhaps become conscious, without owning it even to himself, that for exertion of this kind the time left him was short; but, whatever pressed him on, his task of the next three years, self-imposed, was to make the most money in the shortest time without any regard to the physical labour to be undergone. The very letter announcing his new engagement shows how entirely unfit he was to enter upon it.

"For some time," he wrote at the end of February 1866, "I have been very unwell. F. B. wrote me word that with such a pulse as I described, an examination of the heart was absolutely necessary. 'Want of muscular power in the heart,' B said. 'Only remarkable irritability of the heart,' said Doctor Brinton of Brook Street, who had been called in to consultation. I was not disconcerted; for I knew well beforehand that the effect could not possibly be without the one cause at the bottom of it, of some degeneration of some function of the heart. Of course I am not so foolish as to suppose that all my work can have been achieved without some penalty, and I have noticed for some time a decided change in my buoyancy and hopefulness-in other words, in my usual 'tone.' But tonics have already brought me round. So I have accepted an offer, from Chappells of Bondstreet, of 50 a night for thirty nights to read 'in England, Ireland, Scotland, or Paris;' they undertaking all the business, paying all personal expenses, travelling and other-rise, of myself, John "(his office servant)" and my gasman; and making what they can of it. I begin, I believe, in Liverpool on the Thursday in Easter week, and then come to London. I am going to read at Cheltenham (on my own account) on the 23rd and 24th of this month, staying with Macready of course."

The arrangement of this series of Readings differed from those of its predecessors in relieving Dickens from every anxiety except of the reading itself; but, by such rapid and repeated change of nights at distant places as kept him almost wholly in a railway carriage when not at the reading desk or in bed, it added enormously to the physical fatigue. He would read at St. James's Hall in London one night, and at Bradford the next. He would read in Edinburgh, go on to Glasgow and to Aberdeen, then come back to Glasgow, read again in Edinburgh, strike off to Manchester, come back to St. James's Hall once more, and begin the same round again. It was labour that must in time have broken down the strongest man, and what Dickens was when he assumed it we have seen.

He did not himself admit a shadow of misgiving. "As to the readings" (11 March), "all I have to do is, to take in my book and read, at the appointed place and hour, and come out again. All the business of every kind, is done by Chappells. They take John and my other man, merely for my convenience. I have no more to do with any detail whatever, than you have. They transact all the business at their own cost, and on their own responsibility. I think they are disposed to do it in a very good spirit, because, whereas the original proposition was for thirty readings 'in England, Ireland, Scotland, or Paris,' they wrote out their agreement 'in London, the Provinces, or elsewhere as you and we may agree.' For this they pay 1,500 in three sums: 500 on beginning, 500 on the fifteenth Reading, 500 at the close. Every charge of every kind, they pay besides. I rely for mere curiosity on Doctor Marigold (I am going to begin with him in Liverpool, and at St. James's Hall). I have got him up with immense pains, and should like to give you a notion what I am going to do with him."

The success everywhere went far beyond even the former successes. A single night at Manchester, when eight hundred stalls were let, two thousand five hundred and sixty-five people admitted, and the receipts amounted to more than three hundred pounds, was followed in nearly the same proportion by all the greater towns; and on the both of April the outlay for the entire venture was paid, leaving all that remained, to the middle of the month of June, sheer profit. "I came back last Sunday," he wrote on 30 May, "with my last country piece of work for this time done. Everywhere the success has been the same. St. James's Hall last night was quite a splendid spectacle. Two more Tuesdays there, and I shall retire into private life. I have only been able to get to Gadshill once since I left it, and that was the day before yesterday."

One memorable evening he had passed at my house in the interval, when he saw Mrs. Carlyle for the last time. Her sudden death followed shortly after, and near the close of April he had thus written to me from Liverpool. "It was a terrible shock to me, and poor dear Carlyle has been in my mind ever since. How often I have thought of the unfinished novel. No one now to finish it. None of the writing women come near her at all." This was an illusion to what had passed at their meeting. It was on the second of April, the day when Mr. Carlyle had delivered his inaugural address as Lord Rector of Edinburgh University, and a couple of ardent words from Professor Tyndall had told her of the triumph just before dinner. She came to us flourishing the telegram in her hand, and the radiance of her enjoyment of it was upon her all the night. Among other things she gave Dickens the subject for a novel, from what she had herself observed at the outside of a house in her street; of which the various incidents were drawn from the condition of its blinds and curtains, the costumes visible at its windows, the cabs at its door, its visitors admitted or rejected, its articles of furniture delivered or carried away; and the subtle serious humuor of it all, the truth in trifling bits of character, and the gradual progress into a half romantic interest, had enchanted the skilled novelist. She was well into the second volume of her small romance before she left, being as far as her observation then had taken her; but in a few days exciting incidents were expected, the denouement could not be far off, and Dickens was to have it when they met again. Yet it was to something far other than this amusing little fancy his thoughts had carried him, when he wrote of no one being capable to finish what she might have begun. In greater things this was still more true. None could doubt it who had come within the fascinating influence of that sweet and noble nature. With some of the highest gifts of intellect, and the charm of a most varied knowledge of books and things, there was something "beyond, beyond." No one who knew Mrs. Carlyle could replace her loss when she had passed away.

The same letter which told of his uninterrupted success to the last, told me also that he had a heavy cold upon him, and was "very tired and depressed." Some weeks before the first batch of readings closed, Messrs. Chappell had already tempted him with an offer for fifty more nights to begin at Christmas, for which he meant, as he then said, to ask them seventy pounds a night. "It would be unreasonable to ask anything now on the ground of the extent of the late success, but I am bound to look to myself for the future. The Chappells are speculators, though of the worthiest and most honourable kind. They make some bad speculations, and have made a very good one in this case, and will set this against those. I told them when we agreed: 'I offer these thirty Readings to you at fifty pounds a night, because I know perfectly well beforehand that no one in your business has the least idea of their real worth, and I wish to prove it.' The sum taken is 4720." The result of the fresh negotiation, though not completed until the beginning of August, may he at once described. 'Chappell instantly accepts my proposal of forty nights at sixty pounds a night, and every conceivable and inconceivable expense paid. To make an even sum, I have made it forty-two nights for 2,500. So I shall now try to discover a Christmas number (he means the subject for one), and shall, please Heaven, be quit of the whole series of readings so as to get to work on a new story for our proposed new series of All the Year Round early in the spring. The readings begin probably with the New Year." These were fair designs, but the fairest are the sport of circumstance, and though the subject for Christmas was found, the new series of All the Year Round never had a new story from its founder. With whatever consequence to himself the strong tide of the Readings was to sweep on to its full. The American war had ceased, and the first renewed offers from the States had been made and rejected. Hovering over all, too, were other sterner dispositions. "I think," he wrote in September, "there is some strange influence in the atmosphere. Twice last week I was seized in a most distressing manner -- apparrently in the heart; but, I am persuaded, only in the nervous system."

In the midst of his ovations such checks had not been wanting. "The police reported officially," he wrote to his daughter from Liverpool on 14 April, "that three thousand people were turned away from the hall last night. . . . Except that I can not sleep, I really think myself in very much better training than I had anticipated. A dozen oysters and a little champagne between the parts every night, seems to constitute the best restorative I have ever yet tried." "Such a prodigious demonstration last night at Manchester," he wrote to the same correspondent twelve days later, "that I was obliged (contrary to my principle in such cases) to go back. I am very tired to-day; for it would be of itself very hard work in that immense place, if there were not to be added eighty miles of railway and late hours to boot." "It has been very heavy work," he wrote to his sister-in-law on 11 May from Clifton, "getting up at 6:30 each morning after a heavy night, and I am not at all well to-day. We had a tremendous hall at Birmingham last night, 230 odd, 2,100 people; and I made a most ridiculous mistake. Had Nickleby on my list to finish with, instead of Trial. Read Nickleby with great go, and the people remained. Went back again at 1 o'clock, and explained the accident: but said if they liked I would give them the Trial. They did like; -- and I had another half hour of it, in that enormous place. . . . I have so severe a pain in the ball of my left eye that it makes it hard for me to do anything after 100 miles shaking since breakfast. My cold is no better, nor my hand either." It was his left eye, it will be noted, as it was his left foot and hand; the irritability or faintness of heart was also of course on the left side; and it was on the same left side he felt most of the effect of the railway accident.

Everything was done to make easier the labour of travel, but nothing could materially abate either the absolute physical exhaustion, or the nervous strain. "We arrived here," he wrote from Aberdeen (16 May), "safe and sound between 3 and 4 this morning. There was a compartment for the men, and a charming room for ourselves furnished with sofas and easy chairs. We had also a pantry and washing-stand. This carriage is to go about with us." Two days later he wrote from Glasgow. "We halted at Perth yesterday, and got a lovely walk there. Until then I had been in a condition the reverse of flourishing; half strangled with my cold, and dyspeptically gloomy and dull; but, as I feel much more like myself this morning, we are going to get some fresh air aboard a steamer on the Clyde." The last letter during his country travel was from Portsmouth on 24 May, and contained these words: "You need have no fear about America." The readings closed in June.

The readings of the new year began with even increased enthusiasm, but not otherwise with happier omen. Here was his first outline of plan: I start on Wednesday afternoon (15 January) for Liverpool, and then go on to Chester, Derby, Leicester, and Wolverhampton. On Tuesday the 29th I read in London again, and in February I read at Manchester and then go on into Scotland." From Liverpool he wrote on the 21st: "The enthusiasm has been unbounded. On Friday night I quite astonished myself; but I was taken so faint afterwards that they laid me on a sofa at the hall for half an hour. I attribute it to my distressing inability to sleep at night, and to nothing worse. Everything is made as easy to me as it possibly can be. Dolby would do anything to lighten the work, and does everything." The weather was sorely against him. "At Chester," he wrote on the 24th from Birmingham, "we read in a snow-storm and a fall of ice. I think it was the worst weather I ever saw . . . . At Wolverhampton last night the thaw had thoroughly set in, and it rained furiously, and I was again heavily beaten. We came on here after the reading (it is only a rid of forty miles), and it was as much as I could do to hold out the journey. But I was not faint, as at Liverpool. I was only exhausted." Five days later he had returned for his Reading in London, and thus replied to a summons to dine with Macready at my house: "I am very tired; cannot sleep; have been severely shaken on an atrocious railway; read to-night and have to read at Leeds on Thursday. But I have settled with Dolby to put off our going to Leeds on Wednesday, in the hope of coming to dine with you, and seeing our dear old friend. I say, 'in the hope,' because if I should be a little more used up to-morrow than I am to-day, I should be constrained, in spite of myself, to take to the sofa and stick there."

On 15 February he wrote to his sister-in-law from Liverpool that they had had "an enormous turn-away" the precious night. "The day has been very fine, and I have turned it to the wholesomest account by walking on the sand at New Brighton all the morning. I am not quite right within, but believe it to be an effect of the railway shaking. There is no doubt of the fact that, after the Staplehurst experience, it tells more and more (railway shaking that is) instead of, as one might have expected, less and less." The last remark is a strange one, from a man of his sagacity; but it was part of the too-willing self-deception which he practised, to justify him in his professed belief that these continued excesses of labour and excitement were really doing him no harm. The day after that last letter he pushed on to Scotland, and on the 17th wrote to his daughter from Glasgow. The closing night at Manchester had been enormous. "They cheered to that extent after it was over that I was obliged to huddle on my clothes (for I was undressing to prepare for the journey) and go back again. After so heavy a week, it was rather stiff to start on this long journey at a quarter to two in the morning; but I got more sleep than I ever got in a railway carriage before. . . . I have, as I had in the last series of readings, a curious feeling of soreness all round the body -- which I suppose to arise from the great exertion of voice. . . ." Two days later he wrote to his sister-in law from the Bridge of Allan, which he had reached from Glasgow that morning. "Yesterday I was so unwell with an internal malady that occasionally at long intervals troubles me a little, and it was attended with the sudden loss of so much blood, that I wrote F. B. from whom I shall doubtless hear to-morrow. . . . I felt it a little more exertion to read, afterwards, and I passed a sleepless night after that again; but otherwise I am in good force and spirits to-day; I may say, in the best force. . . . The quiet of this little place is sure to do me good." He rallied again from this attack, and though he still complained of sleeplessness, wrote cheerfully from Glasgow on the 21st, describing himself indeed as confined to his room, but only because "in close hiding from a local poet who has christened his infant son in my name, and consequently haunts the building." On getting back to Edinburgh he wrote to me with intimation that many troubles had beset him; but that the pleasure of his audiences, and the providence and forethought of Messrs. Chappell had borne him through. "Everything is done for me with the utmost liberality and consideration. Every want I can have on these journeys is anticipated, and not the faintest spark of the tradesman spirit ever peeps out. I have three men in constant attendance on me; besides Dolby, who is an agreeable companion, an excellent manager, and a good fellow."

On 4 March he wrote from Newcastle: "The readings have made an immense effect in this place, and it is remarkable that although the people are individually rough, collectively they are an unusually tender and sympathetic audience, while their comic perception is quite up to the high London standard. The atmosphere is so very heavy that yesterday we escaped to Tynemouth for a two hours' sea walk. There was a high north wind blowing, and a magnificent sea running. Large vessels were being towed in and out over the stormy bar, with prodigious waves breaking on it; and, spanning the restless uproar of the waters, was a quiet rainbow of transcendent beauty. The scene was quite wonderful. We were in the full enjoyment of it when a heavy sea caught us, knocked us over, and in a moment drenched us and filled even our pockets. We had nothing for it but to shake ourselves together (like Doctor Marigold), and dry ourselves as well as we could by hard walking in the wind and sunshine. But we were wet through for all that, when we came back here to dinner after half an hour's railway drive. I am wonderfully well, and quite fresh and strong." Three days later he was at Leeds; from which he was to work himself round through the most important neighbouring places to another reading in London, before again visiting Ireland.

This was the time of the Fenian excitements; it was with great reluctance he consented to go; and he told us all at his first arrival that he should have a complete breakdown. More than 300 stalls were gone at Belfast two days before the reading but on the afternoon of the reading in Dublin not fifty were taken. Strange to say however a great crowd pressed in at night, he had a tumultuous greeting, and on 22 March I had this announcement from him: "You will be surprised to be told that we have done WONDERS! Enthusiastic crowds have filled the halls to the roof each night, and hundreds have been turned away. At Belfast the night before last we had 246 5s. In Dublin to-night everything is sold out, and people are besieging Dolby to put chairs anywhere, in doorways, on my platform, in any sort of hole or corner. In short the readings are a perfect rage at a time when everything else is beaten down." He took the Eastern Counties at his return, and this brought the series to a close. "The reception at Cambridge was something to be proud of in such a place. The colleges mustered in full force, from the biggest guns to the smallest; and went beyond even Manchester in the roars of welcome and rounds of cheers. The place was crammed, and all through the reading everything was taken with the utmost heartiness of enjoyment." The temptation of offers from America had meanwhile again been presented to him so strongly, and in such unlucky connection with immediate family claims threatening excess of expenditure even beyond the income he was making, that he was fain to write to his sister-in-law: "I begin to feel myself drawn towards America as Darnay in the Tale of Two Cities was attracted to Paris. It is my Loadstone Rock." Too surely it was to be so; and Dickens was not to be saved from the consequence of yielding to the temptation, by any such sacrifice as had rescued Darnay.

The letter which told me of the close of his English readings had in it no word of the further enterprise, yet it seemed to be in some sort a preparation for it. "Last Monday evening" (14 May) "I finished the 50 readings with great success. You have no idea how I have worked at them. Finding it necessary, as their reputation widened, that they should be better than at first, I have learnt them all, so as to have no mechanical drawback in looking after the words. I have tested all the serious passion in them by everything I know; made the humorous points much more humorous; corrected my utterance of certain words; cultivated a self-possession not to be disturbed; and made myself master of the situation. Finishing with Dombey (which I had not read for a long time), I learnt that, like the rest; and did it to myself, often twice a day, with exactly the same pains as at night, over and over and over again. . . ." Six days later brought his reply to a remark, that no degree of excellence to which he might have brought his readings could reconcile me to what there was little doubt would soon be pressed upon him. "It is curious" (20 May) "that you should touch the American subject, because I must confess that my mind is in a most disturbed state about it. That the people there have set themselves on having the readings, there is no question. Every mail brings me proposals, and the number of Americans at St. James's Hall has been surprising. A certain Mr. Grau, who took Ristori out, and is highly responsible, wrote to me by the last mail (for the second time) saying that if I would give him a word of encouragement he would come over immediately and arrange on the boldest terms for any number I chose, and would deposit a large sum of money at Coutts's. Mr. Fields writes to me on behalf of a committee of private gentlemen at Boston who wished for the credit of getting me out, who desired to hear the readings and did not want profit, and would put down as a guarantee 10,000 -- also to be banked here. Every American speculator who comes to London repairs straight to Dolby, with similar proposals. And, thus excited, Chappells, the moment this last series was over, proposed to treat for America!" Upon the mere question of these various offers he had little difficulty in making up his mind. If he went at all, he would go on his own account, making no compact with anyone. Whether he should go at all, was what he had to determine.

One thing with his usual sagacity he saw clearly enough. He must make up his mind quickly. "The Presidential election would be in the autumn of next year. They are a people whom a fancy does not hold long. They are bent upon my reading there, and they believe (on no foundation whatever) that I am going to read there. If I ever go, the time would be when the Christmas number goes to press. Early in this next November." Every sort of inquiry he accordingly set on foot; and so far came to the immediate decision, that, if the answers left him no room to doubt that a certain sum might be realised, he would go. "Have no fear that anything will induce me to make the experiment, if I do not see the most forcible reasons for believing that what I could get by it, added to what I have got, would leave me with a sufficient fortune. I should be wretched beyond expression there. My small powers of description cannot describe the state of mind in which I should drag on from day to day." At the end of May he wrote: Poor dear Stanfield!" (our excellent friend had passed away the week before). "I cannot think even of him, and of our great loss, for this spectre of doubt and indecision that sits at the board with me and stands at the bedside. I am in a tempest-tossed condition, and can hardly believe that I stand at bay at last on the American question. The difficulty of determining amid the variety of statements made to me is enormous, and you have no idea how heavily the anxiety of it sits upon my soul. But the prize looks so large!" One way at last seemed to open by which it was possible to get at some settled opinion. "Dolby sails for America" (2 July) "on Saturday the 3rd of August. It is impossible to come to any reasonable conclusion, without sending eyes and ears on the actual ground. He will take out my MS. for the Children's Magazine. I hope it is droll, and very child-like; though the joke is a grown-up one besides. You must try to like the pirate story, for I am very fond of it." The allusion is to his pleasant Holiday Romance which he had written for Mr. Fields.

Hardly had Mr. Dolby gone when there came that which should have availed to dissuade, far more than any of the arguments which continued to express my objection to the enterprise. "I am laid up," he wrote on 6 August, "with another attack in my foot, and was on the sofa all last night in tortures. I cannot bear to have the fomentations taken off for a moment. I was so ill with it on Sunday, and it looked so fierce, that I came up to Henry Thompson. He has gone into the case heartily, and says that there is no doubt the complaint originates in the action of the shoe, in walking, on an enlargement in the nature of a bunion. Erysipelas has supervened upon the injury; and the object is to avoid a gathering, and to stay the erysipelas where it is. Meantime I am on my back and chafing. . . . I didn't improve my foot by going down to Liverpool to see Dolby off, but I have little doubt of its yielding to treatment, and repose." A few days later he was chafing still; the accomplished surgeon he consulted having dropped other hints that somewhat troubled him. "I could not walk a quarter of a mile to-night for 500. I make out so many reasons against supposing it to be gouty that I really do not think it is."

So momentous in my judgment were the consequences of the American journey to him that it seemed right to preface thus much of the inducements and temptations that led to it. My own part in the discussion was that of steady dissuasion throughout: though this might perhaps have been less persistent if I could have reconciled myself to the belief, which I never at any time did, that public readings were a worthy employment for a man of his genius. But it had by this time become clear to me that nothing could stay the enterprise. The result of Mr. Dolby's visit to America -- drawn up by Dickens himself in a paper possessing still the interest of having given to the readings when be crossed the Atlantic much of the form they then assumed reached me when I was staying at Ross; and upon it was founded my last argument against the scheme. This he received in London on 28 September, on which day he thus wrote to his eldest daughter: "As I telegraphed after I saw you, I am off to Ross to consult with Mr. Forster and Dolby together. You shall hear, either on Monday, or by Monday's post from London, how I decide finally." The result he wrote to her three days later: "You will have had my telegram that I go to America. After a long discussion with Forster, and consideration of what is to be said on both sides, I have decided to go through with it. We have telegraphed 'Yes' to Boston." Seven days later he wrote to me: "The Scotia being full, I do not sail until Lord Mayor's Day; for which glorious anniversary I have engaged an officer's cabin on deck in the Cuba. I am not in very brilliant spirits at the prospect before me, and am deeply sensible of your motive and reasons for the line you have taken; but I am not in the least shaken in the conviction that I could never quite have given up the idea."

The remaining time was given to preparations; on 2 November there was a Farewell Banquet in the Freemasons' Hall over which Lord Lytton presided; and on the 9th Dickens sailed for Boston. Before he left he had contributed his part to the last of his Christmas Numbers; all the writings he was able to complete were done; and the interval of his voyage may be occupied by a general review of the literary labour of his life.



BOOK NINTH: AUTHOR (1836-70)

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