Few authors are more synonymous with the holiday season than Charles Dickens, whose classic tale A Christmas Carol was written in 1843. The Huntington’s literary collections include about a thousand letters by Dickens, as well as first editions and handwritten drafts of literary manuscripts. In early 2010, a group of 35 additional letters, most of them unpublished, was acquired.
It was a exciting acquisition, as Sara S. “Sue” Hodson, curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington, explains. “It is nearly unprecedented to find such an extensive group of Dickens letters available together from a private source. In 30 years as a curator, I have never before seen a collection like this offered.”
Written between 1838 and 1869, the letters include correspondence between Dickens and several individuals, among them the artist who illustrated his books, Hablot Knight Browne, better known as “Phiz.” In one of these, the author gives instructions about how a scene from the novel Nicholas Nickleby should be depicted. He writes, “The room is lighted by a skylight (if you show any window at all); of course it is not the show-room described in No. 3, though there may be a cap on a block and a dress on a stand if it would improve the sketch. N.B. Please to take care that Miss Knag is not like Miss La Creevy.”
In honor of the season, several of these manuscripts are on display through the month of December in the east foyer of the Library Exhibition Hall.
Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington. Photos by Lisa Blackburn. © 2010 The Huntington.