Twenty-five previously unseen letters written by Charles Dickens have been donated to his museum by an American collector, as part of a huge donation of over 300 items.

One of the letters describes the planning for a lavish dinner, noting that there should be a good supply of champagne during dinner, but none before, and little wine either.

The items acquired by the museum include 144 handwritten letters by Dickens, personal items including writing implements and jewellery, original artwork by the illustrators of Dickens’s books, a range of unpublished manuscripts and letters written by others in Dickens’s circle and 25 books from Dickens’s own library.

Another of the letters, to the illustrator of The Old Curiosity Shop talks about “Little” Nell Trent, who is thought to have been based on his 17-year-old sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, who died at his London home.

“I am breaking my heart over this story, and cannot bear to finish it.”

(c) Charles Dickens Museum

The Museum’s acquisition, from a private collection in the USA, has been made possible by a grant of £1.22m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, together with substantial contributions from Art Fund, Friends of the National Libraries and the Dickens Fellowship, totalling £1.8m.

Cindy Sughrue, Director of the Charles Dickens Museum say that the acquisition was a “true once-in-a-lifetime moment”

Unfinished drawing of Charles Dickens as a young man. (c) Charles Dickens Museum

The collection will be researched, catalogued and conserved before going on display over the next two years both online and in the rooms of Dickens’s London home.


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