Charles Dickens at 200

Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol

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Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a period of intense creativity in fall 1843, completing the work in a mere six weeks. He appears to have made no working notes, outline, plans, or preliminary drafts, leaving only the sixty-eight-page manuscript now in the Morgan's collection. At the foot of the manuscript title page, he added this note: "My own, and only, MS of the Book / Charles Dickens." Each page is presented here in high resolution, revealing every nuance of the handwriting and allowing us to witness the creative process of "the story-weaver at his loom," as Dickens once described himself. The manuscript of A Christmas Carol was photographed after it received extensive treatment by conservators at the Morgan's Thaw Conservation Center in 2011.

A Letter from Charles Dickens

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The letters of Charles Dickens (1812–1870) are exceptionally brilliant and entertaining and, alongside his literary manuscripts, provide great insight into his craftsmanship and imagination. Using a goose quill pen, he generally wrote from nine o'clock each morning until two in the afternoon. He favored black ink, now faded to brown, but in the late 1840s switched to blue paper and blue ink. Though Dickens would have preferred that his correspondence remain private, many recipients treasured and retained the letters he sent them, and some 15,000 have survived. The twenty featured here, selected from the Morgan's collection of over 1500 (the richest in the United States), track not only his work as a novelist but also his visits to the United States, his philanthropic pursuits, and his lesser-known experiments with an early form of hypnotism.

This online exhibition was created in conjunction with the exhibition Charles Dickens at 200, on view September 23, 2011 through February 12, 2012, organized by Declan Kiely, the Morgan's Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head of Literary and Historical Manuscripts. The exhibition is generously underwritten by Fay and Geoffrey Elliott.