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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. 2: 1840–1841

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MS Berg Collection. Date: obviously same day as last.

V. R.3

Devonshire Terrace | Thursday Afternoon

My Dear Maclise4

I send you a copy of Pickwick and the two little books.5 Let the authorship of the last-named trifles remain in the bosom of your family.

pg 28The last aggravating word has touched that tender chord in my heart which you understand so well. Have you heard from Forster this morning? I have, but oh what a mockery it is. He does not love her.1

I have seen my wife—spoken to her—been in her society. I burst into tears on hearing the voices of my infant children. I loathe my parents. I hate my house. I love nobody here but the Raven,2 and I only love him because he seems to have no feeling in common with anybody. What is to be done. Heavens my friend, what is to be done!

What if I murder Chapman and Hall. This thought has occurred to me several times. If I did this she would hear of me; perhaps sign the warrant for my execution with her own dear hand. What if I murder myself. Mr. Wakley is a beast—a coarse unsympathizing coroner—and would not understand such feelings as mine. I feel that, and lay down my razor as the thought occurs to me. Is there no sentimental coroner? I have heard of Mr. Baker3 but I don't know how his mind is constituted. I have also heard of Mr. Higgs4, but the name is not promising. I think there is one named Grubb.5 Perhaps he has high feeling and could comprehend me. The Serpentine is in his district, but then the Humane Society6 steps in. They might disfigure me with drags—perhaps save me and expect me at the next Anniversary Dinner to walk round Free-Mason's Hall with a bible under my arm. She would never love me after that. —All is difficulty and darkness.

What is to be done? Would any alliance with the Chartists serve us? They have no doubt in contemplation attacks upon the palace, and being plain men would very likely resign her to us with great cheerfulness. Let us then toss—the best out of three—and the loser to poison himself. Is this feasible?

I dreamt of Lady Fanny Cowper7 all night, but I didn't love her, sleeping, nor do I now that I am awake although I did but a few days back. I feel tenderly towards your sister8 because she knows our secret. With the great exception that I need not name, she is now the only woman on Earth that I do not shrink from in horror. Here is a state of mind!

How are you to-day. It will be some consolation to me to receive a detail of your sufferings. On Saturday Morning I shall call upon you. Conceive pg 29my misery until then! Tonight—tomorrow—all tories1—nothing but slight and insult upon her generous head2—Gracious Powers where will this end!

I am utterly miserable and unfitted for my calling. What the upshot will be, I don't know, but something tremendous I am sure.—I feel that I am wandering.

  •                                         Your distracted friend
  • Daniel Maclise Esquire                              Charles Dickens

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
3 Written large and bold.
Editor’s Note
4 This letter was at one time in the hands of Walter T. Spencer of New Oxford Street, who apparently took it seriously and in 1909 sent a copy to CD's son Henry. Henry replied, on 7 Dec: "You have strangely misread the letter … I cannot understand how anyone could imagine the letter to be other than a joke.… At the date of this letter, (which was years before his separation from my mother) the deepest affection existed between them. Read the letter again and you will see how completely you were 'taken in'" (MS Berg).
Editor’s Note
5 No doubt the recently published Sketches of Young Couples and its earlier, also anonymous, companion Sketches of Young Gentlemen.
Editor’s Note
1 Underlined twice.
Editor’s Note
3 Coroner for Middlesex.
Editor’s Note
4 Thomas Higgs, coroner for the Duchy of Lancaster.
Editor’s Note
5 Perhaps CD meant J. H. Gell—Coroner for the City of Westminster.
Editor’s Note
6 Its principal depot (erected 1794 by Decimus Burton on ground given by George III) was on the Serpentine (north side)—a favourite spot for suicides.
Editor’s Note
7 Lady Frances Elizabeth Cowper (1820–80), the Queen's favourite Maid of Honour; married Lord Jocelyn 1841 and became a Lady of the Bedchamber. Daughter of Lord Melbourne's sister, who, after Lord Cowper's death 1837, had married Palmerston 1839. She looks indeed lovely in the portrait by Chalon engraved in Heath's Book of Beauty. 1839, facing p. 129.
Editor’s Note
8 Isabella, Maclise's unmarried elder sister, who lived with him devotedly until her death in 1865.
Editor’s Note
1 I.e., presumably, nothing but Tory company that night and next day. On 13 Feb CD and Catherine dined with a Mrs Rolls (Macready, Diaries, ii 45), his fellow guests including Abel Rous Dottin, Conservative MP for Southampton, and a Walpole—probably Spencer Horatio Walpole (1806–98; DNB), Conservative MP from 1846 and later Home Secretary.
Editor’s Note
2 Two incidents in 1839 had made Tory hostility to the Queen acute. In March the Court scandal concerning the Tory Lady Flora Hastings had become public; accusations that she was with child—the Queen being "one of the first, if not the first, to entertain false suspicions" (Elizabeth Longford, Victoria R.I., p. 123)—were discovered to be unfounded; and when she died, 5 July, from a diseased liver, there was great public indignation and the Spectator, Age and Morning Post attacked the Queen unceasingly. With Melbourne's return to power after the "Bedchamber" crisis of May, Tory feeling was further embittered. Public insult was for a time so common that one entry in the Queen's Journal recorded that she and Melbourne had ridden in Rotten Row "without one hiss" (op. cit., p. 122). The Tory leaders had their revenge when, on the Queen's marriage, they forced the reduction of Prince Albert's allowance from the customary £50,000 a year to £30,000, and refused to give him the precedence she demanded for him. "Poor dear Albert, how cruelly are they ill-using that dearest Angel!", she wrote in her Journal, 2 Feb 40; "Monsters! you Tories shall be punished. Revenge, revenge!" (op. cit., p. 137).
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