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Charles Dickens

Madeline House and Graham Storey (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 1: 1820–1839

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MS British Museum. Address: Mrs. Charles Dickens. | 48 Doughty Street Mecklenburgh Square | London.

Greta Bridge.1 | Thursday February 1st. 1838.

My Dearest Kate.

I am afraid you will receive this, later than I could wish, as the Mail does not come through this place until 2 o'Clock tomorrow Morning. However, I have availed myself of the very first opportunity of writing, so the fault is that mail's, and not this.

We reached Grantham between 9 and 10 on Tuesday night, and found everything prepared for our reception in the very best Inn I have ever put up at.2 It is odd enough that an old lady who had been outside all day and came in towards dinner time turned out to be the Mistress of a Yorkshire School returning from the holiday-stay in London. She was a very queer old body, and shewed us a long letter she was carrying to one of the boys from his father, containing a severe lecture (enforced and aided by many texts from Scripture) on his refusing to eat boiled meat.3 She was very communicative, drank a great deal of brandy and water, and towards evening became insensible, in which state we left her.

Yesterday we were up again shortly after 7 and came on upon our journey by the Glasgow Mail which charged us the remarkably low sum of six pounds, four for two places inside. We had a very droll male companion until seven oClock in the evening, and a most delicious lady's maid for twenty miles who implored us to keep a sharp look-out at the coach windows as she expected her carriage was coming to meet her and she was afraid of missing it.4 We had many delightful vauntings of the same kind; and in the end it is scarcely necessary to say that the Coach did not come, and a very dirty girl did.

As we came further North, the snow grew deeper. About eight o'Clock it began to fall heavily, and as we crossed the wild heaths hereabout, there was no vestige of a track.5 The Mail kept on well, however, and at eleven we reached a bare place with a house standing alone in the midst of a dreary moor, which the Guard informed us was Greta Bridge. I was in a perfect agony of apprehension, for it was fearfully cold and there were no outward signs of anybody being up in the house. But to our great joy we discovered a comfortable room with drawn curtains and a most blazing fire. In half an hour they gave us a smoking supper and a bottle of mulled port (in pg 366which we drank your health) and then we retired to a couple of capital bedrooms in each of which was a rousing fire half way up the chimney.

We have had for breakfast, toasts,1 cakes, a yorkshire pie[,a]2 piece of beef about the size and much the shape of my portmanteau, tea, coffee, ham and eggs—and are now going to look about us. Having finished our discoveries, we start in a postchaise for Barnard Castle which is only four miles off, and there I deliver the letter given me by Mitton's friend. All the schools are round about that place, and a dozen old abbies3 besides, which we shall visit by some means or other tomorrow. We shall reach York on Saturday I hope, and (God willing) I trust I shall be at home on Wednesday Morning. If anything should occur to prevent me, I will write to you from York, but I think that is not likely.

I wish you would call on Mrs. Bartley4 and thank her for her letter; you can tell her when I expected to be in York.

A thousand loves and kisses to the darling boy whom I see in my mind's eye crawling about the floor of this Yorkshire Inn. Don't leave him alone too much. Bless his heart I would give two sovereigns for a kiss. Remember me too, to Frederick who I hope is attentive to you. Take care of yourself my dearest, and let me find by your letter at the York Post Office that you are in both good health and good spirits.

Is it not extraordinary that the same dreams which have constantly visited me since poor Mary died, follow me everywhere? After all the change of scene and fatigue, I have dreamt of her ever since I left home, and no doubt shall 'till I return. I should be sorry to lose such visions for they are very happy ones—if it be only the seeing her in one's sleep—I would fain believe too, sometimes, that her spirit may have some influence over them, but their perpetual repetition is extraordinary.5

  • Love to all friends.
  •                    Ever my dear Kate your affectionated6 husband
  •                             Charles Dickens

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 CD and Browne stayed at the George and New Inn, where Nicholas, Squeers and the boys were put down by their coach in Nickleby, Ch. 6.
Editor’s Note
2 In Nickleby, Ch. 5, "two of the front outside passengers" spent the night at "one of the best inns in England … the George at Grantham".
Editor’s Note
3 Cf. Mobbs's mother-in-law, who "took to her bed on hearing that he wouldn't eat fat" (Nickleby, Ch. 8).
Editor’s Note
4 Cf. the "very fastidious lady" and her "expected green chariot" (Nickleby, Chs 5 and 6).
Editor’s Note
5 Snow caused the accident in Nickleby, Ch. 6.
Editor’s Note
1 Thus in MS.
Editor’s Note
2 Hole tom by seal when letter opened.
Editor’s Note
3 Thus in MS.
Editor’s Note
5 The result of his telling Catherine of the dreams was that they stopped completely—a circumstance which seemed to him so remarkable that he mentioned it to Mrs Hogarth five years later (8 May 43); also to G. H. Lewes, "in the course of a quiet chat over a cigar" ("Dickens in Relation to Criticism", Fortnightly Review, xvii [1872], 141). His next recorded dream of Mary was in Sep 44: see F, iv , v, 348–9.
Editor’s Note
6 Thus in MS.
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