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DICKENS, Charles.

Original autograph leaf from The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

[London: before April 1837] Stock Code: 124911
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One of only five pages of the Pickwick manuscript remaining in private hands

Original autograph manuscript leaf with authorial deletions and insertions from Pickwick Papers, the novel that transformed an obscure 25-year-old journalist into England's most famous author in a matter of months. One of only five such leaves remaining in private hands, this leaf is from the setting manuscript used by the printers. Fewer than 50 of the estimated 1,500 pages that constituted it are known to survive. In keeping with the convention of the time, the autograph leaves were nearly always destroyed as soon as they were set in type. However, Charles Hicks (c.1799-1870), the foreman-printer for Bradbury and Evans, who printed the book for Chapman and Hall, salvaged a group of leaves from the original manuscript. Hicks's salvage, consisting of 33 leaves from chapters 36 and 37, makes up "the largest number of contiguous Pickwick manuscript leaves known to survive" (Long, p. 32).

As Dickens's fame grew, he "became increasingly aware of the value of his manuscripts and he sought with limited success to retain what he could of his early work" (ibid, p. 32). Dickens wrote to Hicks around September 1838 requesting that "'when you have time be good enough to look me up all the old copy you have of mine, as I am very anxious to have it complete' Dickens's instruction is said to be the 'first recorded instance of CD's collection of his own MSS'" (ibid, p. 31). In May 1840, when Dickens donated five slips from chapter 39 of Pickwick to a charitable cause in Halifax, the author enclosed a note with the pages: "I have never given away any old published MS., considering that it will have a greater interest one of these days for my own family than it can ever possess for others; but your request in behalf of the Halifax Institution set me looking over a box of fragments, and from its contents I have selected the enclosed original and only draught of a portion of a chapter of Pickwick, to which the Association is heartily welcome" (ibid, p. 24).

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, issued monthly between April 1836 and November 1837, became a publishing phenomenon only after the introduction of the redoubtable Sam Weller, who features in the portion of text preserved in this leaf. The comic scene occurs during a visit to Bath by Pickwick and his friends, and Sam Weller has received, to his consternation and bewilderment, a formal invitation from John Smauker to a "swarry" (soiree) with the elegantly uniformed "select footmen" of Bath.

The text begins halfway through a discussion of the chalybeate taste of the famous waters. On the previous page Sam Weller had given his opinion: "I thought they'd a wery strong flavour o'warm flat irons", to which Smauker retorted "That is the killybeate Mr Weller". Weller's response to this forms the opening line here: "It may be, but I ain't much in the chimical line myself, so I can't say", before the pair's conversation turns to the forthcoming evening's entertainment, closing with Smauker's line, "You'll see some very handsome uniforms". Dickens's deletions here include three full lines of text and four words blotted out; his insertions consist of three words added interlineally at the top left.

The leaf is numbered "75" at the head of the page in his hand: Sadleir notes that "it is clear that Dickens numbered separately each successive instalment of manuscript delivered monthly to the printer". Although the text retained here is part of chapter 37, it was in fact originally published as part of chapter 36, due to the previous misnumbering of two consecutive chapters as "XXVIII" - an error that was rectified in subsequent editions.

This is one of only five leaves from the Pickwick manuscript remaining in private hands. The leaves were originally part of the 33 slips held by Hicks's family and were dispersed in their sale in 1882. They re-appeared as part of a group of 12 consecutively numbered leaves in the Suzannet sale in 1971 - the last occasion on which significant manuscripts of Dickens's works were offered at auction. Of those 12 leaves, numbering from 69 to 80, the majority are now held institutionally: number 69 by the Morgan Library; number 70 by the Princeton University Library; and numbers 76 to 80 by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Leaves numbered 71 to 75 are held privately, and two further slips from this sequence of leaves are also recorded: Suzannet donated number 81 to the Charles Dickens Museum in 1937, and the final slip, number 82, is held by the British Library. The other leaves preserved by Hicks, consisting of slips 50 to 68 from chapter 36, are today in the Rosenbach Museum and Library. All other surviving portions of the Pickwick Papers manuscript are held institutionally, and comprise: five slips from chapter 19 (British Library); a slip from chapter 25 and fragment of four lines from chapter 37 (New York Public Library); and five consecutive slips from chapter 39 (Rosenbach Museum and Library).

PROVENANCE: Comte Alain de Suzannet (his sale, Sotheby's, 22 November 1971); the William E. Self-Kenyon Starling copy. A full transcription of the text is available on request.

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Single leaf (230 x 185 mm). Manuscript text in brown ink on recto only. Housed in a custom pinkish-orange morocco gilt-stamped folder with cream moiré silk lining and a pinkish-orange quarter morocco clamshell case.


Unobtrusive compositor's inky fingerprint at lower centre, browning to very edges, faint traces of mount to verso along one edge. In excellent condition.


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