The New York Public Library, Berg Collection of
English and American Literature
"A paroxysm of sneezing."
In this letter to his American publisher James T. Fields, dated Boston, February 27, 1868, Dickens, who has been suffering from a terrible cold, tells his friend that it would be "madness" for him to go out after that night's reading. "Dolby will tell you," he writes, "that I have been terrifying him nearly out of his wits by setting in for a paroxysm of sneezing, since dinner." And, he continues, Dolby has been charged "with a little note to Longfellow explaining." Nonetheless, even though he was feeling so poorly, the reading went off splendidly that evening. As Dickens would write: "They took to it so tremendously ... that I was stopped every five minutes. One poor young girl in mourning burst into a passion of grief about Tiny Tim, and was taken out."