• The William E. Self Library, I auction at Christies

    Sale 2153

    The William E. Self Library, Important English and American Literature

    4 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 80

    DICKENS, Charles. The Personal History of David Copperfield. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1850.

    Price Realised  


    DICKENS, Charles. The Personal History of David Copperfield. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1850.

    8o (211 x 134 mm). Engraved frontispiece, title and 38 plates after Hablot K. Browne ["Phiz"] (title, frontispiece and first plate chipped at edges.) (Title with vertical tear, repaired tear on p.9.) Contemporary red half calf, marbled boards (endpapers renewed, some light rubbing to joints and corners); full morocco slipcase.
    Provenance: J.L. RICKARDS (presentation inscription from the author and letter from Dickens laid-in); Thomas Jefferson McKee (bookplate; his sale part IV, Anderson, 3 December 1901, lot 4983); Thomas E. Stillman (1837-1906, bookplate); Henry C. Taylor (1894-1971, bookplate).


    FIRST EDITION IN BOOK FORM, PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY DICKENS TO J.L. RICKARDS on the dedication leaf: "J.L. Rickards Esquire From Charles Dickens Tavistock House Thirty First May, 1854." With an autograph letter from Dickens to Rickards of the same date, describing the presentation of his own personal copy: "Dear Sir, I wish to preserve between us some little outward and visible remembrance of your generous Mexican adventure--the adventure for which I was unconsciously responsible. Will you do me the favor to accept my own copy of a book for which I have a particular affection? In the assurance that you will like it none the worse for coming from my study shelves. I beg you to accept it with my thanks and good wishes. Faithfully yours Charles Dickens." 1½ pages, 8vo, silked on verso. (Published in the Pilgrim Edition of the Letters, p.344).

    Madeline House, of University College, Cambridge and one of the scholars preparing the Pilgrim Edition of Dickens's letters, wrote to Brett E. Lanstaff at John F. Fleming, Inc. that it is possible that this John Rickards is he who lived off St. John's Wood Road, close to Joseph King's school which Dickens's two eldest sons attended. "It seems to us possible that John Rickards was an Assistant Master at Joseph King's school, and that there Dickens met him. (His later disappearance from London Directories could mean that he had now moved into the school--or gone to Mexico!) He turns up again, this time in Brighton, where, at the age of 72, he died in 1858..." Ms. House surmises that the "Mexican adventure" may refer to an educational activity: "The harsh pictures Dickens had drawn of certain schools may well have had a profound effect on Rickards, and in this way Dickens had been 'unconsciously responsible' for a 'generous Mexican [educational] adventure' undertaken by Rickards, We discovered in the British Museum a pamphlet in Spanish on 'the Lancastrian System' of teaching in schools, as tried in Mexico--the date of the pamphlet being 1854 (the date of your Dickens letter). Rickards is not mentioned in the pamphlet by name; yet the coincidence of date, an English system being tried in Mexico, and your letter, makes me hopeful that this is a solution to the problem."

    The most autobiographical of all of Dickens's novels, David Copperfield had enormous personal importance to its author. Many of the most painful episodes of his life were only thinly veiled in the book, leading Dickens to speak of the difficulty of "dismissing some portion of himself into the shadowy world." In his preface to the 1869 edition, Dickens made explicit his feelings for the book: "Of all my books, I like this the best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them. But, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield." Eckel, p.77; Sadleir 686; Smith I:9.

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