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DICKENS, Charles.

The Chimes; [together with:] The Cricket on the Hearth; [and:] The Battle of Life.

London: Bradbury & Evans, 1845, 1846, & 1846 Stock Code: 143148
£100,000.00
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Presentation copies to his friend John Pritt Harley

A superb set of presentation Christmas Books, all three copies presented by Dickens to his friend and theatrical Pickwick, John Pritt Harley, each inscribed by the author at the head of the printed title in blue ink, "J. P. Harley From his friend Charles Dickens".

The inscriptions are undated, but almost certainly all three were inscribed together and presented as a group in 1846. This was most likely done during Dickens's lightning return from Lausanne to London in December 1846 to personally supervise the dramatic adaptation of The Battle of Life staged at the Lyceum as a special Christmas bill. The Battle of Life is the first edition (the vignette title in fourth state, as usual), The Chimes the fourth edition, The Cricket on the Hearth the ninth edition.

John Pritt Harley (1786-1858), satirically known as "Fat Jack" (he was extremely thin), was a fine actor and countertenor specializing in comic songs. In the 1820s Dickens's sister Fanny had been asked to perform at a benefit for him at the Royal Academy of Music. By the 1830s Harley was stage manager of the St James's Theatre, built by John Braham, where Dickens's first farce The Strange Gentleman was staged. Harley was the dedicatee of Dickens's second theatrical effort, The Village Coquettes, and, on its premiere at the St James's on 6 December 1836, played the leading role which Dickens had written specially for him. Harley later took the leading part in the third Dickens drama, Is She His Wife? at the St James's, and on the same bill played Mr Pickwick, reciting a song written by Dickens on the theme of a whitebait dinner. He was with Dickens's friend W. C. Macready at Covent Garden in 1838, and afterwards with Madame Vestris and Charles Mathews (another Dickens favourite) when they opened the same establishment two years later. Harley habitually took his summer holidays in Broadstairs, where he stayed a street away from Dickens.

Harley died penniless in 1858: his estate was administered by one of his creditors. In 1982 these items were acquired by a private collector from the descendants of the Miss Rigden whose book label is on each front pastedown; Miss Rigden presumably acquired the books after Harley's death. One other Dickens presentation to Harley is recorded: the Starling-Suzannet-Self copy of The Village Coquettes, which sold in April 2008 for 32,200 - though a second dedication copy of the same title, from the Jerome Kern collection sold in 1929, is now in the Gimbel collection at Yale.

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Description

Together 3 works, small octavo. Original red cloth, spines and front covers lettered and decorated in gilt, covers stamped in blind, yellow endpapers, gilt edges. Housed in a red morocco-backed folding case.

Condition

Expert restoration to spine ends and joints, spines a little darkened, slight foxing to engraved titles of The Chimes but contents generally clean; a very good set.

Bibliography

Smith II: 5, 6, 8.

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