Charles Dickens

Madeline House and Graham Storey (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 1: 1820–1839

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pg 231To THOMAS BEARD, [28 JANUARY 1837]

MS Comtesse de Suzannet. Date: the Saturday before publication of the Feb Miscellany, in which the first instalment of Oliver ("my glance at the new poor Law Bill") appeared. Address: Thomas Beard Esqre. | 42 Portman Place | Edgeware Road.

Furnivals Inn | Saturday Night.

My Dear Beard

I cannot lay my hand on that confounded Letter. I fear it must have been destroyed by mistake.

I shall be in New Burlington Street at 12 oClock on Monday. Perhaps if you should be coming in to town on that day, you will have no objection to enquire for me at Bentley's at about a quarter past 12. If you have been to Watts I can hear what you have done; if you have not, we can go together.

I send you herewith, the forthcoming Miscellany, with my glance at the new poor Law Bill.1

  • Ever Faithfully Yours
  •        Charles Dickens

I want a walk;—we can have a stroll on Monday, if you are not engaged. The top of the Monument is one of my longings; the ditto of Saint Pauls, another.

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Editor’s Note
1 In the early chapters of Oliver CD pours his sarcasm on the 1834 Poor Law's adoption of the Malthusian theory of population. Many of the abuses he attacked (e.g. Bumbledom and baby-farms) were part of the old system. But the low diet was an outstanding feature of the new, and CD's "three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays" was, as Humphry House has shown, "a telling caricature of the Commissioners' recommended dietaries" (Introduction to Oliver Twist, Oxford Illustrated Dickens, 1949, p. xiii). For a discussion of CD's attitude to the New Poor Law, see Humphry House, The Dickens World, 1941, pp. 92–105.
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