Item No: cdc401801
Title: ALs to Madame de la Rue
Devonshire Terrace, Saturday Twenty Seventh September 1845.
My Dearest Madame De la Rue. I received your letter last Monday Morning, when I was still in a whirl from the uproar of Saturday Night. But I expected it fully – had half expected it, indeed, on Saturday – and went down to the Theatre after post-time on Saturday Morning, a little disappointed by its non-arrival. So you see that occupation only makes this difference in me – I am rather damped for the time being, if you are not, in some sort, a sharer in it.
Good Heaven how I wish you could have been there! It really was a brilliant sight. The audience so distinguished for one thing or another – every one so elegantly dressed – all in such a state of excitement and expectation. As to the acting, modesty forbids me to say more than that it has been the town talk ever since. I have known nothing short of a Murder, to make such a noise before. We are overwhelmed with invitations, applications, petitions, and Memorials, for a repetition of the Performance; and on the night it was as much as we could do, with a strong body of Police, to keep the doors from being carried by force. It got into the Papers, notwithstanding all our precautions; and I sent you a Times the other day, with some account of the proceedings. I hope it reached you, safely.
We numbered every seat in the House; and assigned each by lot. I am afraid Miss Holskamp (whose brother and sister I invited also) had a bad place; for it was in the upper boxes, and looked down, rather awkwardly, upon the stage. I have not seen her since, but I hope she either has given, or will give you, some account of the Evening. The Duke of Devonshire travelled a couple of hundred miles, in one direction, to be present; and Alfred Tennyson (our friend) travelled a couple of hundred miles in another. So the attraction spread itself to all sorts and conditions of men. We newly-painted all the scenery; newly-carpentered all the Machinery; had the dresses (they were bright colors, you may be sure, to please my Managerial eye) made expressly, from old pictures; and worked away at it, rehearsing and re-rehearsing, night after night and day after day, as if it were the whole business of our lives. But I have always had a misgiving in my inmost heart, that I was born to be the Manager of a Theatre. And now, I am quite sure of it. I send you a bill, as a little Curiosity. There are whispers of Gold Snuff-boxes for the indefatigable Manager, from the Performers – Hem!
And Gaberel is going to be married at last!!! I am glad of it. Though I find that native obstinacy of yours, in full force on the subject, still! I don’t think he is exactly the man to fall in love with – I agree with you there. But there is a vulgar saying in England “Wot’s the odds so long as you’re happy!” And perhaps the Bride elect, starts from that point, and adopts that line of argument. When I think of the possible consequences – of little gaspers like Papa – or apple-faced maniacs like Grandpapa – a chill runs through my blood. It is a dreadful thought.
Ridgway came in the other night (last Thursday) with his hair still crisp with yolk of egg, and his tongue still glib on the theme of certain Counts and Countesses who have been visiting his Cook – himself I should say – at the Lake of Como. He dines here, next Wednesday; and contemplates a three weeks’ stay in London. I heard from Walton the other day (do you remember an evening of intoxicating and rapturous excitement, we once passed at Carrara?) who tells me he has been nearly married, and “is not out of danger yet”. Una bellissima Signora, he adds – and underlines it, a great many times.
If the Champion has the benefit of my good wishes, you will never get that box; for she will certainly go down in some deep water. Confound her tardy, lagging, miserable pace! I never was so vexed as by the loss of that first Steamer; for your impatience to receive the box, is nothing to that with which I burn to know that you have got it. Tell De la Rue that I will write to him immediately after the receipt of that mysterious package, which I will open in this Study of mine, with my own careful hands. You have made me desperately anxious to know what on earth it can contain. Whatever it be, as a remembrance from him, it will be very precious to me.
As to the Examiner, I have risen into the Seventh Heaven of indignant wonder, since I learnt from you, that it has ever miscarried. It has always been sent. Do not fail to let me know, if it should ever fail again. For in that case I will bestow a little of my superfluous indignation on the General Post office. The Examiner reminds me of Forster, who is quite well, and played admirably the other night – though he imitated Macready too much. I suspect Macready thought so; and would have been better pleased, if the resemblance had been less near. Talking of him, reminds me of Maclise, who is exactly in his old state; from which he has in nothing, made any departure, except in being so nervous when the Overture to the Comedy was playing, the other night, that he turned a dreadful white, and had nearly fainted away. Georgy is very well, and takes long country walks with me. She is quite happy, I think. And I have left that matter where it was; trusting to its wearing itself out, on her part, in due course.
The affair at Manchester is on the Twenty Third of October. I suppose there will be an audience of some Two Thousand people. I will look into the local papers, and send you the best report I see. I have been much solicited to go to Sheffield at the same time, and to Birmingham; and have had other public receptions tendered to me, both in the Country and in London. But I have declined them; firstly, because I would rather be quiet; and secondly because I am now composing myself to write my little Christmas book. I shall be actually at work upon it, I hope, when you receive this; and for a month afterwards, most likely. Christmas turned, you will see me, in the bloom of Print again, pretty often.
I have forgotten to say in its right place that I took the glass you gave me, to the Theatre, in my Portmanteau of Costumes; and drank a bottle of old Sherry from it, in my dressing-Room, at divers fatiguing periods of the Evening. And I drank to you, in a great black wig, and with a peaked beard and black moustache- all stuck on, singly, by the individual hair! I had a dresser from one of the large Theatres to do it; and I never was so much astonished in my life as at the time it took. After I was beaten, I had all this taken off (an idea of my own) and put on lank and straight – the moustache, which had curled up towards the eyes, turned drooping down – and every hair dishevelled. You never saw such a Devil. But I wore real armour on my throat and breast; and most enormous boots and spurs – and looked like an old Spanish Portrait, I assure you. Maclise is going to paint the figure, as an ideal one; and I have sat to him already, in the Dress. I am constantly reverting to this Play, I find; but only because I know you will like to hear whatever I happen to remember about it. It is not unlikely we may act again – some other play – at Christmas. Mr. Lemon, the Editor of Punch, who played Brainworm in the Comedy, and acted with me in the Farce, is an excellent actor. But everybody’s understanding of what he was about, and what the author meant, was truly interesting in a very high degree.
Dear Madame De la Rue, I didn’t wear the slippers! I couldn’t find it in my heart to drag them through the dirt and destruction of a Theatre. Here they are, every morning on the rug – giving me as great a start, sometimes, when they catch my eye, as the footprint on the sand caused Robinson Crusoe – and carrying me back to Genoa at a greater pace than ever seven-league boots went. I have a new picture of the Peschiere; painted by a friend of my brother’s who came to see us there; and very well done. It hangs upon the staircase, just outside my bedroom door. The last thing at night, and the first thing in the morning, I see the Peschiere – and all day long, besides; for there is another in my room here. What would I give to see you, too! I carry you about with me in the shape of a Purse; and though that pocket is in a very tender place – breast pocket – left hand side – I carry you about in tenderer places still, in your own image which will never fade or change to me, come what may. Ever Yours affecy. CD.
P.S. Children at home and thriving. All well. Kate and Georgy send their loves. Both “going” to write.
Saturday Twenty Seventh September 1845
Rare Book Department
DelaRue, Augusta Granet, d.1887
Purchased through Sessler, 2/55, Matlack Fund.
Volume 4, pp. 387-391, The Letters of Charles Dickens, edited by Madeline House & Graham Storey ; associate editors, W.J. Carlton … [et al.].
Creation Place Note:Devonshire Terrace
DL D375 1845-09-27
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870 - Author
- Devonshire Terrace
- Maclise, Daniel, 1806-1870
- Amateur theater
- Lemon, Mark, 1809-1870
- Macready, William Charles, 1793-1873
- Forster, John, 1812-1876
- DelaRue, Augusta Granet, d. 1887
- Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson, Baron, 1809-1892