[Gad’s Hill Place—Sunday, 10 October 1869]
Sunday morning—a soft white haze and the yellow sun burning through. The birds were singing and everything was beautiful and calm. Mamie & Miss Hogarth went to church, Jamie & I to our room, Mr. Dickens to his study. After an hour he sent Jamie a queer little note inviting him to go down to his room. “J.” went very soon when to his surprise & delight Mr. Dickens took out the first number of his new story “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and read it aloud acting it as he went on. To add to the interest of this was the fact they had both seen this old woman together, with whom the scene opens, in one of their nightly peregrinations in company with the police. The vividness of it to Jamie was mysterious and marvellous. He thinks it as powerful as anything C.D. has done.
Afterward J. & I walked together to Cobham Park while he unfolded to me the whole story and also told me much about the fortunes & misfortunes of the London publishers—Smith, Routledge, Macmillan, Chapman & Hall, & Strahan. It is not a pleasant nor a reassuring tale. They are many of them living beyond their means, subjected to continued disappointments because of the failure to sell books whose popularity they had counted on. Smith gave up his India trade thinking to become so great as a publisher as to absorb the most valuable trade. The “Cornhill” pays but poorly, the Pall Mall not at all and [t]he poor man is said to be dying of sleeplessness, induced by this continual anxiety.
Came back a little late to lunch, found them all at it and Dickens very jolly. He laughed at me for the crusty way in which I replied “no, thank you” to J.’s kindly suggestion that the apple pudding was nice and I should do well to have some of it. “I’ve seen her do it before on her own ground” he said half to himself and half amused.
After church we all dispersed for walks & drives. C.D. & dear J. went together. Miss Hogarth & I, Mabel, Katie & Mamie with the rest and I must not forget Charlie Collins & Harry. The sunset was soft and damp and luminous. Came in only in season to dress hurriedly for dinner.
Sat again by dear C.D. and made him promise not to go to Liverpool with us. The talk was somewhat about monetary affairs in America, C.D. always insisting that he paid away 40 per cent of his earnings in America for the sake of sleep, the Coutts’s advising him on the whole to do as he did.
After dinner Katie and Mamie played; the latter some Scotch jigs, capitally set; Dickens said they had such spirit in them that it was impossible to keep still so after a little premonitory drubbing of the feet—he and Katie got up and danced till the player was tired. I never saw anything prettier, Katie with her muslin kerchief as in the old time and white double hollyhocks in her hair & her quaint graceful little figure and he, light & lithe as a boy of 20.
Those two take great delight in each other.
We went rather early or by eleven o’clock to our rooms.
I could not sleep but saw the dawn come creeping with delicate rose-tints over the sky. Got up very early and was quite ready when the breakfast summons came, to start.
Found Pepys’ Diary with notes by C.D. in my room and read the account of the fire of London.
Found them all cheerful at breakfast but a little serious for our sake! We left in the pony carriage immediately after breakfast, all the family crowding round the gate to give us a tender farewell. The morning was too fine for farewells we all thought!
Back in London at 1.