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Charles Dickens

Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Mary Tillotson (eds), The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 3: 1842–1843

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MS Morgan Library. Address: Miss Burdett Coutts | Stratton Street | Piccadilly | London | England.

Baltimore. United States. | Twenty Second March 1842.

Dear Miss Coutts.

You have long ago discharged from your mind any favorable opinion you may ever have entertained of me—and have set me down, I know, as a neglectful, erratic, promise-breaking, and most unworthy person.

And yet I have not forgotten the book you asked me to bring home for you— nor the pebble I am to gather for Lady Burdett2 at Niagara—nor the something unstipulated3 which I am to put in my portmanteau for Miss Meredith.4 The truth is that they give me everything here, but Time. That they never will leave me alone. That I shake hands every day when I am not travelling, with five or six hundred people. That Mrs. Dickens and I hold a formal Levee in every town we come to, and usually faint away (from fatigue) every day while dressing for dinner.—In a word, that we devoutly long for Home, and look forward to the seventh of next June when we sail, please God, from New York—most ardently.

I have sent you some newspapers; and I hope they have reached you. They gave me a ball at New York, at which Three Thousand people were present—and a public dinner besides—and another in Boston—and another in a place called Hertford. Others were projected, literally all through the States, but I gave public notice, that I couldn't accept them: being of mere flesh and blood, and having only mortal powers of digestion. But I have made an exception in favor of one body of readers at St. Louis—a town in the Far West, on the confines of the Indian territory. I am going there to dinner—it's only two thousand miles from here—and start the day after tomorrow.

I look forward to making such an impression on you with the store of anecdote and description with which I shall return, that I can't find it in my Heart to open it—on paper. I don't see how I shall ever get rid of my gatherings. It seems to me, at present, that when I come home I must take a cottage on Putney Heath, or Richmond Green, or some other wild and desolate place, and talk to myself for a month or two, until I have sobered down a little, and am quiet again. A prophetic feeling comes upon me sometimes, and hints that I shall return, a bore—.5

We had a terrible passage out, and mean to return in a sailing ship. Can you pg 147think of anything I can bring back for you ? If you can possibly commission me to bring you any article whatever from the New Country, I need scarcely say how proud and glad you will make me. Any letter addressed to me to the care of David Colden Esquire 28 Laight Street Hudson Square New York, would be forwarded to me wheresoever I might chance to be at the time of its receipt.

May I ask you when you next see Mr. Marjoribanks1 to tell him, with my best regards, that I thank him very much for his letters,2 and have received the greatest attention from all his correspondents—except the poor gentleman at Washington —who has been dead six years. Not finding him readily (no wonder!) I went into a bank to ask for him. I happened to make the enquiry of a very old clerk, who staggered to a stool and fell into a cold perspiration, as if he had seen a spectre. Being feeble, and the shock being very great, he took to his bed—but he has since recovered: to the great joy of his wife and family.

With every good and cordial wish for your health and happiness—many messages of regard to Miss Meredith—and very many scruples of conscience in sending you so poor a letter from so long a distance—I am always, Dear Miss Coutts,

  • With true regard | Faithfully Your obliged friend
  •                                              Charles Dickens

P.S. I forgot to say that I have been at Washington (which is beyond here) and as far beyond that, again, as Richmond in Virginia. But the prematurely hot weather, and the sight of slaves, turned me back.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Angela Georgina Burdett Coutts (1814–1906; DNB), later Baroness Burdett-Coutts: see Vol. i, p. 559n.
Editor’s Note
2 Miss Coutts's mother, formerly Sophia Coutts (1775–1844), one of the three daughters of Thomas Coutts the banker—nicknamed "the three Graces". She married Sir Francis Burdett 1793; their early married life was unhappy, and she was an invalid for many years before her death. Lived abroad for some time and kept up an intimate correspondence with Adelaide d'Orléans, Louis Philippe's sister. Like her sister Lady Guilford, quarrelled bitterly with her father after his second marriage, to Harriet Mellon, within a fortnight of her mother's death (Jan 1815); but was eventually reconciled.
Editor’s Note
3 For the various mementoes promised, see Vol. ii, p. 444, and for those he brought back, 2 July 42.
Editor’s Note
4 Hannah Meredith (d. 1878), Miss Coutts's companion: see Vol. ii, p. 168n.
Editor’s Note
5 CD's expressed fear on his return from Scotland: see Vol. ii, p. 335.
Editor’s Note
1 Edward Marjoribanks (1776–1868), senior partner in Coutts's Bank: see Vol. i, p. 527n.
Editor’s Note
2 Arranging credit for CD in the cities he visited.
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