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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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Text from W. L. Andrews, A Stray Leaf from the Correspondence of Washington Irving and CD, privately printed, New York, 1894, p. 32.

  • 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent's Park, London3
  • Twenty-eighth September, 1841

My dear Washington Irving

I was very sorry to hear t'other day from Mr Clark, of the Knickerbocker pg 395and New York, that you were unwell. I hope you are better; and furthermore that in proof of your being so, you will write me one line by the next Packet, to certify the fact.

I told Leslie1 what you had written about him,2 and he was much pleased. I know him, but have not known him long or intimately—I needn't tell you that London keeps a great many people apart, who incline strongly towards each other. His great abilities and uncommon gift of humour, with his pencil (a kind of Charles Lamb-like humour of the best quality) I have always doted on. We agreed that in your honor we would dine together instantly, and that we would be constant associates for evermore.

It has been a toss up for some weeks, whether I should write you a long letter, or a short one. I am happy to say the latter carries it. For why should I inflict four sides of paper on you, when I am coming to see you? And are there not at this moment in the books of the British and North American Mail Packet Company, the words—"fourth of January eighteen hundred and forty two, Mr and Mrs Charles Dickens—for Boston"?

I look forward to shaking hands with you, with an interest I cannot (and would not, if I could) describe. You can imagine, I dare say, something of the feelings with which I look forward to being in America. I can hardly believe I am coming.

[Rogers]3 had been in great distress and desolation at having missed pg 396your niece.1 He was with us last night, and bewailed his affliction in very moving terms. He begged me to say as much to you, and to remember him heartily—though I am not clear whether it is a recent occurrence, or whether my projected voyage reminded him of it.

aDid you know poor [Hook]?2 He has left a widow (poor creature, she was not married to him, but there is mourning out of matrimony, and it is no disparagement to the word) with four illegitimate daughters—I am not sure whether I should not have written, five.3 I heard yesterday at the Athenaeum, that the King of [Hanover]4 has sent them five hundred pounds. It is a good thing to find gratitude in Fangs, and better when the King is a bad one, so I hope it's true. J …5 declined to join in a subscription for rescuing these girls from poverty—it may be, from the very streets —because they were not born in wedlock. I hardly know what your politics are; remembering the Squire in Bracebridge Hall and the radical.6 —But I am sure this is not your creed.a

Murray has just re-published in a new form, Lockhart's translation of pg 397the Spanish and Moorish ballads, with all manner of gold and silver borders, and variegated colours. He is said to be making rather a desperate stake with it,1 having suffered from recent failures in the trade. It looks tawdry and poor; and I fear will not do.

You knew Wilkie, I think, in Spain.2 A very handsome subscription has been already made for raising a monument to him in London. They are going to raise another, in Edinburgh.3 Poor fellow! He gave me a little picture of his painting, shortly before he went away,4 and I little thought I had seen him for the last time. His sister is so sadly changed by grief for his loss, that she is hardly to be recognized for the person she used to be.5 She had dressed herself as gaily as a bride, and was waiting for his coming home, when they had to tell her that he lay under the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

  •                             Believe me, always | Faithfully Yours
  • Washington Irving Esquire                    Charles Dickens

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Sarah Sanders Paris (1813–85), daughter of Irving's sister Catherine and his favourite niece. She had married Thomas Wentworth Storrow, Jnr, in Mar 41 and had left America for Paris with her husband on 1 May. Irving wrote to her frequently and affectionately until his death.
Editor’s Note
aa Omitted in D and N.
Editor’s Note
2 Name omitted in W. L. Andrews, op. cit.; but clearly Theodore Hook (see Vol. i, p. 209n), who had died on 24 Aug.
Editor’s Note
3 In fact, two sons and three daughters (R. H. D. Barham, Life and Remains of Theodore Edward Hook, revised edition, 1877, p. 243). To relieve them from immediate want, four of Hook's "true friends" each gave £100; Marjoribanks was already providing for one of the sons (ibid and n). The whole of Hook's effects had been seized by the Crown on his death, in liquidation of the Mauritius debt for which he had been held responsible since 1817.
Editor’s Note
4 Name omitted by Andrews. But see R. H. D. Barham (op. cit., p. 244): "The King of Hanover generously gave 500l. With that splendid exception, the names appearing on the list are mostly those of men in moderate circumstances, and of his own rank in life,—more than one of his nobler acquaintances declining, on the score, we believe, of a nice morality, to contribute to the undertaking." The subscription realized less than £3000. For many years, says Barham, Hook had been courted by "princes of the blood" and the "Pride of Westminster" for the wit and charm of his conversation and his amazing powers of improvisation; but, like Sheridan, he met with "fêtes, flattery, and forgetfulness" (op. cit., pp. 250, 254).
Editor’s Note
5 Possibly Jeffrey, who had "made his house like a home" to Irving during his visit to Scotland 1817 (Life and Letters of Washington Irving, ed. P. M. Irving, 1862, i, 321) and seen more of him in London 1829–32—although in other contexts he was known to be generous.
Editor’s Note
6 The radical ("A Village Politician", in Bracebridge Hall) is a "meagre", "bilious" fellow with doctrines threatening the village's idyllic life under its kind-hearted Squire. Presumably CD had been uncertain how to interpret the irony of his routing by that "tough arguer", the old yeoman Jack Tibbets, who neither read nor believed in newspapers. Americans themselves were in no doubt as to Irving's politics, but felt so much pride in the admiration his work had won in England, particularly Scott's and Byron's, that "those who cared most for American principles forgave the author his Tory tastes, for he was so remote from politics" (Van Wyck Brooks, The World of Washington Irving, 1944, p. 160).
Editor’s Note
1 Ancient Spanish Ballads, Historical and Romantic, originally published by Blackwood & Cadell, Edinburgh, 1823. In Murray's lavish revised edn, 1841, William Allan heads a list of six illustrators; "the coloured titles, borders, and ornamental letters and vignettes" were by "Owen Jones, Architect". The Examiner reviewer, 25 Sep, treating it as a curiosity, commented: "The modern and not very correct taste for illustrated books, is here carried to its most gorgeous pitch. Every page of the volume is a framed picture."
Editor’s Note
2 Irving and Wilkie had become close friends in Spain, visiting picture-galleries in Madrid together in the autumn of 1827 and exploring Seville the following spring (see S. T. Williams, Life of Washington Irving, especially i, 325, 333–6). Irving dedicated The Alhambra to Wilkie and wrote an unpublished essay on him (MS Yale: see Williams, op. cit., i, 327, 482).
Editor’s Note
3 This plan was apparently not carried out.
Editor’s Note
4 On 30 Mar 40 Wilkie wrote to CD from Vicarage Place, Kensington: "My dear Sir | May I beg to present for the kind acceptance of Mrs. Dickens one of my Drawings, made of a Mother and child for the picture belonging to Mr. Moon, of the Cotter's Saturday Night, and which I shall be most glad if she will place in her room in token of the most humble respect and regard of | My dear Sir | Your most faithful and devoted Servant" (MS Huntington). Although explicitly intended for Catherine, the picture was at Gad's Hill on CD's death.
Editor’s Note
5 Wilkie's sister Helen had lived with him since 1813. His last letter, of 26 May, was written to her (Allan Cunningham, Life of Sir David Wilkie, 1843, iii, 469–71).
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