Charles Dickens

Kathleen Mary Tillotson, Graham Storey, 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 W. H. WILLS, 18 APRIL 1854

MS Huntington Library.

Tavistock House | Tuesday Eighteenth April 1854

My Dear Wills.


I will go over the No.2 when it comes, and write to you again after doing so. There is a capital paper by Sala in proof, called Tatterboy's Rents.3 I wish you would write to him from me, and tell him by all means to pursue the subject, as he intimates an idea of doing at the close of the article.4


I am in a dreary state, planning and planning the story of Hard Times (out of materials for I don't know how long a story), and consequently writing little.5 Mark and I had it in contemplation to come down to Worcester next Monday and ask you to meet us there instead of our coming to Malvern: which would have given us from five to six hours together at the Inn. But I am afraid I shall not be able to spare the day. Macready is coming to town today, and I have unavoidable engagements all the week which will greatly hamper me. Moreover I am greatly anxious to keep ahead. But—


—It appears to me that you must most decidedly stay at Malvern a full month. I don't think you can put the cure to any rational and fair test in a shorter time. If you decide to do that, Mark and I will overhaul our respective logs (excuse nauticality, but I have been reading a soul-stirring Drama called the Larboard Fin, which looks to me like an undiscovered play by Shakespeare, surreptitiously modernized), and will make another appointment for next week. You are now in the Black and Blue stage. I don't apprehend that you are likely to come to a Flesh colored complexion in less than four weeks. You are not Green yet—and that takes time.

w.h.w. (brought up)

You refer in a maddening manner, to something you don't enclose in your letter. What do you mean by it.

pg 318t.r. Haymarket.

I went there to see the Easter piece1 last night, and I never beheld anything so dreary.2 The agonies of Mrs. Fitzwilliam3 and Buckstone were positively most distressing to see. Everything went wrong, and was bad if it had gone right. Once, before a pair of flats (clouds), Mrs. F waved a golden patent hearthbroom, about five and twenty minutes, without anything happening. Then she and Miss Featherstone4 and Young Farren5 came down to the Float, and sang and pattered all the rest of the piece—got it off at once—and after another long interval a Carpenter was disclosed in a celestial place (but swearing awfully) and a man in black, supposed to be unseen, seized some red fire and wildly lighted it up. Buckstone meantime6 perfectly idiotic and imbecile with grief, laid his head on Mrs. Fitzwilliam's bosom.7


was there, and perpetually said "My dear Dickens, Good God what does this mean?" To which that eminent man replied, after the manner of Commodore Trunnion8 "Hold your tongue and be damned!" For we were sitting over the stage.

B and E.

Have paid the £500.

All the Family

Send kindest regards.

  • Ever My Dear Wills | Faithfully Yours
  •                Charles Dickens

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2 HW, No. 215, 6 May, ix, 261–84.
Editor’s Note
3 Misspelt by CD. "Tattyboys Rents", HW, 13 May 54, ix, 297, a description of some old, run-down houses off Turk's Lane, London, and their ancient owner, Miss Bridget Tattyboys.
Editor’s Note
4 Sala continued with a description of the more eccentric inhabitants of the Rents, as promised, in "Tattyboys Renters", 1 July 54, ix, 466.
Editor’s Note
5 Assuming that he was about a month ahead, he would have been writing the number plans for Nos vii and viii (Chs 13–16; HW, 13 and 20 May). The left-hand general memos for No. vii develop the Gradgrind children and Sissy: "Children grow up and Louisa Married | Carry on Tom—selfish—calculations all go to No 1. | Carry on Louisa—Never had a child's belief or a child's fancy | carry on Sissy—source of affection"; the right-hand Ch. memos for No. viii run: "chapter xv. Scene between Mr. Gradgrind and Louisa, in which he communicates Mr. Bounderby's proposal. | Force of Figures—Bounderby accepted | chapter xvi | mrs. sparsit . Great intelligence conveyed to her | To keep the bank | Happy pair married | And Bounderby's speech" (MS V & A).
Editor’s Note
1 Mr. Buckstone's Voyage Round the Globe (in Leicester Square), an extravaganza by J. R. Planché, in which a series of allegorical spectacles was presented to Buckstone and a friend in a dream.
Editor’s Note
2 CD usually liked Planché: on 14 Jan he and Forster had seen Planché's Once Upon a Time there were Two Kings at the Lyceum and obviously enjoyed it; on 16 Jan Forster wrote to Charles Mathews: "I think I never saw Mr Dickens so charmed by any scenic display" (MS Royal Shakespeare Theatre Library).
Editor’s Note
3 She played Cybele, one of the two presenters.
Editor’s Note
4 She played the "Spirit of the Ocean Mail", the other presenter.
Editor’s Note
5 William Farren (1786–1861; DNB), who excelled in old men's parts: see Vol. iii, p. 509n; he played Buckstone's friend, a dramatist.
Editor’s Note
6 "was" cancelled here.
Editor’s Note
7 The piece was a general success and widely praised in the press.
Editor’s Note
8 The commander of the Garrison in Smollett's Peregrine Pickle.
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