DICKENS, CHARLES. Autograph letter signed ("Charles Dickens," with paraph) to his close friend, the Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, Venice, Sunday, 27 November 1853. 4 pages, 8vo, in brown ink on pale blue paper, small tear near center of first leaf affecting ten letters in six words on pages one and two, hinged to a slightly larger piece of stiff paper.
Dickens devotes the first page of this lengthy, chatty letter to telling of his plans for his return to England and to giving an account of his journey through Florence and Padua to Venice; in the letter's three remaining pages Dickens provides a colorful picture of his stay in Venice. "For our prodigious sojourn of four days we have established a highly imposing gondola, rowed by two men in a modestly alarming livery, who are very strict in observing all the old stately forms. Last night we proceeded to the opera in our gallant bark, with an enormous -- Christmas Pantomime -- lantern in the prow. When we landed, the chief of our two Gondolieri went before, with this horrible machine, and lighted us -- not only to the theatre door, but up the staircase, through the brilliantly lighted passages (where the lantern became a mere twinkle) and into the box. I don't know that I ever in life felt more absurd...at the end of the ballet, when there was still another act of the opera to come, I opened the box door a very little way, and peeped out -- with the intention of sneaking away if the coast was clear. The instant I looked into the passage, the lantern -- beaming and radiant -- burst out of a corner and blazed into the box again! There was nothing for it but to go back in the same state. I saw nobody laugh; which was some comfort.
"Everything here and elsewhere, of the beautiful kind, looks as I left it nine years ago. Except that I found the old...ruins of Rome (Coliseum excepted) smaller than my imagination had made them in that space of time..." Dickens writes in great detail of the numerous beggars in Venice, and closes: "...Although the Grand Canal is undeniably romantic, and the window at which I am writing (close to the Piazza off St. Mark) has a noble view of it, my feet are so intensely cold that I must take them to the fire. The unromantic wind is blowing from the east, and, there being a crack in the wooden part of the balcony casement...through which I can see the whole of the Trieste Steamboat with a very dirty Turk on board..."
Provenance: Oliver R. Barrett, by descent to -- Roger W. Barrett (sale, Sotheby's New York, 14 December 1988, lot 88) -- Bronson Pinchot (sale, Sotheby's New York, 7 December 1994, lot 77).