Why does Dickens continue to prove such an elusive subject for biographers? Curator Declan Kiely takes a look at one particularly revealing letter.
Declan Kiely's blog
This blog features letters from Charles Dickens drawn from the Morgan's collection, which includes over 1,500 of his letters. The Morgan has the largest collection of Dickens's letters in the United States, surpassed in number only by the Dickens House Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. Posts will include images of Dickens letters with a complete transcription, and a brief commentary on content and context. A Letter from Charles Dickens will allow readers of the blog to discover for the first time—or renew their acquaintance with—Dickens's notable letters.
Charles Dickens. Autograph letter signed, Dover, 30 April, 1856, to Sophie Verena. 4-pages. Written on light blue stationery, with envelope.
Last month, browsing the Bonhams auction catalogue Papers & Portraits: The Roy Davids Collection Part II, I came across a description of a three-page manuscript short story by Charles Thomas Clement James (1858–1905), a prolific author whose name and work were completely unknown to me. The story bears the Dickensian title “Concerning the Sinkingsop and Slush Railway” and the footnote accompanying the lot description is amusingly arch: “This manuscript is a fine example, the only one seen commercially, of the remarkable similarity in the handwritings of Charles Dickens and Charles James.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
Autograph letter signed, dated London , to Leigh Hunt
Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2008
Samuel Richardson (1689–1761)
Autograph letter signed, dated London, 29 March 1750, to Frances Grainger
Purchased on the Fellows Endowment Fund, 2008
Robert Frost (1874–1963)
Autograph letter signed, dated Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, 25 August 1926, to Conrad Aiken
Purchased on the John F. Fleming Fund, 2008
Samuel Langhorne Clemens ["Mark Twain"] (1835–1910)
Autograph letter signed, Dublin, New Hampshire, to Mrs. Benjamin, August 29, 1906
3 pages, with a separate 1-page note describing a series of seven silver gelatin print portrait photographs
Purchased on the John F. Fleming Fund
MA 7252 and MA 7253