Books, Photographs & Prints - Sale 12BP02 - Lot 388Monday, November 5, 2012 at 10am
A Christmas Carol in Prose, being A Ghost Story of Christmas. London: Chapman & Hall, 1844. The seventh edition, stated, this copy inscribed on the half-title "Mrs. Smithson/from/Charles Dickens/18th April 1844." 19th century pebble-grained red morocco, simple gilt rules, spine in six compartments, marbled endsheets, all edges gilt.  ff. including half title, frontispiece, title and preface, 166 pp. text. Binding somewhat rubbed to joints but sound, two minor tears with discreet old restorations to a tiny tear on the fore-margin of the the half-title and frontispiece, some minor toning to the plates as usual, but an attractive copy.
A significant Dickens presentation, to the wife of his close friend the solicitor Charles Smithson, shortly after the untimely death of the latter at the age of 39. Dickens attended the funeral at Malton Abbey on the fifth of April 1844, heading up to Yorkshire by train for the day. The letter of the same date that originally accompanied this presentation copy now resides at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and it makes evident that Dickens was deeply distressed by his friend's death. In the letter, he mentions that he had hoped that Mrs. Smithson would be able to stay with his family ("for a twelvemonth"), but that they had discovered there were insufficient bedrooms for Smithson's young family. (He was a godfather to one of Smithson's children).
There is a long-standing tradition that the office of Scrooge was based on Smithson's office on Chancery Lane in Malton, and that various characters of Dickens (John Brodie, Sairey Gamp and possibly others) were based upon residents of the area. Mr Spenlow (of Spenlow and Jorkins in David Copperfield), is supposedly modelled on Charles Smithson. However, the evidence for all of this is largely anecdotal.
The binding of this copy is early, and it cannot be ruled out that it was bound at Dickens' behest for presentation to Mrs. Smithson; given the tragic event it commemorates, a regular copy may have been felt to be inadequate. Philo Calhoun and Howell J. Heaney record twenty-two inscribed examples of A Christmas Carol in their 1945 work (published in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America and subsequently available as an offprint). This example was not among them.
Sold for $43,750 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
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