Charles Dickens

Madeline House and Graham Storey (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 2: 1840–1841

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pg 23To W. S. LANDOR,1 [11 FEBRUARY 1840]

Extract in F, ii viii, 155. Date: "the 11th of February, the day after the royal nuptials", according to Forster.

Society is unhinged here, by her majesty's marriage, and I am sorry to add that I have fallen hopelessly in love with the Queen,2 and wander up and down with vague and dismal thoughts of running away to some uninhabited island with a maid of honor, to be entrapped by conspiracy for that purpose. Can you suggest any particular young person, serving in such a capacity, who would suit me? It is too much perhaps to ask you to join the band of noble youths (Forster is in it, and Maclise) who are to assist me in this great enterprise, but a man of your energy would be invaluable. I have my eye upon Lady … ,3 principally because she is very beautiful and has no strong brothers. Upon this, and other points of the scheme, however, we will confer more at large when we meet; and meanwhile burn this document, that no suspicion may arise or rumour get abroad.4

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Editor’s Note
1 Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864; DNB), author of Imaginary Conversations; CD's original for Boythorn. Lived 1838–58 in Bath, having left his family in Florence. Had known Forster since May 36, first as a sympathetic reviewer of his work in the Examiner and New Monthly; later as friend and literary adviser. Forster had especially urged him to write plays, and in Nov 38 Landor sent him Andrea of Hungary and Giovanna of Naples. For Bentley's delays over printing the plays, see Vol. I, p. 531. Landor and CD had exchanged messages before they ever met. In a letter to Forster, Apr 39, Landor wrote: "Tell [Dickens] he has drawn from me more tears and more smiles than are remaining to me for all the rest of the world, real or ideal" (Forster, W. S. Landor, 1869, ii 395). At about the same date, CD, through Forster, urged Landor to write Bentley "a contemptuous letter" about the delays in advertising and printing his two plays (R. H. Super, W. S. Landor, 1957, p. 304, quoting Nicoll and Wise, Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century, 1895–6, i, 207–8). Their first meeting was at Lady Blessington's in Jan 40, through Forster—future biographer of both. In a letter postmarked 10 Feb 40 Landor wrote to G. P. R. James: "In town I made a new acquaintance in a [?really] popular, and what is much better, truly extraordinary man—the author of Nicholas Nickleby. He comes on Saturday [in fact Saturday fortnight] to spend a few days with me at Bath, and on Monday I have invited my elite of beauty [the Paynters: see To Landor, 26 July, and fn] to meet him— How I wish you could too! … Dickens is really a good as well as a delightful man. It is rarely that two such persons meet, as you and he—nor in any other society could I easily be the least of three" (MS Virginia Historical Society). In London or at Bath CD gave Landor copies of Pickwick and Nickleby, inscribed "From his warm admirer Charles Dickens". For Landor's inscription to CD of copies of Andrea and Giovanna and accompanying letter, see 26 July, fn.
Editor’s Note
2 This joke may be based on the attempts made by various madmen to enter Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle; on 29 Nov 39, for instance, a certain John Stockledge had demanded to be admitted to the Castle "as the King of England", and explained that "he was like all other men who wanted wives; he was looking after one" (Morning Chronicle, 2 Dec 39). For the Boy Jones's attempts see To Smedley, 1 Apr 41 and fn.
Editor’s Note
3 Perhaps Lady Fanny Cowper: see p. 28.
Editor’s Note
4 "Poor puzzled Mr. Landor" sent this letter on to Forster, asking: "What on earth does it all mean?" (F, ii viii, 155).
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