IN DICKENS'S LONDON
vastly amused that he went as often as he could in order to make Mrs. Pepys "as mad as the devil," an occupation which, if we may believe his chronicle, filled the larger part of his waking hours.
But it is with the year 1844, when "The Chimes" first saw the light, and ten years later, when "Bleak House" was published, that I have now to do.
Forster tells of his receiving a letter from Mr. Dickens, who was then on the Continent, announcing his near arrival in London. Accordingly a group of his friends, awaited him at No. 58 Lincoln's Inn Fields, there to listen to Mr. Dickens's promised reading of his new Christmas story, Maclise making a delightful drawing of the gathering, as can be seen by any one who hunts up the original in the Forster Collection.
"Dickens's letter to Forster was written from Geneva, in November, 1844:
"… But the party for the night following? I know you have consented to the party. Let me see. Don't have any one, this particular night, for dinner, but let it be a summons for the special purpose at half-past six. Carlyle, indispensable, and I should like his wife of all things: her judgment would be invaluable. You will ask Mac, and why not his sister? Stanny and Jerrold I should particularly wish; Edwin Landseer; Blanchard; … and when I meet you, oh! Heaven, what a week we will have!"
Forster further describes the occasion itself as being:
"Rather memorable … the germ of those readings to