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best of my recollection, I have not had more than three numbers-certainly not more than four, But I knew how busy you must be, and had no expectation of hearing from you until I wrote from Paris (as I intended doing), and implored you to come and make merry with us there. I am truly pleased to receive your good account of that enterprise.I have had great success again in magnetism. Em , who has been with us for a week or so, holds my magnetic powers in great veneration, and I really think they are, by some conjunction of chances, strong. Let them, or something else, hold you to me by the heart.”
“The Battle of Life (a Love Story)" was the Christmas book referred to in the beginning of the foregoing letter. Messrs. Bradbury and Evans were the publishers, and Maclise, Leech, Stanfield, and Doyle the illustrators. It was a great favourite, and enjoyed considerable popularity, on account of its poetical tendency.
Clemency Newcome is a spiritedly drawn and well-conceived character, as are Messrs. Snitchley and Craggs, the solicitors, Dr. Jeddler, his daughters, Heathfield, and Michael Warden, they all displaying considerable care and painstaking in their treatment. Benjamin Britain, sometimes called Little Britain, to distinguish him from Great, is an oddity. He expresses himself in a conversation to this effect :"I don't know anything, I don't care for anything, I don't make out anything, I don't believe anything, and I don't want anything.”
The Lyceum reopened on the 21st December, with a dramatic version of the story by Albert Smith -Clemency Newcome sustained by Mrs. Keeley ; Benjamin Britain, by Mr. Keeley; Alfred Heathfield, Leigh Murray; and Doctor Jeddler, Mr. Frank Matthews. At Astley's Theatre, in March, 1867, a clever adaptation was performed, and ran a considerable time,
TROM Paris, early in 1847, our author writes
to Lady Blessington, describing his visit to A Victor Hugo, then residing in the French capital. Twelve months after this, the great French novelist had to fly. The coup d'état brought about a new order of things :
“We were (writes Dickens) at V. H.'s house last Sunday week—a most extraordinary place, something like an old curiosity shop, or the property-room of some gloomy, vast old theatre. I was much struck by H. himself, who looks like a genius—he is, every inch of him, and is very interesting and satisfactory from head to foot. His wife is a handsome woman, with flashing black eyes. There is also a charming ditto daughter, of fifteen or sixteen, with ditto eyes. Sitting among old armour and old tapestry, and old coffers, and grim old chairs and tables, and old canopies of state from old palaces, and old golden lions going to play at skittles with ponderous old golden balls, that made a most romantic show, and
looked like a chapter out of one of his own books."
The letter is most interesting in a double sense. It shows us Victor Hugo's tastes in decoration, and those objects in his house upon which his eye would continually rest, and which would help to form drapery and literary illustration for his fictions; and it shows us in an oblique manner what were Dickens's notions in these matters, and the sympathy—if any–in such surroundings, between the two men.
During this year an announcement appeared that Shakspeare's house at Stratford-upon-Avon was to be sold. A public meeting was held, and a committee organized. By subscriptions, and a grand performance at Covent Garden Theatre, on 7th December
-all the principal actors and actresses taking part therein-and readings by Macready, prior to his retirement, a sufficient sum (£3,000) was realized.
To provide for the proper care and custody of the house and its relics, a series of amateur entertainments were given. Messrs. Charles Knight, Peter Cunningham, and John Payne Collier were the Directors of the General Management, and Dickens the Stage Manager.
The first performance took place at the Haymarket Theatre on May 15, 1848, the play selected being “The Merry Wives of Windsor," with the following cast :
Sir John Falstaff
Mr. Mark Lemon. Fenton ...
Mr. Charles Romer. Shallow
Mr. Charles Dickens. Slender...
Mr. John Lecch. Mr. Ford
Mr. Forster. Mr. Page
Mr. Frank Stonc. Sir Hugh Evans
Mr. G. H. Lewes. Dr. Caius
Mr. Dudley Costello. Host of the Garter Inn
Mr. Fredk. Dickens. Bardolph
Mr. Cole. Pistol
Mr. Geo. Cruikshank. Nym ...
Mr. Augustus Dickens. Robin ...
Miss Robins. Simple ...
Mr. Augustus Egg. Rugby ...
Mr. Eaton. Mrs. Ford
Miss Fortesque. Mrs. Page
Miss Kenworthy. Mrs. Anne Page
Miss Anne Romer. Mrs. Quickly ... ... ... Mrs. Cowden Clarke.
Towards the close of the year 1847 he was invited by the good people of Leeds to attend a soirée at their Mechanics’ Institution.* One clause of his speech was in his most characteristic manner. He is speaking of a class of politicians who object to educate the lower orders any more than up to a certain point, because “Knowledge is power” :
"I never heard but one tangible position taken against educational establishments for the people, and that was, that in this or that instance, or in these or those instances, education for the people has failed. And I have never traced even this to its source but I have found that the term education, so
* December, 1847.