Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library
Charles Dickens, who enjoyed unprecedented fame during his lifetime, is considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. He confronted social issues through such memorable works as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol.
The Armstrong Browning Library owns twelve letters written by Charles Dickens and over 240 books, some of which are rare editions. Although Dickens corresponded with the Brownings, the ABL does not own any of their letters. However, there are three Dickens books inscribed by Robert Browning in the collection, as well as Dickens’ copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s verse-novel Aurora Leigh.
In this previously unpublished letter, Dickens expresses his pleasure in meeting Mr. Gregory and promises to renew their acquaintance again soon. William Gregory was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh and an enthusiast for phrenology and mesmerism. Dickens also confesses to writer’s block at the end of the letter.
I am perfectly stupified with a bad cold, and a blank quire of paper intended for the manuscript of Dombey No 17. is staring very hard in my miffed face.
In this letter Dickens explains that he has been traveling with some American friends and asks Locker to give his regards to Tennyson.
I have been for the last ten days perpetually journeying and sightseeing with some friends from America…. If this should reach you while Tennyson is [by] you, pray give him my love and tell him I am heartily sorry to have missed your kindly offered opportunity of meeting him….
This large volume contains facsimiles of the original manuscripts of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. A first edition, it is one of only fifty copies and the first facsimile done of this work.
This volume was in the Brownings’ library and bears the inscription: “To dearest Pen on his birthday, March 9 ‘64. RB. 19 Warwick Crescent.”
This volume is an extremely rare first Continental edition. The Armstrong Browning Library also owns the first British edition of this classic, published in London in 1843 by Chapman and Hall, as well as the four additional “Christmas books” published by Dickens in subsequent years.