[Boston—Wednesday, 8 January 1868]

Wednesday January 8th 12. A.M.

I take up the pen again having bade our guest a most unwilling farewell. Last night he read “Copperfield” & the “Trial from Pickwick.” It was an enormous house packed in every extremity, receipts in gold about five hundred and ten pounds!!

He was pleased, naturally, & read marvellously well even for him. He was somewhat excited & a good deal tired when he returned & in spite of a light supper and stiff glass of punch which usually contains soporific qualities he could not sleep until near morning. He has been in the best of spirits during this visit—when he came down stairs last night to take a cup of coffee before leaving, he turned to J. saying—“The hour has almost come when I to sulphurous & tormenting “gas” must render up myself!!” He has been afflicted with catarrh which comes & goes & distracts him with a buzzing in his head. It usually leaves him for the two reading hours. This is convenient but it probably returns with worse force afterward.

Sunday night dinner went off brilliantly. Longfellow, Appleton, Mr & Mrs Thaxter came to meet “the chief” & ourselves. Unfortunately there was one empty seat which Rowse, the artist, had promised to fill but was ill at the last & could not—curiously enough we had asked Osgood, Miss Putnam & Mr. Gay besides, all kept away by accident when they would have given their eyes to come. In the course of the day he had been to see (with O.W.H.) the ground of the Parkman murder wh. has lately been so clearly described by Sir Emerson Tennent in “All the Year Round”; in the evening the talk turned naturally enough that way when after much surmise with regard to the previous life of the man Mr. Longfellow looked up and with an assured clear tone said—“now I have a story to tell! A year or two before this event took place Dr. Webster invited a party of gentlemen to a dinner at his house, I believe to meet some foreigner who was interested in science. The Dr. himself was a chemist and after dinner he had a large bowl placed in the center of the table with some chemical mixture in it which he set on fire after turning the lamp low. A lurid light came from the bowl which caused a livid look upon the faces of those who sat round the table & while all were observing the ghastly effect, Dr. Webster rose & pulling a bit of rope from somewhere about his person put it around his neck, reached his head over the bowl to heighten the effect, having it on one side & lolled his tongue out to give the appearance of a man who had been hanged!!!

The whole scene was terrible & ghastly in the extreme & remembered in the light of what followed had a prescience frightful to contemplate.”

Appleton did not talk as much as usual & we were rather glad but Mrs. Thaxter’s story took strong hold on Dickens’s fancy & he told me afterward that when he awaked in the night he thought of her. I have seldom sat at dinner with a gentleman more careful and fine in his choice & taste of food & drink than C.D. The idea of his ever passing the bounds of temperance is an absurdity not to be thought of for a moment. In that respect he is quite unlike Mr. Thackeray who at times both ate and drank inordinately & without doubt shortened his life by his carelessness in these particulars.

John Forster, C.D.’s old friend is quite ill with gout and some other ails, so C.D. writes him long letters full of his experiences. We breakfast at half past nine punctually, he on a rasher of bacon & an egg and a cup of tea, always preferring this same thing. Afterward we talk or play with the sewing machine or anything else new & odd to him. Then he sits down to write until one o’clk when he likes a glass of wine & biscuit & afterward goes to walk until nearly four when we dine. After dinner, reading days, he will take a cup of strong coffee, a tiny glass of brandy & a cigar & likes to lie down for a short time to get his voice in order. His man then takes a portmanteau of clothes to the reading hall where he dresses for the evening.

Upon our return we always have supper & he brews a marvellous punch which usually makes us all sleep like tops after the excitement. The perfect kindliness & sympathy which radiates from the man is after all the secret never to be told but always to be studied & to thank God for. His rapid eyes which nothing can escape, eyes which when he first appears upon the stage seem to interrogate the lamps and all things above & below (like exclamation points Aldrich says) are unlike anything before in our experience. There are no living eyes like them, swift and kind, possessing none of the bliss of ignorance but the different bliss of one who sees what the Lord has done & what or something of what he intends. Such charity! Poor man! He must have learned great need for that.

He told J. yesterday in walking that nine out of ten of the cases of disagreement in marriage came from drink he believed. He is a man who has suffered evidently. Georgina Hogarth he always speaks of in the most affectionate terms, such as “she has been a mother to my children,” “she keeps the list of the wine cellar and every few days examines to see what we are now in want of.”

I hardly know anything more amusing than when he begs not to be “set a going” on one of his readings by a quotation or otherwise & odd enough to hear him go on having been so touched off. He has been a great student of Shakspeare which appears often in his talk. His love of the theatre is something which never pales he says, and the people who go upon the stage, however poor their pay or hard their lot, love it he thinks too well ever to adopt another vocation of their free will. One of the oddest sights a green room presents he says is when they are collecting children for a pantomime. For this purpose the prompter calls together all the women in the ballet and begins giving out their names in order, while they pass about him, eager for the chance of increasing their poor pay by the extra pittance their children will receive. “Mrs Johnson, how many” “2 Sir” “What ages” “7 & 10” “Mrs B—” & so on until the requisite number is made up. He says where one member of a family obtains regular employment at the theatre, others are sure to come in after a time; the mother will be in the wardrobe, children in pantomime, elder sisters in the ballet, etc.

When we asked him to return to us he said he must be loyal to “the show” & having three or four men with him, ought to be at an hotel where he could attend properly to the business. He never forgets the needs of those who are dependant upon him, is liberal to his servants (and to ours also) and liberal in his heart to all sorts and conditions of men.

I have one deeply seated hope, that he will read for the Freed people before he leaves the country and I cannot help thinking he will.

Now that we are once more by ourselves I read every morning or write a bit & go out soon after one P.M. accomplishing a visit or two & a fine walk & returning in season to have an hour before dinner and watch the sunset. The days are resplendently beautiful and are so full of joy to me with my beloved near & so many blessings that I continually look about thinking how I can help somebody with such a lever of happiness as my own is strengthened with. I fear I don’t make out very well but shall try to be ready.

Saw William Greene & his wife & daughter today.


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