Charles Dickens was once so annoyed by planned delays to his post, that he threatened to move house to a better area, newly published letters have revealed.

The letters, part of an acquisition of over 300 items from the most substantial private collection of Dickens material in the world, are going on display for the first time at the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

At the time he was complaining about the postal service, he was living in Gads Hill Place, the home near Rochester that he had bought in 1856. A decade later, in February 1866, Dickens wrote to a friend complaining about proposed changes to the Sunday postal service, threatening to move away from the neighbourhood if this is enforced: “I beg to say that I most decidedly and strongly object to the infliction of any such inconvenience upon myself. There are many people in this village of Higham, probably, who do not receive or dispatch in a year, as many letters as I usually receive and dispatch in a day…I am on the best terms with my neighbours, poor and rich, and I believe they would be sorry to lose me. But I should be so hampered by the proposed restriction that I think it would force me to sell my property here, and leave this part of the country.”

(c) Charles Dickens Museum

The collection of over 300 letters includes assorted invitation notes, insights into Dickens’s reading habits, current writing projects and publishing matters.

Another letter reveals a strong awareness of the cost of his household, noting on a trip to Switzerland that meat is cheaper, but that bread is even more expensive than he pays in London. He wasn’t keen on the local wine, describing it as ” something between vinegar and pickled cucumbers” and likely to make you cry when you drink it.

Then again modern readers may cry to read that he is buying French red wines for ten pence a bottle. If only we could indulge in such things.

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

Announced in February 2020, the acquisition of the letters, from a private collection in the USA, was made possible by a generous 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.

The whole acquisition included 144 handwritten letters by Dickens, personal items including writing implements and jewellery, original artwork by the illustrators of Dickens’s books, including George Cruikshank, John Leech, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), Joseph Clayton Clarke (Kyd) and Frank Reynolds, 50 unpublished manuscripts and letters written by others in Dickens’s circle and 25 books from Dickens’s own library.

Emily Dunbar, Curator at the Charles Dickens Museum, said, “One of the best things about this collection of letters is that it shows Dickens writing in his thirties, forties and fifties and the variety of topics that were occupying his mind. The letter complaining about the loss of Sunday postal delivery is a great example of Dickens showing self-importance, his awareness his great fame and position in society coming to the fore.”

The letters go on show in the Charles Dickens Museum tomorrow, and can be viewed online at


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