Saturday, August 16, 2008

the railways shake me

Charles Dickens to W. Wilkie Collins

Office, Tuesday, Twelfth February, 1867.

My dear Wilkie,
Coming back here yesterday I found your letter awaiting me.
Owing to my heavy engagements I have not read Charles Reade's last book, but I will take it away with me to-morrow, and do so at once. If the trial should come off in this present month, however, I cannot be a witness; for I go to Scotland to-morrow, and come back for only one night at St. James's Hall before going to Ireland. The public announcements are all made, and heavy expenses are incurred by Chappell, wherefore I must be producible, in common honor. But I hope the action may not be tried so soon. I do not agree with the legal authorities, and I rather doubt Cockburn's allowing such evidence to be given on the ground that the onus probandi lies with the reviewer, and that it is not disproof that is required--but this is beside the question. Say everything that is brotherly in art from me to Reade, and add that I will write to you again after having got through the story.

I am as fresh as can possibly be expected under the work of the Readings. But the railways shake me, as witness my present handwriting. Since the Staplehurst experience I feel them very much.

This day fortnight I shall be at St. James's Hall in the evening, and perhaps we can then have a word together--unless you are in Paris by that time.
Ever affec'ly, C. D.

[Notes: Dickens's Readings in England for a number of years were under the management of the Messrs. Chappell, of Bond Street, London. They paid all of his expenses, and gave him at first 5o pounds a night, later 60, and finally 80, and in two years they paid him 13,000 pounds, besides the 20,000 pounds he made in America. Dickens was a passenger on the train that derailed at Staplehurst, June 9, 1865, with great loss of life; he never fully recovered from the shock to his nerves, and, strangely enough, he died on the 9th of June, five years later. Griffith Gaunt, first published in 1866, excited no little adverse criticism on both sides of the Atlantic--criticism which inspired The Prurient Prude, one of Charles Reade's most characteristic performances. Dickens was not called upon to testify in public concerning his views of the novel, but Reade brought suit for libel against the proprietors of The Round Table, an American publication, and by an intelligent jury of his peers he was awarded pecuniary damages to the amount of six American cents.]

-from the Letters of Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins edited by Laurence Hutton (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891) p. 136-38.

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