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The Royal party paid the deepest attention to the progress of the play, Her Majesty frequently leading the applause. And when the curtain fell upon the three hours' triumph, Her Majesty rose in her box, and by the most cordial demonstration of approval, “commanded” (for such may be the word) the reappearance of all the actors, again to receive the Royal approval of their efforts. Nor did the Queen and Prince merely bestow applause. Her Majesty took seventeen places for herself, visitors, and suite; and, further, as a joint contribution of herself and the Prince, headed the list of subscriptions with £150, making the sum total of £225. It is said that the receipts of the night exceeded £ 1,000. Another representation at Devonshire House took place on the following Tuesday, the admission being £2. The farce written for the occasion, called “Mrs. Nightingale's Diary," was performed, and Charles Dickens and Mark Lemon sustained the principal characters. A critic at the time remarked, “Both these gentlemen are admirable actors. It is by no means amateur playing with them. Dickens seizes the strong points of a character, bringing them out as effectively upon the stage as his pen undyingly marks them upon paper. Lemon has all the ease of a finished performer, with a capital relish for comedy and broad farce.”
For the representations in the provinces a portable theatre was constructed, Messrs. Clarkson Stanfield, David Roberts, Grieve, and others, painting the
enes, &c., which are said to have been very beautiful. The funds raised were unfortunately, by a flaw in the act of parliament, unintentionally tied up for a number of years, but on Saturday, July 29th, 1865, the surviving members of the Fund proceeded to the neighbourhood of Stevenage, near the magnificent seat of the president, Lord Lytton, to inspect three houses built in the gothic style on the ground given by him for that purpose. An enterprising publican in the vicinity had just previously opened his establishment, which bore the very appropriate sign of “Our Mutual Friend”—Mr. Dickens's then latest work-and caused considerable merriment.
So popular had Mr. Dickens become in the character of president or chairman at the anniversaries of benevolent societies, that the gardeners begged him to officiate for them at their dinner and meeting of the “Gardeners' Benevolent Institution.” The affair came off on the 14th June, 1852, at the London Tavern. The splendid display of flowers was the result of a very hearty combination of the very best efforts of the best gardeners, and Mr. Dickens (to use his own phrase) “ burst into bloom” upon the culture of flowers and fruits in such a way as to astonish his auditory.
The Household Words Christmas number for 1852 was entitled “A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire,” told by A Poor Relation-A Child—Somebody -An Old Nurse—The “ Boots”-A GrandfatherA Charwoman-A Deaf Playmate-A Guest—and A Mother.
FRW0 years had now elapsed since the coni
pletion of “ David Copperfield,” and a new
novel was announced, to appear in the old familiar serial form, under the title of “Bleak House." It is not generally known, we believe, that the name “Bleak House” was taken from that tall, solitary brick house which stands away from the others, and rising far above them, at Broadstairsthe house where for one, if not for two seasons, Mr. Dickens resided. This charming little town was for many years Mr. Dickens's favourite seaside resortin fact, “Our Watering Place,” as he called it in an article in Housckold lords some years since. The house in question is a square sullen structure-hard and bleak, and of course it is now one of the lions of the place, the guide-books and local photographers setting great store by it. Just below Bleak House, on the point that runs out to form the harbour, is the Tartar Frigate, the cosiest little sailor's inn, selling the strongest of tobacco, and the strongest-smelling rum
that is to be met with around the coast. Close by is a rope-house, decorated with wonderful figure-heads, each having a wild story of shipwreck to tell. As you pass the little Tartar Frigate, with its red blinds and little door, you know what are the sounds that are to be heard there any night during the winter. The very walls must have long ago learnt “Tom Bowling” and the “Bay of Biscay” by heart, and would now be very thankful for a fresh song. Dickens knew the little inn very well, and, under the title of “The Tartar Frigate," he gave in Household Words, some years since, an admirable description of this little town with a tiny harbour. The great novelist was fond of genuine sailors — the hardy, goodtempered fellows of Deal and Broadstairs—brave as lions, and guileless as children; and it was to his being so much in their company that he doubtless owed his sailor look. Mr. Arthur Locker, whose recollections we have before quoted, saw him only a few weeks before his death, when he was “struck by his sailor-like aspect-a peculiarity observed by many other persons. Yet, except his two voyages to America, he had not been much on the sea, and was not, I believe, a particularly good sailor. But we all know his sympathy for seamen, and I think, without being fanciful, that his nautical air may in part be attributed to early Portsmouth associations."
“Bleak House” ran through its course of numbers, and appeared in a complete form in August of the following year :
The work was directed with considerable effect against the Court of Chancery. Lawyers and others were loud in their complaints at the way in which their favourite Court had been assailed; but the majority of legal readers, whether then or even now practising, or connected in any shape or way with the Court in question-or even only as unfortunate suitors --can testify as to the enormous waste of time, and the costly procedure therein. Matters have, of late years, somewhat improved, but a great deal yet remains to be remedied.
The author, in his preface, took the opportunity of defending himself from the remarks made upon the supposititious suit of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce,* and Krook's death by spontaneous combustion. The latter incident excited much controversy at the time,
* Suggested, it is believed, by the celebrated case of the Jennings' property. Dickens had previously brought an antagonist upon himself in the person of Sir Edward Sugden (now Lord St. Leonards), in consequence of an article in Household Ilords, headed " Martyrs in Chancery,” on the offence of Contempt of Court, and replied to by the above eminent lawyer, in a letter to the Times (7th January, 1851), giving a true version of the case therein referred to.