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Charles Dickens to Mary Cowden Clarke, 14 April 1848

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX
John Keats
Charles Lamb
Mary Lamb
Leigh Hunt
Douglas Jerrold
Charles Dickens
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Devonshire Terrace, 14th April, 1848.

Dear Mrs. Cowden Clarke,—I did not understand, when I had the pleasure of conversing with you the other evening, that you had really considered the subject, and desired to play. But I am very glad to understand it now; and I am sure there will be a universal sense among us of the grace and appropriateness of such a proceeding. Falstaff (who depends very much on Mrs. Quickly) may have, in his modesty, some timidity about acting with an amateur actress. But I have no question, as you have studied the part, and long wished to play it, that you will put him completely at his ease on the first night of your rehearsal. Will you, towards that end, receive this as a solemn “call” to rehearsal of “The Merry Wives” at Miss Kelly’s theatre, to-morrow, Saturday week at seven in the evening?

And will you let me suggest another point for your consideration? On the night when “The Merry Wives” will not be played, and when “Every man in his Humour” will be, Kenny’s farce of “Love, Law, and Physic” will be acted. In that farce, there is a very good character (one Mrs. Hilary, which I have seen Mrs. Orger, I think, act to admiration) that would have been played by Mrs. C. Jones, if she had acted Dame Quickly, as we at first intended. If you find yourself quite comfortable and at ease among us, in Mrs. Quickly, would you like to take this other part too? It is an excellent farce, and is safe, I hope, to be very well done.

We do not play to purchase the house2 (which may be positively considered as paid for), but towards endowing a perpetual curatorship of it, for some eminent literary veteran. And I think you will recognize in this, even a higher and

2 The house in which Shakespeare was born at Stratford-on-Avon.—M. C. C.

more gracious object than the securing, even, of the debt incurred for the house itself.

Believe me, very faithfully yours,
Charles Dickens.