To Thomas Noon Taulford, 26 April 1838

Period: 
1837-1840

To T. N. TALFOURD,1 [26 APRIL 1838]

Extract in Jarndyce’s Dickens catalogue, 2008(bb), with facsimile(aa) in above Supplement, p. 136; MS 2 pp. Date: Mrs Warner went into premature labour on 26 Apr 38 (Macready, Diaries, I, 453).

At your Chambers,2 Thursday night.

My Dear Talfourd, Mrs Warner3 is taken suddenly ill, and cannot play in your tragedy.4 The only possible way to prevent postponement, is, for you to see Miss Faucit5 tonight6…and ask her to play the part. Forster and I have thought it our duty to you, to come from the theatre immediately on hearing the news, and acquaint you with it.We will wait in a cab at theba corner of Lord Lansdowne’s Garden Wall for 10 Minutes if you think it necessary to come to us.

Ever Yours

CHARLES DICKENS

If you cannot come to us now—which I should recommend— we shall be in Letter C7 at the Theatre.

  • 1. Thomas Noon Talfourd (1795-1854; Dictionary of National Biography), barrister (later Judge), MP, essayist and dramatist: see further Pilgrim Letters 1, p.290n.
  • 2. Talfourd’s law office, 2 Elm Court, Temple. CD and Forster drove from Covent Garden (see below), presumably hoping to find Talfourd still at work; on learning there he was dining with Lord Lansdowne (Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, third marquis, 1780-1863; Dictionary of National Biography), CD wrote this note and sent it in to Talfourd at Lansdowne’s town house, 54 Berkeley Square.
  • 3. Mary Amelia Warner, née Huddart (1804-54; Dictionary of National Biography), actress. Married Robert William Warner, c. 1837. Had great success on the London stage, 1830-51. When she developed cancer in the early 1850s and was in financial difficulties, CD among others assisted her: see further Pilgrim Letters 7, pp.116n, 271, 302 & nn.
  • 4. Talfourd’s tragedy, The Athenian Captive, which Macready was rehearsing; the cause for a time of strained relations between Macready and Talfourd. Performed eventually on 4 Aug at the Haymarket Theatre, under Benjamin Webster’s management, with Mrs Warner as Ismene, Queen of Corinth, and Macready as the captive, her son, Thoas.
  • 5. Helen (later Helena) Saville Faucit (1817-98; Dictionary of National Biography), actress;Macready’s leading lady at Covent Garden, 1836-8. Married (Sir) Theodore Martin, 1851; author of On Some of Shakespeare’s Female Characters, 1855, drawing effectively upon her stage experience: see further Pilgrim Letters 3, p.597n.
  • 6. Coriolanus was being performed. Mrs Warner was billed to play Volumnia; Macready, on learning of her indisposition, called on Mrs Clifford, due to play Valeria, to take the part (Diaries, I, 453). Helen Faucit, not billed to appear that night, presumably took over Valeria. The part is very small, but could be made effective, particularly in Act V, accompanying Volumnia to plead with Coriolanus, by a silent presence: such an ability is required of the actress playing Ismene. The Times (6 Aug) noted how in The Athenian Captive, since Ismene is “scarcely ever off the stage” in the first two acts and yet “has scarcely a word to say”, the acting is “left to the performer”.
  • 7. Their box number in the theatre. After the performance, Talfourd, CD and Forster “debated” with Macready “on what was to be done” about Mrs Warner’s role in The Athenian Captive. Talfourd and Forster asked Faucit to take it over; she “entertained the subject”, but deferred an answer. Macready was shocked next day, Faucit being willing to act the part, when Mrs Talfourd sent “declining Miss Faucit’s performance...which Talfourd had last night requested her to perform!” in “a less courteous strain than I would write to any servant, or poor trades-person” (Diaries, I, 453).