Charles Dickens

Graham Storey, Kathleen Mary Tillotson, and Angus Easson (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 7: 1853–1855

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To PETER CUNNINGHAM, 24 JUNE 1853

MS Benoliel Collection.

  • Chateau des Molineaux | Rue Beaurepaire, Boulogne
  • Friday Twenty Fourth June 1853.

My Dear Cunningham.

A note—Cerberus like—of three heads.

First, I know you will be glad to hear that the Manager is himself again.6 Vigorous, brown, energetic, muscular. The pride of Albion and the admiration of Gaul.

Secondly, I told Wills when I left home, that I was quite pained to see the end of your excellent bowl of Punch7 altered. I was unaffectedly touched and gratified by the heartiness of the original; and saw no earthly, celestial, or subterranean, objection pg 102to its remaining—as it did not so unmistakeably apply to me as to necessitate the observance of my usual precaution in the case of such references, by any means.1

Thirdly, if you ever have a holiday that you don't know what to do with, Do come and pass a little time here. We live in a charming garden in a very pleasant country, and should be delighted to receive you. Excellent light wines on the premises, French cookery, millions of roses, two cows (for Milk Punch), vegetables cut for the pot and handed in at the kitchen window, five summer houses, fifteen fountains (with no water in 'em) and thirty seven clocks (keeping, as I conceive, Australian time; having no reference whatever to the hours on this side of the globe).

I know my dear Cunningham that the British Nation can ill afford to lose you; and that when the Audit office mice are away, the cats of that great public establishment will play.2 But pray consider that the bow may be sometimes bent too long, and that over-arduous application, even in patriotic service, is to be avoided. No one can more highly estimate your devotion to the best interests of Britain than I. But I wish to see it tempered with a wise consideration for your own amusement, recreation, pastime. All work and no play may make Peter a dull boy as well as Jack. And (if I may claim the privilege of friendship to remonstrate) I would say that you do not take enough time for your meals. Dinner for instance you habitually neglect. Believe me this rustic repose will do you good.3 Winkles also, are to be obtained in these parts, and it is well remarked by Poor Richard4 that a bird in the Handbook5 is worth two in the bush.

  •                                                   Ever Cordially Yours
  • Peter Cunningham Esquire.                            Charles Dickens

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Notes

Editor’s Note
6 Cf. "Richard's himself again" (in Colley Cibber's version of Shakespeare's Richard III, v, v, 85, still commonly performed).
Editor’s Note
7 HW, 11 June 53, vii, 346.
Editor’s Note
1 Cf. CD's changing of a reference to Pickwick in the 1st No. of Cranford (HW, 13 Dec 51) to "Hood's Own": Vol. vi, p. 549 and n. The reference in Cunningham's paper was clearly less direct.
Editor’s Note
2 Cunningham became Chief Clerk of the Audit Office in 1854.
Editor’s Note
3 Whole paragraph obviously sarcastic: Cunningham was a well-known bon viveur.
Editor’s Note
4 Benjamin Franklin's assumed name in Poor Richard: the Almanacks for the Years 1753–1758, by "Richard Saunders": a collection of maxims and proverbs, several of which end "as poor Richard says".
Editor’s Note
5 i.e. Cunningham's Handbook of London, 1849.
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