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Toasting Fork

Dreamed (August?)1843 by Charles Dickens

I dreamed that somebody was dead. I don't know who, but it's not to the purpose. It was a private gentleman, and a particular friend; and I was greatly overcome when the news was broken to me (very delicately) by a gentleman in a cocked hat, top boots, and a sheet. Nothing else.

"Good God!" I said, "is he dead?"

"He is dead, sir," rejoined the gentleman, "as a door-nail. But we must all die, Mr. Dickens, sooner or later, my dear sir."

"Ah!" I said, "Yes, to be sure. Very true. But what did he die of ?"

The gentleman burst into a flood of tears, and said, in a voice broken by emotion, "He christened his youngest child, sir, with a toasting-fork."

I never in my life was so affected as at his having fallen a victim to this complaint. It carried a conviction to my mind that he never could have recovered. I knew that it was the most interesting and fatal malady in the world; and I wrung the gentleman's hand in a convulsion of respectful admiration, for I felt that this explanation did equal honour to his head and heart.


A propos of dreams, is it not a strange thing if writers of fiction never dream of their own creations; recollecting, I suppose, even in their dreams, that they have no real existence? I never dream of any of my own characters, and I feel it is so impossible that I would wager [Sir Walter] Scott never did of his, real as they are.

From a letter to C.C. Felton, Sept. 1, 1843; quoted in The Oxford Book of Dreams, (ed. Stephen Brook)

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