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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MS Robert H. Taylor Collection, Princeton.

  • office of household words
  • Saturday Twenty Second July 1854

My Dear Georgina.

I have been expecting you, and still imagine that you will certainly come by tomorrow night's boat. Indeed, it appears to me that unless your mother6 positively pg 376renounces the idea1 (which I see she will not), you had better come, whether or no, and get the thing disposed of. If you appear, I shall abandon the idea of going to Folkestone on Monday Evening, and shall arrange to bring you back with me by that route. What you are wanted for, is merely (I apprehend) your signature. If the document be ready, your attendance will be very short.

I never in my days beheld anything like your mother's letter, for the desperation of its imbecility. What she imagines would be done—might, could, or should be done—by her insuring her life, I cannot conceive. I should like to know what her ideas may be, even of the practicability of her doing such a thing in any office—and of the cost of it, at her age and in her state of health.

I shall be at Tavistock House all Monday until the afternoon, for I have made an appointment to sit to Ward2 in my room that day. But as I should like to give Collins very early notice if we don't go down to Folkestone that night, I think you had best write to me by return of Post, and say whether you are coming or not. Will you do so? Your letter will be, in any case, an hour or two ahead of you. And if I find that I am going—on your account—to sleep at Tavistock House on Monday night, I can then start Cooper off to Hanover Terrace.3

Neither you nor Catherine did justice to Collins's book.4 I think it far away the cleverest Novel I have ever seen written by a new hand. It is much beyond Mrs. Gaskell,5 and is in some respects masterly. Valentine Blyth6 is as original and as well done as anything can be. The scene where he shews his pictures,7 is full of an admirable humour. Nor do I really recognize much imitation of myself.8 Old Mat is the thing in which I observe myself to be most reflected,9 but he is admirably done. In short, I call it a very remarkable book, and have been very much surprised by its great merit.

Tell Kate with my love that she will receive tomorrow in a little parcel, the complete proofs of Hard Times. They will not be corrected, but she will find them pretty plain. I am just now going to put them up for her. Tell her also (as she likes such news) that Albert10 informed me in bearded confidence at the Garrick, that Marion Ely11 is engaged—young barrister—marriage not to come off at present, in pg 377consequence of shortness of funds. I saw Grisi1 the night before last in Lucrezia Borgia2—finer than ever. Last night, I was drinking gin slings till daylight with Buckstone of all people—who saw me looking at the Spanish dancers and insisted on being convivial. I have been in a blaze of dissipation altogether, and have succeeded (I think) in knocking the remembrance of my work out.

Loves to all the darlings, from the Plornish-Maroon upward. London is far hotter than Naples.3

  • Ever affectionately
  •                            CD.

Oh!—Something else for Catherine!—She is described in Mrs. Stowe's book;4 which Forster,5 in a languid state of rheumatico-colchico-hiccoughy-frowsy-aperient-medical-mystery, informed me yesterday he had "been obliged to assault, dreadfully".6 Mrs. Stowe is of opinion that she is "large", I believe.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
6 Mrs George Hogarth, formerly Georgina Thomson (1793–1863): see Vol. i, p. 65n.
Editor’s Note
1 Of insuring her life.
Editor’s Note
3 Collins had moved to 17 Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park from Blandford Square in Aug 50.
Editor’s Note
5 Cranford (1853; collected from HW) had confirmed Mrs Gaskell's reputation; Collins had already published Antonina (1850) and Basil (1852): see Vol. vi, pp. 823–4.
Editor’s Note
6 A good-hearted artist of limited talent, whose chief concerns are the comfort of his paralysed wife and the care of his adopted deaf-and-dumb daughter, Madonna (Mary). Collins claims that he has been original, venturing "on the startling novelty (in fiction) of trying to make an artist interesting, without representing him as friendless, consumptive, and penniless" (i, viii).
Editor’s Note
7 Vol. ii, Bk ii, Ch. 5, pp. 262–306: a private view before submission to the RA.
Editor’s Note
8 Also noted by reviewers. Bentley's Miscellany (July 54, xxxvi, 97–8) found the opening chapter "reminds us of Dickens, whom Mr. Wilkie Collins emulates rather than imitates, and with good success"; the Examiner (8 July 54) noted Collins's attempt to imitate what in CD is not imitable.
Editor’s Note
9 Matthew Marksman (or Grice) first met in a tavern by the young hero, Zack (Vol. ii, Bk ii, Ch. i, pp. 146ff) is a figure of mystery, who has been scalped in America: he shares the eccentricity and essential good-nature of characters like Captain Cuttle.
Editor’s Note
11 "Ely" added over caret. See Vol. i, p. 315 and n; no record of her marriage, and "Miss Ely" is mentioned in the Gad's Hill Gazette, 5 Aug 65.
Editor’s Note
1 Giulia Grisi (1811–69), operatic soprano: see Vol. iv, p. 239 and n; excelled as Bellini's Norma.
Editor’s Note
2 By Donizetti (1797–1848), libretto by Felice Romano, after Victor Hugo; première at Milan, 1831. Grisi sang the title role.
Editor’s Note
3 Highfield House Observatory reported the greatest heat in the shade as 80° (The Times, 25 July 54).
Editor’s Note
4 Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, 1854: see To Professor and Mrs Stowe, 3 May 53 and fn.
Editor’s Note
5 CD himself took out a further life policy at this date: an unidentified insurance company's pro forma Certificate from the Proposer's Private Friend exists, dated 27 July 54 and signed by Forster, who declares he last saw CD "Four days ago" (MS Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).
Editor’s Note
6 The review (the Examiner, 22 July 54) suggested Mrs Stowe wrote her book "for the sake of moderating the enthusiasm of the public"; Forster declared it to be carelessly written, empty, and displaying bad grammar and corrupt diction. He quoted a number of descriptions, including that of Mrs CD, to show how imperceptive they were.
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