303
303
Dickens, Charles
Estimate
8,00012,000
LOT SOLD. 5,938 USD
JUMP TO LOT
303
Dickens, Charles
Estimate
8,00012,000
LOT SOLD. 5,938 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

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New York

Dickens, Charles
Autograph letter signed ("Charles Dickens"), 1 page (8 7/8 x 7 1/2 in.; 225 x 189 mm), Broadstairs, Kent, 16 September 1842, to Philip Hone (at New York), integral autograph address leaf signed by Dickens, marked "By Steam Packet," and bearing four postmarks; seal remnant with short tear. Half brown morocco folding-case.
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Provenance

Alain de Suzannet (Sotheby's London, 22 November 1971, lot 225)

Literature

The Letters of Charles Dickens, Pilgrim Ed., 3:326–27; see also pp. 256–59 for Dickens's letter to British Authors and Journals and pp. 626–27 for the text of the fraudulent letter.

Catalogue Note

Dickens denounces "a most wicked and nefarious Forgery." Dickens's first tour of America, January to June 1842, was frankly conceived as fodder for a travel book. The United States he discovered was rather different from the one he expected, and as he found himself crushed by social obligations and embroiled in the incendiary controversy over international copyright law, his view grew ever more jaundiced. On 7 July 1842, after his return to England, Dickens published a circular letter addressed to "British Authors and Journals" rallying them against the American "editors and proprietors of newspapers almost exclusively devoted to the republication of popular English works ..., men of very low attainments and of more than indifferent reputation."

Shortly thereafter, American newspapers begin to print a letter purportedly written by Dickens to the editor of the Morning Chronicle in which he excoriated the American people for "their worship of pelf"; their "meanness"; their "slavish truckling, and base spirit of imitation"; and their "awkwardness, ... uncouth manners, and ... unmitigated selfishness." The New York social diarist Philip Hone, who had helped to organize a dinner and ball in honor of Dickens, transcribed excerpts from this spurious letter in his diary, 17 August 1842, and noted that he had written Dickens "a letter calling for his avowal or denial of this unworthy piece of splenetic impudence." The present letter is Dickens's reply:

"I am very much obliged to you for your friendly letter, which I have received with real pleasure. ... I answer it without an hour's delay, though I fear my reply may lie at the Post office some days, before it finds a Steampacket to convey it across the ocean.

"The letter to which you refer, is, from beginning to end, in every word and syllable, the cross of every t, and the dot of every i, a most wicked and nefarious Forgery. I have never published one word or line in reference to America, in any quarter whatever, except the Copyright Circular. And the unhung scoundrel who invented that astounding Lie knew this as well as I do.

"It has caused me more pain, and more of a vague desire to take somebody by the throat, than such an act should, perhaps, have awakened in any honorable Man. But I have not contradicted it publicly: deeming that it would not become my character or elevate me in my own self-respect, to do so." Dickens closes with the promise of sending Hone a copy of American Notes for General Circulation when it is published the following month.

Hone was properly persuaded by Dickens's disavowal of the letter and had portions of this response published in the New York American and the Boston Daily Evening Transcript. And after reading American Notes, Hone was further convinced, as he noted in his diary, that Dickens had been "unfairly treated by my countrymen."

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

|
New York