Charles Dickens

Madeline House and Graham Storey (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 2: 1840–1841

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pg 382To JOHN SCOTT, 13 SEPTEMBER 1841

Photograph New York Public Library. Address (wrapper, MS Auckland Public Library): Carriage Paid | John Scott Esquire | 120 Camden Road Villas | Camden New Town | London. | By Coach | Monday Sept. 13 | 1841.

Private

Broadstairs. | Monday Thirteenth September | 1841.

My Dear Sir.

I have been much struck by some passages in the latter portion of the Tragedy,1 which are very good indeed, and eminently dramatic.

But it is very unequal; and I fear would never, on the stage, get through the first two acts. Besides that the verse halts woefully, and is often made up of expressions so curiously inverted that it is difficult on first reading them to understand their meaning, it has many most serious objections. The author dead, they strike at the root of the whole composition, I fear. If he were alive, I do think he could amend them, and make the play one of great merit and promise.

I fear the characters of the two brothers, which afford a fine opportunity for contrast, are not sufficiently played off: the one against the other. Fadilla, appearing in that one love scene and never coming on the scene again, would astonish an audience, unfavorably. Macrinus and Martialis conducting their share of the plot in constant conversations with each other, would—place yourself in imagination, in the pit, and you will feel it—become insufferably tedious after their first entrance. And I very much mistrust the mention of that African, who is exceedingly well introduced at first, and whom one naturally expects to be of greater importance. Further, I doubt whether Macrinus says or does anything good enough to qualify him for killing the hero of the piece; and I doubt whether the hero could ever raise himself in the estimation of the people, after his scene with Fadilla. The mother, on the other hand, is a tragic conception; and in the latter part of the play, would have a great effect.

I do not feel justified, under these circumstances, in exposing Mr. Macready to the pain and vexation which I know he would feel, if he felt it necessary to decline a play which I recommended to him. But I still think he ought to see the Tragedy; for while I know that he has many better plays upon his desk at this moment, I know equally well that he has many which will bear no comparison with it.

If I may suggest to you the course you would do best to pursue, I would advise you to send it to his house (No 5 Clarence Terrace, Regents Park) with a short note to the effect that the author is no more; and that you, who are doing your best for his widow and family, beg him to peruse it.2 I pg 383think I would add a special allusion to its rising greatly in the last three acts, in case he should feel disposed to stop at the end of the second.

As I am not coming to town very soon, and have no one with me who is bound for London, I send you the MS by coach. Will you acknowledge, in one line, its safe receipt?

  •                                       My Dear Sir | Faithfully Yours
  • John Scott Esquire.                         Charles Dickens

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 According to a MS note on the letter, "Caracalla & Geta" by William Lemaitre (1802–39), a former colleague of CD's on the Morning Chronicle (see Vol. i, p. 122n).
Editor’s Note
2 The play is not mentioned in Macready's Diaries.
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