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    Sale 1981

    The William E. Self Family Collection Part I The Kenyon Starling Library Of Charles Dickens

    2 April 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 138

    DICKENS, Charles. David Copperfield. A Reading. In Five Chapters. London: Privately Printed [by William Clowes and Sons], [1866].

    Price Realised  


    DICKENS, Charles. David Copperfield. A Reading. In Five Chapters. London: Privately Printed [by William Clowes and Sons], [1866].

    8o (222 x 148 mm). 104 pages. (A few repairs on title.) 20th-century red morocco, top edge gilt, others uncut, by Henderson & Bisset. Provenance: H.L. Edgar; Francis Kettaneh (bookplate); Kenyon Starling (bookplate).


    PRIVATELY PRINTED PROOF COPY, with pencil corrections in the margins of pages 11, one correcting the spelling of the word "his" and the other noting an extra space within the word "am." This privately printed edition extracts portions of David Copperfield specifically relating to the character of Dora Spenlow, who was based on Maria Beadnell. Dickens fell in love with Beadnell in 1830 but her parents objected to the relationship and sent their daughter to Paris to be schooled. Their tempestuous relationship ended in 1833 when she married Henry Winter, a merchant. The young Maria Beadnell is portrayed in the character of Dora Spenlow. He later depicted the matronly Mrs. Winter as Flora Finching in Little Dorrit, having met her again in 1855. The 1921 facsimile edition of the book (included here ) prints an essay by John Harrison Stonehouse on the Dickens-Beadnell relationship based on letters written between the two and preserved by Beadnell's daughter.

    Dickens's public readings were very much spectacles, and David Copperfield was his favorite to perform: in 1861, Dickens began conveiving his public readings of David Copperfield, "the reading version of David Copperfield being some two hours in length while the extracts from Nicholas Nickleby ran for one and a quarter hours. We will come to see later how Dickens poured all his resources of his art and personality into these readings (his favourite always remained the adaptation from David Copperfield), but even at this preliminary stage, his perfectionism and punctiliousness were as marked as ever" (Peter Ackroyd, Dickens, 1990, p.902).

    David Copperfield was a key component in Dickens's exhausting American reading tour in 1867, and during his final reading engagements before his death. During one reading, a record survives that shows how Dickens's pulse raced during a reading of Copperfield: His ordinary pulse on the first night was 72 but soon it was never lower than 82 and, on the last nights, rose to over one hundred; during the readings themselves it rose rapidly higher and, at the close of his last reading from David Copperfield, it had risen to 124, which was in fact the mark it reached after all the 'Sikes and Nancy' performances" (Ackroyd, p.1062).

    VERY SCARCE: the only other printing traced is at the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library and according to American Book Prices Current, the last copy to appear at auction was sold in 1944. The size and composition of the copy in the Berg Collection vary somewhat from this, and this proof is apparently the earlier issue since the two errors noted on p.11 here are corrected in the Berg copy.

    [With:] DICKENS, Charles. David Copperfield. A Reading, in Five Chapters. With a Note on the Romantic History of Charles Dickens and Maria Beadnell by John Harrison STONEHOUSE. London: Henry Sotheran & Co., 1921. 8o. Frontispiece. Original boards. Provenance: Noel Charles Peyrouten (bookplate); Kenyon Starling (bookplate). LIMITED EDITION, number 176 of 275 copies signed by the publishers. Yale Gimbel B192a.

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