Our Whispering Gallery: Vi

I OBSERVE, my young friend, you have placed our chairs to-day where the portraits of Charles Dickens are easiest seen, and I take the hint accordingly. Those are likenesses of him from the age of twenty-eight down to the year when he passed through “ the golden gate,” as that wise mystic William Blake calls death. One would hardly believe these pictures represented the same man! See what a beautiful young person Maclise represents in this early likeness of the great author, and then contrast the face with that worn one in the photograph of 1869. The same man, but how different in aspect! I sometimes think, while looking at those two portraits, I must have known two individuals bearing the same name, at various periods of my own life. Let us speak to-day of the younger Dickens. How well I recall the bleak winter evening in 1842 when I first saw the handsome, glowing face of the young man who was even then

famous over half the globe ! He came bounding into the Tremont House, fresh from the steamer that had brought him to our shores, and his cheery voice rang through the hall, as he gave a quick glance at the new scenes opening upon him in a strange land on first arriving at a Transatlantic hotel. “Here we are ! ” he shouted, as the lights burst upon the merry party just entering the house, and several gentlemen came forward to greet him. Ah, how happy and buoyant he was then ! Young, handsome, almost worshipped for his genius, belted round by such troops of friends as rarely ever man had, coming to a new country to make new conquests of fame and honor, — surely it was a sight long to be remembered and never wholly to be forgotten. The splendor of his endowments and the personal interest he had won to himself called forth all the enthusiasm of old and young America, and I am glad to have been among the first to witness his arrival. You ask me what was his appearance as he ran, or rather flew up the steps of the hotel, and sprang into the hall. He seemed all on fire with curiosity, and alive as I never saw mortal before. From top to toe every fibre of his body was unrestrained and alert. What vigor, what keenness, what freshness of spirit, possessed him ! He laughed all over, and did not care who heard him ! He seemed like the Emperor of Cheerfulness on a cruise of pleasure, determined to conquer a realm or two of fun every hour of his overflowing existence. That night impressed itself on my memory for all time, so for as I am concerned with things sublunary. It was Dickens, the true “ Boz.,” in flesh and blood, who stood before us at last, and with my companions, three or four lads of my own age, I determined to sit up late that night. None of us then, of course, had the honor of an acquaintance with the delightful stranger, and I little thought that I should afterwards come to know him in the beaten way of friendship, and live with him day after day in years far distant ; that I should ever be so near to him that he would reveal to me his joys and his sorrows, and thus that I should learn the story of his life from his own lips.

About midnight on that eventful landing, “ Boz,” — everybody called him “Boz” in those days, — having finished his supper, came down into the office of the hotel, and joining the young Earl of M-, his fellow-voyager, sallied out for a first look at Boston streets. It was a stinging night, and the moon was at the full. Every object stood out sharp and glittering, and “ Boz,” muffled up in a shaggy fur coat, ran over the shining frozen snow, wisely keeping the middle of the street for the most part. We boys followed cautiously behind, but near enough not to lose any of the fun. Of course the two gentlemen soon lost their way on emerging into Washington from Tremont Street. Dickens kept up one continual shout of uproarious laughter

as he went rapidly forward, reading the signs on the shops, and observing the “ architecture ” of the new country into which he had dropped as if from the clouds. When the two arrived opposite the “ Old South Church ” Dickens screamed. To this day, Jack, I could never tell why. Was it, think you, because of its fancied resemblance to St. Paul’s or the Abbey? I declare to you the mystery of that shout is still a mystery to me ! If bell-handles had been noses during that rollicking ramble, what a quantity of Boston features would have been disturbed that night! Dickens seemed quite unable to keep his fingers off the inviting knobs that protruded from the doors as he went past, and he pulled them with such vigor that one actually came off in his hand. Up one street, down another, into alleys, through back yards, we saw the merry twain proceed. It was evident to us they had not the remotest suspicion how they were ever to find their way back to the Tremont House. Not a watchman was discoverable, and we felt it would be reserved for us to guide them back to their lodgings. About one o’clock they approached us and asked their way to the hotel. The Earl put the question to our party, and Dickens spoke never a word, but stood by beating his hands and feet for warmth, the night having grown fiercely cold. Delighted with our luck, we volunteered to pilot the lost pair to the Tremont, and only wished we had miles to walk back with them, instead of only a few blocks. When we got near the steps of the hotel, Dickens turned to one of our party, and asked, “ What is the punishment in this city when a person is detected in the act of pulling off a door-bell handle ? ” With admirable promptness, the lad looked him knowingly in the eye, and answered, “The heaviest possible, sir ; he is instantly deprived of his Pickwick ! ” Little did Dickens dream when he addressed us that the “ sweet wag ” was known, and that we might have shouted, “ D’ ye think we did n’t know ye ? We knew ye as well as he that made ye ! ” Years afterwards, when I recalled the incidents of that night to Dickens, he remembered them all most dearly and vividly, for his was a brain that had no leaks in it.

The great event of Boz’s first visit to Boston was the dinner of welcome tendered to him by the young men of the city. It is idle to attempt much talk about the banquet given on that Monday night in February, twenty-nine years ago. Papanti’s Hall (where you learned to dance, under the guidance of that master of legs, now happily still among us and pursuing the same highly useful calling which he practised in 1842) was the scene of that festivity. It was a glorious episode in all our lives, and whoever was not there has suffered a loss not easy to estimate. We younger members of that dinnerparty sat in the seventh heaven of happiness, and were translated into other spheres. Your uncle (accidentally of course) had a seat just in front of the honored guest ; saw him take a pinch of snuff out of Washington Allston’s box, and heard him joke with old President Quincy. Was there ever such a night before in our staid city ? Did ever mortal preside with such felicitous success as did Mr. Quincy, Jr. ? How he went on with his delicious compliments to our guest ! How he revelled in quotations from “ Pickwick ” and “Oliver Twist” and “The Curiosity Shop ” ! And how admirably he closed his speech of welcome, calling up the young author amid a perfect volley of applause ! “ Health, Happiness,

and a Hearty Welcome to Charles Dickens.” I can see and hear Mr. Quincy now, as he spoke the words. Were ever heard such cheers before? And when Dickens stood up at last to answer for himself, so fresh and so handsome, with his beautiful eyes moist with feeling, and his whole frame aglow with excitement, how we did hurrah, we young fellows ! Trust me, it was a great night ; and we must have made a mighty noise at our end of the table, for I remember frequent messages came down to us from the “ chair,” begging that we would hold up a little and moderate if possible the rapture of our applause.

After Dickens left Boston, he went on his American travels, gathering up materials, as he journeyed, for his “American Notes.” He was accompanied as far as New York by a very dear friend, to whom he afterwards addressed several most interesting letters. For that friend he always had the warmest enthusiasm ; and when he came the second time to America, there was no one of his old companions whom he missed more. I do not think we can spend the time better while we are together to-day, than by reading some of these letters written by Dickens nearly thirty years ago. The friend to whom they were addressed was also an intimate and dear associate of mine, and his children have kindly placed at my disposal the whole correspondence. Here is the first letter, time-stained, but preserved with religious care.

FULLER’S HOTEL, WASHINGTON, Monday, March 14, 1842.

MY DEAR FELTON: I was more delighted than I can possibly tell you to receive (last Saturday night) your welcome letter. We, and the oysters, missed you terribly in New York. You carried away with you more than half the delight and pleasure of my New World ; and I heartily wish you could bring it back again.

There are very interesting men in this place, — highly interesting, of course, — but it’s not a comfortable place; is it? If spittle could wait at table we should be nobly attended, but as that property has not been imparted to it in the present state of mechanical science, we are rather lonely and orphan-like, in respect of “ being looked arter.” A blithe black was introduced on our arrival, as our peculiar and especial attendant. He is the only gentleman in the town who has a peculiar delicacy in intruding upon my valuable time. It usually takes seven rings and a threatening message fromto produce him; and when he comes he goes to fetch something, and, forgetting it by the way, comes back no more.

We have been in great distress, really in distress, at the non-arrival of the Caledonia. You may conceive what our joy was, when, while we were dining out yesterday, H. arrived with the joyful intelligence of her safety. The very news of her having really arrived seemed to diminish the distance between ourselves and home, by one half at least.

And this morning (though we have not yet received our heap of despatches, for which we are looking eagerly forward to this night’s mail), — this morning there reached us unexpectedly, through the government bag (Heaven knows how they came there), two of our many and long-looked-for letters, wherein was a circumstantial account of the whole conduct and behavior of our pets ; with marvellous narrations of Charley’s precocity at a Twelfth Night juvenile party at Macready’s; and tremendous predictions of the governess, dimly suggesting his having got out of pot-hooks and hangers, and darkly insinuating the possibility of his writing us a letter before long ; and many other workings of the same prophetic spirit, in reference to him and his sisters, very gladdening to their mother’s heart, and not at all depressing to their father’s. There was also the doctor’s report, which was a clean bill ; and the nurse’s report, which was perfectly electrifying ; showing as it did how Master Walter had been weaned, and had cut a double tooth, and done many other extraordinary things, quite worthy of his high descent. In short, we were made very happy and grateful ; and felt as if the prodigal father and mother had got home again.

What do you think of this incendiary card being left at my door last night ? “ General G. sends compli-

ments to Mr. Dickens, and called with two literary ladies. As the two L. L.’s are ambitious of the honor of a personal introduction to Mr. D., General G. requests the honor of an appointment for to-morrow.” I draw a veil over my sufferings. They are sacred.

We have altered our route, and don’t mean to go to Charleston, for I want to see the West, and have taken it into my head that as I am not obliged to go to Charleston, and don’t exactly know why I should go there, I need do no violence to my own inclinations. My route is of Mr. Clay’s designing, and I think it a very good one. We go on Wednesday night to Richmond in Virginia. On Monday we return to Baltimore for two days. On Thursday morning we start for Pittsburg, and so go by the Ohio to Cincinnati, Louisville, Kentucky, Lexington, St. Louis ; and either down the Lakes to Buffalo, or back to Philadelphia, and by New York to that place, where we shall stay a week, and then make a hasty trip into Canada. We shall be in Buffalo, please Heaven, on the 30th of April. If I don't find a letter from you in the care of the postmaster at that place, I ’ll never write to you from England.

But if I do find one, my right hand shall forget its cunning, before I forget to be your truthful and constant correspondent ; not, dear Felton, because I promised it, nor because I have a natural tendency to correspond (which is far from being the case), nor because I am truly grateful to you for, and have been made truly proud by, that affectionate and elegant tribute which-

sent me, but because you are a man after my own heart, and I love you well. And for the love I bear you, and the pleasure with which I shall always think of you, and the glow I shall feel when I see your handwriting in my own home, I hereby enter into a solemn league and covenant to write as many letters to you as you write to me, at least. Amen.

Come to England ! Come to England ! Our oysters are small I know: they are said by Americans to be coppery, but our hearts are of the largest size. We are thought to excel in shrimps, to be far from despicable in point of lobsters, and in periwinkles are considered to challenge the universe. Our oysters, small though they be, are not devoid of the refreshing influence which that species of fish is supposed to exercise in these latitudes. Try them and compare.

Affectionately yours,

CHARLES DICKENS.

His next letter is dated from Niagara, and I know you will relish his allusion to oysters with wet feet, and his reference to the squeezing of a Quaker.

CLIFTON HOUSE, NIAGARA FALLS, 29th April, 1842.

MY DEAR FELTON : Before I go any farther, let me explain to you what these great enclosures portend, lest — supposing them part and parcel of my letter, and asking to be read — you shall fall into fits, from which recovery might be doubtful.

They are, as you will see, four copies of the same thing. The nature of the document you will discover at a glance. As I hoped and believed, the best of the British brotherhood took fire at my being attacked because I spoke my mind and theirs on the subject of an international copyright; and with all good speed and hearty private letters, transmitted to me this small parcel of gauntlets for immediate casting down.

Now, my first idea was, publicity being the object, to send one copy to you for a Boston newspaper, another to Bryant for his paper, a third to the New York Herald (because of its large circulation), and a fourth to a highly respectable journal at Washington (the property of a gentleman, and a fine fellow named Seaton, whom I knew there), which I think is called The Intelligencer. Then the Knickerbocker stepped into my mind, and then it occurred to me that possibly the North American Review might be the best organ after all, because indisputably the most respectable and honorable, and the most concerned in the rights of literature.

Whether to limit its publication to one journal, or to extend it to several, is a question so very difficult of decision to a stranger, that I have finally resolved to send these papers to you, and ask you (mindful of the conversation we had on this head one day, in that renowned oyster cellar) to resolve the point for me. You need feel no weighty sense of responsibility, my dear Felton, for whatever you do is sure to please me. If you see Sumner, take him into our councils. The only two things to be borne in mind are, first, that if they be published in several quarters, they must be published in all simultaneously ; secondly, that I hold them in trust, to put them before the people.

I fear this is imposing a heavy tax upon your friendship ; and I don’t fear it the less, by reason of being well assured that it is one you will most readily pay. I shall be in Montreal about the 11th of May. Will you write to me there, to the care of the Earl of Mulgrave, and tell me what you have done ?

So much for that. Bisness first, pleasure artervards, as King Richard the Third said ven he stabbed the tother king in the Tower, afore he murdered the babbies.

I have long suspected that oysters have a rheumatic tendency. Their feet are always wet; and so much damp company in a man’s inside cannot contribute to his peace. But whatever the cause of your indisposition, we are truly grieved and pained to hear of it, and should be more so, but that we hope from your account of that farewell dinner, that you are all right again. I did receive Longfellow’s note. Sumner I have not yet heard from ; for which reason I am constantly bringing telescopes to bear on the ferry-boat, in hopes to see him coming over, accompanied by a modest portmanteau.

To say anything about this wonderful place would be sheer nonsense. It far exceeds my most sanguine expectations, though the impression on my mind has been, from the first, nothing but beauty and peace. I have n’t drunk the water. Bearing in mind your caution, I have devoted myself to beer, whereof there is an exceedingly pretty fall in this house.

One of the noble hearts who sat for the Cheeryble Brothers is dead. If I had been in England, I would certainly have gone into mourning for the loss of such a glorious life. His brother is not expected to survive him. I am told that it appears from a memorandum found among the papers of the deceased, that in his lifetime he gave away in charity Ł600,000, or three millions of dollars !

What do you say to my acting at the Montreal Theatre ? I am an old hand at such matters, and am going to join the officers of the garrison in a public representation for the benefit of a local charity. We shall have a good house, they say. I am going to enact one Mr. Snobbington in a funny farce called A Good Night’s Rest. I shall want a flaxen wig and eyebrows ; and my nightly rest is broken by visions of there being no such commodities in Canada. I wake in the dead of night in a cold perspiration, surrounded by imaginary barbers, all denying the existence or possibility of obtaining such

articles. If - had a flaxen head, I

would certainly have it shaved, and get a wig and eyebrows out of him, for a small pecuniary compensation.

By the by, if you could only have seen the man at Harrisburg, crushing a friendly Quaker in the parlor door ! It was the greatest sight I ever saw. I had told him not to admit anybody whatever, forgetting that I had previously given this honest Quaker a special invitation to come. The Quaker would not be denied, and H. was stanch. When I came upon them, the Quaker was black in the face, and H. was administering the final squeeze. The Quaker was still rubbing his waistcoat with an expression of acute inward suffering, when I left the town. I have been looking for his death in the newspapers almost daily.

Do you know one General G. ? He is a weazen-faced warrior, and in his dotage. I had him for a fellow-passenger on board a steamboat. I had also a statistical colonel with me, outside the coach from Cincinnati to Columbus. A New England poet buzzed about me on the Ohio, like a gigantic bee. A mesmeric doctor, of an impossibly great age, gave me pamphlets at Louisville. I have suffered much, very much.

If I could get beyond New York to see anybody, it would be (as you know) to see you. But I do not expect to reach the “ Carlton ” until the last day of May, and then we are going with the Coldens somewhere on the banks of the North River for a couple of days. So you see we shall not have much leisure for our voyaging preparations.

You and Dr. Howe (to whom my love) MUST come to New York. On the 6th of June, you must engage yourselves to dine with us at the “ Carlton ” ; and if we don’t make a merry evening of it, the fault shall not be in us.

Mrs. Dickens unites with me in best regards to Mrs. Felton and your little daughter, and I am always, my dear Felton,

Affectionately your friend,

CHARLES DICKENS.

P. S. I saw a good deal of Walker at Cincinnati. I like him very much. We took to him mightily at first, because he resembled you in face and figure, we thought. You will be glad to hear that our news from home is cheering from first to last, all well, happy, and loving. My friend Forster says in his last letter that he “wants to know you,” and looks forward to Longfellow.

When Dickens arrived in Montreal he had, it seems, a busy time of it, and I have often heard of his capital acting in private theatricals while in that city.

MONTREAL,

Saturday, 21st May, 1842.

MY DEAR FELTON : — I was delighted to receive your letter yesterday, and was well pleased with its contents. I anticipated objection to Carlyle’s letter. I called particular attention to it for three reasons. Firstly, because he boldly said what all the others think, and therefore deserved to be manfully supported. Secondly, because it is my deliberate opinion that I have been assailed on this subject in a manner in which no man with any pretensions to public respect or with the remotest right to express an opinion on a subject of universal literary interest would be assailed in any other country.....

I really cannot sufficiently thank you, dear Felton, for your warm and hearty interest in these proceedings. But it would be idle to pursue that theme, so let it pass.

The wig and whiskers are in a state of the highest preservation. The play comes off next Wednesday night, the 25th. What would I give to see you in the front row of the centre box, your spectacles gleaming not unlike those of my dear friend Pickwick, your face radiant with as broad a grin as a staid professor may indulge in, and your very coat, waistcoat, and shoulders expressive of what we should take together when the performance was over ! I would give something (not so much, but still a good round sum) if you could only stumble into that very dark and dusty theatre in the daytime (at any minute between twelve and three), and see me with my coat off, the stage manager and universal director, urging impracticable ladies and impossible gentlemen on to the very confines of insanity, shouting and driving about, in my own person, to an extent which would justify any philanthropic stranger in clapping me into a strait-waistcoat without further inquiry, endeavoring to goad H. into some dim and faint understanding of a prompter’s duties, and struggling in such a vortex of noise, dirt, bustle, confusion, and inextricable entanglement of speech and action as you would grow giddy in contemplating. We perform A Roland for an Oliver, A Good Night’s Rest, and Deaf as a Post. This kind of voluntary hard labor used to be my great delight. The furor has come strong upon me again, and I begin to be once more of opinion that nature intended me for the lessee of a national theatre, and that pen, ink, and paper have spoiled a manager.

O, how I look forward across that rolling water to home and its small tenantry ! How I busy myself in thinking how my books look, and where the tables are, and in what positions the chairs stand relatively to the other furniture ; and whether we shall get there in the night, or in the morning, or in the afternoon ; and whether we shall be able to surprise them, or whether they will be too sharply looking out for us ; and what our pets will say; and how they’ll look ; and who will be the first to come and shake hands, and so forth ! If I could but tell you how I have set my heart on rushing into Forster’s study (he is my great friend, and writes at the bottom of all his letters, “ My love to Felton ”), and into Maclise’s painting-room, and into Macready’s managerial ditto, without a moment’s warning, and how I picture every little trait and circumstance of our arrival to myself, down to the vary color of the bow on the cook’s cap, you would almost think I had changed places with my eldest son, and was still in pantaloons of the thinnest texture. I left all these things — God only knows what a love I have for them — as coolly and calmly as any animated cucumber ; but when I come upon them again I shall have lost all power of self-restraint, and shall as certainly make a fool of myself (in the popular meaning of that expression) as ever Grimaldi did in his way, or George III. in his.

And not the less so, dear Felton, for having found some warm hearts, and left some instalments of earnest and sincere affection, behind me on this continent. And whenever I turn my mental telescope hitherward, trust me that one of the first figures it will descry will wear spectacles so like yours that the maker could n’t tell the difference, and shall address a Greek class in such an exact imitation of your voice, that the very students hearing it should cry, “That’s he ! Three cheers. Hooray-ay-ay-ay-ay ! ” About those joints of yours, I think you are mistaken. They can't be stiff. At the worst they merely want the air of New York, which, being impregnated with the flavor of last year’s oysters, has a surprising effect in rendering the human frame supple and flexible in all cases of rust.

A terrible idea occurred to me as I wrote those words. The oyster-cellars, — what do they do when oysters are not in season ? Is pickled Salmon vended there ? Do they sell crabs, shrimps, winkles, herrings ? The oyster-openers, — what do they do ? Do they commit suicide in despair, or wrench open tight drawers and cupboards and hermetically sealed bottles for practice? Perhaps they are dentists out of the oyster season. Who knows ?

Affectionately yours,

CHARLES DICKENS.

Dickens always greatly rejoiced in the theatre ; and, having seen him act with the Amateur Company of the Guild of Literature and Art, I can well imagine the delight his impersonations in Montreal must have occasioned. I have seen him play Sir Charles Coldstream, in the comedy of Used Up, with such perfection that all other performers in the same part have seemed dull by comparison. Even Matthews, superb artist as he is, could not rival Dickens in the character of Sir Charles. Once I saw Dickens, Mark Lemon, and Wilkie Collins on the stage together. The play was called Mrs. Nightingale’s Diary (a farce in one act, the joint production of Dickens and Mark Lemon), and Dickens played six characters in the piece. Never have I seen such wonderful changes of face and form as he gave us that night. He was alternately a rattling lawyer of the Middle Temple, a boots, an eccentric pedestrian and cold - water drinker, a deaf sexton, an invalid captain, and an old woman. What fun it was, to be sure, and how we roared over the performance! Here is the playbill which I held in my hand nineteen years ago, while the great writer was proving himself to be as pre-eminent an actor as he was an author. You will see by reading the bill that Dickens was manager of the company, and that it was under his direction that the plays were produced. See the clear evidence of his hand in the very wording of the bill: —

“ On Wednesday evening, September I, 1852,

“THE AMATEUR COMPANY

OF THE

GUILD OF LITERATURE AND ART ;

To encourage Life Assurance and other Provident Habits among Authors and Artists ; to render such assistance to both as shall never compromise their independence; and to found a new Institution where honorable rest from arduous labors shall still be associated with the discharge of congenial duties ;

“ Will have the honor of presenting,” etc., etc.

But let us go on with the letters. Here is the first one to his friend after Dickens arrived home again in England. It is delightful, through and through.

LONDON, I DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, YORK: GATE, REGENT’S PARK, Sunday, July 31, 1842.

MY DEAR FELTON : —Of all the monstrous and incalculable amount of occupation that ever beset one unfortunate man, mine has been the most stupendous since I came home. The dinners I have had to eat, the places I have had to go to, the letters I have had to answer, the sea of business and of pleasure in which I have been plunged, not even the genius of an -or the pen of a - could describe.

Wherefore I indite a monstrously short and wildly uninteresting epistle to the American Dando ; but perhaps you don’t know who Dando was. He was an oyster-eater, my dear Felton. He used to go into oyster-shops, without a farthing of money, and stand at the counter eating natives, until the man who opened them grew pale, cast down his knife, staggered backward, struck his white forehead with his open hand, and cried, “ You are Dando ! ! ! ” He has been known to eat twenty dozen at one sitting, and would have eaten forty, if the truth had not flashed upon the shopkeeper. For these offences he was constantly committed to the House of Correction. During his last imprisonment he was taken ill, got worse and worse, and at last began knocking violent double-knocks at Death’s door. The doctor stood beside his bed, with his fingers on his pulse. “ He is going,” says the doctor. “I see it in his eye. There is only one thing that would keep life in him for another hour, and that is — oysters.” They were immediately brought. Dando swallowed eight, and feebly took a ninth. He held it in his mouth and looked round the bed strangely. “ Not a bad one, is it?” says the doctor. The patient shook his head, rubbed his trembling hand upon his stomach, bolted the oyster, and fell back — dead. They buried him in the prison yard, and paved his grave with oyster-shells.

We are all well and hearty, and have already begun to wonder what time next year you and Mrs. Felton and Dr. Howe will come across the briny sea together. To-morrow we go to the seaside for two months. I am looking out for news of Longfellow, and shall be delighted when I know that he is on his way to London and this house.

I am bent upon striking at the piratical newspapers with the sharpest edge I can put upon my small axe, and hope in the next session of Parliament to stop their entrance into Canada. For the first time within the memory of man, the professors of English literature seem disposed to act together on this question. It is a good thing to aggravate a scoundrel, if one can do nothing else, and I think we can make them smart a little in this way.....

I wish you had been at Greenwich the other day, where a party of friends gave me a private dinner; public ones I have refused. C. was perfectly wild at the reunion, and, after singing all manner of marine songs, wound up the entertainment by coming home (six miles) in a little open phaeton of mine, on his head, to the mingled delight and indignation of the metropolitan police. We were very jovial indeed ; and I assure you that I drank your health with fearful vigor and energy.

On board that ship coming home I established a club, called the United Vagabonds, to the large amusement of the rest of the passengers. This holy brotherhood committed all kinds of absurdities, and dined always, with a variety of solemn forms, at one end of the table, below the mast, away from all the rest. The captain being ill when we were three or four days out,

I produced my medicine-chest and recovered him. We had a few more sick men after that, and 1 went round “ the wards ” every day in great state, accompanied by two Vagabonds, habited as Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer, bearing enormous rolls of plaster and huge pairs of scissors. We were really very merry all the way, breakfasted in one party at Liverpool, shook hands, and parted most cordially.....

Affectionately

Your faithful friend,

C. D.

P. S. I have looked over my journal, and have decided to produce my American trip in two volumes. I have written about half the first since I came home, and hope to be out in October. This is “exclusive news,” to be communicated to any friends to whom you may like to intrust it, my dear F.

What a capital epistolary pen Dickens held ! He seems never to have written the shortest note without something piquant in it ; and when he attempted a letter, he always made it entertaining from sheer force of habit. Let us read another batch of his charming missives next month.