DICKENS, Charles. Six autograph letters signed to Anne Marsh, Devonshire Terrace, Knotsford Lodge, Broadstairs, the Household Words Office, Gad's Hill Place, 22 February 1850-3 February 1862, together 20 pages, 8vo; five autograph envelopes, four signed 'Charles Dickens', with one penny stamps, postmarked (one letter with creases discreetly repaired, one envelope with signature smudged). Red cloth slipcases, red morocco box. Provenance: Kenyon Starling -- William E. Self (his bookplate inside box).
On literature, Household Words and Great Expectations. A rich and revealing literary correspondence with Anne Marsh (1791-1874, later Marsh-Caldwell), one of the most popular novelists of the day, and according to Dickens, 'one of the most original, earnest, and delightful writers that have ever graced our language... the authoress of Emilia Wyndham.' He invites Marsh to write for Household Words ('I propose starting at the end of next month, a new cheap weekly journal of general literature "designed for the instruction and entertainment of all classes of readers," and intended to crush, if possible, some of the weekly atrocities now issued to the town...'). Although Dickens is confident that her 'quick perception will instinctively adapt whatever you touch, to the general tone and object of the paper', in July 1851 he rejects 'The Pine Cultivation', giving his reasons in a 'ledger-and-ruler kind of reply' ('we never extend a story beyond four weekly numbers -- forming one monthly part... we even prefer stories to be shorter...'). Marsh had greater success with 'The Spendthrift's Daughter' (published HW, 11 Oct 1851, IV, 52 & three following numbers) but not before revisions to the original manuscript were made under Dickens's direction ('It is indispensable that the threads of a story so published, should be brought closely together. The introduction is too long... the dialogue needs abbreviation. I would shorten it more especially in the first scene...'). He advises on the 'religious character' of the tale ('it requires to be managed with great circumspection -- not, as I think, because of an audacious indifference on the part of readers in general to religion, but because it most unfortunately happens that the profession of it is so often substituted for the practice, that people shrink from talk about it') but later offers the hope that 'however rough I may have seemed to deal with the letter of the tale, I have not impaired its beautiful spirit'. Elsewhere Dickens reveals his views on hardships faced by rural landowners ('people who have to do with land, are undergoing what people who have to do with almost any other kind of property... have suffered... though I hope and think I have a tender heart, I do not find it--as yet--particularly moved by their distresses'). In 1862 he harshly rejects another manuscript sent to him by Marsh ('it would have given me true pleasure to accept it for All the Year Round, if I could have seen any novel thought or expression in it'), whilst thanking her for her praise, 'What you tell me of Great Expectations I should have highly esteemed under any circumstances; but it is more gratifying to me than I can tell you in any written words, coming from one who has moved me so profoundly as the authoress of Emilia Wyndham.' (6)