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

pg 587To JOHN FORSTER, [1 NOVEMBER 1843]

Text from F, iv, 304–5. Date: 1 Nov according to Forster.

Don't be startled by the novelty and extent of my project. Both startled me at first; but I am well assured of its wisdom and necessity. I am afraid of a magazine—just now. I don't think the time a good one, or the chances favourable. I am afraid of putting myself before the town as writing tooth and nail for bread, headlong, after the close of a book taking so much out of one as Chuzzlewit. I am afraid I could not do it, with justice to myself. I know that whatever we may say at first, a new magazine, or a new anything, would require so much propping, that I should be forced (as in the Clock) to put myself into it, in my old shape. I am afraid of Bradbury and Evans's desire to force on the cheap issue of my books, or any of them, prematurely. I am sure if it took place yet awhile, it would damage me and damage the property, enormously. It is very natural in them to want it; but, since they do want it, I have no faith in their regarding me in any other respect than they would regard any other man in a speculation. I see that this is really your opinion as well; and I don't see what I gain, in such a case, by leaving Chapman and Hall.1 If I had made money, I should unquestionably fade away from the public eye for a year, and enlarge my stock of description and observation by seeing countries new to me; which it is most necessary to me that I should see, and which with an increasing family I can scarcely hope to see at all, unless I see them now. Already for some time I have had this hope and intention before me; and though not having made money yet, I find or fancy that I can put myself in the position to accomplish it. And this is the course I have before me. At the close of Chuzzlewit (by which time the debt will have been materially reduced) I purpose drawing from Chapman and Hall my share of the subscription2—bills, or money, will do equally well. I design to tell them that it is not likely I shall do anything for a year; that, in the meantime, I make no arrangement whatever with anyone; and our business matters rest in statu quo. The same to Bradbury and Evans. I shall let the house if I can; if not, leave it to be let. I shall take all the family, and two servants—three at most—to some place which I know beforehand to be cheap and in a delightful climate, in Normandy or Brittany, to which I shall go over, first, and pg 588where I shall rent some house for six or eight months. During that time, I shall walk through Switzerland, cross the Alps, travel through France and Italy; take Kate perhaps to Rome and Venice, but not elsewhere; and in short see everything that is to be seen. I shall write my descriptions1 to you from time to time, exactly as I did in America; and you will be able to judge whether or not a new and attractive book may not be made on such ground. At the same time I shall be able to turn over the story I have in my mind2, and which I have a strong notion might be published with great advantage, first in Paris3—but that's another matter to be talked over. And of course I have not yet settled, either, whether any book about the travel, or this, should be the first. "All very well," you say, "if you had money enough." Well, but if I can see my way to what would be necessary without binding myself in any form to anything; without paying interest, or giving any security but one of my Eagle4 five thousand pounds; you would give up that objection. And I stand committed to no bookseller, printer, moneylender, banker, or patron whatever; and decidedly strengthen my position with my readers, instead of weakening it, drop by drop, as I otherwise must. Is it not so? and is not the way before me, plainly this? I infer that in reality you do yourself think, that what I first thought of is not the way? I have told you my scheme very baldly, as I said I would. I see its great points, against many prepossessions the other way—as, leaving England, home, friends, everything I am fond of—but it seems to me, at a critical time, the step to set me right. A blessing on Mr. Mariotti my Italian master, and his pupil!—If you have any breath left, tell Topping how you are.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 See To Forster, 28 June 43. Forster (iv, ii, 303–4) says that he had persuaded CD to "suspend proceedings" over his change of publishers till Oct; Bradbury & Evans had been taken by surprise when he communicated CD's proposal, and "replied by suggestions which were in effect a confession of … want of confidence in themselves", proposing a cheap re-issue of CD's works, and offering "to invest to any desired amount in the establishment of a magazine or other periodical to be edited by him". CD was probably right in thinking the time not favourable to a new magazine; the trade depression of 1842 still continued, and the sale of Bentley's Miscellany, for example, had dropped by one-third. Cheap re-issues of the whole of an author's works to date were still uncommon; the only precedents were Marryat, whose six novels were published in Bentley's Standard Novels in 1838, and Bulwer, with ten novels collected in 1840–1 (Saunders & Otley, with Colburn), in imitation of the Standard Novels, appearing monthly at 6s a volume. Forster had assisted Bulwer in the early stages of the negotiations.
Editor’s Note
2 The booksellers' subscription for the volume edition of Chuzzlewit, due to be published in July 44.
Editor’s Note
1 The first suggestion of the letters which became Pictures from Italy, 1846.
Editor’s Note
2 If, as seems likely, this project was for a novel with a continental setting, it never matured, though it persisted for some years; alternatively, the first notion of Dombey and Son may already have been in his mind.
Editor’s Note
3 In order to make some profit from a continental edition.
Editor’s Note
4 The policy taken out on 18 Nov 41; cf. CD's use of his Britannia policy as security for Chapman & Hall.
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out