‘Quite the Best Man I Ever Knew’
He paused for some minutes, and he was evidently dreaming of old days. Then he reverted to Dickens and the old circle, and for half an hour chatted about the people who composed it, whom he knew so well, in a way that was delightful, and made the period one of the pleasantest half hours of my life. He did not like all the people he named. He disliked Fechter particularly, and told me he had never to that day understood Dickens’s infatuation for the actor. Nor did he like Edmund Yates.1 Mention of Yates’ name led to a reference to Dickens’s quarrel with Thackeray, and I expressed the opinion that as I knew the story, Dickens’s conduct was foolish. ‘Of course it was’, said Mr. Stone. ‘But you must remember that Dickens had been friends with Yates’s parents, and for the memory of those early days he was anxious to serve the young man. And Yates could be very fascinating too. Superficially, mind you. But’ — with a gesture indicative of dislike — ‘The man was no gentleman.’
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