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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 Huntington Library. Address: Thomas Mitton Esquire | 23 Southampton Buildings. | Chancery Lane | London England.

Baltimore—United States | Twenty Second March 1842.

My Dear friend.

We have been as far South as Richmond in Virginia (where they grow and manufacture Tobacco; and where the labour is all performed by Slaves) but the Season in those latitudes is so intensely and prematurely hot, that it was considered a matter of doubtful expediency to go on to Charleston. aFor this unexpected reason; and because the country between Richmond and Charleston is but a desolate swamp the whole way; and because Slavery is anything but a cheerful thing to live amidst, I have altered my route by the advice of Mr. Clay (the great political leader in this country) and have returned here, previous to diving into the Far West.a We start for that part of the country—which includespg 161 mountain travelling, and Lake travelling, and Prairie travelling—the day after tomorrow at 8 o'Clock in the Morning; and shall be in the west, and from there going Northward again, until the 30th. of April or 1st. of May, when we shall halt for a week at Niagara, before going further into Canada. We have taken our passage Home (God bless the word) in the George Washington Packet Ship from New York. She sails on the 7th. of June.

I have departed from my resolution not to accept any more public entertainments—they have been proposed in every town I have visited—in favor of the people of St. Louis—my utmost Western point. That town is on the borders of the Indian territory—a trifling distance from this place—only 20001 miles! At my second halting place I shall be able to write on to fix the day. I suppose it will be somewhere about the 12th. of April. Think of my going so far towards the setting Sun, to dinner!

In every town where we stay, though it be only for a day, we hold a regular levee or drawing room, where I shake hands, on an average with five or six hundred people, who pass on from me to Kate, and are shaken again by her. Maclise's picture of our darlings stands upon a table or sideboard the while; and my "travelling Secretary", assisted very often by a committee belonging to the place, presents the people in due form. Think of two hours of this, every day,—and the people coming in by hundreds—all fresh, and piping hot, and full of questions—when we are literally exhausted, and can hardly stand. I really do believe that if I had not had a lady with me, I should have been obliged to leave the country and go back to England. But for her, they never would leave me alone by day or night; and as it is, a Slave comes to me now and then in the middle of the night with a letter—and waits at the bedroom door for an answer!

It was so hot at Richmond that we could scarcely breathe,—and the Peach and other Fruit trees were in full blossom. It was so cold at Washington next day, that we were shivering! But even in the same town you might often wear nothing but a shirt and trousers in the morning, and two Great coats at night—the thermometer very frequently taking a little trip of 30 degrees between sunrise and sunset.

They do lay it on at the Hotels, in such style ! They charge by the day; so that whether one dines out or dines at home, makes no manner of difference. T'other day, I wrote to order our rooms at Philadelphia to be ready on a certain day, and was detained a week longer than I expected in New York. The Philadelphia landlord not only charged me half rent for the rooms during the whole of that time, but board for myself, and Kate, and Anne during the whole time too, though we were actually boarding at the same expense during the same time, in New York!—What do you say to that? If I remonstrated, the whole virtue of the newspapers would be aroused directly.

bWe were at the President's drawing room while we were in Washington. I had a private audience besides, and was asked to dinner, but couldn't stay.b

Parties—parties—parties—of course, every day and night. But it's not all parties. I go into the prisons, the police offices, the watch-houses, the hospitals, the workhouses. I was out half the night in New York with two of their mostpg 162 famous constables1—started at midnight—and went into every brothel, thieves' house, murdering hovel, sailors dancing place, and abode of villainny,2 both black and white, in the town. I went incog behind the scenes to the little Theatre where Mitchell is making a fortune. He has been rearing a little dog for me, and has called him "Boz".3 I am going to bring him home.—In a word I go everywhere, and a hard life it is. cBut I am careful to drink hardly anything, and not to smoke at all. I have recourse to my medicine chest whenever I feel at all bilious; and am, thank God, thoroughly well.c

When I next write to you, I shall have begun, I hope, to turn my face homeward. I have a great store of oddity and whimsicality, and am going now into the oddest and most characteristic part of this most queer country.4

d Always direct to the care of David Colden Esqre. 28 Laight Street Hudson Square New York. I received your Caledonia letter with the greatest joy.

Kate sends her best remembrances.d And I am always,

  • [         ]
  • [Charles Dickens]5

eP.S. Richmond was my extreme southern point; and I turn from the South altogether, the day after tomorrow. Will you let the Britannia know of this change6—if needful?e

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
aa bb cc dd ee Passages published in MDGH 1880, but omitted in later editions, including N.
Editor’s Note
1 Written large.
Editor’s Note
1 The New York Police Dept was in process of being organized during the early 1840s, the old watch system being replaced by a regular police force.
Editor’s Note
2 Thus in MS.
Editor’s Note
3 A "white Havana spaniel" according to MDGH, i, 67n; but described by Forster as "a small white shaggy terrier, who bore at first the imposing name of Timber Doodle" (F, III, viii, 279–80). This was changed to Snittle Timbery, after one of the actors in Crummies's company (ToForster, 11 Aug 42), and later shortened to Timber.
Editor’s Note
4 The common image of the West which Irving and other Easterners had no doubt given him.
Editor’s Note
5 Ending and signature cut away, presumably for an autograph collector.
Editor’s Note
6 That he was not going as far south as Charleston, although the endorsement of his policy with the Britannia Insurance Co. (see Vol. ii, p. 414n) permitted him to do so. His statement about drinking and smoking may also have been intended for the Britannia, "if needful".
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