Mrs. Gamp...as condensed by himself, for his Readings. With An Illustration By S. Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor And Fields, 1868
16mo (210 x 137mm.), 18pp., printed on proof paper, THE AUTHOR'S OWN READING OR 'PROMPT' COPY WITH AUTOGRAPH ANNOTATIONS INCLUDING ADDITIONS, UNDERLININGS AND DELETIONS IN BLUE AND BROWN INK, PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY DICKENS ON THE TITLE PAGE TO HIS AMERICAN PUBLISHER ON THE NIGHT OF HIS FINAL READING IN AMERICA ("Charles Dickens | His Reading Book | To H.M. Ticknor, 20th April, 1868"), front endpaper with inscriptions by members of the Ticknor family, typed note by Thos. B. Ticknor loosely inserted, wood-engraved illustration by Eytinge on smaller paper and mounted opposite title, three-quarter red morocco gilt by Macdonald and sons, marbled edges, endpapers and edges, preserved in matching quarter red morocco slipcase, some minor edge-wear to binding, frontispiece neatly re-attached
"No other prompt-copy was thus given away, and inscribed by Dickens" (Collins)
AN UNSURPASSABLE ANNOTATED PROMPT COPY USED BY DICKENS DURING HIS AMERICAN TOUR: the author's own marked up copy inscribed on the night of his last performance, inscribed to the American publisher who aided him on the tour.
The authorial annotations include numerous specially underlined passages (presumably as an aid for dramatic emphasis during reading), deletions of around 140 words and marginal additions of around 30 words. There are a few pencilled notes signed "T" on p.10, noting variation from the text when read by Dickens.
The monstrous midwife Mrs. Gamp, who made her appearance in chapter 19 of Martin Chuzzlewit (proving an immediate hit with readers), is one of Dickens' most memorable 'grotesques' or comic characters. She so took hold of the Victorian imagination that she established the public's prevailing perception of the negative nursing stereotype, until Florence Nightingale established an alternative model with her "ministering angel" efforts attending to soldiers in the Crimea. In his own preface Dickens himself wrote that Mrs. Gamp was "four-and-twenty years ago, a fair representation of the hired attendant on the poor in sickness". He obtained the idea of her character from Miss Hannah Meredith (attendant to his close friend Angela Bourdett-Coutts, the dedicatee of Martin Chuzzlewit), who gave him colourful accounts of an eccentric and incompetent nurse who came to look after her when she fell ill (see Tomalin, p.148)
Dickens had started his paid readings in London and then the rest of Britain in 1858 (commencing on 29 April at St Martin's Hall with The Cricket on the Hearth), partly as a result of the need for income after purchasing Gad's Hill, and against the advice of his friend John Forster, who thought it undignified for a writer to present himself to the public as a paid performer. From the outset the readings were an immense success, in no small part owing to the author's own innate acting ability and the great care and preparation that he and his manager Arthur Smith took in planning the readings and the texts, including intense rehearsal. "He does not only read his story; he acts it", wrote a reviewer, "each character... is as completely assumed and individualised...as though he was personating it in costume on the stage" (Collins, Readings, lix.). "Mrs. Gamp", which was only the second Reading devised from a novel instead of from one of the Christmas stories, was first performed on 17 June 1858. From the outset it was of his most popular, chiefly owing to its comic content. As with other readings the author prepared his first version of the text by meticulously revising and joining together portions of the Chuzzlewit text, creating a reading of some 10,000 words. There is an 1858 Bradbury and Evans trade edition of this first text, as well as an 1858 private printing.
Dickens subsequently harboured ambitions of taking his readings to America, and this was realised in the gruelling but commercially highly successful tour of 1867-1868, in which the author gave a series of triumphant readings (from Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son, The Pickwick Papers, Martin Chuzzlewit -as here -- and other works) in large auditoria despite heavy snow and great fatigue and illness on his part. By then Dickens had decided his first version of Mrs Gamp was too long, and he revised it very substantially (including the ending) while condensing it down to some 4,000 words. No other reading seems to have been revised so extensively. The process of revision can be seen by Dickens' heavy revision of the 1858 prompt copy, now held at the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library (see John D. Gordon, editor, Mrs. Gamp...A Facsimile of the Author's Prompt Copy, 1956). From this was set the Ticknor and Fields edition of The Readings of Mr. Charles Dickens as Condensed by Himself (Boston, 1868). The present prompt copy, made up of leaves from the Ticknor and Fields edition, but with further autograph revisions, represents the final evolution of the text, and is the basis of the text printed by Philip Collins in Charles Dickens. The Public Readings (Oxford, 1975, pp.185-193).
Dickens would almost certainly have used this prompt copy for his reading of "Mrs. Gamp" at the Tremont Temple in Boston on the night of 3rd April 1868. Aside from assistance from his tour manager George Dolby the author was ably supported by his American publishers James T. Fields and Howard Ticknor (in particular Dickens developed a strong bond of mutual affection with Fields' wife Annie), the tour coming to a climactic conclusion in New York with an addresss to the American press on 18 April 1868 and a final reading at the Steinway Hall in the same city on 20 April, the day Dickens inscribed this annotated reading copy to Ticknor, two days before he sailed home to Britain aboard the Russia.
The loosely inserted typewritten note signed by Thos. B. Ticknor is dated 27 September 1917: "This copy of "Mrs. Gamp" was used by Charles Dickens at his last readings in Boston . . . As my eldest brother, Howard M. Ticknor, of the firm of Ticknor & Fields, Mr. Dickens's American publishers, assisted in the management of Dickens's last tour, Mr. Dickens presented him with this copy, as a memento. Before his death, my brother Howard gave it to my second brother, Benjamin H. Ticknor, duly inscribed, and in turn, he gave it to me. Its history and authenticity is thus established." Also loosely inserted is an example of Dickens' posthumous bookplate.
"And so the gentleman's dead sir! Ah! The more's the pity," -- she didn't even know his name. "But it's what we must all come to. It's as certain as being born, except that we can't make our calculations as exact. Ah! Poor dear!".
She was a fat old woman, with a husky voice and a moist eye. Having very little neck, it cost her some trouble to look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom she talked. She wore a rusty black gown, rather the worse for snuff, and a shawl and bonnet to correspond. The face of Mrs Gamp -- the nose in particular -- was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits.
"Ah!! repeated Mrs. Gamp, for that was always a safe sentiment in cases of mourning...
(from the present copy, with Dickens' underlinings)
Collins, The Public Readings, pp.181-184; Eckel p.216
Charles Dickens, as used by him for his final reading in America on 20 April 1868; his American publisher Howard M. Ticknor, presentation copy to him on title page by Dickens; Ticknor's brother Benjamin H. Ticknor, inscription on front endpaper dated 1868; his brother Thomas B. Ticknor, further family inscription dated 1897; G.B. McCutcheon, acquired 1917 from Ticknor family (see Suzannet Catalogue, Lausanne, 1934, I., p.59); Ida O. Folsom (ibid.), sale of her library at the American Art Association Anderson Galleries, 6/7 December 1932; sold for $1650 to Comte Alain de Suzannet (ibid, the bibliophile's annotated copy recording his purchase, in Sotheby's reference library), his bookplate, sale of his collection at Sothebys 22 November 1971, lot 72, to El Dieff; Kenyon Starling, bookplate; William E. Self, book-label, sale of the family collection at Christie's New York, part 1, 2 April 2008; subsequently acquired by present owner
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