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Title: John Forster
Author: Fitzgerald, Percy Hethrington, 1834-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "John Forster" ***

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                          ONE OF HIS FRIENDS


                         CHAPMAN & HALL LTD.


       *       *       *       *       *



One of the most robust, striking, and many-sided characters of his
time was John Forster, a rough, uncompromising personage, who, from
small and obscure beginnings, shouldered his way to the front until he
came to be looked on by all as guide, friend and arbiter. From a
struggling newspaperman he emerged into handsome chambers in Lincoln's
Inn Fields, from thence to a snug house in Montague Square, ending in
a handsome stone mansion which he built for himself at Palace Gate,
Kensington, with its beautiful library-room at the back, and every
luxury of "lettered ease."

If anyone desired to know what Dr. Johnson was like, he could have found
him in Forster. There was the same social intolerance; the same
"dispersion of humbug"; the same loud voice, attuned to a mellifluous
softness on occasion, especially with ladies or persons of rank; the
love of "talk" in which he assumed the lead--and kept it too; and the
contemptuous scorn of what he did not approve. But then all this was
backed by admirable training and full knowledge. He was a deeply read,
cultivated man, a fine critic, and, with all his arrogance, despotism,
and rough "ways," a most interesting, original, delightful person--for
those he liked that is, and whom he had made his own. His very "build"
and appearance was also that of the redoubtable Doctor: so was his loud
and hearty laugh. Woe betide the man on whom he chose to "wipe his
shoes" (Browning's phrase), for he could wipe them with a will. He would
thus roar you down. It was "in_tol_-er-able"--everything was
"_in-tol-erable!_"--it is difficult to describe the fashion in which he
rolled forth the syllables. Other things were "all Stuff!" "Monstrous!"
"Incredible!" "Don't tell me!" Indeed I, with many, could find a
parallel in the great old Doctor for almost everything he said. Even
when there was a smile at his vehemence, he would unconsciously repeat
the Doctor's autocratic methods.

Forster's life was indeed a striking and encouraging one for those who
believe in the example of "self-made men." His aim was somewhat
different from the worldly types, who set themselves to become
wealthy, or to have lands or mansions. Forster's more moderate
aspiration was to reach to the foremost rank of the literary world:
and he succeeded. He secured for himself an excellent education, never
spared himself for study or work, and never rested till he had built
himself that noble mansion at Kensington, of which I have spoken,
furnished with books, pictures, and rare things. Here he could,
Mæcenas-like, entertain his literary friends of all degrees, with a
vast number of other friends and acquaintances, notable in their walks
of life. It is astonishing what a circle he had gathered round him,
and how intimate he was with all: political men such as Brougham,
Guizot, Gladstone, Forster, Cornwall Lewis (Disraeli he abhorred as
much as his friend of Chelsea did, who once asked me, "What is there
new about _our Jew Premier_?"): Maclise, Landseer, Frith, and
Stanfield, with dozens of other painters: every writer of the day,
almost without exception, late or early. With these, such as Anthony
Trollope, he was on the friendliest terms, though he did not "grapple
them to him with hooks of steel." With the Bar it was the same: he was
intimate with the brilliant and agreeable Cockburn; with Lord
Coleridge (then plain Mr. Coleridge), who found a knife and a fork
laid for him any day that he chose to drop in, which he did pretty
often. The truth was that in any company his marked personality, both
physical and mental; his magisterial face and loud decided voice, and
his reputation of judge and arbiter, at once impressed and commanded
attention. People felt that they ought to know this personage at once.

It is extraordinary what perseverance and a certain power of will, and
that of not being denied, will do in this way. His broad face and
cheeks and burly person were not made for rebuffs. He seized on
persons he wished to know and made them his own at once. I always
thought it was the most characteristic thing known of him in this
way, his striding past Bunn the manager--then his enemy--in his own
theatre, taking no notice of him and passing to Macready's room, to
confer with him on measures hostile to the said Bunn. As Johnson was
said to toss and gore his company, so Forster trampled on those he
condemned. I remember he had a special dislike to one of Boz's useful
henchmen. An amusing story was told, that after some meeting to
arrange matters with Bradbury and Evans, the printers, Boz, ever
charitable, was glad to report to Forster some hearty praise by this
person, of the ability with which he (Forster) had arranged the
matters, thus amiably wishing to propitiate the autocrat in his
friend's interest. But, said the uncompromising Forster, "I am truly
sorry, my dear Dickens, that I cannot reciprocate your friend's
compliment, for _a d----nder ass I never encountered in the whole
course of my life_!" A comparative that is novel and will be admired.

Forster had a determined way with him, of forcing an answer that he
wanted; driving you into a corner as it were. A capital illustration
of this power occurred in my case. I had sent to a London "second
hand" bookseller to supply me with a copy of the two quarto volumes of
Garrick's life, "huge armfuls." It was with some surprise that I noted
the late owner's name and book-plate, which was that of "John Forster,
Esq., Lincoln's Inn Fields." At the moment he had given me Garrick's
original MS. correspondence, of which he had a score of volumes, and
was helping me in many other ways. Now it was a curious coincidence
that this one, of all existing copies, should come to me. Next time I
saw him I told him of it. He knitted his brows and grew thoughtful.
"_My_ copy! Ah! I can account for it! It was one of the volumes I lent
to that fellow"--mentioning the name of the "fellow"--"he no doubt
sold it for drink!" "Oh, so _that_ was it," I said rather
incautiously. "But _you_," he said sternly, "tell me what did _you_
think when you saw my name? Come now! How did it leave my library?"
This was awkward to answer. "I suppose you thought I was in the habit
of selling my books? Surely not?" Now this was what I _had_ thought.
"Come! You must have had some view on the matter. Two huge volumes
like that are not easily stolen." It was with extraordinary difficulty
that I could extricate myself.

It was something to talk to one who had been intimate with Charles
Lamb, and of whom he once spoke to me, with tears running down his
cheeks, "Ah! poor dear Charles Lamb!" The next day he had summoned his
faithful clerk, instructing him to look out among his papers--such was
his way--for all the Lamb letters, which were then lent to me. And
most interesting they were. In one, Elia calls him "_Fooster_," I
fancy taking off Carlyle's pronunciation.

As a writer and critic Forster held a high, unquestioned place, his
work being always received with respect as of one of the masters. He
had based his style on the admirable, if somewhat old-fashioned
models, had regularly _learned_ to write, which few do now, by
studying the older writers: Swift, Addison, and, above all, the

He was at first glad to do "job work," and was employed by Dr. Lardner
to furnish the "Statesmen of the Commonwealth" to his Encyclopædia.
Lardner received from him a conscientious bit of work, but which was
rather dry reading, something after the pattern of Dr. Lingard, who
was then in fashion. But presently he was writing _con amore_, a book
after his own heart, _The Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith_, in
which there is a light, gay touch, somewhat peculiar at times, but
still very agreeable. It is a charming book, and graced with exquisite
sketches by his friend Maclise and other artists. There was a great
deal of study and "reading" in it, which engendered an angry
controversy with Sir James Prior, a ponderous but pains-taking writer,
who had collected every scrap that was connected with Goldy. Forster,
charged with helping himself to what another had gathered, sternly
replied, as if it could not be disputed, that he had merely gone to
the same common sources as Prior, and had found what he had found! But
this was seasoned with extraordinary abuse of poor Prior, who was held
up as an impostor for being so industrious. Nothing better illustrated
Forster's way: "The fellow was preposterous--intolerable. I had just
as good a right to go to the old magazines as he had." It was, indeed,
a most amusing and characteristic controversy.

At this time the intimacy between Boz and the young writer--two young
men, for they were only thirty-six--was of the closest. Dickens'
admiration of his friend's book was unbounded. He read it with delight
and expressed his admiration with an affectionate enthusiasm. It was
no wonder that in "gentle Goldsmith's life" thus unfolded, he found a
replica of his own sore struggles. No one knew better the "fiercer
crowded misery in garret toil and London loneliness" than he did.


    Genius and its rewards are briefly told:
      A liberal nature and a niggard doom,
      A difficult journey to a splendid tomb.
    New writ, nor lightly weighed, that story old
    In gentle Goldsmith's life I here unfold;
      Thro' other than lone wild or desert gloom,
      In its mere joy and pain, its blight and bloom,
    Adventurous. Come with me and behold,
    O friend with heart as gentle for distress,
      As resolute with fine wise thoughts to bind
      The happiest to the unhappiest of our kind,
    That there is fiercer crowded misery
        In garret toil and London loneliness
    Than in cruel islands mid the far off sea.

March, 1848.                              JOHN FORSTER.

It will be noted what a warmth of affection is shown in these pleasing
lines. Some of the verses linger in his memory: the last three
especially. The allusion to Dickens is as truthful as it is charming.
The "cruel islands mid the far off sea" was often quoted, though
there were sometimes sarcastic appeals to the author to name his

This _Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith_ is a truly charming
book: charming in the writing, in its typographic guise, and its forty
graceful illustrations by his friends, Maclise, Leech, Browne, etc. It
appeared in 1848. A pleasing feature of those times was the close
fellowship between the writers and the painters and other artists, as
was shown in the devoted affection of Maclise and others to Dickens.
There is more of class apart nowadays. Artists and writers are not
thus united. The work has gone through many editions; but, after some
years the whim seized him to turn it into an official literary history
of the period, and he issued it as a "Life and Times," with an
abundance of notes and references. All the pleasant air of story
telling, the "Life and Adventures," so suited to poor Goldy's
shiftless career, were abolished. It was a sad mistake, much
deprecated by his friends, notably by Carlyle. But at the period
Forster was in his _Sir Oracle_ vein and inclined to lofty periods.

"My dear Forster," wrote Boz to him, "I cannot sufficiently say how
proud I am of what you have done, and how sensible I am of being so
tenderly connected with it. I desire no better for my fame, when my
personal dustiness shall be past the contrast of my love of order,
than such a biographer--and such a critic. And again I say most
solemnly that literature in England has never had, and probably never
will have, such a champion as you are in right of this book." "As a
picture of the time I really think it is impossible to give it too
much praise. It seems to me to be the very essence of all about the
time that I have ever seen in biography or fiction, presented in most
wise and humane lights. I have never liked him so well. And as to
Goldsmith himself and _his_ life, and the manful and dignified
assertion of him, without any sobs, whines, or convulsions of any
sort, it is throughout a noble achievement of which, apart from any
private and personal affection for you, I think and really believe I
should feel proud." What a genuine affectionate ring is here!

Later Forster lost this agreeable touch, and issued a series of
ponderous historical treatises, enlargements of his old "Statesmen."
These were dreary things, pedantic, solemn and heavy; they might have
been by the worthy Rollin himself. Such was the _Life of Sir John
Eliot, the Arrest of the Five Members_, and others.

No one had been so intimate with Savage Landor as he had, or admired
him more. He had known him for years and was chosen as his literary
executor. With such materials one might have looked for a lively,
vivacious account of this tempestuous personage. But Forster dealt
with him in his magisterial way, and furnished a heavy treatise, on
critical and historical principles. Everything here is treated
according to the strict canons and in judicial fashion. On every poem
there was a long and profound criticism of many pages, which I
believe was one of his own old essays used again, fitted into the
book. The hero is treated as though he were some important historical
personage. Everyone knew Landor's story; his shocking violences and
lack of restraint; his malignity where he disliked. His life was full
of painful episodes, but Forster, like Podsnap, would see none of
these things. He waved them away with his "monstrous!" "intolerable!"
and put them out of existence.

According to him, not a word of the scandals was true. Landor was a
noble-hearted man; misjudged, and carried away by his feelings. The
pity of it was he could have made of it a most lasting, entertaining
book had he brought to it the pleasantly light touch he was later to
bring to his account of Dickens. But he took it all too solemnly.
Landor's life was full of grotesque scenes, and Forster might have
alleviated the harsh views taken of his friend by dealing with him as
an impetuous, irresponsible being, amusing even in his delinquencies.
Boz gave a far juster view of him in _Boythorn_. In almost the year of
his death Forster began another tremendous work, _The Life of Swift_,
for which he had been preparing and collecting for many years. No one
was so fitted by profound knowledge of the period. He had much
valuable MS. material, but the first volume, all he lived to finish,
was leaden enough. Of course he was writing with disease weighing him
down, with nights that were sleepless and spent in general misery. But
even with all allowance it was a dull and conventional thing.

It has been often noted how a mere trifle will, in an extraordinary
way, determine or change the whole course of a life. I can illustrate
this by my own case. I was plodding on contentedly at the Bar without
getting "no forrarder," with slender meagre prospects, but with a
hankering after "writing," when I came to read this Life of Goldsmith
that I have just been describing, which filled me with admiration. The
author was at the moment gathering materials for his Life of Swift,
when it occurred to me that I might be useful to him in getting up all
the local Swiftian relics, traditions, etc. I set to work, obtained
them, made the sketches, and sent them to him in a batch. He was
supremely grateful, and never forgot the volunteered trifling service.
To it I owe a host of literary friends and acquaintance with the
"great guns," Dickens, Carlyle, and the rest; and when I ventured to
try my prentice pen, it was Forster who took personal charge of the
venture. It was long remembered at the _Household Words_ office how he
stalked in one morning, stick in hand, and, flinging down the paper,
called out, "Now, mind, no nonsense about it, no humbug, no returning
it with a polite circular, and all that; see that it is read and duly
considered." _That_ was the turning-point. To that blunt declaration I
owe some forty years of enjoyment and employment--for there is no
enjoyment like that of writing--to say nothing of money in abundance.

He once paid a visit to Dublin, when we had many an agreeable
expedition to Swift's haunts, which, from the incuriousness of the
place at the time, were still existing. We went to Hoey's Court in
"The Liberties," a squalid alley with a few ruined houses, among which
was the one in which Swift was born. Thence to St. Patrick's, to
Marsh's Library, not then rebuilt, where he turned over with infinite
interest Swift's well-noted folios. Then on to Trinity College, where
there was much that was curious; to Swift's Hospital, where, from his
office in the Lunacy Commission, he was quite at home. He at once
characteristically assumed the air of command, introducing himself
with grave dignity to the authorities, by-and-bye pointing out matters
which might be amended, among others the bareness of the walls, which
were without pictures. In the grounds he received all the confidences
of the unhappy patients and their complaints (one young fellow
bitterly appealing to him on the hardship of not being allowed to
smoke, while he had a pipe in his mouth at the time). He would pat
others on the back and encourage them in quite a professional manner.
Of all these Swift localities I had made little vignette drawings in
"wash," which greatly pleased him and were to have been engraved in
the book. They are now duly registered and to be seen in the
collection at South Kensington. Poor dear Forster! How happy he was on
that "shoemaker's holiday" of his, driving on outside cars (with
infinite difficulty holding on), walking the streets, seeing old
friends, and delighted with everything. His old friend and class
fellow, Whiteside, gave him a dinner to which I attended him, where
was the late Dr. Lloyd, the Provost of the College, a learned man,
whose works on "Optics" are well known. It was pleasant to note how
Forster, like his prototype, the redoubtable Doctor, here "talked for
ostentation." "I knew, sir," he might say, "that I was expected to
talk, to talk suitably to my position as a distinguished visitor." And
so he did. It was an excellent lesson in conversation to note how he
took the lead--"laid down the law," while poor Whiteside flourished
away in a torrent of words, and the placid Lloyd more adroitly strove
occasionally to "get in." But Forster held his way with well-rounded
periods, and seemed to enjoy entangling his old friend in the
consequences of some exuberant exaggeration. "My dear Whiteside, how
_can_ you say so? Do you not see that by saying such a thing you give
yourself away?" etc.

Forster, however, more than redeemed himself when he issued his
well-known _Life of Dickens_, a work that was a perfect delight to the
world and to his friends. For here is the proper lightness of touch.
The complete familiarity with every detail of the course of the man of
whose life his had been a portion, and the quiet air of authority
which he could assume in consequence, gave the work an attraction that
was beyond dispute. There have been, it is said, some fifteen or
sixteen official Lives issued since the writer's death; but all these
are written "from outside" as it were, and it is extraordinary what a
different man each presents. But hardly sufficient credit has been
given to him for the finished style which only a true and well trained
critic could have brought, the easy touch, the appropriate treatment
of trifles, the mere indication as it were, the correct passing by or
sliding over of matters that should not be touched. All this imparted
a dignity of treatment, and though familiar, the whole was gay and
bright. True, occasionally he lapsed into his favourite pompousness
and autocracy, but this made the work more characteristic of the man.
Nothing could have been in better taste than his treatment of certain
passages in the author's life as to which, he showed, the public were
not entitled to demand more than the mere historical mention of the
facts. When he was writing this Life it was amusing to find how
sturdily independent he became. The "Blacking episode" could not have
been acceptable, but Forster was stern and would not bate a line. So,
with much more--he "rubbed it in" without scruple. The true reason, by
the way, of the uproar raised against the writer, was that it was too
much of a close borough, no one but Boz and his Bear leader being
allowed upon the stage. Numbers had their little letters from the
great man with many compliments and favours which would look well in
print. Many, like Wilkie Collins or Edmund Yates, had a whole
collection. I myself had some sixty or seventy. Some of these
personages were highly indignant, for were they not characters in the
drama? When the family came to publish the collection of letters,
Yates, I believe, declined to allow his to be printed; so did Collins,
whose Boz letters were later sold and published in America.

No doubt the subject inspired. The ever gay and lively Boz, always in
spirits, called up many a happy scene, and gave the pen a certain
airiness and nimbleness. There is little that is official or
magisterial about the volumes. Everything is pleasant and interesting,
put together--though there is a crowd of details--with extraordinary
art and finish. It furnishes a most truthful and accurate picture of
the "inimitable," recognizable in every page. It was only in the third
volume, when scared by the persistent clamours of the disappointed and
the envious, protesting that there was "too much Forster," that it was
virtually a "Life of John Forster, with some recollections of Charles
Dickens," that he became of a sudden, official and allowed others to
come too much on the scene, with much loss of effect. That third
volume, which ought to have been most interesting, is the dull one. We
have Boz described as he would be in an encyclopædia, instead of
through Forster, acting as his interpreter, and much was lost by this
treatment. Considering the homeliness and every-day character of the
incidents, it is astonishing how Forster contrived to dignify them. He
knew from early training what was valuable and significant and what
should be rejected.

Granting the objections--and faults--of the book, it may be asked, who
else in the 'seventies was, not _so_ fitted, but fitted at all to
produce a Life of Dickens. Every eye looked, every finger pointed to
Forster; worker, patron, and disciple, confidant, adviser, correcter,
admirer, the trained man of letters, and in the school in which Boz
had been trained, who had known every one of that era. No one else
could have been thought of. And as we now read the book, and contrast
it with those ordered or commissioned biographies, so common now, and
perhaps better wrought, we see at once the difference. The success was
extraordinary. Edition after edition was issued, and that so rapidly,
that the author had no opportunity of making the necessary
corrections, or of adding new information. He contented himself with a
leaf or two at the end, in which, in his own imperial style, he simply
took note of the information. I believe his profit was about £10,000.

A wonderful feature was the extraordinary amount of Dickens' letters
that was worked into it. To save time and trouble, and this I was told
by Mrs. Forster, he would cut out the passages he wanted with a pair
of scissors and paste them on his MS! As the portion written on the
back was thus lost, the rest became valueless. I can fancy the
American collector tearing his hair as he reads of this desecration.
But it was a rash act and a terrible loss of money. Each letter might
have later been worth say from five to ten pounds apiece.

It would be difficult to give an idea of Forster's overflowing
kindness on the occasion of the coming of friends to town. Perpetual
hospitality was the order of the day, and, like so many older
Londoners, he took special delight in hearing accounts of the strange
out-of-the-way things a visitor will discover, and with which he will
even surprise the resident. He enjoyed what he called "hearing your
adventures." I never met anyone with so boisterous and enjoying a
laugh. Something would tickle him, and, like Johnson in Fleet Street,
he would roar and roar again. Like Diggory, too, at the same story, or
rather _scene_; for, like his friend Boz, it was the _picture_ of some
humorous incident that delighted, and would set him off into
convulsions. One narrative of my own, a description of the recitation
of Poe's _The Bells_ by an actress, in which she simulated the action
of pulling the bell for the Fire, or for a Wedding or Funeral bells,
used to send him into perfect hysterics. And I must say that I, who
have seen and heard all sorts of truly humorous and spuriously
humorous stories in which the world abounds at the present moment,
have never witnessed anything more diverting. The poor lady thought
she was doing the thing realistically, while the audience was
shrieking with enjoyment. I do not know how many times I was invited
to repeat this narrative, a somewhat awkward situation for me, but I
was glad always to do what he wished. I recall Browning coming in, and
I was called on to rehearse this story, Forster rolling on the sofa
in agonies of enjoyment. This will seem trivial and personal, but
really it was characteristic; and pleasant it was to find a man of his
sort so natural and even boyish.

At the head of his table, with a number of agreeable and clever guests
around him, Forster was at his best. He seemed altogether changed.
Beaming smiles, a gentle, encouraging voice, and a tenderness verging
on gallantry to the ladies, took the place of the old, rough fashions.
He talked ostentatiously, he _led_ the talk, told most _à propos_
anecdotes of the remarkable men he had met, and was fond of fortifying
his own views by adding: "As Gladstone, or Guizot, or Palmerston said
to me in my room," etc. But you could not but be struck by the
finished shapes in which his sentences ran. There was a weight, a
power of illustration, and a dramatic colouring that could only have
come of long practice. He was gay, sarcastic, humorous, and it was
impossible not to recognise that here was a clever man and a man of

Forster's ideal of hospitality was not reciprocity, but was bounded by
_his_ entertaining everybody. Not that he did not enjoy a friendly
quiet dinner at your table. Was he on his travels at a strange place?
_You_ must dine with him at his hotel. In town you must dine with him.
He might dine with you. This dining with you must be according to his
programme. When he was in the vein and inclined for a social domestic
night he would let himself out.

Maclise's happy power of realising character is shown inimitably in
the picture of Forster at the reading of _The Christmas Carol_, seated
forward in his chair, with a solemn air of grave judgment. There is an
air of distrust, or of being on his guard, as who should say, "It is
fine, very fine, but I hold my opinion in suspense till the close. I
am not to be caught as you are, by mere flowers." He was in fact
distinct from the rest, all under the influence of emotion. Harness is
shown weeping, Jerrold softened, etc. These rooms, as is well known,
were Mr. Tulkinghorn's in the novel, and over Forster's head, as he
wrote, was the floridly-painted ceiling, after the fashion of Verrio,
with the Roman pointing. This was effaced many years ago, but I do not
know when.

By all his friends Forster was thought of as a sort of permanent
bachelor. His configuration and air were entirely suited to life in
chambers: he was thoroughly literary; his friends were literary; there
he gave his dinners; married life with him was inconceivable. He had
lately secured an important official post, that of Secretary to the
Lunacy Commissioners, which he gained owing to his useful services when
editing the _Examiner_. This necessarily led to the Commissionership,
which was worth a good deal more. Nowadays we do not find the editors of
the smaller papers securing such prizes. I remember when he was
encouraging me to "push my way," he illustrated his advice by his own
example: "I never let old Brougham go. I came back again and again
until I wore him out. I forced 'em to give me this." I could quite
imagine it. Forster was a troublesome customer, "a harbitrary cove," and
not to be put off, except for a time. It was an excellent business
appointment, and he was admitted to be an admirable official.

In one of Dickens' letters, published by his children, there is a
grotesque outburst at some astounding piece of news: an event
impending, which seemed to have taken his breath away. It clearly
refers to his friend's marriage. Boz was so tickled at this wonderful
news that he wrote: "Tell Catherine that I have the most prodigious,
overwhelming, crushing, astounding, blinding, deafening, pulverising,
scarifying, secret of which Forster is the hero, imaginable, by the
whole efforts of the whole British population. It is a thing of the
kind that, after I knew it (from himself) this morning, I lay down
flat as if an engine and tender had fallen upon me." This pleasantly
boisterous humour is in no wise exaggerated. I fancy it affected all
Forster's friends much in the same way, and as an exquisitely funny
and expected thing. How many pictures did Boz see before him--Forster
proposing to the widow in his sweetest accents, his deportment at the
church, &c. There was not much sentiment in the business, though the
bride was a sweet, charming woman, as will be seen, too gentle for
that tempestuous spirit. She was a widow--"Yes, gentlemen, the
plaintiff is a widow," widow of Colburn, the publisher, a quiet little
man, who worshipped her. She was well endowed, inheriting much of his
property, even to his papers, etc. She had also a most comfortable
house in Montague Square, where, as the saying is, Forster had only to
move in and "hang up his hat."

With all his roughness and bluntness, Forster had a very soft heart,
and was a great appreciator of the sex. He had some little "affairs of
the heart," which, however, led to no result. He was actually engaged
to the interesting L. E. L. (Letitia Landon), whom he had no doubt
pushed well forward in the _Examiner_; for the fair poetess generally
contrived to enlist the affections of her editors, as she did those of
Jerdan, director of the once powerful _Literary Gazette_. We can see
from his Memoirs how attracted he was by her. The engagement was
broken off, it is believed, through the arts of Dr. Maginn, and it is
said that Forster behaved exceedingly well in the transaction. Later
he became attached to another lady, who had several suitors of
distinction, but she was not disposed to entrust herself to him.

No one so heartily relished his Forster, his ways and oddities, as
Boz; albeit the sage was his faithful friend, counsellor, and ally. He
had an exquisite sense for touches of character, especially for the
little weaknesses so often exhibited by sturdy, boisterous natures. We
again recall that disposition of Johnson, with his "bow to an
Archbishop," listening with entranced attention to a dull story told
by a foreign "diplomatist." "_The ambassador says well_," would the
sage repeat many times, which, as Bozzy tells, became a favourite form
in the _côterie_ for ironical approbation. There was much of this in
our great man, whose voice became of the sweetest and most mellifluous
key, as he bent before the peer. "Lord ----," he would add gently, and
turning to the company, "has been saying, with much force," etc.

I recall the Guild _fête_ down at Knebworth, where Forster was on a
visit to its noble owner, Lord Lytton, and was deputed to receive and
marshal the guests at the station, an office of dread importance, and
large writ over his rather burly person. His face was momentous as he
patrolled the platform. I remember coming up to him in the crowd, but
he looked over and beyond me, big with unutterable things. Mentioning
this later to Boz, he laughed his cheerful laugh, "Exactly," he cried.
"Why, I assure you, Forster would not see _me_!" He was busy pointing
out the vehicles, the proper persons to sit in them, according to
their dignity. All through that delightful day, as I roamed through
the fine old halls, I would encounter him passing by, still in his
lofty dream, still controlling all, with a weight of delegated
authority on his broad shoulders. Only at the very close did he
vouchsafe a few dignified, encouraging words, and then passed on. He
reminded me much of Elia's description of Bensley's Malvolio.

There was nothing ill-natured in Boz's relish of these things; he
heartily loved his friend. It was the pure love of fun. Podsnap has
many touches of Forster, but the writer dared not let himself go in
that character as he would have longed to do. When Podsnap is referred
to for his opinion, he delivers it as follows, much flushed and
extremely angry: "Don't ask me. I desire to take no part in the
discussion of these people's affairs. I abhor the subject. It is an
odious subject, an offensive subject _that makes me sick_, and
I"--with his favourite right arm flourish which sweeps away everything
and settles it for ever, etc. These very words must Forster have used.
It may be thought that Boz would not be so daring as to introduce his
friend into his stories, "under his very nose" as it were, submitting
the proofs, etc., with the certainty that the portrait would be
recognised. But this, as we know, is the last thing that could have
occurred, or the last thing that would have occurred to Forster. It
was like enough someone else, but not he.

"Mr. Podsnap was well to do, and stood very high in Mr. Podsnap's
opinion." "He was quite satisfied. He never could make out why
everybody was not quite satisfied, and he felt conscious that he set a
brilliant social example in being particularly well satisfied with
most things and with himself." "Mr. Podsnap settled that whatever he
put behind him he put out of existence." "I don't want to know about
it. I don't desire to discover it." "He had, however, acquired a
peculiar flourish of his right arm in the clearing the world of its
difficulties." "As so eminently respectable a man, Mr. Podsnap was
sensible of its being required of him to take Providence under his
protection. Consequently he always knew exactly what Providence

These touches any friend of Forster's would recognise. He could be
very engaging, and was at his best when enjoying what he called a
shoemaker's holiday--that is, when away from town at some
watering-place, with friends. He was then really delightful, because
happy, having left all his solemnities and ways in London.

Forster was a man of many gifts, an admirable hard-working official,
thoroughly business-like and industrious. I recall him through all the
stages of his connection with the Lunacy Department, as Secretary and
Commissioner and Retired Commissioner, when he would arrive on
"melting days" as it were. But it was as a cultured critic that he was
unsurpassed. He was ever "correct," and delivered a judgment that
commended itself on the instant; it was given with such weight and
persuasion. This correctness of judgment extended to most things,
politics, character, literature, and was pleasant to listen to. He was
one of the old well-read school, and was never without his edition of
Shakespeare, the Globe one, which he took with him on his journeys. He
had a way of lightly emphasising the beauty of a special passage of
the Bard's.

Once, travelling round with Boz, on one of his reading tours, we came
to Belfast, where the huge Ulster Hall was filled to the door by
ardent and enthusiastic Northerners. I recall how we walked round the
rather grim town, with its harsh red streets, the honest workers
staring at him hard. We put up at an old-fashioned hotel, the
best--the Royal it was called, where there was much curiosity on the
part of the ladies to get sly peeps at the eminent man. They generally
contrived to be on the stairs when he emerged. Boz always appeared,
even in the streets, somewhat carefully "made up." The velvet collar,
the blue coat, the heavy gold pin, added to the effect.

It was at this hotel, when the show was over, and our agreeable supper
cleared away, that I saw the pleasant Boz lying on the sofa somewhat
tired by his exertions, not so much on the boards as in that very
room. For he was fond of certain parlour gymnastics, in which he
contended with his aide-de-camp Dolby. Well, as I said, he was on his
sofa somewhat fatigued with his night's work, in a most placid,
enjoying frame of mind, laughing with his twinkling eyes, as he often
did, squeezing and puckering them up when our talk fell on Forster,
whom he was in the vein for enjoying. It had so fallen out that, only
a few weeks before, Trinity College, Dublin, had invited Forster to
receive an honorary degree, a compliment that much gratified him. I
was living there at the time, and he came and stayed with me in the
best of humours, thoroughly enjoying it all. Boz, learning that I had
been with him, insisted on my telling him _everything_, as by instinct
he knew that his friend would have been at his best. The scenes we
passed through together were indeed of the richest comedy. First I see
him in highest spirits trying on a doctor's scarlet robe, to be had on
hire. On this day he did everything in state, in his special "high"
manner. Thus he addressed the tailor in rolling periods: "Sir, the
University has been good enough to confer a degree on me, and I have
come over to receive it. My name is John Forster." (I doubt if his
name had reached the tailor). "Certainly, sir." And my friend was duly
invested with the robe. He walked up and down before a pier glass.
"Hey, what now? Do you know, my dear friend, I really think I must
_buy_ this dress. It would do very well to go to Court in, hey?" He
indulged his fancy. "Why I could wear it on many occasions. A most
effective dress." But it was time now to wait on "the senior Bursar,"
or some such functionary. This was one Doctor L----, a rough, even
uncouth, old don, who was for the nonce holding a sort of rude class,
surrounded by a crowd of "undergrads." Never shall I forget that
scene. Forster went forward, with a mixture of gracious dignity and
softness, and was beginning, "Doc-tor L----." Here the turbulent boys
round him interrupted. "Now see here," said the irate Bursar, "it's no
use all of ye's talking together. Sir, I can't attend to you now."
Again Forster began with a gracious bow. "Doctor L----, I have come
over at the invitation of the University, who have been good enough to
offer me an honorary degree, and--"

"Now see here," said the doctor, "there's no use talking to me now. I
can't attend to ye. All of ye come back here in an hour and take the
oath, all together mind."

"I merely wished to state, Doctor L----," began the wondering Forster.

"Sir I tell ye I can't attend to ye now. You must come again," and he
was gone.

I was at the back of the room, when my friend joined me, very
ruminative and serious. "Very odd, all this," he said, "but I suppose
when we _do_ come back, it will be all right?"

"Oh yes, he is noted as an odd man," I said.

"I don't at all understand him, but I suppose it _is_ all right. Well
come along, my dear friend." I then left him for a while. After the
hour's interval I returned. The next thing I saw from the back of the
room was my burly friend in the front row of a number of irreverent
youngsters of juvenile age, some of whom close by me were saying,
"Who's the stout old bloke; what's he doing here?"

"Now," said the Bursar and senior fellow, "take these Testaments on
your hands, all o' ye." And then I saw my venerable friend, for so he
looked in comparison, with three youths sharing his Testament with
them. But he was serious. For here was a most solemn duty before him.
"Now repeat after me. _Ego_," a shout, "_Joannes, Carolus_," as the
case might be "_juro solemniter_," &c. Forster might have been in
church going through a marriage ceremony, so reverently did he repeat
the _formula_. The lads were making a joke of it.

Forster, as I said, was indeed a man of the old fashion of gallantry,
making his approaches where he admired _sans cérémonie_, and advancing
boldly to capture the fort. I remember a dinner, with a young lady who
had a lovely voice, and who sang after the dinner to the general
admiration. Forster had never seen her before, but when she was
pressed to sing again and again, and refused positively, I was amazed
to see Forster triumphantly passing through the crowded room, the fair
one on his arm, he patting one of her small hands which he held in his
own! She was flattered immensely and unresisting; the gallant Foster
had carried all before him. This was his way, never would he be second
fiddle anywhere if he could help it. Not a bad principle for any one
if they can only manage it.

I remember one night, when he was in his gallant mood laying his
commands on a group of ladies, to sing or do something agreeable, he
broke out: "You know I am a despot, and must have my way, I'm such a
harbitrary cove." The dames stared at this speech, and I fancy took it
literally, for they had not heard the story. This I fancy did not
quite please, for he had no notion of its being supposed he considered
himself arbitrary; so he repeated and enforced the words in a loud
stern voice. (Boswellians will recall the scene where Johnson said
"The woman had a bottom of sense." When the ladies began to titter, he
looked round sternly saying "Where's the merriment? I repeat the woman
is fundamentally sensible." As who should say "now laugh if you
dare!") The story referred to was that of the cabman who summoned
Forster for giving him a too strictly measured fare, and when
defeated, said "it warn't the fare, but he was determined to bring him
there for he were such a harbitrary cove." No story about Forster gave
such delight to his friends as this; he himself was half flattered,
half annoyed.

Forster liked to be with people of high degree--as, perhaps, most of
us do. At one time he was infinitely flattered by the attentions of
Count Dorsay, who, no doubt, considered him a personage. This odd
combination was the cause of great amusement to his friends, who were,
of course, on the look out for droll incidents. There was many a story
in circulation. One was that Forster, expecting a promised visit from
"the Count," received a sudden call from his printers. With all
solemnity he impressed the situation on his man. "Now," he said, "you
will tell the Count that I have only just gone round to call on
Messrs. Spottiswoode, the printers--you will observe, Messrs.
Spot-is-wode," added he, articulating the words in his impressive way.
The next time Forster met the Count, the former gravely began to
explain to him the reason of his absence. "Ah! I know," said the gay
Count, "you had just gone round to _Ze Spotted Dog_--I understand," as
though he could make allowance for the ways of literary men. Once
Forster had the Count to dinner--a great solemnity. When the fish was
"on" the host was troubled to note that the sauce had not yet reached
his guest. In an agitated deep _sotto voce_, he said, "Sauce to the
Count." The "aside" was unheard. He repeated it in louder, but more
agitated tones, "_Sauce_ to the Count." This, too, was unnoticed;
when, louder still, the guests heard, "_Sauce for the Flounders of the
Count_." This gave infinite delight to the friends, and the phrase
became almost a proverb. Forster learning to dance in secret, in
preparation for some festivity, was another enjoyment, and his
appearance on the scene, carefully executing the steps, his hands on
the shoulders of a little girl, caused much hilarity.

All this is amusing in the same way as it was amusing to Boz, as a
capital illustration of character, genuinely exhibited, and yet it is
with the greatest sympathy and affection I recall these things: but
they were _too_ enjoyable. There is nothing depreciating, no more than
there was in Bozzy's record, who so amiably puts forward the pleasant
weaknesses of his hero. Though twenty years and more have elapsed
since he passed from this London of ours, there is nothing I think of
with more pleasure and affection than those far-off scenes in which he
figured so large and strong, supplying dramatic action, character,
and general enjoyment. The figures of our day seem to me to be small,
thin and cardboard-like in comparison.

Boz himself is altogether mixed up with Forster's image, and it is
difficult to think of one without recalling the other. In this
connection there comes back on me a pleasant comedy scene, in which
the former figured, and which, even at this long distance of time,
raises a smile. When I had come to town, having taken a house, etc.,
with a young and pretty wife, Dickens looked on encouragingly; but at
times shaking his head humorously, as the too sanguine plans were
broached: "Ah, _the little victims play_," he would quote. Early in
the venture he good-naturedly came to dine _en famille_ with his
amiable and interesting sister-in-law. He was in a delightful mood,
and seemed to be applying all the points of his own Dora's attempts at
housekeeping, with a pleasant slyness: the more so as the little lady
of the house was the very _replica_ of that piquant and fascinating
heroine. She was destined, alas! to but a short enjoyment of her
little rule, but she gained all hearts and sympathies by her very
taking ways. Among others the redoubtable John Forster professed to be
completely "captured," and was her most obstreperous slave. He, too,
was to have been of the party, but was prevented by one of his
troublesome chest attacks. Scarcely had Boz entered when he drew out a
letter, I see him now standing at the fire, a twinkle in his brilliant
eyes. "What _is_ coming over Forster," he said, ruminating, "I cannot
make him out. Just as I was leaving the house I received this," and he
read aloud, "I can't join you to-day. But mark you this, sir! no
tampering, no poaching on _my_ grounds; for I won't have it. Recollect
_Codlin's the friend not Short_!" With a wondering look Boz kept
repeating in a low voice: "'Codlin's the friend not Short.' What _can_
he mean? What do you make of it?" I knew perfectly, as did also the
little lady who stood there smiling and flattered, but it was awkward
to explain. But he played with the thing; and it could only be agreed
that Forster at times was perfectly "amazing," or "a little off his

And what a dinner it was! What an amusing failure, too, as a first
attempt; suddenly, towards the end of the dinner, a loud, strange
sound was heard, as of falling or rushing waters; it was truly
alarming; I ran out and found a full tide streaming down the stairs.
The cook in her engrossment had forgotten to turn a cock. "Ah, the
little victims play!" and Boz's eyes twinkled. A loud-voiced cuckoo
and quail were sounding their notes, which prompted me to describe a
wonderful clock of the kind I had seen, with two trumpeters who issued
forth at the hour and gave a prolonged flourish before striking, then
retired, their doors closing with a smart clap. This set off Boz in
his most humorous vein. He imagined the door sticking fast, or only
half-opening, the poor trumpeter behind pushing with his shoulder to
get out, then giving a feeble gasping tootle with much "whirring" and
internal agonies; then the rest is silence.

On another occasion came Forster himself and lady, for a little family
dinner; the same cook insisted on having in her husband, "a dear broth
of a boy," to assist her. Forster arriving before he was expected, he
was ever _more_ than punctual; the tailor rushed up eagerly to admit
him, forgetting, however, to put on his coat! As he threw open the
door he must have been astonished at Forster's greeting "No, no, my
good friend, I altogether decline. I am _not_ your match in age,
weight, or size," a touch of his pleasant humour and good spirits.

As of course Forster deeply felt the death of his old friend and
comrade, the amiable and constant Dickens, he was the great central
figure in all the dismal ceremonial that followed. He arranged
everything admirably, he was executor with Miss Hogarth, and I could
not but think how exactly he reproduced his great prototype, Johnson,
in a similar situation. Bozzy describes the activity and fuss of the
sage hurrying about with a pen in his hand and dealing with the
effects: "We are not here," he said, "to take account of a number of
vats, &c., but of the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams
of avarice." So was Forster busy, appraising copyrights, and realizing
assets, all which work he performed in a most business-like fashion.
That bequest in the will of the gold watch, to his "trusty friend,
John Forster," I always thought admirably summarized the relations of
the two friends. I myself received under his will one of his ivory
paper-knives, and a paper-weight marked C.D. in golden letters, which
was made for and presented to him at one of the pottery works.

One of the most delightful little dinners I had was an impromptu one
at Forster's house, the party being himself, myself, and Boz. The
presence of a third, not a stranger yet not an intimate, prompted both
to be more free than had they been _tête-à-tête_. Boz was what might
best be called "gay." His fashion of talk was to present things that
happened in a pleasantly humorous light. On this occasion he told us a
good deal about a strange being, Chauncey Hare Towns-bend, from whom
he may have drawn Twemlow in _Our Mutual Friend_. Every look in that
sketch reminds me of him; he, too, had a shy shrinking manner, a soft
voice, but, in his appearance most of all, was Twemlow; he had a
rather over-done worship of Dickens, wishing "not to intrude," etc.;
he was a delicate, unhealthy looking person, rather carefully made up.
Boz was specially pleasant this day on an odd bequest of his; for poor
Twemlow had died, and he, Boz, was implored to edit his religious
writings: rather a compendium of his religious opinions to be
collected from a mass of papers in a trunk. For which service £1,000
was bequeathed. Boz was very humorous on his first despair at being
appointed to such an office; then described his hopeless attempts "to
make head or tail" of the papers. "Are they worth anything as
religious views?" I asked. "Nothing whatever, I should say," he said,
with a humorous twinkle in his eye, "I must only piece them together
somehow." And so he did, I forget under what title, I think _Religious
Remains of the late C. H. T._ There was probably some joking on this
description. It is fair to say that Boz had to put up with a vast deal
of this admiring worship, generally from retiring creatures whom his
delicate good-nature would not let him offend.

Forster's large sincerity was remarkable, as was his generous style,
which often carried him to extraordinary lengths. They were such as
one would only find in books. I remember once coming to London without
giving him due notice, which he always imperatively required to be
done. When I went off to his house at Palace Gate, presenting myself
about five o'clock, he was delighted to see me, as he always was, but
I saw he was very uncomfortable and distressed. "_Why_ didn't you tell
me," he said testily, "a day or two ago would have done. But _now_, my
dear fellow, _the table's full_--it's impossible." "What?" I asked,
yet not without a suspicion of the truth--for I knew him. "Why, I have
a dinner party to-day! De Mussy, the Doctor of the Orleans family, and
some others are coming, and here you arrive at this hour! Just look at
the clock--I tell you it can't be done." In vain I protested; though I
could not say it was "no matter," for it was a serious business. "Come
with me into the dining-room and you'll see for yourself." There we
went round the table, and "_The table's full_," he repeated from
_Macbeth_. There was something truly original in the implied premise
that his friend was _entitled_ of right to have a place at his table,
and that the sole dispensing cause to be allowed was absence of space
or a physical impossibility. It seems to me that this was a very
genuine, if rare, shape of hospitality.

Of all Forster's friends at this time, of course, after Dickens, and
he had innumerable ones, his fastest seemed Robert Browning. As every
Sunday came round it was a rule that the Poet was to dine with him.
Many were the engagements his host declined on the score of this
standing engagement. "Should be delighted, my dear friend, to go to
you, but it is an immemorial custom that every Sunday Robert Browning
dines with _me_. Nothing interferes with _that._" Often, indeed,
during the week the Poet would drop in for a chat or consultation,
often when I was there. He was a most agreeable person, without any
affectation; while Forster maintained a sort of patriarchal or
paternal manner to him, though there was not much difference in their
ages. Indeed, on this point, Forster well illustrated what has been
often said of Mr. Pickwick and his time, that age has been much "put
back" since that era. Mr. Pickwick, Wardle, Tupman and Co., are all
described as old gentlemen, none of the party being over fifty; but
they had to dress up to the part of old gentlemen, and with the aid of
corpulence, "circular spectacles," &c, conveyed the idea of seventy.
Forster in the same way was then not more than forty-five, but had a
full-blown official look, and with his grave, solemn utterances, you
would have set him down for sixty. Now-a-days men of that age, if in
sound order, feel, behave, and dress as men of forty. Your _real_ old
man does not begin till he is about seventy-five or so.

Browning having an acquaintance that was both "extensive and
peculiar," could retail much gossip and always brought plenty of news
with him: to hear which Forster did seriously incline. The Poet, too,
had a pleasant flavour of irony or cynicism in his talk, but nothing
ill-natured. What a pleasant Sunday that was when Frederick Chapman,
the publisher, invited me and Forster, and Browning, with one or two
more, whose names I have forgotten, down to Teddington. It was the
close of a sultry summer's day, we had a cool and enjoyable repast,
with many a joke and retailed story. Thus, "I was stopped to-day,"
said Browning, "by a strange, dilapidated being. Who do you think it
was? After a moment, it took the shape of old Harrison Ainsworth." "A
strange, dilapidated being," repeated Forster, musingly, "so the man
is alive." Then both fell into reminiscences of grotesque traits, &c.
This affectionate intercourse long continued. But alas! this
_compulsory_ Sunday dining, as the philosopher knows, became at last a
sore strain, and a mistake. It must come to Goldsmith's "travelling
over one's mind," with power to travel no farther. Browning, too, had
been "found out by Society"; was the guest at noble houses, and I
suppose became somewhat lofty in his views. No one could scoff so
loudly and violently as could Forster, at what is called snobbishness,
"toadying the great"; though it was a little weakness of his own, and
is indeed of everybody. However, on some recent visit, I learned to my
astonishment, that a complete breach had taken place between the
attached friends, who were now "at daggers drawn," as it is called.
The story went, as told, I think, by Browning, who would begin: "I
grew tired of Forster's _always wiping his shoes on me_." He was fond
of telling his friend about "dear, sweet, charming Lady ----," &c.
Forster, following the exact precedent of Mrs. Prig in the quarrel
with her friend, would break into a scornful laugh, and, though he did
not say "_drat_ Lady ----," he insisted she was a foolish,
empty-headed creature, and that Browning praised her because she had a
title. This was taken seriously, and the Poet requested that no
disparaging remarks would be made on one of his best friends. "Pooh,"
said Forster, contemptuously, "some superannuated creature! I am
astonished at you." How it ended I cannot say, but it ended painfully.

Some time elapsed and friends to both sides felt that here was a sort
of scandal, and it must be made up. No one was more eager than
Forster. Mutual explanations and apologies were given and all was as
before. The liberal Forster, always eager to find "an excuse for the
glass," announced a grand reconciliation dinner, to which came a
rather notable party, to wit, Thomas Carlyle, Browning and his son,
the Rev. Whitwell Elwin, the editor of Pope, and sometime editor of
the _Quarterly_, the young Robert Lytton, myself, and some others whom
I have forgotten. What an agreeable banquet it was! Elwin was made to
retell, to Forster's convulsive enjoyment, though he had heard it
before, a humorous incident of a madman's driving about in a gig with
a gun and a companion, who up to that moment _thought_ he was sane.
The Sage of Chelsea had his smoke as usual, a special churchwarden and
a more-special "screw" of tobacco having been carefully sent out for
and laid before him. There was something very interesting in this
ceremonial. We juniors at the end of the table, Robert Lytton and
myself, both lit a cigar, which brought forth a characteristic lecture
from Forster; "I never allow smoking in this room, save on this
privileged occasion when my old friend Carlyle honours me. But I do
not extend that to you Robert Lytton, and you (this to me). You have
taken the matter into your own hands, without asking leave or license;
as that is so, and the thing is done, there is no more to be said."
Here of course we understood that he wished to emphasize the
compliment to his friend and make the privilege exclusively his. But
he would have liked to hear, "May we also smoke?"

Forster's affection for Carlyle and his pride in him was delightful to
see. I think he had more reverence for him than for anybody. He really
looked on him as an inspired Sage, and this notion was encouraged by
the retired fashion in which he of Chelsea lived, showing himself but
rarely. Browning was seated near his host, but I noticed a sort of
affected and strained _empressement_ on both sides. Later I heard a
loud scoffing laugh from Forster, but the other, apparently by a
strong effort, repressed himself and made no reply. Alas! as was to be
expected, the feud broke out again and was never healed. Though
Browning would at times coldly ask me after his old friend.

There was no better dramatic critic than Forster, for he had learned
his criticism in the school of Macready and the old comedies. He had a
perfect instinct for judging even when not present, and I recollect,
when Salvini was being set up against Irving, his saying
magisterially: "Though I have not seen either Mr. Salvini or Mr.
Irving, I have a perfect conviction that Salvini is an actor and Mr.
Irving is not." He had the finest declamation, was admirable in
emphasis, and in bringing out the meaning of a passage, with
expressive eye and justly-modulated cadences. I never had a greater
treat than on one night, after dining with him, he volunteered to read
aloud to us the Kitely passages from _Every Man in his Humour_, in
which piece at the acted performances he was, I suspect, the noblest
Roman of 'em all. It was a truly fine performance; he brought out the
jealousy in the most powerful and yet delicately suggestive fashion.
Every emotion, particularly the anticipation of such emotions, was
reflected in his mobile features. His voice, deep and sonorous, and at
times almost flutey with softness, was under perfect control; he could
direct it as he willed. The reading must have called up many pleasant
scenes, the excitement, his friends, the artists and writers, who all
had taken part in the "splendid strolling" as he called it, and now
all gone!

He often, however, mistook inferior birds for swans. He once held out to
us, as a great treat, the reading of an unpublished play of his friend
Lord Lytton, which was called _Walpole_. All the characters spoke and
carried on conversation in hexameters. The effect was ridiculous. A more
tedious thing, with its recondite and archaic allusions to Pulteney and
other Georgian personages, could not be conceived. The ladies in
particular, after a scene or two, soon became weary. He himself lost
faith in the business, and saw that it was flat, so he soon stopped, but
he was mystified at such non-intelligence. There was quite a store of
these posthumous pieces of the late dramatist, some of which I read. But
most were bad and dreary.

Forster had no doubt some oracular ways, which, like Mr. Peter
Magnus's in _Pickwick_, "amused his friends very much." "Dicky" Doyle
used to tell of a picnic excursion when Forster was expatiating
roundly on the landscape, particularly demanding admiration for
"yonder purple cloud" how dark, how menacing it was. "Why, my dear
Forster," cried Doyle, "it's not a cloud at all, but only a piece of
slated roof!" Forster disdained to notice the correction, but some
minutes later he called to him loudly before the crowd: "See, Doyle!
yonder is _not_ a cloud, but a bit of slated roof: there can be no
doubt of it." In vain Doyle protested, "Why, Forster, I said that to
you!" "My dear Doyle," said Forster, sweetly, "it's no more a cloud
than I am. I repeat you are mistaken, _it's a bit of slated roof_."

To myself, he was ever kind and good-natured, though I could smile
sometimes at his hearty and well-meant patronage. Patronage! it was
rather wholesale "backing" of his friends. Thus, one morning he
addressed me with momentous solemnity, "My dear fellow, I have been
thinking about you for a long time, and I have come to this
conclusion: you _must write a comedy_. I have settled that you can do
it; you have powers of drawing character and of writing dialogue; so I
have settled, the best thing you can do is to write a comedy." Thus
had he given his permission and orders, and I might fall to work with
his fullest approbation. I have no doubt he told others that he had
directed that the comedy should be written.

On another day, my dachshund "Toby" was brought to see him. For no one
loved or understood the ways of dogs better. He greatly enjoyed "the
poor fellow's bent legs," rather a novelty then, and at last with a
loud laugh: "He is _Sir_ Toby! no longer Toby. Yes my dear friend he
_must_ be Sir Toby henceforth." He had knighted him on the spot!

Forster always stands out pre-eminently as "the friend," the general
friend, and it is pleasant to be handed down in such an attitude. We
find him as the common referee, the sure-headed arbiter,
good-naturedly and heartily giving his services to arrange any trouble
or business. How invaluable he was to Dickens is shown in the "Life."
With him friendship was a high and serious duty, more responsible even
than relationship. His warm heart, his time, his exertions, were all
given to his friend. No doubt he had some little pleasure in the
importance of his office, but he was in truth really indulging his
affections, and warm heart.

Among his own dearest friends was one for whom he seemed to have an
affection and admiration that might be called tender; his respect,
too, for his opinions and attainments were strikingly unusual in one
who thought so much of his own powers of judgment. This was the Rev.
WHITWELL ELWIN, Rector of Booton, Norwich. He seemed to me a man quite
of an unusual type, of much learning and power, and yet of a gentle
modesty that was extraordinary. In some things the present Master of
the Temple, Canon Ainger, very much suggests him. I see Elwin now, a
spare wiry being with glowing pink face and a very white poll. He
seemed a muscular person, yet never was there a more retiring, genial
and delicate-minded soul. His sensitiveness was extraordinary, as was
shown by his relinquishing his monumental edition of Pope's Works,
after it had reached to its eighth volume. The history of this
proceeding has never been clearly explained. No doubt he felt, as he
pursued his labours, that his sense of dislike to Pope and contempt
for his conduct was increasing, that he could not excuse or defend
him. Elwin was in truth the "complement" of Forster's life and
character. It was difficult to understand the one without seeing him
in the company of the other. It was astonishing how softened and
amiable, and even schoolboy-like, the tumultuous John became when he
spoke of or was in company with his old friend; he really delighted in
him. Forster's liking was based on respect for those gifts of culture,
pains-taking and critical instinct, which he knew his friend
possessed, and which I have often heard him praise in the warmest and
sincerest fashion. "In El-win"--he seemed to delight in rolling out
the syllables in this divided tone--"in El-ween you will find style
and finish. If there is anyone who knows the topic it is El-win. He is
your man."

I was bringing out a _magnum opus_, dedicated to Carlyle, Boswell's
_Life of Johnson_, entailing a vast deal of trouble and research. The
amiable Elwin, whom I consulted, entered into the project with a host
of enthusiasm. He took the trouble of rummaging his note books, and
continued to send me week by week many a useful communication,
clearing up doubtful passages. But what was this to his service when
I was writing a Life of Sterne,[1] and the friendly Forster,
interesting himself in the most good-natured way, determined that it
should succeed, and put me in communication with Elwin. No doubt he
was interested in his _protégé_, and Elwin, always willing to please,
as it were, received his instructions. Presently, to my wonder and
gratification, arrived an extraordinary letter, if one might so call
it, which filled over a dozen closely written pages (for he compressed
a marvellous quantity into a sheet of paper), all literally
overflowing with information. It was an account of recondite and most
unlikely works in which allusions to Sterne and many curious bits of
information were stowed away; chapter and page and edition were given
for every quotation; it must have taken him many hours and much
trouble to write. And what an incident it was, the two well-skilled
and accomplished literary critics exerting themselves, the one to
secure the best aid of his friend, the other eager to assist, because
his friend wished it.

[Footnote 1: I recall a meeting by special appointment with Elwin, who
came to lunch to debate it. He had already my letter, turned it over
and over again, but without result. The point was what edition should
be used--the first or the last; this latter having, of course, the
advantage of the author's latest revision. On the great question of
"Johnson's stay at Oxford," which has exercised all the scholars, and
is still in a more or less unsatisfactory way, he agreed with me.]

In the course of these Shandian enquiries, the passage in Thackeray's
lecture occurred to me where he mentions having been shown Eliza's
Diary by a "Gentleman of Bath." I wished to find out who this was,
when my faithful friend wrote to the novelist and sent me his reply,
which began, "My dear Primrose"--his charmingly appropriate nick or
pet name for Elwin, who was the very picture of the amiable vicar. It
resulted in the gentleman allowing _me_ to look at his journal.

Letter from Elwin on the "unfortunate Dr. Dodd":--

Booton Rectory, Norwich,

Oct. 31st, 1864.

     My dear Mr. ----.--I have been ill for some weeks past,
     which has prevented my writing to you. It is of the less
     importance that I can add nothing to your ample list of
     authorities, except to mention, if you are not already aware
     of it, that there is a good deal about Dr. Dodd and his
     doings, in "Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea." The
     contemporary characters which figure in the work are
     described partly by real, and partly by invented
     circumstances. But you at least get the view which the
     author entertained of the persons he introduces on the
     scene. I missed the first part of your Memoir of Dodd, in
     the _Dublin Magazine_. The second I saw, and thought it
     extremely interesting, and very happily written. I was
     surprised at the quantity of information you had got
     together. I cannot help you to any detailed account of the
     Maccaroni preachers. They are glanced at in the second book
     of Cowper's Task. They have existed, and will exist in every
     generation, but it is seldom that any record is preserved of
     them. They are the butterflies of the hour. There are no
     means by which you can keep worthless men from making a
     trade of religion, and as long as there are people simple
     enough to be dupes, so long there will be impostors. It is
     strange to see what transparent acting will impose upon
     women. To be popular, to draw large audiences, is the avowed
     object of many of these preachers. The late R. Montgomery
     once introduced himself to an acquaintance of mine on the
     platform at some religious meeting. Montgomery commenced the
     conversation by the remark, "You have a chapel in the West
     End." "Yes," said my friend. "And I hope to have one soon,"
     replied M., "for I am satisfied that I have the faculty for
     _adapting_ the Gospel to the _West End_." You may tell the
     story if you give no names.

     You have anticipated my Sterne anecdotes. I will just
     mention one circumstance. In the advertisement to the
     edition of Sterne's Works, in 10 vols. (1798), it is stated
     (Vol. I, p. iv.) "that the letters numbered 129, 130 and
     131, have not those proofs of authenticity which the others
     possess." Now, letter 131 is very important, for it is that
     in which Sterne replies to the remonstrances against the
     freedoms in Tristram Shandy. It may be satisfactory to you
     to know that some years after the edition of Sterne's Works
     the letter was published by Richard Warner (apparently from
     the original) in the Appendix to his Literary Recollections.
     He was not, I suppose, aware that it had been printed
     before. Warner was ordained in the North, and his work will
     throw some light upon the state of things in those regions
     at a period close upon Sterne's time. You will find it worth
     while to glance over it. If I can be of any help to you I
     shall only be too happy.

Believe me ever, most sincerely yours,


There is something touching in this deep affection, exhibited by so
rough and sturdy a nature and maintained without flagging for so many
years. With him it was "the noble Elwin," "the good Elwin," "as ever,
most delightful," "kinder and more considerate than ever." "Never were
letters so pleasant to me as yours," he wrote in 1865, "and it is sad
to think that from months we are now getting on to years with barely a
single letter." "My dear fellow," he wrote again, "with the ranks so
thinning around us, should we not close up, come nearer to each other?
None are so dear to us at home as Mrs. Elwin and yourself and all of
you." One of the last entries in his diary was, "Precious letter from
dearest Elwin. December 10th, 1875."

Elwin had, perhaps, a colder temperament, or did not express his
devotion. But his regard would seem to have been as deep-seated; as
indeed was shown in the finely drawn tribute he paid him after his
death, and which is indeed the work of an accomplished writer and
master of expression. "He was two distinct men," wrote Elwin to John
Murray the elder, in 1876, "and the one man quite dissimilar from the
other. To see him in company I should not have recognised him for the
friend with whom I was intimate in private. Then he was quiet,
natural, unpretending, and most agreeable, and in the warmth and
generosity of his friendship he had no superior. Sensitive as he was
in some ways, there was no man to whom it was easier so speak with
perfect frankness. He always bore it with gentle good nature."[2]

[Footnote 2: To Elwin Forster left £2,000 and his gold watch, no doubt
the one bequeathed by Dickens. Forster appointed him, without
consulting him, one of his executors, but knowing well that he could
rely on his good will, and the legacy no doubt was intended as a
solatium for the labour thus enforced. Lord Lytton and Justice Chitty
were the other executors. As Lord Lytton was in India the whole burden
fell on the other two, and mostly on Elwin. As his son tells, the
literary part of the business was most considerable; there was an
edition of Landor to be "seen through" the press; there was a vast
number of papers and letters to be examined, preserved or destroyed.
"His own inclination and Forster's instructions were in the direction
of destroying all personal letters, however eminent the writer might

At another time he wrote with warmth, "Most welcome was your letter
this morning, as your letters always are to me. They come fraught with
some new proof of the true, warm-hearted, generous friend who has made
life worth something more to me than it was a year ago," 1857.[3]

[Footnote 3: Memoirs by Warwick Elwin.]

When Forster married, in 1856, he was eager that Elwin should
officiate, and proposed going down to Norfolk. But legal formalities
were in the way, and Elwin came to London instead. "He never," says
Warwick Elwin, "wavered in his attachment to him. Sometimes he would
be momentarily vexed at some fancied neglect, but the instant they met
again it was all forgotten." Elwin was, in fact, subject to moods and
"nerves," and there were times when he shrank sensitively from the
world and its associations--he would answer no letters, particularly
after the period of his many sore trials. The last time I saw him was
at that great _fiasco_, the production of the first Lord Lytton's
posthumous play on the subject of Brutus, produced by Wilson Barrett,
with extraordinary richness and pomp: a failure that led to an
unpleasant dispute between Lytton's son and the lessee.

When the _Life of Dickens_ appeared, Elwin, as in duty bound,
proceeded to review it in the _Quarterly_. I confess that on reading
over this article there seems to be a curious reserve and rather
measured stint of praise. One would have expected from the generous
Elwin one enthusiastic and sustained burst of praise of his friend's
great work. But it seems as though he felt so trifling a matter was
scarcely worthy of solemn treatment. The paper is only twenty pages
long, and, after a few lines of praise at the beginning and a line or
two at the end, proceeds to give a summary of the facts. The truth was
Elwin was too scrupulously conscientious a critic to stretch a point
in such a matter. I could fancy that for one of his nice feeling it
became an almost disagreeable duty. Were he tempted to expand in
praises, it would be set down to partiality, while he was hardly free
to censure. No wonder he wrote of his performance: "Forster will think
it too lukewarm; others the reverse." As it happened, the amiable
Forster was enchanted.

"For upwards of three-and-thirty years," says Mr. Elwin in this review
(_Q. R._, vol. 132, p. 125), "Mr. Forster was the incessant companion
and confidential adviser of Dickens; the friend to whom he had
recourse in every difficulty, personal and literary; and before whom
he spread, without reserve, every fold of his mind. _No man's life has
ever been better known to a biographer...._ To us it appears that a
more faithful biography could not be written. Dickens is seen in his
pages precisely as he is showed in his ordinary intercourse."

Both Elwin and his friend had that inflexibility of principle in
criticism and literary utterance which they adhered to as though it
were a matter of high morals. This feeling contrasts with the easy
adaptability of our day, when the critic so often has to shape his
views according to interested aims. He indeed will hold in his views,
but may not deem it necessary to produce them. I could recall
instances in both men of this sternness of opinion. Forster knew no
compromise in such matters; though I fancy in the case of people of
title, for whom, as already mentioned, he had a weakness, or of pretty
women, he may have occasionally given way. I remember when Elwin was
writing his fine estimate of his deceased friend, Mrs. Forster in deep
distress came to tell me that he insisted on describing her husband as
"the son of a butcher." In vain had she entreated him to leave this
matter aside. Even granting its correctness, what need or compulsion
to mention it? It was infinitely painful to her. But it was not true:
Forster's father was a large "grazier" or dealer in cattle. Elwin,
however, was inflexible: some Newcastle alderman had hunted up entries
in old books, and he thought the evidence convincing.

Another incident connected with the memory of her much-loved husband,
that gave this amiable woman much poignant distress, was a statement
made by Mr. Furnival, the Shakesperian, that Browning had been
employed by Forster to write the account of Strafford, in the
collection of Lives. He had been told this by Browning himself.
Nevertheless, she set all her friends to work; had papers, letters,
etc., ransacked for evidence, but with poor result. The probability
was that Forster would have disdained such aid; on the other hand, the
Poet had written a tragedy on the subject, and was, therefore, capable
of dealing with it. Letters of vindication were sent to the papers,
but no one was much interested in the point one way or the other;
save, of course, the good Mrs. Forster, to whom it was vital. I am
afraid, however, there was truth in the statement; for it is
completely supported by a stray passage in one of the Poet's letters
to his future wife, recently published.

Forster, I fancy, must have often looked wistfully back to the old
Lincoln's Inn days, when he sat in his large Tulkinghorn room, with the
Roman's finger pointing down to his head. I often grieve that I did not
see this Roman, as I might have done, before he was erased; for Forster
was living there when I first knew him. On his marriage he moved to that
snug house in Montague Square, where we had often cosy dinners. He was
driven from it, he used to say, by the piano-practising on each side of
him, which became "in-_tol_-erable"; but I fancy the modest house was
scarcely commensurate with his ambitions. It was somewhat old-fashioned
too. And yet in his grand palatial mansion at Kensington I doubt if he
was as jocund or as irrepressible as then. I am certain the burden of an
ambitious life told upon his health and spirits.

I often turn back to the day when I first called on him, at the now
destroyed offices at Whitehall, when he emerged from an inner room in
a press of business. I see him now, a truly brisk man, full of life
and energy, and using even then his old favourite hospitable formula,
"My dear sir, I am _very_ busy--very busy; I have just escaped from
the commissioners. But you must dine with me to-morrow and we will
talk of these things." Thus he did not ask you, but he "commanded
you," even as a king would.

One of the most interesting things about Forster was his
"receptivity." Stern and inflexible as he was in the case of old
canons, he was always ready to welcome anything new or striking,
provided it had merit and was not some imposture. I never met a better
appreciator of genuine humour. He had been trained, or had trained
himself; whatever shape it had, only let it have _merit_. He
thoroughly _enjoyed_ a jest, and furnished his own obstreperous laugh
by way of applause. As I have said, there was something truly
_Johnsonian_ about him; everything he said or decided you knew well
was founded on a principle of some kind; he was a solid judicial man,
and even his hearty laugh of enjoyment was always based on a rational
motive. This sort of solid well-trained men are rather scarce

Forster was also a type of the old Cromwellian or Independant with
reference to religious liberty. He could not endure, therefore,
"Romish tyranny," as he called it, which stifled thought. Many of his
friends were Roman Catholics. There were "touches" in Forster as good
as anything in the old comedies.

His handsome and spacious library, with its gallery running round, was
well known to all his friends. Richly stored was it with book
treasures, manuscripts, rare first editions, autographs, in short all
those things which may now be seen at South Kensington. He had a store
of other fine things somewhere else, and kept a secretary or
librarian, to whom he issued his instructions. For he himself did not
profess to know the _locale_ of the books and papers, and I have often
heard him in his lofty way direct that instructions should be sent to
Mr. ---- to search out such and such documents. He had grand ideas
about his books, and spared no cost either in his purchases or
bindings. I have seen one of his quarto MS. thus dressed by Rivière in
plain decoration, but which he told me had cost £30.

Once for some modest private theatricals I had written a couple of
little pieces to be acted by ourselves and our friends. One was called
_Blotting Paper_, the other _The William Simpson_. A gay company was
invited, and I recall how the performers were pleased and encouraged
when the face of the brilliant author of a _Lady of Lyons_ was seen in
the front row. Forster took the whole under his protection, and was
looking forward to attending, but his invariable terrible cough seized
on him. Mrs. Forster was sent with strict instructions to observe and
report everything that did or could occur on this interesting
occasion. I see her soft amiable face smiling encouragement from the
stalls. I rose greatly in my friend's estimation from this attendance
of the author of _Pelham_. "How did you manage it?" "He goes nowhere
or to few places. It was a gr-eat compliment."

This little performance is associated in a melancholy way with the
closing days of Dickens' career. I was naturally eager to secure his
presence, and went to see him at "his office" to try and persuade him
to attend; he pleaded, however, his overwhelming engagements. I find
in an old diary some notes of our talk. "Theatricals led to Regnier,
whom I think he had been to see in _Les Vieux Garçons_. He said he
found him very old. "Alas! He is _Vieux Garçon_ himself." I think of
our few little dinners in my house; would we had had more! Somehow
since I have been living here the image of him has been more and more
stamped on me; I see and like him more. The poor, toiling, loveable
fellow, to think that all is over with him now!"

[At the risk of smiles, and perhaps some suspicion of vanity, I go on
to copy what follows.] When I saw Mrs. Forster during those dismal
days, she was good enough to relate to me much about his personal
liking for me. He would tell them how I could do anything if I only
gave myself fair play. He said he was going to write to give me a
sound blowing up. "And yet," he added, "I doubt if he would take it
from anybody else but me. He is a good fellow." [I still doubt whether
I should add what follows, but I am not inclined to sacrifice such a
tribute from such a man; told me, too, only a few days after his
death.] He praised a novel of mine, _No. 75, Brooke St._, and here are
his words: "The last scene and winding up is one of the most powerful
things I have met."

Forster, devoted to the school of Macready, and all but trained by
that actor, whose bust was placed in his hall, thought but poorly of
the performances of our time. He pooh-poohed them all, including even
the great and more brilliant successes. Once a clever American company
came over, a phenomenal thing at that time, and appeared at the St.
James's Theatre. They played _She Stoops to Conquer_, with two
excellent performers as Old Hardcastle and Marlow; Brough was the
Tony. I induced Forster to come and see them, and we made up a party.
He listened with an amusing air of patronage, which was habitual with
him--meant to encourage--and said often that "it was very good, very
fair indeed." Brough he admitted was perhaps the nearest to the
fitting tone and spirit of the piece. The two American actors, as it
seemed to me, were excellent comedians.

I once saw him at St. James's Hall, drawn to hear one of his friend's
last readings. I saw his entrance. He came piloted by the faithful
Charles Kent, who led, or rather _cleared_ the way, Forster following
with a smiling modesty, as if he sought to avoid too much notice. His
rotund figure was swathed in a tight fitting paletôt, while a sort of
nautical wrapper was round his throat. He fancied no doubt that many
an eye was following him; that there was many a whisper, "That is the
great John Forster." He passed on solemnly through the hall and out at
the door leading to the artistes' rooms. Alas! no one was thinking of
him; he had been too long absent from the stage. It is indeed
extremely strange, and I often wonder at it, how little mark he made.
The present and coming generations know nothing about him. I may add
here that, at Dickens' _very_ last Reading at this place, I and
Charles Kent were the two--the only two--favoured with a place on the
platform, behind the screens. From that coign, I heard him say his
last farewell words: "Vanish from these garish lights for evermore!"

One summer Forster and his wife came down to Bangor, I believe from a
genial good-natured wish to be there with his friends--a family who
were often found there. He put up at the "George," then a house of
lofty pretensions, though now it would seem but a modest affair
enough. What a holiday it was! The great John unbent to an
inconceivable degree; he was soft, engaging even, and in a bright and
constant good humour. The family consisted of the mother, two
daughters, and the son, _moi qui vous parle_--all of whom looked to
him with a sort of awe and reverence, which was not unpleasing to him.
The two girls he professed to admire and love; the mother, a woman of
the world, had won him by her speech at his dinner party, during which
a loud crash came from the hall; he said nothing, but she saw the
temper working within, and quoted happily from Pope,

    "And e'en unmoved hears China fall."

Immensely gratified at the implied compliment for his restraint, his
angry brow was smoothed. To imagine a dame of our time quoting Pope at
a dinner! at most she would have heard of him.

What walks and expeditions in that delightful Welsh district! and what
unbounded hospitality! He would insist on his favourites coming to
dinner every few days or so. It was impossible to refuse; equally
impossible to make any excuse; he was so overpowering. Everything was
swept away. At the time the dull pastime of acrostic-writing was in
high vogue, and some ladies of the party thought to compliment him by
fashioning one upon his name. He accepted the compliment with much
complacent gratification; and, when the result was read aloud, it was
found that the only epithet that would fit his name, having the
proper number of letters, was "learned." His brow clouded. It was not
what he expected. He was good-humouredly scornful. "Well, I declare, I
did not expect this. I should have thought something like 'gallant,'
or 'pleasant,' or 'agreeable'--but '_learned_!' as though I were some
old pundit. Thank you, ladies."

No one knew so much as Forster of the literary history of the days
when Dickens first "rose"; and when such men as Lamb, Campbell,
Talfourd, Theodore Hook, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, and many more of that
school were flourishing.

I see him now seated in the stern manipulating the ropes of the
rudder, with all the air of perfect knowledge; diverting the boatmen,
putting questions to them, and adroitly turning their answers into
pieces of original information; lecturing on the various objects of
interest we passed; yet all the time interesting, and excellent
company. At times he began to talk of poetry, and would pour forth the
stores of his wonderful memory, reciting passages with excellent
elocution, and delighting his hearers. I recall the fine style in
which he rolled forth "Hohenlinden," and "The Royal George," and the
"Battle of the Baltic." At the close he would sink his voice to a low
muttering, just murmuring impressively, "be-neath the wave!" Then
would pause, and say, as if overcome--"Fine, very, very fine!" These
exercises gave his audience genuine pleasure. On shore, visiting the
various show things, he grew frolicsome, and insisted on the visitors
as "Mr. and Mrs. ----," the names of characters in some novel I had

It would be an interesting question to consider how far Forster's
influence improved or injured Dickens' work; for he tells us
everything written by the latter was submitted to him, and corrections
and alterations offered. I am inclined to confess that, when in his
official mood, Forster's notions of humour were somewhat forced. It is
thus almost startling to read his extravagant praise of a passage
about Sapsea which the author discarded in _Edwin Drood_. Nothing
better showed Boz's discretion. The well-known passage in _The Old
Curiosity Shop_ about the little marchioness and her make-believe of
orange peel and water, and which Dickens allowed him to mend in his
own way, was certainly altered for the worse.

I had the sad satisfaction, such as it was, of attending Forster's
funeral, as well as that of his amiable wife. I had a seat in one of
the mourning coaches, with that interesting man, James Anthony Froude.
Not many were bidden to the ceremonial.

Mrs. Forster's life, like that of her husband, closed in much
suffering. I believe she might have enjoyed a fair amount of health
had she not clung with a sort of devotion, not unconnected with the
memory of her husband, to the house which he had built. Nothing could
induce her to go away. She was, moreover, offered a sum of over
£20,000 for it shortly after his death, but declined; it was later
sold for little over a third of the amount. He had bequeathed all his
treasures to the nation, allowing her the life use, but with much
generosity she at once handed over the books, pictures, prints,
sketches, and other things. She bore her sufferings with wonderful
patience and sweetness, and I remember the clergyman who attended her,
and who was at the grave, being much affected.

Mrs. Forster was a woman of more sagacity and shrewdness of
observation than she obtained credit for. She had seen and noted many
curious things in her course. Often of a Sunday afternoon, when I used
to pay her a visit, she would open herself very freely, and reveal to
me many curious bits of secret history relating to her husband's
literary friends. She was very amusing on the Sage of Chelsea. I
recollect she treated Mrs. Carlyle's account of her dreary life and
servitude to her great husband as a sort of romance or delusion,
conveying that she was not at all a lady likely to be thus "put upon."
In vulgar phrase, the boot was on the other leg.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have thought it right to offer this small tribute to one who was in
his way an interesting and remarkable man. No place has been found for
him in the series known as English Men of Letters; and yet, as I have
before pointed out, he had a place in literature that somewhat
suggests the position of Dr. Johnson. What Forster said, or what
Forster did, was at one time of importance to the community. This sort
of arbiter is unknown nowadays, and perhaps would not be accepted. He
will, however, ever be associated with Charles Dickens, as his friend,
adviser, admirer, corrector, and biographer. There is a conventional
meaning for the term "men of letters," men, that is, who have written
books; but in the stricter sense it is surely one who is "learned in
letters," as a lawyer is learned in the law. Johnson is much more
thought of in this way than as a writer. Forster had this true
instinct, and it was a curious thing one day to note his delight when
I showed him a recent purchase: a figure of Johnson, _his_ prototype,
wrought in pottery, seated in chair, in an attitude of wisdom, his
arms extended and bent, and evidently expatiating. Looking at it, he
delivered an acute bit of criticism worthy of the Doctor himself.

"The interest," he said, "of this figure is not in the modelling,
which is good, but because it represents Johnson as he was, in the eye
of the crowd of his day; who looked on him, not as the writer, but as
the grand _argufier_ and layer-down of the law, the 'settler' of any
knotty point whatever; with them the Doctor could decide anything. See
how his arm is half raised, his fingers outspread, as if about to give
his decision. You should show this to Carlyle, who will be delighted
with it."

He often recurred to this and to the delight the Sage would have had.
I forget whether I followed his advice. On the same occasion he
noticed a figure of Washington. "Ah! there he stands," he said, "with
his favourite air of state and dignity, and sense of what was due to
his position. You will always notice that in the portraits there was a
little assumption of the aristocrat." Forster's criticism was always
of this kind--instructive and acute.

Forster was the envied possessor of nearly every one of Boz's MSS.--a
treasure at the time not thought very much of, even by Dickens
himself, but since his death become of extraordinary value. I should
say that each was worth some two or three thousand pounds at the
least. How amazing has been this appreciation of what dealers call
"the Dickens stuff" during these years! It is almost incredible. I
mind the day when a Dickens' book, a Dickens' letter, was taken
tranquilly. A relation of my own, an old bachelor, had, as we thought,
an eccentric _penchant_ for early editions of Boz; and once, on the
great man coming to the provincial city where he lived, waited on him
to show him what he called his "Old Gold"; to wit, the earlier
editions of Pickwick and Nickleby. We all smiled, and I remember Boz
speaking to me good-naturedly of this enthusiasm. Not one of the party
then--it was in 1865--dreamed that this old bachelor was far wiser
than his generation. The original Pickwick, that is bound from the
numbers, is indeed a nugget of old gold. I remember once asking Wills,
his sub-editor, could I be allowed to have the original MSS. of some
of Boz's short stories? He said, "To be sure, that nothing was more
easy than to ask him, for the printer sent each back to him after use,
carefully sealed up." What became of all these papers I cannot tell;
but I doubt if anyone was then _very_ eager about them.

Lately, turning over some old papers, I came upon a large bundle of
proof "slips" of a story I had written for _All the Year Round_. It
was called _Howard's Son_. To my surprise and pleasure I found that
they had passed through Boz's own hands, and had been corrected
throughout in his own careful and elaborate fashion, whole passages
written in, others deleted, the punctuation altered and improved. Here
was a _trouvaille_. These slips, I may add, have extraordinary value,
and in the States would fetch a considerable sum. It was extraordinary
what pains Boz took with the papers of his contributors, and how
diligently and laboriously he improved and polished them.

Forster's latter days, that is, I suppose, for some seven or eight
years, were an appalling state of martyrdom; no words could paint it.
It was gout in its most terrible form, that is, on the chest. This
malady was due, in the first place, to his early hard life, when rest
and hours of sleep were neglected or set at nought. Too good living
also was accountable. He loved good cheer and had an excellent taste
in wines, fine clarets, etc. Such things were fatal to his complaint.
This gout took the shape of an almost eternal cough, which scarcely
ever left him. It began invariably with the night and kept him awake,
the waters rising on his chest and overpowering him. I have seen him
on the following day, lying spent and exhausted on a sofa and
struggling to get some snatches of sleep, if he could. But as seven
o'clock drew near, a change came. There was a dinner-party; he "pulled
himself together:" began another jovial night and in good spirits. But
he could not resist the tempting wines, etc., and of course had his
usual "bad" night. Once dining with me, he as usual brought his Vichy
bottle with him, and held forth on the necessity of "putting on the
muzzle," restraint, etc. He "lectured" us all in a very suitable way,
and maintained his restraint during dinner. There was a bottle of good
Corton gently warming at the fire, about which he made inquiries, but
which now, alas! need not be opened. When the ladies were gone, he
became very pressing on this topic. "My dear fellow, you must _not_
let me be a kill-joy, you must really open the bottle for yourself;
why should you deny yourself for me? Nonsense!" It suggested Winkle
going to fight a duel, saying to his friend, "Do _not_ give
information to the police." But I was inhospitably inflexible. These
little touches were Forster all over. One would have given anything to
let him have his two or three glasses, but one had to be cruel to be
kind. Old Sam Johnson was of the same pattern, and could not resist a
dinner-party, even when in serious plight. He certainly precipitated
his death by his greed.

I well recall the confusion and grief of one morning in July, 1870,
when opening the _Times_ I read in large capitals, DEATH OF CHARLES
DICKENS. It must have brought a shock more or less to every reader.
Nothing was less expected, for we had not at that time the recurring
evening editions, treading on each other's heels, to keep us posted up
every hour in every event of the day.

I am tempted here to copy from an old diary the impressions of that
painful time. The words were written on the evening of the funeral at
6 p.m.: "Died, dear Charles Dickens. I think at this moment of his
bright genial manner, so cordial and hearty, of the delightful days at
Belfast--on the Reading Tours--The Trains--the Evenings at the
Hotel--his lying on the sofa listening to my stories and laughing in
his joyous way. I think, too, of the last time that I saw him, which
was at his office in Wellington Street, whither I went to ask him to
come to some theatricals that we were getting up. We talked them over,
and then he began to bewail so sadly, the burden of 'going out' to
dinner parties. He said that he would like to come, but that he could
not promise. However, he might come late in the night if he could get
away from other places. I see his figure now before me, standing at
the table, the small delicate-formed shoulders. Then bringing me into
another room to show me one of the gigantic golden yellow _All the
Year Round_ placards, presently to be displayed on every wall and
hoarding of the kingdom. This was the announcement of a new story I
had written for his paper, which he had dubbed 'The Doctor's Mixture,'
but of which, alas! he was destined never to revise the proofs. It
had been just hung up 'to try the effect,' and was fresh from the

I look back to another of Forster's visits to Dublin when he came in
quest of materials for his _Life of Swift_. He was in the gayest and
best of his humours, and behaved much as the redoubtable Doctor
Johnson did on his visit to Edinburgh. I see him seated in the library
at Trinity College, making his notes, surrounded by the Dons. Dining
with him at his hotel, for even here he must entertain his host, he
lit his cigar after dinner, when an aged waiter of the old school
interrupted: "Ah, you musn't do that. It's agin the rules and
forbidden." He little knew his Forster; what a storm broke on his
head--"Leave the room, you rascal. How dare you, sir, interfere with
me! Get out, sir," with much more: the scared waiter fled. "One of the
pleasantest episodes in my life," I wrote in a diary, "has just
closed. John Forster come and gone, after his visit here (_i.e._ to
Dublin). Don't know when I liked a man more. He was most genial and
satisfactory to talk with. His amiable and agreeable wife with him.
She told a great deal of Boz and his life at home, giving a delightful
picture of his ordinary day. He would write all the morning till one
o'clock, and no one was allowed to see or interrupt him. Then came
lunch; then a long hearty walk until dinner time. During the evening
he would read in his own room, but the door was kept open so that he
might hear the girls playing--an amiable touch. At Christmas time,
when they would go down on a visit, he would entertain them by reading
aloud his proofs and passages not yet published. She described to us
'Boffin,' out of _Our Mutual Friend_, as admirable. He shows all to
Forster before-hand, and consults him as to plot, characters, etc. He
has a humorous fashion of giving his little boys comic names; later to
appear in his stories. Thus, one known as 'Plorn,' which later
appeared as 'Plornish.' This is a pleasant picture of the great
writer's domestic life, and it gives also a faint 'adumbration' of
what is now forgotten: the intense curiosity and eager anticipation
that was abroad as to what he was doing or preparing. Hints of his
characters got known; their movements and developments were discussed,
and the incidents of his story were like public events. We have
nothing of this nowadays, for no writer or story rouses the same
interest. Forster also told us a good deal about Carlyle, whose
proof-sheets, from the abundant corrections, cost three or four times
what the original 'setting' did." Thus the diary.

Once, on a Sunday in Dublin, I brought Forster to the cathedral in
Marlborough Street to hear the High Mass, at which Cardinal Cullen
officiated. He sat it out very patiently, and I remember on coming out
drew a deep sigh, or gasp, with the remark, "Well, I suppose it's all

Forster, whatever might be said of his sire's calling, was at least of
a good old Newcastle border stock of fine "grit" and sturdily
independent. He was proud of his stock, and he has often lamented,
not merely in print, but to myself, how people would confound him with
mere Fosters. "Now we," he would say vehemently, "are Forsters with an
_r_." When he became acquainted with a person nearly connected with
myself, he was immensely pleased to find that she was a Foster; and,
as she was of rank, it was amusing to find him not quite so eager to
repudiate the Foster (without the _r_). "We are all the same, my dear
friend. All Forresters, abbreviated as Forster or Foster, all one; the
same crest." The lady had some fragments of a fine old crimson Derby
service, plates with the Foster escutcheon, and he was immensely
gratified when she presented him with one.

       *       *       *       *       *

FREDERICK LOCKER was certainly one of the most agreeable and most
interesting and most amiable beings that could be imagined. His face
had a sort of Quixote quaintness, so had his talk, while his humour
had a pleasant flavour. He lived at his place in the country, but I
always looked forward--and now look back, alas!--to the many pleasant
talks we would have together, each more than an hour long, on the
occasion of these rare visits. All his stories were delightful, all
his tastes elegant. His knowledge of books was profound and truly
refined. His taste was most fastidious. Towards the close of his
career he prepared a catalogue of his choice library, which showed to
the world at once how elegant was his taste and knowledge. At once it
became _recherché_. A few copies at a guinea were for sale, with a
view to let the public know something of his treasures, but it is now
at a fancy price. Once when I was in a dealer's shop "haggling" over
an "old play," for which I think two guineas was asked, and which
seemed to me a monstrous price, Locker came in quietly, and took the
book up, which was the interlude of _Jacke Drum_. I told him of the
price--"Take it, I advise you, he said, it is very cheap. I assure you
I gave a vast deal more for my copy." I took it, and I believe at this
moment I could get for my copy ten times that sum, in fact, there has
not been a copy in the market. This interesting man was, I fancy,
happy in both his marriages; the first bringing him rank and
connection, the second lands and wealth. I bring him in here because
he associated with Forster in one of his most grotesque moods. To
Forster, however, this agreeable spirit was taboo. He had offended the
great man, and as it had a ludicrous cast, and was, besides, truly
Forsterian, I may here recur to it. Forster, as I have stated, had
been left by Landor, the copyright of his now value unsaleable
writings, and he was more pleased at the intended compliment than
gratified by the legacy itself. My friend Locker, whose _Lyra_ was
well known, had thoughtlessly inserted in a new edition one, or some,
of Landor's short pieces, and went his way. One day Forster discovered
"the outrage," wrote tremendous letters, threatened law, and, I
believe, obtained some satisfaction for the trespasses. But during the
altercation he found that a copy had been presented to the Athenæum
Club library, and it bore the usual inscription and Minerva's head of
the Club. Forster, _sans façon_, put the book in his pocket and took
it away home, confiscated it in fact. There was a great hubbub. The
committee met, determined that their property had been taken away, and
demanded that it should be brought back. Forster flatly refused;
defied the Club to do its worst. Secretary, solicitors, and every
means were used to bring him to reason. It actually ended in his
retaining the book, the Club shrinking from entering into public
contest with so redoubtable an antagonist.

Forster was sumptuous in his tastes; always liking to have the best.
When he wanted a thing considerations of the expense would not stand
in the way. He was an admirable judge of a picture, and could in a few
well-chosen words point out its merits. When he heard Lord Lytton was
going to India, he gave Millais a commission to paint a portrait of
the new Viceroy. Millais used good humouredly to relate the lofty
condescending style in which it was announced. "It gives me, I assure
you, great pleasure to learn that you are so advancing in your
profession. I think highly of your abilities and _shall be glad to
encourage them_;" or something to that effect. Millais at this time
was at the very top of his profession, as indeed Forster knew well,
but the state and grandeur of the subject, and his position in
expending so large a sum--I suppose a thousand guineas, for it was a
full length--lifted my old friend into one of his dreams. The
portrait was a richly-coloured and effective one, giving the staring
owl-like eyes of the poet-diplomatist. Another of Forster's purchases
was Maclise's huge picture of Caxton showing his first printed book to
the King.

It was a treat and an education to go round a picture gallery with
him, so excellent and to the point were his criticisms. He seized on
the _essential_ merit of each. I remember going with him to see the
collected works of his old friend Leslie, R.A., when he frankly
confessed his disappointment at the general _thinness_ of the colour
and style, brought out conspicuously when the works were all gathered
together: this was the effect, with a certain _chalkiness_. At the
Dublin Exhibition he was greatly struck by a little cabinet picture by
an Anglo-German artist, one Webb, and was eager to secure it, though
he objected to the price. However, on the morning of his departure the
secretary drove up on an outside car to announce that the artist would
take fifty pounds, which Forster gave. This was "The Chess-players,"
which now hangs at South Kensington.

He had deep feeling and hesitation even as to putting anything into
print without due pause and preparation. Print had not then become
what it is now, with the telephone, type-writing, and other aids, a
mere expression of conversation and of whatever floating ideas are
passing through the mind. Mr. Purcell's wholesale exhibition of
Cardinal Manning's inmost thoughts and feelings would have shocked
him inexpressibly. I was present when a young fellow, to whom he had
given some papers, brought him the proofs in which the whole was
printed off without revision or restraint. He gave him a severe
rebuke. "Sir, you seem to have no idea of the _sacredness_ of the
Press; you _pitch in_ everything, as if into a bucket. Such
carelessness is inexcusable." Among them was a letter from Colburn,
the former husband of his wife. "I am perfectly _astounded_ at you!
Have you not the tact to see that such a thing as that should not
appear?" And he drew his pen indignantly across it. That was a good
lesson for the youth. In such matters, however, he did not spare
friend or stranger.

It is curious, considering how sturdy a pattern of Englishman was
Forster, that all his oldest friends were Irishmen, such as Maclise,
Emerson Tennant, Whiteside, Macready, Quain, Foley, Mulready, and many
more. For all these he had almost an affection, and he cherished their
old and early intimacy. He liked especially the good-natured impulsive
type of the Goldy pattern; for such he had interest and sympathy. As a
young man, when studying for the Bar, he had been in Chitty's office,
where he had for companions Whiteside and Tennant, afterwards Sir
Emerson. Whiteside became the brilliant parliamentary orator and Chief
Justice; Tennant a baronet and Governor of Ceylon; and Forster himself
the distinguished writer and critic, the friend and biographer of
Dickens. It was a remarkable trio certainly. Chitty, the veteran
conveyancer, his old master, he never forgot, and was always delighted
to have him to dinner, to do him honour in every way. His son, the
judge, was a favourite _protégé_, and became his executor. He had a
warm regard for Sir Richard Quain, who was beside Lord Beaconsfield
_in extremis_, who literally knew everyone that ought to be known, and
who would visit a comparatively humble patient with equal interest.
Quain was thoroughly good-natured, ever friendly and even
affectionate. Forster's belief in him was as that in a fetish.

The faithful Quain was with his friend to the last moment. Poor
Forster was being gradually overpowered by the rising bronchial
humours with which, as he grew weaker, he could not struggle with or
baffle. It was then that Quain, bending over, procured him a short
reprieve and relief in his agony, putting his fingers down his throat
and clearing away the impeding masses.

Sir Richard was not only physician-in-ordinary, but the warm and
devoted friend, official consultant, as he was of the whole _coterie_.
For a long course of years he had charge of his friend's health, if
health it could be called where all was disease and misery; and it was
his fate to see him affectionately through the great crisis at the
last. There was a deal of this affection in Quain; he was eminently
good-natured; good true-hearted Quain! Many a poor priest of his
country has been to him, and from them he would never take, though not
of his faith. Quain was indeed the literary man's physician; more so
than Sir Andrew Clarke, who was presumed to hold the post by letters
patent. For Clarke was presumed to know and cure the literary
ailments; but Quain was the genial guide, philosopher and friend,
always one of themselves, and indeed a _litérateur_ himself. Who will
forget his quaint little figure, shrewd face, the native accent, never
lost; and his "Ah me dear fellow, shure what can I do?" His
red-wheeled carriage, generally well horsed, was familiar to us all,
and recognisable. How he maintained this equipage, for we are told
what "makes a mare to go," it was hard to conceive, for the generous
man would positively refuse to take fees from his more intimate
friends, at least of the literary class. With me, a very old friend
and patient, there was a perpetual battle. He set his face against the
two guinea fee, but humorously held out for his strict guinea, and
would not bate the shilling. I have known him when a client presented
two sovereigns empty his pockets of silver and scrupulously return
nineteen shillings. And what an adviser he was! What confidence he
imparted! The moment he bade you sit down and "tell him all about it"
you felt secure.

It was always delightful to meet him. He had his moments of gloom,
like most of his countrymen, for he never lost his native "hall mark,"
and retained to the last that sort of wheedling tone which is common
in the South of Ireland. Yet he had none of that good-natured
insincerity, to which a particular class of Irish are given. He was
thoroughly sincere and genuine, and ready to support his words by
deeds. His humour was racy. As when the Prince of Wales was
sympathising with him on a false report of his death, adding, good
naturedly, "I really was afraid, Dr. Quain, that we had lost you, and
was thinking of sending a wreath." "Well, Sir," said the medico,
"recollect that you are now _committed to the wreath_." I did not
note, however, that when the event at last took place the wreath was
sent. I always fancied that he was a disappointed man, and that he
felt that his high position had not been suitably recognised; or at
least that the recognition had been delayed. The baronetcy came late.
But what he had set his heart upon, and claimed as his due, was the
Presidency of the College of Physicians. This he was always near
attaining, but men like Sir Andrew Clarke were preferred to him. I was
a special friend for many years, and have had many a favoured "lift"
in his carriage when we were going the same way. I was glad to be
allowed to dedicate to him some volumes of personal memoirs. The last
time I met this genial and amiable man was at the table of a
well-known law lord, whom he astonished considerably by addressing me
across the table all through dinner by my christian name. He was at
the time seriously ill, in his last illness in fact, when, as he said,
he had been "tartured to death by their operations." He had good
taste in art, was fond of the French school of engraving, and was the
friend and counsellor of many an artist. He was of the old Dickens
school, of the _coterie_ that included Maclise, Jerrold and the rest.

Once, when he and his family were staying close to Ipswich, I asked
him to order me a photograph of the Great White Horse Inn, noted as
the scene of Mr. Pickwick's adventure, and to my pleasure and
astonishment found that he had commissioned an artist to prepare a
whole series of large photographs depicting the old inn, both without
and within, and from every point of view. In this handsome way he
would oblige his friends. He was in immense demand as a cheerful diner

I was amused by a cynical appreciation of a friend and patient of his,
uttered shortly after his death. We had met and were lamenting his
loss. "Nothing, nobody can fill his place," he said.--"It is sad to
lose such a friend."--"Indeed it is," said my companion, "I don't know
what I shall do. No one else ever understood my constitution. I really
don't know whom I am to go to now"--and he went his way in a pettish
mood, as though his physician had rather shabbily deserted him. Alas,
is there not much of this when one of these pleasant "specialists"

His faithful devotion to his old friend Forster during that long
illness was unflagging. He could not cure, but he did all that was
possible by his unwearying attention to alleviate. How often have I
found the red chariot waiting at the door, or when I was sitting with
him would the door open and the grave manservant announce "Sir
Rich-hard QUAIN." His talk, gossip, news, was part of the alleviation.

After all that must have been an almost joyous moment that brought
poor Forster his release from those awful and intolerable days and
nights of agony, borne with a fortitude of which the world had no
conception. Eternal frightful spasms of coughing day and night,
together with other maladies of the most serious kind. And yet, on the
slightest respite, this man of wonderful fortitude would turn gay and
festive, recover his spirits, and look forward to some enjoyment, a
dinner it might be, where he was the old Forster once more, smiling
enticingly on his favourite ladies, and unflinchingly prepared to go
back to the night of horrors that awaited him!

Mrs. Forster, as her friends knew well, was one of the sweetest women
"under the sun," a sweetness brought out by contrast with the
obstreperous ways of her tempestuous mate. Often when something went
wrong, rather did not go with the almost ideal smoothness at one of
his many banquets (and there never was a more generously hospitable
man), it was piteous to see her trying to smooth away the incident
with the certainty of inflaming the dictator, and turning his wrath
upon herself.

She knew well that not he, but his malady, was accountable. She
believed from her heart in the duality of Forster. There was a hapless
page boy whose very presence and assumed stupidity used to inflame
his master to perfect Bersaker fits of rage. The scenes were
exquisitely ludicrous, if painful; the contrast between the giant and
the object of his wrath, scared out of his life with terror, was
absolutely diverting. Thus the host would murmur "Biscuits!" which was
not heard or not heeded; then louder and more sharply, "BIScuits!"
then a roar that made all start, "BIScuits!!" Poor Mrs. Forster's
agitation was sad to see, and between her and the butler the luckless
lad was somehow got from the room. This attendant was an admirable
comedy character, and in his way a typical servant, stolid and
reserved. No one could have been so portentously sagacious as _he_
looked. It was admirable to see his unruffled calm during his master's
outbursts when something had gone wrong during the dinner. No violence
could betray him into anything but the most placid and correct
replies. There was something fine and pathetic in this, for it showed
that he also recognised that it was not his true master that was thus
raging. I recall talking with him shortly after his master's death.
After paying his character a fine tribute he spoke of his illness.
"You see, sir," he said at last, "what was at the bottom of it all was
he 'ad no _staminer, no staminer_--NO STAMINER, sir." And he repeated
the word many times with enjoyment. I have no doubt he picked it up at
Forster's table and it had struck him as a good effective English
word, spelled as he pronounced it.

Such was John Forster.

       *       *       *       *       *

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