To George Chapman, 25 June 1840

Period: 
1837-1840

 

To GEORGE CHAPMAN,1 25 JUNE 1840

 

Text from facsimile in Jarndyce’s Dickens catalogue, 2008(aa), and Bloomsbury Auction catalogue, Nov 2007(bb).

 

Broadstairs, Kent. | Thursday 25th. June 1840.

Dear Sir.

Believe me that I am truly and sincerely obliged to you for your hearty Invitation, and that forest scenery, pretty country, old bachelors, birds beasts and trees, have all strong-holds in my affections. But I no more dare to leave town at present on such a jaunt, than I dare do2 any conceivable or inconceivable deed, the bare mention of which would make the hair of all human creatures stand on end with wonder.3 Every day since I have been here (except on Mondays when in common with other vagabonds4 I usually make holiday) I have been at my desk for many hours.5 I came here to escape the miscalled pleasures of town,6 which are pains and penalties7 to me, and have been obliged on sunny mornings to put a strong and resolute constraint upon myself, and to keep the shadow of my Giant Work8 perpetually before me. I have many old and pressing invitations to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Lakes, and divers parts of divers English counties—some of them have for many reasons urgent claims upon me, but I can yield to none, and my country escapes must be limited for the present to quiet places near at hand, where I can [ ]9 take root and put out my leavesa bwithout interruption.

I can only say God speed you on your pleasant excursion. I shall connect you in imagination with the bachelors and maids (if you have no objection) the farmers, and all the other honest people and things you speak of. And when you see a young horse in a mill grinding away with all his might and main, perhaps you will do me the favour to link his image with mine.

George Chapman Esquire

 

Believe me | Faithfully Yours 

 CHARLES DICKENS

  • 1. Probably George Chapman (1807-85), younger brother of Edward Chapman of Chapman & Hall; a land agent. See Pilgrim Letters 2, p. 89n.
  • 2. Corrected from “to” by CD.
  • 3. Reminiscent of the Ghost in Hamlet (I.v), who might make “each particular hair to stand on end” if he spoke of his abode.
  • 4. Workmen who idle after Sunday’s dissipation: hence jokes about observing “Saint Monday”. For CD’s development of “vagabonding”, see e.g. To Felton, 31 July 42 (Pilgrim Letters 3, p. 293: “The United Vagabonds”) and To Cerjat, 4 Jan 69 (Pilgrim Letters 12, p. 268: “genteelly vagabondizing over the face of the earth”).
  • 5. CD was working on The Old Curiosity Shop (the “Giant Work”, with its “leaves”, below).
  • 6. CD had been in Broadstairs since 1 June and stayed for a month.
  • 7. A legal phrase that has passed into common usage, usually jocularly.
  • 8. The capitalisation humorously personifies the task in terms reminiscent of Bunyan’s Giant Despair.
  • 9. Something illegible (about three letters) crossed out.

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