[Arethusa Gibson on Thackeray: 'Is he not a little odd?'] Autograph Letter [from her to her mother Lady Cullum], expressing uncertainty about 'Mr Thackery', mocking MP and diplomat David Urquhart, and praising the 'Turkish Chargé d'Affaires'.

Arethusa Gibson [née Susannah Arethusa Cullum] (1814-1885), society hostess, wife of Thomas Milner Gibson (1806-1884), Liberal politician [William Makepeace Thackeray; David Urquhart]
Publication details: 
No place or date, but circa 1846-1848, when Thackeray was publishing under the pseudonym 'Michael Angelo Titmarsh'. On letterhead of 'Arethusa'.
SKU: 22407

See the separate entries on the Gibsons in the Oxford DNB, which notes 'her eclectic salons, attended by diplomats, writers, politicians, and, after 1848, European exiles. Regular guests included Dickens, Thackeray, Hugo, Lady Morgan, the Disraelis, Cobden, and Louis Napoleon'. (Dickens wrote part of his last novel, 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood', at the Gibsons' London house.) The present item is from the papers of Arethusa's mother Lady Ann Cullum (1807-1875), wife of Rev. Sir Thomas Gery Cullum (1777-1855) of Hardwick House. 4pp, 12mo. Bifolium. In good condition, lightly aged, with closed tear along gutter unobtrusively repaired with archival tape. Folded twice. The letter has no salutation or valediction, but is accompanied by a leaf removed from a family autograph album, on which is written: 'Letter from Mrs. Milner Gibson (née Cullum) to Lady Cullum'. A good letter, vividly conveying the first impression Thackeray made on a woman who would become a close friend, with the recipient of the letter an even closer friend. It begins: 'Can you tell me anything of a Mr Thackery [sic] who publishes under the name of "Michael Angelo Titmarsh" - and who claimed acquaintance or rather was introduced to me upon the grounds of having known you and my father in Paris? Has he exaggerated his terms of intimacy or is he really a nice agreeable person!' She continues, indicating that she is not quite sure of what to make of Thackeray: 'Is he not a little odd? or a little rough? or a little - - I hardly know what to call it? or is it my fancy & is he only a character [last word underlined]'. She explains that she has been 'asked to ask him to my very tiny reunions andn my parties are so small from my house being small that I never ask a tall man unless he is some old friend or has some particularly agreeable qualities to recommend him'. At this point she changes the subject: 'By the bye talking of tall men the Turkish Chargé d'Affaires (do not ask me his name, for that is unattainable, two or three Sneezes I believe ending in a [Khan?]) recollects you at Constantinople, a most agreeable, superior man and with so much good sense that you would mistake the Turk for a Christian'. She asks if her mother has ever read 'The Spirit of the East' (1838) by the diplomat and MP David Urquhart (1805-1877): 'a fine book - what a strange man that Mr Urquhart! I can only open my eyes very wide when he speaks for I cannot understand a word that he says', She reports that a few days before he talked to her 'of Destiny pushing him on his grand undertaking of reforming the nation (!!!) just as an engine pushes a train on a rail road - | I very innocently replied that I had thought that the Engine always pulled the train instead of pushing it - which, by destroying the metaphor proved that I am no Poet -'. She ends by announcing that she will 'write a letter in a day or two -'. The Cullum correspondence also contained a batch of letters to Lady Cullum from Thackeray, indicating a deep friendship.