Sorry I've been away so long, but I'm home again now, with a thousand pounds of laundry, a stack of books, three different kinds of tea, bright red gloves, and a desk calendar composed of pictures taken by my 17-year-old son, which has got to be one of the nicest gifts I have ever received.
In the interstices of holiday cheer, I have been rereading Dickens's Nicholas Nickelby, which you may or may not have read yourself. It is early-ish Dickens, with a floppy picaresque plot and a particularly saccharine ending. But it also includes this delightful letter, written by Fanny Squeers to Nicholas's evil Uncle Ralph. Fanny is the twenty-three-year-old daughter of the horrible Yorkshire schoolmaster, Wackford Squeers, whom Nicholas has just nobly trounced. Am I wrong, or is this one of the funniest letters ever written?
My pa requests me to write to you, the doctors considering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of his legs which prevents his holding a pen.
We are in a state of mind beyond everything, and my pa is one mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms [school desks] are steepled in his Goar. We were kimpelled to have him carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. You will judge from this that he has been brought very low.
When your nevew that you recommended for a teacher had done this to my pa and jumped upon his body with his feet and also langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with describing, he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence, dashed her to the earth, and drove her back comb several inches into her head. A very little more and it must have entered her skull. We have a medical certifikit that if it had, the tortershell would have affected the brain.
Me and my brother were then the victims of his feury since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the arrowing belief that we have received some injury in our insides, especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. I am screaming out loud all the time I write and so is my brother which takes off my attention rather and I hope will excuse mistakes.