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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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pg 39To MRS A. T. THOMSON,1 8 MARCH [1840]

MS Huntington Library. Date: 8 Mar was Sunday in 1840; handwriting supports that year.

1 Devonshire Terrace | Sunday 8th. March

My Dear Madam

I should have answered your letter immediately, but that I have been on a short visit to Bath whence I have only just returned.

Sir Edward Bulwer2 has already applied to me with reference to the subject in which you so kindly interest yourself,3 and I have already arranged with Mr. Forster—a mutual friend of ours who communicated with me on Bulwer's behalf—for promoting it with my slight assistance.4 I have not seen Sir Edward himself lately, but he understands this, I have no doubt.5

aIn all that you say so well concerning poor Mrs. Landon6 and her unfortunate daughter7I most cordially and heartily concur.a Let me thank pg 40you for your note and especially for your kind expressions towards myself, and beg you to believe me

  •                                    Dear Madam | Faithfully Yours
  • Mrs. Thomson.                                   Charles Dickens

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Editor’s Note
1 Katherine Thomson, née Byerley (1797–1862; DNB), author of numerous historical biographies and novels. Had known L.E.L. (see below) since 1826: see her account of her in Recollections of Literary Characters, 1854, and their correspondence in Laman Blanchard's Life and Literary Remains of L. E. Landon, 2 vols, 1841. Her husband, Anthony Todd Thomson (1778–1849; DNB), physician, had attended L.E.L. in London.
Editor’s Note
2 Sir Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer (1803–73; DNB): see Vol. i, p. 337n.
Editor’s Note
3 An appeal on behalf of the widowed mother of Letitia Landon. Cf. Macready's Diaries, ii 46, entry for 28 Feb 40: "A note … from Bulwer, asking me to subscribe to an annuity for the destitute mother of L.E.L."
Editor’s Note
4 The payment of £10 to Forster shown in CD's accounts on 28 Feb 40 may well have been his contribution to the Landon fund.
Editor’s Note
5 Bulwer had been a close friend of L.E.L.'s since 1827, and had given her away on her marriage to George Maclean in 1838 (see below).
Editor’s Note
aa Given in N, i, 206 from catalogue source. Letter otherwise unpublished.
Editor’s Note
6 Catherine Jane Landon, née Bishop (d. 1854); widowed 1824 and mainly dependent on her two children, Letitia and Whittington, an ill-paid curate until he became Secretary of the Literary Fund 1837 (see Vol. i, p. 510 and n).
Editor’s Note
7 Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Mrs Maclean (1802–38; DNB). Perhaps the subject of last paragraph of To Forster, ?3 Jan 39 (i, 489), though not named. A writer from earliest childhood, in her teens had charmed William Jerdan, and soon became one of the chief contributors to his Literary Gazette. Published 5 vols of verse 1821–9; contributed regularly to annuals; wrote several novels and one unacted tragedy. The impression she made on Henry Crabb Robinson in 1826 was of "a starling— … with a gay good-humoured face" (Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence, ed. T. Sadler, 1869, ii 329). Later, when trying to live down the scandalous rumours about her relations with Maginn, her "hectic, hysterical high-spirits", when in company, were disapprovingly noted by H. F. Chorley: there was a "certain audacious brightness in her talk; but it was … smart, not sound" (Autobiography, Memoir, and Letters, compiled by H. G. Hewlett, 1873, i, 252). Soon after her engagement (?1834 or 35) to Forster, the malicious rumours were revived (possibly, it seems, by Rosina Bulwer); and Forster (then aged 22—ten years her junior and inevitably out of his depth) faced her with them. Hurt and indignant, she broke off the engagement (see her letter to Bulwer, quoted in Michael Sadleir, Bulwer and his Wife, new edn, 1933, pp. 425–6). Her marriage in 1838 to George Maclean, Governor of Cape Coast Castle, seems to have been an act of desperation. For her death six months later, see Vol. i, p. 488n. Many people, including her brother Whittington, were convinced that the cause was not suicide as generally believed, but that she was murdered by Maclean's African mistress. The question was still discussed in 1847: see William Howitt, Homes and Haunts of the Most Eminent British Poets, 1847, ii 125–44 (Howitt thought her murder unlikely). Nor did Forster forget her: in Geraldine Jewsbury's Half Sisters he found "a young girl wonderfully like Miss Landon in manner and appearance", he wrote to Leigh Hunt, 16 Sep 48 (MS BM).
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