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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 Berg Collection. Address: By "The Britannia" Steamer. | Frederick Dickens Esquire | Commissariat | Treasury | London | England.

My dear Fred. You were quite right, and may retire from public life upon an honorable independence, as soon as you please. Hewett did stand upon the paddle box—with a brazen speaking trumpet in his hand—wherewith he gave pg 37his orders to the men, which were passed by sundry officers in handsome naval uniforms, from one to another, until they reached the required point. You should see the engines of one of these large vessels. There are thirty men, who attend to them alone. The sea ran so high all the way, that when we came into Boston, the funnel which was properly red, was white to the top, with the ocean's Salt. Such a battered looking ship as it was, you can hardly imagine. When we put into Halifax, the fragments of our broken life boat still hung upon the deck. The rumour ran from mouth to mouth, that we had picked up the wreck of one of the poor President's1 boats at sea; and the crowd came down for splinters of it, as valuable curiosities!

I was ill for 5 days—Kate for 6. After that time we managed our knives and forks with great credit to ourselves and expense to the Cunard Company. In winter time, and with such heavy weather, it is a most miserable voyage—wretched and uncomfortable beyond all description.

I can't tell you what they do here to welcome me, or how they cheer and shout on all occasions—in the streets—in the Theatres2—within doors—and wherever I go. But Forster holds the papers I have sent him, in trust to communicate their news to everybody. I have only time to write one letter, which is anything like a letter. He has it, and will tell you all.

We leave here on Saturday, and go with the Governor to a place called Worcester where we stay all Sunday. On Monday we go to a place called Springfield, and there we are publicly met by the citizens of Hartford, and carried on to that place; where—on Wednesday3—I have a public dinner. On Thursday, I have another public reception at Newhaven. On Saturday, we reach New York. On Monday they give me a great ball there, the Committee for which, alone, is 150 strong. In the same week a great public dinner, and a[nother]4 dinner with a club.5 I believe this is to go on all through the States. You may sup[pose]4 I have not much time to spare.

I have engaged a very good and modest secretary, who lives with us w[hen]4pg 38we travel, and has ten dollars a month. He does his work very well, and I like him much.

God bless you and the darling children.1 I long to be at home.

  • Always Your affectionate brother.
  •                                                   C.D.

I inclose the Giniril's receipts.2 As Park3 saw us on board, will you call upon him—remember me to him—say I had no time to write before the packet left—and tell him all the News? Will you do the same by Stanfield,4 without loss of time?

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
7 Date given by Catherine. CD's letter starts on p. 2 of a folded sheet; p. 1 and five-sixths of p. 2 are occupied by a letter from Catherine, reading: "Boston | January 30th. 1842 | My dearest Frederick. It is with great pleasure I begin our mutual letter to you, and it will be with still greater pleasure I read the one which I daresay you have written me ere now and which with others we most ardently long for. | We landed here after a most dreadful passage of 18 days, and have experienced all the horrors of a storm at sea, which raged frightfully for a whole night, broke our Paddle boxes and a life boat to pieces. You can imagine how relieved we were, when towards morning it lulled, and although we were tossed to and fro all day from the great swell which follows a gale, we had nothing more to fear from the wind. | I was perfectly horrified and never expected to see morning again. Another night we ran a ground owing to an unskilful pilot, which caused great consternation as we were surrounded by rocks, but we got off in a few minutes and staid there at anchor all night. | We were told afterwards that the sailors had taken off their jackets and shoes ready to swim ashore. | Charles is going to finish this so I will leave him plenty of room to tell you some more news, [punctuated thus] His reception here is something beyond description as you will see by the papers sent to John Forster—How often I long to have even on[e] look at my beloved darlings, do tell me all about them when you write. | Farewell dear Fred believe me ever with true affection | Your attached sister. | Catherine Dickens.
Editor’s Note
1 The steamship President was lost in Atlantic gales en route from New York to Liverpool Mar–Apr 41. No traces of her wreckage were ever found.
Editor’s Note
2 CD had so far only been to one—the Tremont on 24 Jan.
Editor’s Note
3 In fact, Tuesday.
Editor’s Note
4 Conjectural reading where triangular piece is missing from edge of paper (presumably torn by seal when letter opened).
Editor’s Note
5 "The Novelties", a club organized chiefly by New York journalists, with some actors; its "ostensible object … was to render due honor to Mr. Dickens"—although it long survived his visit (P. M. Wetmore, New York Historical Magazine, Second Series, Aug 67). About 50 members gave CD a private dinner at Astor House on 24 Feb.
Editor’s Note
1 On 10 Feb Macready noted in his diary: "Forster called, and, after him, F. Dickens, whom we examined and expostulated with, and whom I lectured. I sent him home to conduct himself more temperately with the servants, which he seemed to promise he would do" (Diaries, II, 158).
Editor’s Note
2 Receipts from CD for the rent of 1 Devonshire Terrace, taken by General Sir John Wilson.
Editor’s Note
3 Presumably Patric Park (1811–55; DNB), sculptor, to whom CD sat 1840–1: see Vol. ii, pp. 138n and 285.
Editor’s Note
4 Clarkson Stanfield (1793–1867; DNB), marine and landscape painter: see Vol. i, p. 553n.
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