Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXVIII
CHARLES DICKENS'S DINNER-PARTY (1849)

ON Saturday, 12.5.49, there was a dinner-party at the house of Charles Dickens, who was still under forty and just beginning David Copperfield, which was coming out serially. Both Thackeray and old Rogers came, Mrs. Gaskell and Kenyon, the witty Douglas Jerrold and Hablot Browne alias Phiz, a Rev. Mr. Tagart and his wife, and the two Carlyles accompanied by young David Masson, who felt it promotion to get into such company. He remembered it so well that forty-seven years afterwards he could talk of it as if it had been the day before.1

' Carlyle,' he said, 'was, as usual at parties, dressed well but unobtrusively, with the utmost plainness, whilst to-night he showed his respect for the occasion by wearing a fine waistcoat. It was chiefly by their waistcoats that gentlemen in those days had room to show their taste.' What dwelt the best in Masson's memory was the unusual cordiality of Dickens, who seemed particularly rejoiced at the sight of them and hurried to greet Carlyle, and shook him very warmly by the hand, saying several times how glad he was to see him, and putting many questions in a filial way about his health, till at last Carlyle laughed and replied, in the very words of Mrs. Gummidge in the third chapter of David Copperfield:--"I know what I am. I know that I am a lone lorn creetur', and not only that everythink goes contrairy with me, but that I go contrairy with everybody." The pat quotation made Dickens entirely happy, he laughed and laughed,--it was a treat to see him, as John Forster also tells, for he too overheard this.

Tho Dickens had to turn to receive another guest, he was always 'edging to be within hearing' of Carlyle,--it

____________________
1
On 16.12. 96) he gave D. A. W. verbally a minute description. See also the Carlyle Letters, especially those of Mrs. C., edited by Leonard Huxley , pp. 326-7, and see The Life of Charles Dickens, by John Forster, II, pp 438-9.

-88-

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