ALs to David C. Colden

Charles Dickens
ALs to David C. Colden

Item Info

Item No: cdc283401
Title: ALs to David C. Colden
Accession Number: 87-216
Physical Description: [4] pages

  Fuller's Hotel Washington I March The Tenth 1842
My Dear Colden.
  We reached this place safely last night: having sustained no more damage by the way, than the prescence of a miraculously fractious child in the railroad Car from Philadelphia to Baltimore; who, leaving us at the last-named place, was relieved by another child in the same frame of mind,-in whose cheerful company we arrived here. He (it was a boy) set in so very heavily at Baltimore that I thought it impossible he could last; especially as his friends tempted him from time to time with a tin mug of milk and water, and other refreshment, from a basket. But contrary to my expectations, he cried the whole forty miles through; and when he was taken out at the station, the crown of his head was covered with crimson pimples-the consequence of his supernatural exertion.
  We were very comfortably lodged at Philadelphia-and indeed we deserved to be; for the landlord not only charged us half rent for the rooms during the time he had expected us (which was quite right) but charged us also-when I say us, I mean Kate, her maid, and I -  for board during the whole of the same period. As I could not help regarding the statement that he had paid for our food while we were paying for it at New York, in the light of a pleasant fiction, or ingenious jest, I did suggest through my factotum the slightest possble insinuation to that effect. It appeared, however, that it was "the custom"; and as strangers in Rome do as they do in Rome, I bowed to the custom, and paid.
  I passed a whole day in the Penitentiary - where, as you know, the principle of Solitary confinement is observed, in the strictest manner, in every case. It is inexpressibly painful to see so many of the prisoners as I did, and to converse with them; but I fear that to a certain extent the system is a good one. I use the expression "I fear", because it is dreadful to believe that it is ever necessary to impose such a torture of the mind upon our fellow creatures. But it seems, from all one can learn, to do good: - and now and then to effect that reclamation which gives joy in heaven. In the case of a very long term of imprisonment, however, I cannot but think it cruel, though I know it is mercifully and well intended. One man had been shut up by himself in the same Cell, for nearly twelve years. His time is just expiring. I asked him how he felt at the prospect of release, - and he answered - plucking in a strange way at his fingers, and looking restlessly about the walls and floor - that he didn't care; that it was all the same to him how; that he had looked forward to it once, but that was so long ago, that he had come to have no regard for anything. And so, with a heavy sigh, he went about his work, and would say no more. We are accustomed to hear it said sometimes that such a person must have felt in a minute, a year of suffering. But if ever twelve years of the most intense mental anguish were written in the small compass of one face, I saw it in this prisoner's. Indeed the men, however unlike naturally, become alike, and strikingly alike, in this place. There is the same bright eye, and haggard look, in them all; and an indescribable something - distantly resembling the attentive and sorrowful expression you see in the blind - which is never to be forgotten. The women bear it better, and acquire a patient and subdued look, that makes you very sad, but not distressingly so. Each of them seems a better creature than one feel's one's-self to be, and that's a comfort. The prison is beautifully - exquisitely - kept, and thoroughly well managed; but I never in my life was more affected by anything which was not strictly my own grief, than I was by this sight. It will live in my recollection always. When I come to tell you something of my brief experience there, you will often think of it too.
 We have been to both Houses of the Legislature to-day, and have seen many of the Lions, both living and stuffed. I think of going every day while I remain here.
  I went to the Presidents, too, this morning, in company of a namesake who is Secretary to the Senate. He has a good face, (I mean the President) and his manners are very mild and gentlemanly. He expressed great surprise at my being so young. I would have returned the compliment; but he looked so jaded, that is stuck in my throat like Macbeth's amen.
  Some twenty gentlemen were waiting in a lower room, for audiences. There is no denying that they did expectorate considerably. They wrought a complete change in the pattern of the carpet, even while I was there. - Before I forget it, let me ask you at what annual salary in Dollars, would you hold that office? Would you do it cheap - or dear?
  We start for Charleston on Wednesday next. In the meanwhile if any news should reach you of the poor Caledonia, or our letters, I need not say how glad we shall be to recive it; or how happy we shall be to hear from you at all times and seasons. Those very small darlings we have left behind, hold Giants' places in our hearts; and that's the reason I suppose, why they are always full when we think of home.
  We meant to wait at Charleston for other letters you will send us, and which are now upon their way to you in the March Steamer from Liverpool. As we shall make no halt to speak of, between this place and Charleston, will you write to us, after we move from here at


Our route after that - whether it shall be back to New York, and so into Canada, or back to Baltimore, or back to Philadelphia, and thence to Pittsburgh and thereabout - I have not decided. But from Charleston, I will write to you again when I have received your packet there; with full and particular details.
  God Bless you. Give our united loves to Mrs. Colden and to Mrs. Wilkes, and to "Mrs. S", and Doctor Wilkes, and all friends - not forgetting the dear children and Nela Gibbs, to whom I beg my especial regards. We often talk of you and yours, and devoulty wsh you lived at Charleston as well as New York, and could be there when we are. But if our wishes could take effect, you would have Jactars in roving, so it's well they are nothing but affectionate breath. Ever my dear Colden
  Faithfully Your friend
  Charles Dickens 

MssDate: March The Tenth 1842
Media Type: Letters
Source: Rare Book Department
Recipient: Colden, David C.
Provenance: Hamilton 1960, Matlack


The Letters of Charles Dickens, Pilgrim Edition, Volume Three, 1842-1843, p. 109.

Country: Country:United States of America
City/Town/Township:Washington DC
Creation Place Note:Fuller's Hotel

Call Number: DL C673d 1842-03-10
Creator Name: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870 - Author

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