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DICKENS, Charles.

The Uncommercial Traveller.

London: Chapman and Hall, 1861 [i.e. 1860] Stock Code: 143168
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Presentation copy to his friend William Harness

First edition in book form, presentation copy from Dickens to his friend William Harness, inscribed by the author on the title page "The Rev: William Harness From Charles Dickens Christmas, 1860".

Dickens's friendship with the Shakespearean scholar William Harness (1790-1869) probably began at the Athenaeum - where both were members - in 1838, and was no doubt cemented when both men became members of the Shakespeare Society in 1840. Harness was one of the small circle invited to attend the private reading of The Chimes at John Forster's rooms in December 1844, and is depicted as overcome with emotion in Daniel Maclise's drawing of the reading.

"Dickens was a very kind friend to Mr Harness; he regarded him as one of the literary men of the past, and occasionally asked his opinion, and sent him little presents, which were of course very gratifying. Mr Harness thoroughly appreciated the great novelist and his works, and was supremely happy whenever he could persuade 'Charles' to be a guest at his table. When Dickens was giving Readings in his later years, he told Mr Harness that he would always have a chair placed for him close to the platform; but Mr Harness never accepted the kind offer although he attended all his Recitations; and on those appointed nights it was impossible to persuade him to accept any invitation" (A. G. L'Estrange, The Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness, pp. 167-8).

The Uncommercial Traveller comprises 17 sketches composed by Dickens after his nocturnal walks, originally published in his journal All the Year Round between January and October 1860, and published in the present book form on 15 December that year, the title post-dated 1861 as often for books published towards the end of the year. "The 'Uncommercial Traveller' essays, which feature some of the finest prose ever written by Dickens, take sometimes a quasi-autobiographical form, with reminiscences of childhood, like 'Nurse's Stories' or 'Dullborough Town' (that is, Rochester), and are sometimes examples of superb investigative reporting, notably of lesser-known aspects of life in London; yet others focus on the process of travel itself, in its many various forms" (ODNB).

The book remained in the Harness family many years following the presentation, with a loosely inserted note "Given to my gt-gt. uncle the Revd William Harness by Charles Dickens from Miss M. S. Roberts", and inscribed on the half-title verso "Margaret Stewart Roberts from aunt Marge Nov: 12 1927".

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Octavo (184 x 117 mm). Contemporary green half morocco, red morocco label, marbled sides, speckled edges.


With 32pp. of advertisements at the end dated December 1860.


Morocco heavily rubbed, light wear at extremities, but binding still firm with joints holding, contents clean; a good copy.


Smith II: 11; Eckel, p.132; Gimbel A145.


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