DICKENS, Charles (1812-1870). Two autograph letters signed ('Charles Dickens') to Revd George Armstrong, 1 Devonshire Terrace, 5 and 12 November 1842, 5 pages, 8vo, bifolia.
PREOCCUPIED WITH MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT, Dickens declines to write a tribute to the American Unitarian preacher Dr William Ellery Channing, 'the great man whose death, in common with many thousands, we both sincerely deplore', insisting that he 'cannot -- believe me, cannot -- take upon myself the task of endeavouring, with my pen, to do justice to his honoured memory', by reason of his concentration on his developing novel: 'my mind is necessarily employed upon another subject, which has taken full possession of it, and must hold it too, with God's leave, for a long time to come. I could not, at such a juncture, do what I ought and would, with such a theme as Channing'. Dickens expresses his appreciation of the 'immense usefulness [of Channing] in such a land as America', such that it would be presumptuous in a British writer to address his memory. 'I have been in frequent communication with him since I left America, and my book [American Notes] was on its way to him ... it will be very -- very -- long before another such man rises up among [the United States], to benefit the World'. On 15 November Dickens declines Armstrong's proposal of publishing the previous letter, pleading his 'nervous dread of seeming to presume on my position' and the 'presumption of trumpeting my opinion of such a man as Dr Channing'.
Dickens had met Channing during his first visit to America in January-June 1842, and -- partly under his influence -- showed a considerable interest in Unitarianism around this time. Martin Chuzzlewit was published in monthly parts from 31 December 1842 to 30 June 1844: Dickens considered it 'in a hundred points immeasurably the best of my stories' (Forster, Life of Charles Dickens (1928), p.305). For other letters to Revd George Armstrong, see lot 188.