[London—Tuesday–Thursday, 12-14 October 1869]
The next day Mr. Dickens came about noon to go with us to see John Forster (author of the Life of Goldsmith) and to see his library. We walked up through the Park, slowly moving among sunshine & green leaves. The day was perfect and we were all three happy I think. I am sure we were, to be so near him. He was a little anxious lest Forster should be in ill humour which it seems is a very possible thing with him.
We found the Forsters more than ready for us. Our walk through the Park having taken longer than anticipated C.D. gave us a little sketch of Mrs Forster beforehand, a good little creature he said but she possessed a peculiarity of speech always saying Johl for John which made it quite impossible (coupled with a way of swallowing her words) for him to understand her. I was much amused by this when I saw her. Forster’s house and library are not only extremely valuable but tasteful and beautiful in arrangement. He possesses many volumes of mss. letters of Garrick, Goldsmith &c &c. beside all the manuscript volumes of Charles Dickens’s works. We had a beautiful lunch table and Dickens talked a great deal, misunderstanding Mrs Forster about as cleverly as usual and cracking jokes all round. Forster proposed to him to come to dine with them Friday it being the birth day of Miss Coutts and we will visit her market first he said! “Ah you’d much better let me come after the market” said C.D. He is always fearful of being brought before the public, always drawing back into retirement. His acceptance of the dinner invitation put us quite at rest with regard to his going to Liverpool with us as he had threatened to do.
There was something about Mr. Forster which reminded us of Landor, not only the little dog but more especially his way of handing me to the door. Give me my hat Briggs he said to the servant who brought him thereupon a crush hat, not that one he said indignantly but one fit to hand a lady to the door in.—But we have no carriage remonstrated C.D. “Nevertheless I wish to escort Mrs Fields to the door” which he did do with the true grand air. It reminded me of Landor threatening to have his staircase pulled down as being too narrow to hand me down properly to my carriage in Florence. Mr Dickens seemed as much pleased as Forster with the success of the interview all of which amused J. and I very much. It was as if a powder magazine lay exposed somewhere which we were fortunate enough not to drop a spark into. I drove home in a cab & Jamie walked down with C.D. and this was the last I was to see of our friend until Friday morning when we were to say farewell indeed.
The rest of Tuesday, the whole of Wednesday and Thursday spent with people making adieux and preparations for departure.
Thursday morning. Edward Lear came to breakfast, bringing some new nonsense rhymes in his head beside much talk of Corsica, Merimee, his pictures. All given in a whimsical vein peculiar to himself and most entertaining; afterward we went to his studio, saw his sketches, bought one of his little pictures and in short enjoyed our glimpse of his friendly face most heartily.
Charles Reade came to dinner. Gave us capital descriptions of whatever he touched, especially of a breaking dam near Sheffield. He had a telegram in his pocket from the widow of a mechanic supposed to have been murdered by the Unions, a subject treated in his last story and one that interests him much. Laura Johnson came to say farewell in the evening.