This content is not available in your region

Dickens letter brings Victorian dinner drama to life

Access to the comments Comments
By Reuters
Dickens letter brings Victorian dinner drama to life
Dickens letter brings Victorian dinner drama to life   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

LONDON – A convivial letter written by Charles Dickens while he was touring Britain giving readings of his story ‘A Christmas Carol’ is set to go up for auction at Christie’s in London.

In the four-page handwritten note dated Dec. 6, 1858, to his friend, the architect and member of parliament Joseph Paxton, he describes a dinner held in Dickens’ honour that Paxton was persuaded to stay away from over political concerns.

“This is really a splendid letter, because it brings together Charles Dickens and one of the other great Victorian men of the age, Sir Joseph Paxton,” said Thomas Venning, head of the books department at Christie’s London.

“He’s writing in rather kind of colourful terms to express his frustration about why things have gone wrong and paints rather a colourful picture of the local businessman who seems to have made a mess of the whole thing – a man called Whitten.”

Dickens writes that he had considered mentioning Paxton’s absence in his talk. “After a careful study of our blunder headed Whitten, I came to the conclusion that I had better not, for I saw that being uneasy, if he could only find a hole big enough to put his foot in, he would unquestionably do it.”

The letter is expected to fetch 4,000-6,000 pounds ($5,300-$8,000) at Christie’s Valuable Books & Manuscripts sale on Dec. 15.

Venning said other Dickens letters were available for less, “but we’ve estimated this one a bit higher because it’s just particularly good”.

“It gives a flavour of Christmas, it gives a flavour of Dickens as in his public persona, and it gives that kind of flash of writing ability that you really want from Dickens – the kind of colour and enjoyment of a strange local incident.”

($1 = 0.7537 pounds)