Madeline House and Graham Storey (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 2: 1840–1841
To JOHN FORSTER, [30 JUNE 1841]
Extracts in F, ii, x, 177–80, dated by Forster four days after letter of 26 June; and extract in F, ii, ix, 168, dated 30 June.
A hundred thanks for your letter. I read it this morning with the greatest pleasure and delight, and answer it with ditto, ditto. Where shall I begin— about my darlings? I am delighted with Charley's precocity. He takes arter his father, he does. God bless them, you can't imagine (you ! how can you!) how much I long to see them. It makes me quite sorrowful to think of them. . . . Yesterday, sir, the lord provost, council, and magistrates voted me by acclamation the freedom of the city, in testimony (I quote the letter just received from "James Forrest, lord provost") "of the sense entertained by them of your distinguished abilities as an author." I acknowledged this morning in appropriate terms the honour they had pg 314done me, and through me the pursuit to which I was devoted. It is handsome, is it not?1
The men who spoke at the dinner were all the most rising men here, and chiefly at the Bar. They were all, alternately, whigs and tories; with some few radicals, such as Gordon,2 who gave the memory of Burns. He is Wilson's son-in-law and the lord advocate's nephew—a very masterly speaker indeed, who ought to become a distinguished man. Neaves,3 who gave the other poets, a little too lawyer-like for my taste, is a great gun in the courts. Mr. Primrose4 is Lord Rosebery's5 son. Adam Black,6 the publisher as you know. Dr. Alison, a very popular friend of the poor.7 Robertson you know. Allan you know. Colquhoun8 is an advocate. All these men were selected for the toasts as being crack speakers, known men, pg 315and opposed to each other very strongly in politics. For this reason, the professors and so forth who sat upon the platform about me1 made no speeches and had none assigned them. I felt it was very remarkable to see such a number of grey-headed men gathered about my brown flowing locks; and it struck most of those who were present very forcibly.2 The judges, solicitor-general,3 lord-advocate,4 and so forth, were all here to call, the day after our arrival. The judges never go to public dinners in Scotland. Lord Meadowbank5 alone broke through the custom, and none of his successors have imitated him. It will give you a good notion of party to hear that the solicitor-general and lord-advocate refused to go, though they had previously engaged, unless the croupier6 or the chairman were a whig. Both (Wilson and Robertson) were tories, simply because, Jeffrey excepted, no whig could be found who was adapted to the office. The solicitor laid strict injunctions on Napier7 not to go if a whig were not in office. No whig was, and he stayed away. I think this is good?—bearing in mind that all the old whigs of Edinburgh were cracking their throats in the room. They give out that they were ill, and the lord-advocate did actually lie in bed all the afternoon; but this is the real truth, and one of the judges told it me with great glee. It seems they couldn't quite trust Wilson or Robertson, as they thought; and feared some tory demonstration. Nothing of the kind took place; and ever since, these men have been the loudest in their praises of the whole affair.8
pg 316Editor’s NoteA threat reached me last night (they have been hammering at it in their papers, it seems, for some time) of a dinner at Glasgow.1 But I hope, having circulated false rumours of my movements, to get away before they send to me; and only to stop there on my way home, to change horses and send to the post-office.… You will like to know how we have been living. Here's a list of engagements, past and present. Wednesday, we dined at home, and went incog, to the theatre at night, to Murray's box :2 the pieces admirably done, and M'Ian in the Two Drovers quite wonderful, and most affecting. Thursday, to Lord Murray's;3 dinner and evening party. Friday, the dinner. Saturday, to Jeffrey's, a beautiful place about three miles off,4 stop there all night, dine on Sunday, and home at eleven. Monday, dine at Dr. Alison's, four miles off. Tuesday dinner and evening party pg 317Editor’s Noteat Allan s. Wednesday, breakfast with Napier, dine with Blackwoods1 seven miles off, evening party at the treasurer's of the town-council,2 supper with all the artists (! !).3 Thursday, lunch at the solicitor-general's, dine at Lord Gillies's,4 evening party at Joseph Gordon's,5 one of Brougham's earliest supporters, Friday, dinner and evening party at Robertson's. Saturday, dine again at Jeffrey's; back to the theatre,6 at half-past nine to the moment, for public appearance; places all let, &c. &c. &c. Sunday, off at seven o'clock in the morning to Stirling, and then to Callender, a stage further. Next day, to Loch-earn, and pull up there for three days, to rest and work. The moral of all this is, that there is no place like home; and that I thank God most heartily for having given me a quiet spirit, and a heart that won't hold many people. I sigh for Devonshire-terrace and Broadstairs, for battledore and shuttlecock; I want to dine in a blouse with you and Mac; and I feel Topping's merits more acutely than I have ever done in my life. On Sunday evening the 17th of July I shall revisit my household gods, please heaven. I wish the day were here. For God's sake be in waiting. I wish you and Mac would dine in Devonshire-terrace that day with Fred. He has the key of the cellar. Do. We shall be at Inverary in the Highlands on Tuesday week, getting to it through the pass of Glencoe, of which you may have heard! On Thursday following we shall be at Glasgow, where I shall hope to receive your last letter before we meet. At Inverary, too, I shall make sure of finding at least one, at the post-office. … Little Allan is trying hard for the post of queen's limner7 for Scotland, vacant by poor Wilkie's death. Every one is in his favor but——8 who is jobbing for some one else. Appoint him, will you, and I'll give up the premier-ship.—How I breakfasted to-day in the house where Scott lived seven and twenty years;9 how I have made solemn pledges to write about [mining]10 children in the Edinburgh Review, and will do my best to keep them; how I have declined to be brought in, free gratis for nothing and qualified to boot, for a Scotch county that's going a-begging, lest I should pg 318be thought to have dined on Friday under false pretences; these, with other marvels, shall be yours anon.
aYou may suppose, I have not done much work—but by Friday night's post from here I hope to send the first long chapter of a number and both the illustrations;1 from Loch-earn on Tuesday night, the closing chapter of that number; from the same place on Thursday night, the first long chapter of another, with both the illustrations; and, from some place which no man ever spelt but which sounds like Ballyhoolish,2 on Saturday, the closing chapter of that number,3 which will leave us all safe till I return to town.a
I must leave off sharp, to get dressed and off upon the seven miles dinner trip, Kate's affectionate regards. My hearty loves to Mac and Grim.4