Charles Dickens Letter

Charles Dickens. Autograph letter signed, Dover, 30 April, 1856, to Sophie Verena. 4-pages. Written on light blue stationery, with envelope. 

This is an extraordinarily candid and personal letter from Dickens to the young German novelist Sophie Verena, the pen name of Sophie Alberti, whose first novel (Else, published in 1856) was dedicated to Dickens. The letter describes in detail Dickens’s physical appearance, exercise regimen, and writing habits. He tells her that “I am very young-looking still, and I know that I am a very active vigorous fellow, who never knew in his own experience what the word ‘fatigue’ meant” and announces proudly that “I am a great walker besides, and plunge into cold water every day in the dead of winter. When I was last in Switzerland, I found that I could climb as fast as the Swiss Guides. Few strangers think I look like one who passes so many hours alone in his own Study.” Later in the letter he confesses that “I very seldom write or talk about myself.” In Verena’s letter to Dickens she had asked whether he dictates his work. Dickens’s response reveals something about his visual imagination: “I answer with a smile that I can as soon imagine a painter dictating his pictures. No. I write every word of my books with my own hand . . . I write with great care and pains (being passionately fond of my art, and thinking it worth any trouble).” The Morgan has over 1450 letters by Charles Dickens, one of the largest collections in the world. Letters written by Dickens in this uncommonly personal manner are extremely scarce. 

Purchased for The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection as the gift of the Heineman Foundation, 2011. 

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