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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.

Devonshire Terrace | Thirteenth October 1843

My Dear Miss Coutts.

The "Ragged" Masters are really very honest men. I infer from the enclosed,1 that they fear they may not succeed in the long run, and are delicate of availing themselves of individual kindness, beyond the temporary help of a Subscription. But I may be wrong in this; and when I have done my month's work (with which I am now in spasms) I will see the writer, and talk to him more fully. This will be, very early, I hope, in the week after next.2

I have been thinking very much about Nell. Will you tell me whether you wish her to learn anything? I am not quite clear about that.—I mean, to learn a trade, or learn what is popularly called "her book".

A hideous cold has taken possession of me to an almost unprecedented extent. I am not exactly, like Miss Squeers, screaming out loud all the time I write;3 but I am executing another kind of performance beginning with an s, and ending with a g; perpetually.

The Manchester Meeting, composed of men of all parties, was very brilliant I assure you. A thousand tickets were sold, and most of them admitted two,—many three,—persons.4 I am strongly tempted to send you a local paper, containing all the Speeches. But modesty (a besetting sin with authors) prevents me.

pg 582It will be a comfort to Miss Meredith to know that my other rheumatic friend1 who got well long before her—that is to say too soon—is turning all wrong again, just as she is turning all right. May I trouble you to tell her that my hair is growing,2 and I'll never do so any more?

Charley and his sisters, entrust me with messages full of partially unintelligible enthusiasm. Mrs. Dickens begs me to say that if you can oblige her with your Drury Lane Box3 for any performing night next week, she will take it as a great favor.

  • Always Dear Miss Coutts
  •        Yours faithfully and obliged
  •                     Charles Dickens

I was greatly pleased with Mr. Morier.4

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 A letter from Starey informing CD of the result of his search for new premises which might be hired for the Ragged School (see To Starey, 24 Sep); he feared that "without taking some which would require money being laid out upon to adapt them to our wants we are not likely to succeed", and asked CD's advice on the best way of approaching the Committee of Council of Education for a grant towards such adaptation should it be thought desirable (Starey to CD, 10 Oct 43; MS Morgan).
Editor’s Note
2 To Starey, 17 Oct, and Starey's reply probably took the place of this meeting.
Editor’s Note
3 From Fanny Squeers's letter to Ralph Nickleby, Nicholas Nickleby, Ch. 15.
Editor’s Note
4 The Soirée was to raise funds for the Athenæum, founded in 1835 and at first successful but recently in debt owing to the trade depression; CD's chairmanship was announced on 6 Sep, and tickets sold rapidly, so that it was held in the great Free Trade Hall and not in the institute's own rooms. CD referred in his speech to "the brilliant and beautiful spectacle" before him and emphasized the lack of party differences; he recalled the history of the Athenæum, and complimented Manchester on its foundation—"it is grand to know that while her factories re-echo with the clanking of stupendous engines and the whirl and rattle of machinery, the immortal mechanism of God's own hand, the mind, is not forgotten in the din and uproar, but is lodged and tended in a palace of its own". As Forster says (F, iv, i, 297), he "spoke mainly on a matter always nearest his heart, the education of the very poor" (having already in mind the two spectres of Ignorance and Want in the Carol), and recalled what he had seen in "certain jails and nightly refuges"; he attacked the axiom that a little learning was dangerous, and dwelt on its consolations to "men of low estate" such as Ferguson, Crabbe, Bloomfield, and Burns. The "men of all parties" were represented by speakers as diverse as Milner Gibson, Cobden, Disraeli, and James Crossley. Watkin relates how he and Berlyn on the previous day planned "a mixture of parties … we could place Mr. Cobden and Mr. James Crossley side by side, and thus make violent political opponents for once put aside their differences for the good of the Athenæum". Disraeli had not originally been invited to speak; Watkin's account shows that Cobden discovered only on 5 Oct that he was staying at the Mosley Arms and asked Watkin to invite him to the soirée (E. W. Watkin, Alderman Cobden of Manchester, pp. 124, 130). Mrs Disraeli (letter of 24 Nov) says he declined, "and they sent a deputation of ladies, which, you know, he could not refuse; so he went, and made a fine speech for them—all said by far the finest—literary not political". He commented on the "miracle of machinery" by which his name was printed in the programme; held up the Medici and the great merchants of Venice as examples to Manchester in the patronage of art; and made a humorous reference to the ladies as the "Lancashire witches" which CD described as "very brilliant and eloquent" (Manchester Guardian, 7 Oct; W. F. Monypenny & G. E. Buckle, Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, revised edn, 1929, i, 581–2). During the interval CD was "besieged by bevies of fair applicants for his autograph" (Speeches, p. 50). John Eustace Giles, his old schoolfellow and brother of his first schoolmaster, then spoke, and recalled the time when they "rambled through the same Kentish fields".
Editor’s Note
1 Probably Forster; on 19 Oct Hood called on him and was "shocked to hear he was very ill—but could not make out exactly how—for they said he had undergone an operation—& his complaint was rheumatic" (Hood to CD, [19 Oct 43], MS Huntington; Letters of Thomas Hood, ed. P. Morgan, p. 570). He was still ill on 21 Oct (Procter to Landor, MS V & A) and was not fully recovered for another two months (see To Forster, 10 Nov, fn). J err old was also suffering from rheumatism (see To Mrs Hurnall, 2 Nov).
Editor’s Note
2 It was long in mid-Sep (To Miss Coutts, 16 Sep); perhaps he had it cut for the Manchester visit.
Editor’s Note
3 Donizetti's La Favorita, with Grisi, followed by J. M. Morton's farce, My Wife's Come, with Harley, opened on 18 Oct. The report in the Examiner, 21 Oct, is almost certainly by CD, who perhaps offered it because of Forster's illness. He described the first three acts as "very heavy, very cold, and very noisy", the fourth as "natural, simple, and affecting" although "Miss Romer walked upon her knees to an extent which we never saw equalled, saving by the clown at Astley's". For complete text and commentary, see D, lxv (1969), 80–3.
Editor’s Note
4 CD may not previously have met James Justinian Morier (? 1780–1849; DNB), traveller and novelist, author of Hajji Baba, 1824 (a book well known to him), and contributor to Bentley's; he lived in Brighton. Or this may have been one of his brothers, two of whom were living in London—John Philip (1776–1853), retired from the diplomatic service, and William (1790–1864), captain RN.
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