DICKENS, Charles. Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. London: Chapman and Hall, 1841.
3 volumes, 8o (202 x 122 mm). 24 etched plates by George Cruikshank (some scattered spotting to text and plates). Original plum fine diaper blind-stamped cloth, gilt-lettered on spines (spines faded, some wear along joints and at corners, some repairs to inner joints); green quarter morocco slipcase.
Provenance: WILLIAM CHARLES MACREADY, (1793-1873) actor and close friend of Dickens (presentation inscription from the author); Thomas Penny (ink signature or inkstamp on front free endpapers); Comte Alain de Suzannet (bookplate; his sale Sotheby's, 22 November 1971, lot 40); Kenyon Starling.
WITH A CHRISTMAS INSCRIPTION TO WILLIAM CHARLES MACREADY.
Third edition, in the primary binding, THE FIRST WITH DICKENS'S IMPORTANT INTRODUCTION. A SUPERB PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY DICKENS TO ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS, WILLIAM CHARLES MACREADY on the title-page: "W.C. Macready From his affectionate friend Charles Dickens Christmas 1841."
INSCRIBED AT CHRISTMAS 1841 JUST PRIOR TO DICKENS'S DEPARTURE FOR AMERICA. Macready was one of Dickens's closest friends, from the time they were introduced by John Forster in 1837. They traveled together, collaborated together and were great admirers of each other's work throughout their long relationship. Macready was the godfather to Dickens's daughter Kate and Dickens gave the celebratory speech at Macready's retirement from the stage in 1851. Macready famously sobbed while listening to Dickens read The Chimes: "'If you had seen Macready last night,' Dickens concluded [in a ] letter to his wife, 'undisguisedly sobbing, and crying on the sofa as I read, you would have felt, as I did, what a thing it is to have power'" (Johnson, Charles Dickens, p.532). A similar response was recorded when Dickens read portions of David Copperfield to Macready: "with tears running down his cheek... I found him quite unable to speak, and able to do nothing but square his dear old jaw all on one side, and roll his eyes..." (ibid., p.999). By the time Dickens presented this revised edition of Oliver Twist, he had formed an inimitable bond with Macready, illustrated emphatically in his dedication of Nicholas Nickleby to him in 1839. Over Christmas 1841, at the time of this inscription, Dickens was busy planning his trip to America which would take place the following year. "... the last month of 1841, the month before the departure of Dickens and his wife, was a very quiet one. He had finished the novel [Master Humphrey's Clock], of course, and now dined out with friends and relatives. The last week in particular he wished to spend with his children, who would not see their parents for another six months, but he also paid farewell calls upon Macready and Miss Burdett-Coutts. These must have been difficult interviews for him because he had a rooted distaste for saying 'Goodbye' to anyone, even those closest to him" (Ackroyd, Dickens, 1992, pp.337-338). Dickens inscribed this and the copy of The Old Curiosity Shop in a presentation binding (lot 77) to Macready on Christmas 1841.
Published on May 15, 1841, this third edition adds Dickens's defense against criticism of his staging the story in London's underworld: "It is, it seems, a very coarse and shocking circumstance that some of the characters in these pages are chosen from the most criminal and degraded of London's population; that Sikes is a thief, and Fagin a receiver of stolen goods; that the boys are pickpockets and the girl is a prostitute... I confess I have yet to learn that a lesson of the purest good may not be drawn from the vilest evil... I saw no reason, when I wrote this book, why the very dregs of life should not serve the purpose of a moral, at least as well as its froth and cream. Nor did I doubt that there lay festering in St Giles's as good materials towards Truth as any flaunting in Saint James's" (Introduction pp. ii-iii). Sadleir 696b; Smith I:4.5g (note).