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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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Text from Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G., 1887, i, 227.

48, Doughty Street, | December 29th., 1838.

Dear Sir,

I went, some weeks ago, to Manchester, and saw the worst cotton mill.4 And then I saw the best. Ex uno disce omnes.5 There was no great difference between them.

I was obliged to come back suddenly, upon some matters connected with the publication of "Oliver Twist", and saw no more. But on the 11th. of next month I am going down again, only for three days,6 and then into the enemy's camp, and the very head-quarters of the factory system advocates. I fear I shall have little opportunity of looking about me, but I should be pg 484Editor’s Notemost happy to avail myself of any introduction from Lord Ashley1 which, in the course of an hour or so, would enable me to make any fresh observations.2

With that nobleman's most benevolent and excellent exertions, and with the evidence which he was the means of bringing forward, I am well acquainted.3 So far as seeing goes, I have seen enough for my purpose, and what I have seen has disgusted and astonished me beyond all measure. I mean to strike the heaviest blow in my power for these unfortunate creatures, but whether I shall do so in the "Nickleby", or wait some other opportunity, I have not yet determined.4

Will you make known to Lord Ashley (confidentially) my intentions on this subject, and my earnest desire to avail myself, either now or at some future time, or both, of his kind assistance?5 Pray thank him warmly, from me, for tending it, and believe me,

  • Very truly yours,
  •          Charles Dickens

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
3 No doubt Edward Marlborough Fitzgerald (see To Fitzgerald, ?Jan 37, fn). CD apparently met Edward FitzGerald, the translator of Omar Khayyam, only once, probably in Oct 41 (Thomas Wright, Life of Edward FitzGerald, 1904, i, 171).
Editor’s Note
4 On 6 Nov 38.
Editor’s Note
5 Cf. "Crimine ab uno | disce omnes" (Virgil, Aeneid, II, 65–6).
Editor’s Note
6 He in fact stayed for nearly a week.
Editor’s Note
484 line 4 delete comma after exertions
line 10 delete quotation marks from Nickleby,
line 12 transpose comma from after myself to after now
line 14 for tending it, and read tendering it. And
line 14 add Dear Sir
line 15 for yours, read Yours,
line 16 add subscription, Edward Fitzgerald Esquire &c &c
Editor’s Note
1 Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Ashley (1801–85; DNB), later 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. Social reformer; MP 1826–51; "the Children's Champion". See later vols.
Editor’s Note
2 Fitzgerald may have met Lord Ashley in 1828–9, when his cousin Vesey Fitzgerald, to whom he was secretary, was President of the Board of Trade, and Ashley a Commissioner of the Board of Control.
Editor’s Note
3 On 20 July Ashley had made a major speech in the Commons on child-labour in factories (see Hansard, 3rd series, XLIV, cols 383–99).
Editor’s Note
4 He postponed the "blow", although he had prepared for the possibility by placing the Cheerybles' business in Lancashire (see J. Butt and K. Tillotson, Dickens at Work, 1957, p. 178).
Editor’s Note
5 It is not known whether Ashley gave CD any introductions; but in Feb 39 he gave several to Mrs Trollope for a similar purpose (T. A. Trollope, What I Remember, 1887, ii, 8). See To Blanchard, 9 Feb 39, fn.
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