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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.

Broadstairs | Twentieth September 1843.

My Dear Smithson.

He5 is the most tremendous fellow in the world. I don't know what is to be done with him. Just before he left town, he came out in a waistcoat that turne pg 568my whole mass of blood—a flowery waistcoat, with buttons like black eyes; I don't mean natural black eyes, but artificial ones. He has also a sea-weed coloured coat, against which human nature revolts and reason rebels. His trousers (especially at the knees) are a spectacle I wouldn't meet in a lonely place for the wealth of a Rothschild. His cravats would be rejected with scorn in Holywell Street. Any magistrate of intelligence (if there were such a thing) would commit him to the treadmill, on the evidence of his jewellery. There is a ring, like a lady bird in the dropsy, on one of his fingers (one of those that are always crooked: I think the third) which tempts me to stab him. I don't see the end of it. But it must be something awful.

I am going to Manchester on the fifth, to take the chair at a great set-out at their Athenaeum, where a vast number of people are to be assembled. He wants to go with me. I have said "Yes". My mind is disturbed in consequence, so excuse the incoherence of this letter. Sometimes I wonder whether I could get him in, in a box; sometimes, a bag. Sometimes I think of making interest with the Railroad to put him in a wrong train and run him into Scotland. I fancy the Manchester people putting him on the platform, as a distinguished friend of mine from London. I see him standing there. I behold that boot (oh what a boot it is!) crossed over the other boot; one hand playing with that cruel watch-chain, and the crooked fingers of the other pushing up that bird's nest of hair, which meets a little rill of whisker. I see his countenance twisted up into an expression of auctioneering acuteness, while he mentally appraises the furniture, and ticks off the benches at "four and half each—I mean to say they shan't be more." I then give a great shriek, and fall upon the floor, where I am found by a disconsolate wife and four small children, in a state of mind bordering on distraction.

My best love, and all our best loves, to all at Easthorpe. We often talk of you. I think when I am a bachelor pro tem. I shall look in at one of the ground floor windows of the abbey with a carpet bag in my hand, and terrify Miss Thompson with what HE1 would call high-strikes—oh!—but I think a great many things that never come to pass. Good God how green You must be! I don't mean you, but the country about you,—those exquisite leaves—and Castle Howard Park.2 You see how incoherent I am. But I have told you why; so pity me.

I have been expecting, and am still expecting, Thompson here. I have his little dog; for I wished that an alliance shd. take place between her and Timber; but there seems to be an incompatibility—I don't know whether of temper, or taste. Its an uncommon nice dog, and regularly runs away twice a day—once after breakfast, and once after tea—always being brought back by the Police. We have a police here now. A.i. He wears an uniform. But it has been discovered that he hasn't any power (not being legally appointed)3 so pg 569strong vagrants come over, and dare him to take 'em up. As they come on purpose, we find him rather an inconvenience than otherwise.

Among other similar invites, I have had a note from Ld. Brougham this morning, asking me to go on there, when I am at Manchester, and take anyone I may have with me. Shall I make them known to each other ? If Mrs. Smithson says Yes,—I will. Damme.—There!

Document enclosed.1 Always My Dear Smithson

  • Cordially Yours
  •      Charles Dickens

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
5 The references to Brougham below and in To Mrs Burnett, 24 Sep, show that this is Thomas Mitton. The description resembles that of Montague Tigg, just introduced in Chuzzlewit, Ch. 26, with his flowered waistcoat and fingers clogged with brilliant rings. Perhaps Mitton's waistcoat was bought for the wedding of his sister Mary Ann (see To Mitton, 26 July 42), who married John Cooper, market gardener, at St James's, Piccadilly, on 4 Sep.
Editor’s Note
1 Written very large in ornamental capitals.
Editor’s Note
3 The Kent County Constabulary was not formed until 1857, 18 years after the passing of the "Permissive Act" which provided for the creation of county forces, although some cities and boroughs had their own police (The Kent Police Centenary, ed. R. L. Thomas, 1957, pp. 21, 114ff.). The appointment of the "police" at Broadstairs presumably failed in some way to comply with the provisions of the 1842 Act for the Appointment and Payment of Parish Constables, by which justices might require from parish overseers a list of men eligible to serve, while vestries decided whether one or more should be paid from the Poor Relief Funds (C. Reith, A New Study of Police History, 1956, pp. 253–4).
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