[New York City—Sunday, 19 April 1868]

Sunday April 19th Last night the great New York Press Dinner came off. It was a close squeeze with Mr. Dickens to get there at all. He had been taken lame the night before his foot becoming badly swollen and painful. In spite of a skilful physician he grew worse and worse every hour and when the time for the dinner arrived he was unable to bear any thing upon his foot. So long as he was above ground however it was a necessity he should go and an hour & a half after the time appointed with his foot sewed up in black silk he made his way to Delmonico’s. Poor man! Nothing could be more unfortunate but he bore this difficult part off in a stately and composed manner as if it were a sign of the garter he were doffing for the first time instead of a badge of ill health. The worst of it is that the papers will telegraph news of his illness to England. This seems to disturb him more than anything else. Ah! What a mystery these ties of love are—such pain, such ineffable happiness—the only happiness.

After his return he repeated to me from memory every word of his speech without dropping one. He never thinks of such a thing as writing his speeches but simply turns it over in his mind and “balances the sentences” when he is all right. He produced an immense effect on the Press of New York, tremendous applause responding to every sentence. Curtis’s speech was very beautiful. “I think him the very best speaker I ever heard” said C.D. “I am sure he would produce a great effect in England from the sympathetic quality he possesses.”

I have seldom seen a finer exercise of energy of will than Mr. Dickens’s attendance on this dinner. It brought its own reward too for he returned with his foot feeling better. He made a rum punch in his room where we sat until one o’clock. After repeating his speech, he gave us an imitation of old Rogers as he would repeat the quatrain

 

The French have sense in what they do

Which we are quite without

For what in Paris they call goût

In England we call gout.

 

Mr. Dolby sat at dinner near a poor bohemian of great keenness of mind Henry Clapp by name. Who said some things worthy of Rivarol or any other wittiest Frenchman we might choose to select. Speaking of Horace Greeley (the chairman at the dinner) he said “he was a self-made man and worshipped his creator.” Of Dr Osgood a vain and popular clergyman that “he was continually looking for a vacancy in the Trinity”; of Mr Dickens that “nothing gave him so high an idea of Mr. Dickens’s genius as the fact that he created Uriah Heep without seeing a certain Mr. Young (who sat near them) and Wilkins Micawber without being acquainted with himself (Henry Clapp). Of Henry Tuckerman that “he aimed at nothing and always hit the mark precisely.”

While they were at the dinner I went off with Kate Field and her mother to hear a little music at the Philharmonic. I hastened home to get here before they returned when to my dismay the “fair Bigg” also returning from a lofty performance (at some theatre) called “Hum[p]ty Dumpty” must needs come into my room and plant herself. Fortunately Jamie came in first or I should never have been rid of her presence but by lively un-ease on my part she took the hint and left just as C.D. came home.

This speech of Mr. Dickens will make a fine effect, a reactionary effect in the country. The enthousiasm for him knew no bounds. Charles Norton spoke for New England. I had a visit from him this morning as well as from Mr. Osgood, Dolby etc. C.D. lunched at the Jockey Club with Dr Barker & Donald Mitchell and returned to dine with us. He talked of actors, artists & the clergy—church & religion—but was evidently suffering more or less all the time with his foot. Yet kept up a good heart until nine o’clock when he retired to the privacy of his own room. He feels bitterly the wrong under which English dissenters have laboured for years in being obliged not only to support their own church interests in which they do believe but also the abuses of the English church against which their whole lives are a continual protest. He spoke of the beauty of the landscape through which we had both been walking and driving under a grey sky with the eager Spring looking out among the leafless branches and dancing in the red and yellow sap. He said it had always been a fancy of his to write a story keeping the whole thing in the same landscape but picturing its constantly varying effects upon men and things & chiefly of course upon the minds of men. He asked me if I had ever read Crabbe’s Lover’s Ride. We became indignant over a tax of 5 per cent which had just been laid upon the entire proceeds of his readings, telegraphed to Washington & found


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