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 WILKIE COLLINS, 24 MARCH 1855

MS Morgan Library.

Tavistock House | Saturday Twenty Fourth March 1855

My Dear Collins.

I am charmed to hear of the great improvement, and really hope now that you are beginning to see land.

The Train (an Express one) leaves London Bridge Station on Tuesday at half past eleven in the forenoon. Fire and comfort are ordered to be in readiness at the Inn at Ashford. We shall have to return at half past 2 in the morning—getting to town before 5—but the interval between the Reading and the Mail will be spent by what would be called in a popular musical entertainment3

the blink o' our ain fireside

—which reminds me to observe that I am dead sick of the Scottish tongue4 in all its moods and tenses.

You have guessed right!5 The best of it was, that she6 wrote to Wills, saying she must particularly stipulate not to have her proofs touched, "even by Mr. Dickens". That immortal creature had gone over the proofs with great pains7—had of course pg 576taken out the stiflings, hand-plungings, lungeings, and other convulsions1—and had also taken out her weakenings and damagings of her own effects. "Very well", said the Gifted Man, "she shall have her own way. But after it's published, shew her this Proof and ask her to consider whether her story would have been the better or the worse for it".2

When you see Millais, tell him that if he would like a quotation for his fireman picture,3 there is a very suitable and appropriate one to be got from Gay's Trivia.4

Wills informed Georgina the night before last, that his sister (I think you have seen the Virgin), is

"Abnormal"5

—and, after meditating a little while, added that neither she nor her brother "had any business to be born."6 From which I infer that Abnormal is a kind of scientific substitute for Ricketty.

  • Ever Yours | (Normally)
  •       Charles Dickens

I dined with an old General7 yesterday, who went perfectly mad at dinner about the Times—exudations taking place from his mouth while he denied all its statements,8 that were partly foam, and partly turbot with white sauce. He persisted likewise, in speaking of that Journal as "Him".

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
3 Probably a reference to Mr Crawford's "New Scottish Entertainments with Dioramic Views", at the Regent Gallery, 69 Quadrant, where from 19 Feb Crawford appeared in the evenings in Highland costume to sing his celebrated song, "Draw the Sword, Scotland"; Angus Fairbairn and the Misses Bennett presented "A Nicht wi' Burns" at Upper Belgrave Place, Pimlico, 7 March, but for one night only.
Editor’s Note
4 Probably a reference to the Hogarths.
Editor’s Note
5 Collins had clearly referred to Dinah Mulock's "A Ghost Story", HW, 24 Mar.
Editor’s Note
6 Dinah Mulock.
Editor’s Note
1 Examples from Miss Mulock's story are: "Beneath his breath", "smothered my shriek", "held our breaths", "clung hand to hand".
Editor’s Note
2 "A Ghost Story" was reprinted, as "M. Anastasius", in Nothing New. Tales, 2 vols, 1857, i, 297–360, without substantive change.
Editor’s Note
3 The Rescue.
Editor’s Note
4 John Gay, Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London, 1716, Bk iii, ll. 353–93 describes a fire and rescue: see To Millais, 10 Apr.
Editor’s Note
5 Written very large and underlined twice.
Editor’s Note
6 i.e. Wills himself.
Editor’s Note
7 Sir Charles Pasley (then aged 74).
Editor’s Note
8 Pasley strongly resisted The Times's evidence of incompetence in the war. He was of the generation attacked by The Times as the old men of the Napoleonic era; besides this, The Times, 12 Mar, had reported a banquet in honour of General Vivian, where Pasley replied on behalf of the Army, and in a leader that same day grouped Pasley with "angry officials, peevish partisans, and stupid old ladies", describing him "over his cups, drawing out the foolish old ideas that all the mistakes and disasters of the Peninsula must … be repeated, in a war waged under totally different circumstances".
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