Jump to Content
Jump to chapter

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

Find Location in text

Main Text


MS Boston Public Library. Address: [By M]ail Steamer | [Mrs. Lydia] M. Child | [Ne]w York | United States.2

  • 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regents Park.
  • Twenty Eighth December 1842.

My Dear Madam.

Let me thank you for your earnest and interesting letter; and pray do not estimate the amount of pleasure I have had in it, by the length of my reply: which has reference only to the extent of my correspondence and the nature of my avocations.

You hardly give me credit, I think, for being as good a friend to Temperance as I really am.3 As to denying myself my cheerful glass of wine because other men get drunk, I see no more reason for doing so, than I do for recognizing no distinction between Use and Abuse in any other commodity, temporal or pg 404spiritual. I am a great friend to Temperance, and a great foe to Abstinence. The more stoutly that Abstinence is insisted upon now, the more clearly I can foresee, I think, that the next age will run riot in Drunkenness. For all history and experience warn us that of one violent extreme, its opposite has always sprung.

Besides which, there is an immense amount of ignorance and folly and false reasoning, constantly broached by the Abstinence Disseminators. The position that Drunkenness is the cause of all other passions, is one of the most monstrous in the world. You will almost invariably find that some other passion has been the cause of Drunkenness; and that that vice is the coping on the top of most of the Devil's Edifices—not the foundation stone, as your mole-eyed enquirers into Human Nature would have us believe.

The man who cannot drink without drinking too much for his Soul and Body, should be urged to abstinence by all manner of means. But the man who can, should be left alone. If I walk among honest men with my hand kerchief hanging out of my pocket, I am guilty of throwing no temptation in their way, but if I do the like among thieves I am very culpable indeed.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Lydia Maria Child, née Francis (1802–80; DAB), writer and reformer. Her Appeal in Favour of that Class of Americans Called Africans, 1833, was the first work in America to advocate the immediate emancipation of slaves. In a review of her Letters from New York, 1843, the Examiner (30 Sep 43) described her as seeming "to belong to the ultra-sentimental or transcendental school", and criticized her for sentimentality over capital punishment. Frederika Bremer, visiting America in 1849–51, thought her "a beautiful soul, but too angular to be happy" (The Homes of the New World, 1853, i, 6). According to her biographer Helen G. Baer (The Heart is Like Heaven, Philadelphia, 1964, p. 153), her "heart warmed toward Dickens for his exposé of Five Points" (the New York slum quarter mentioned in American Notes, Ch. 6): "When a cartoonist sketched Boz dancing at the Points with, as the caption read, a 'great, splay-footed nigger,' she and Dickens were both pleased" because it showed CD's criticism had gone home. Edited 1841–9, with her husband's assistance, the National Anti-Slavery Standard, a New York weekly paper. Also wrote on religion, and on household and child management.
Editor’s Note
2 The bottom third of sides 3–4 of a folded sheet has been cut away, removing from side 3 probably no more than the ending, signature and subscription, and from side 4 parts of the address.
Editor’s Note
3 Mrs Child had presumably written to comment on CD's description of the Temperance Convention at Cincinnati (American Notes, Ch. 11). He in fact described it quite kindly, except for remarking that the speeches "were certainly adapted to the occasion, as having that degree of relationship to cold water which wet blankets may claim". Several of her stories show her support of Temperance.
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out