DICKENS, CHARLES. TWENTY-ONE AUTOGRAPH LETTERS SIGNED (virtually all "Charles Dickens," a few "CD") to his close friend Henry William Kolle (c. 1808-1881), who acted as a go-between for Dickens and his first love Maria Beadnell, written from various addresses in London (North End, Fitzroy Street, Bentinck Street, Furnivals Inn), [April-May 1832 to January 1835?]. Together 53 pages, nearly all 8vo, with several integral address panels, one letter separated at center fold, two others with splits at center fold, another letter with a long tear repaired, some scattered soiling and spotting, each letter neatly inlaid or mounted in a folio burgundy morocco album, gilt-lettered, t.e.g., some scuffing. [With:] Two autograph letters signed by Kolle's second wife giving information regarding the provenance of the Dickens letters, an autograph manuscript of a priced catalogue description (2 pp., folio) of the letters by a J. Pearson in the 1890s, and two engravings pertaining to Dickens.
THE MOST EXTENSIVE SERIES OF EARLY LETTERS FROM DICKENS TO ANY CORRESPONDENT
This highly important collection comprises all but three of Dickens's early letters to Kolle -- the series begins with the fourth to have survived -- and some of the earliest letters he ever wrote. The correspondence contains some of Dickens's first references to his early literary efforts and provides valuable information about his first romantic attachment -- to Maria Beadnell -- and the development of his career as a parliamentary reporter.
A mutual friend introduced Dickens to the bank clerk Kolle and a close friendship arose between the two young men (Dickens turned 20 on 12 February 1832) as they courted a pair of sisters: Maria and Anne Beadnell. Kolle's romance with Anne flourished and he acted as a go-between for Dickens with his first love Maria (a love, alas!, not reciprocated). The girl's parents, seeing little in Dickens's future, discouraged the relationship and rusticated their daughter. When Maria returned to London, she cooly rebuffed the romantic Dickens. Years later (in the 1850s) Maria resurfaced and in a letter the now world-famous author hinted that the romance might be rekindled. When they met Dickens was horrified at Maria's new girth and excessively talkative nature.
"Tuesday Morning" [Summer 1832], asking Kolle to deliver a note to Maria Beadnell -- the letter containing the earliest reference in Dickens's surviving correspondence to his written communication with his first love, Maria, and to Kolle's part as go-between: "As I was requested in a note I received this morning to forward my answer by the same means as my first note I am enboldened to ask you if you will be so kind as to deliver the inclosed for me when you practice your customary duet [with Anne Beadnell] this afternoon..." "Saturday Morning" [Summer 1832], the letter containing the first mention of Maria Beadnell by name in Dickens's surviving correspondence: "I should recall feel some delicacy in asking you again to deliver the inclosed...were it not for two reasons. In the first place you know so well my existing situation that you must be almost perfectly aware of the general nature of the note, and in the second, I should not have written it (for I should have communicated its contents verbally) were it not that I lost the opportunity by keeping the old gentleman [Maria's father, George Beadnell] out of the way as long as possible last night [for Kolle's benefit?]...perhaps you will accompany the delivery [of the note] by asking Miss [Maria] Beadnell only to read it when she is quite alone (of course in this sense I consider you as nobody)..."
"Monday Morning" [15 April 1833?], comparing his own unhappy relations with Maria to Kolle's success in becoming engaged to her sister Anne: "...and although unfortunately and unhappily for myself I have no fellow feeling with you -- no cause to sympathise with your past causes of annoyance, or your present prospects of happiness -- I am not the less disposed to offer my heartfelt congratulations to you because you are, or at all events will be what I never can -- happy and contented; taking present grievances as happiness compared with former difficulties and looking cheerfully and steadily forward to a bright perspective of many happy years..."; Dickens also touches on various matters relating to their joint private production of John Howard Payne's opera Clari (on 27 April 1833). "Sunday" [19 May 1833]: "I enclose a very concilliatory note [for Maria Beadnell] sans pride, sans reserve sans anything but an evident wish to be reconciled...Independently of the numerous advantages of your marriage you will have this great consolation -- that you will be for once and for [all] released from these most troublesome commissions...If I had many friends in the habit of marrying [Dickens was Kolle's best man] which said friends had brothers who possessed an extensive assortment of choice hock I should be dead in no time. Yesterday I felt like a Maniac -- to day my interior resembled a Lime Basket..."
"Tuesday Morning" [3 December 1833], containing the earliest reference in his surviving correspondence to the first ("A Dinner at Poplar Walk") of his "Sketches by 'Boz'" (as they were later entitled): "...I...write to beg Mrs. K's [Kolle's wife Anne] criticism of a little paper of mine (the first of a series) in the Monthly (not the New Monthly) Magazine of this month [The Monthly Magazine for December 1833]. I haven't a Copy to send but if the Number falls in your way, look for the Article. It is the same that you saw laying on my table but the name is transmogrified from 'A Sunday out of town' to 'A dinner at Poplar Walk'...I am so dreadfully nervous [in anticipation of its publication], that my hand shakes to such an extent as to prevent my writing a word legibly..." "Tuesday Morning" [10 December 1833?]: "...They have done me the honor of selecting [pirating actually] my article ['A Dinner at Poplar Walk'] for insertion in The Thief. I have had a polite and flattering communication from The Monthly [Magazine] people requesting more papers [contributions] but they are 'rather backward in coming forward' with the needful [money]. I am in treaty with them however; and if we choose my next paper will be 'Private Theatricals' and my next 'London by Night'. I shall then please God announce a series of papers (the materials for which I have been noting down for some time past) called The Parish [probably the first reference to Oliver Twist in his correspondence]. Should they be successful, as publishing is hazardous, I shall cut my proposed Novel up into little Magazine Sketches. Should I not settle with this Periodical I shall try The Metropolitan...Business in the shape of masses of papers, plans, and prospectusses; -- and pleasure in the shape of a very nice pair of black eyes [alluding to a new young lady, possibly Lucina Pocock], -- call me to Norwood. -- Of course the call is imperative and must be obeyed..."
"Monday Evening" [April 1834]. "As neither you or yours have the most remote connexion with [his sketch] 'The Boarding House' of which I am the Proprietor, I cannot have the least objection (indeed I shall feel flaterred by) your perusing it. It is however at present in the hands of the Publishers. When they return it to me, you shall have it. I am much obliged to you for purchasing the Lottery Ticket...I think if we win we had better sacrifice the discount and take ready money -- unless indeed you prefer gold bars. I see by the announcement in the different Lottery Office Windows that the lucky purchaser of a ticket may have the value 'in money or freehold houses.' Suppose we have L10 worth of freehold houses. Of course this will afford a small street. I'll have one side of the way, and you shall have the other. I shall improve my property by the erection of brass knockers, and patent Water Closets..." All published in Letters, ed. House & Storery, vol. 1.
Provenance: Harry B. Smith, "Sentimental Library" bookplate -- Comte Alain de Suzannet, bookplate (sale, Sotheby, 22 November 1971, lot 193) -- Bronson Pinchot (sale, Sotheby's New York, 7 December 1994, lot 66, $40,000). (26)