Letter 17 | 4 December 1843 | to Thomas Mitton, page 1

Charles Dickens

Autograph letter signed with initials, London, 4 December [1843] to Thomas Mitton

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan before 1900

MA 97.1
Item description: 

Two days after completing A Christmas Carol, Dickens discovered: "(to my horror) that I have already overdrawn my account." He wrote to request a loan of £200 from Mitton, citing his forthcoming book as collateral: "I must anticipate the Christmas Book, by the sum I mention, which will enable me to keep comfortable," adding that "I wouldn't trouble you about the money, if it were not a case of necessity." Dickens expected that by March 1844, when revenues from A Christmas Carol would be in hand, he would be moderately rich. This letter, in its original envelope, was pasted into the front endpapers of the bound manuscript of A Christmas Carol, a powerful reminder of the acutely difficult personal circumstances under which Dickens wrote this story.

Exhibition section: 

Christmas Books

The Christmas books that Dickens wrote between 1843 and 1848, beginning with A Christmas Carol, permanently linked Dickens's name with the holiday. In 1883 Vincent van Gogh told a friend that he had "re-read them almost every year since I was a boy, and they always seem new to me." Following the enormous success of A Christmas Carol, public expectation led Dickens to write four more novella-length Christmas books. He also continued to publish stories—either written solely by him or in collaboration with others—for or about Christmas in the special holiday issues of his magazine Household Words and All the Year Round. Christmas was his favorite holiday, and each year he celebrated exuberantly, entertaining family and friends with conjuring tricks, games, dancing, and theatrical performances. For Dickens, Christmas was a time for storytelling—particularly ghost stories—and each of his tales is based on an implicit belief in the supernatural and emphasizes the moral benefits of memory and imagination.


My Dear Mitton

Just now, as I was coming down to you, a man brought a note from Lady Holland: begging me to dine there today, and to go and give her some advice this morning—Heaven knows what about. So I am obliged to turn my face Westward, and not Eastward. But I write to you for three reasons. First, to know whether anything has occurred. Secondly, what time tomorrow will suit you best for my calling on you. Thirdly, to ask you to turn over in your mind, between this and tomorrow, how I can best put £200 into Coutts's. For on looking into the matter this morning, for the first time these 6 weeks, I find (to my horror) that I have already overdrawn my account. This