Item #2743 The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club [Pickwick Papers]. CHARLES DICKENS.
The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club [Pickwick Papers]
The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club [Pickwick Papers]
The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club [Pickwick Papers]
The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club [Pickwick Papers]
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The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club [Pickwick Papers]


On the Pickwick Papers:

"In February 1836, just after the appearance of the two-volume Sketches by Boz, two young booksellers who were moving into publishing, Edward Chapman and William Hall, approached Dickens to write the letterpress for a series of steel-engraved plates by the popular comic artist Robert Seymour depicting the misadventures of a group of cockney sportsmen, to be published in twenty monthly numbers, each containing four plates. They offered Dickens £14 a month for the work, an ‘emolument’ that was, as he wrote to Catherine, ‘too tempting to resist’ (Letters, 1.129). He accepted the commission... but stipulated that he should be allowed to widen the scope of the proposed subject ‘with a freer range of English scenes and people’. He then, he later recalled, ‘thought of Mr Pickwick, and wrote the first number’ (‘Preface’ to the Cheap Edition of Pickwick, 1847). This appeared on 31 March 1836... On 20 April Seymour committed suicide but the publishers boldly decided to continue the series, despite disappointing initial sales. Seymour was replaced, after the brief trial of R. W. Buss, with a young artist, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), who was Dickens's main illustrator for the next twenty-three years. In recognition of the fact that Dickens was now very much the senior partner in the enterprise, the number of plates was halved, the letterpress increased from twenty-eight to thirty-two pages, and his monthly remuneration rose to £21. With the introduction of Sam Weller in the fourth number sales began to increase dramatically and soon Pickwick was the greatest publishing sensation since Byron had woken to find himself famous, as a result of the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold, in 1812. By the end of its run in November 1837 Dickens's monthly serial had a phenomenal circulation of nearly 40,000 and had earned the publishers £14,000..." (ODNB).

On this copy:

This first edition of The Pickwick Papers was owned by Angela Burdett-Coutts, with her bookplate on the front pastedown. And who pray tell is she? A dear confidante of Charles Dickens, whose relationship was so influential to him that she earns the dedication for Martin Chuzzlewit. Indeed, Dickens refers to Burdett-Coutts as “a noble spirit,” and some critics have suggested that his character Agnes Wickford from David Copperfield was inspired by this remarkable woman.

Burdett-Coutts and Dickens met in 1839; the former was just 25 years old but already one of the wealthiest women in England. Burdett-Coutts and Dickens seemingly found they had a great deal in common including a passion for helping and defending the poor. Among Burdett-Coutts’ many philanthropic projects was Urania Cottage, a home she teamed up with Dickens to found in 1846, for young women whose poverty drove them to prostitution and theft.

In addition to her prodigious charitable work, Burdett-Coutts, like Dickens, did not adhere to all of the constricting mores of Victorian society. A bit of a wild one, she proposed marriage to the Duke of Welligton, who delicately declined as a man 45 years her senior (ironically, she eventually married a man over thirty years younger than she was), and further eschewed patriarchal traditions by taking on her mother’s maiden name (Coutts) as her own and hyphenating it with her father’s name (Burdett).

The friendship between Dickens and Burdett-Coutts was mutually influential, lasting over twenty years. Letters between them reveal the breadth of their friendship, discussing matters beyond their charitable collaborations, such as advice on health matters, and even deeply personal concerns about marriage. For example, Dickens shares with his dear friend his own despair as his marriage fell apart, writing to her in an 1858 letter, “I believe my marriage has been for years and years as miserable a one as ever was made. I believe that no two people were ever created, with such an impossibility of interest, sympathy, confidence, sentiment, tender union of any kind between them, as there is between my wife and me.”

While we now think of Burdett-Coutts today through the lens of her influence and intimacy with Charles Dickens, at the time Burdett-Coutts was renowned for her gracious philanthropy. King Edward ViI reportedly described here as apart from his own mother “the most remarkable woman in the kingdom.”

In publisher’s binding bound from sheets (as is almost always the case with publisher’s bindings). For select clients, the publisher would adorn the spine with additional gilt according to taste. This binding shows panels for the spines with scrolling arabesques, which would have cost a handsome amount to have applied.

First edition in book form with plates in later state (captions instead of page numbers), and with Phiz plates replacing the suppressed Buss plates; corrected “Weller” on engraved title page.

DICKENS, CHARLES. The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club. London: Chapman And Hall, 1837. Octavo, publisher's three-quarter black morocco with elaborately gilt-decorated spine, marbled edges and endpapars. With 43 illustrated plates throughout by Robert Seymour and Hablot K. Browne (aka, "Phiz"), including illustrated title page and frontispiece. With bookplate of Angela Burdett-Coutts on front pastedown, displaying a "B-C" monograph surmounted by her coat of arms as Baroness Burdett-Coutts of Highgate and Brookfield in the County of Middlesex—a position created for her suo jure in recognition of her philanthropic work. Light wear to binding, including rubbing to cloth boards; foxing (as usual) to many of the plates.

An historically important copy from the library of a close friend of Dickens and one of the leading women of nineteenth-century Britain.

Price: $6,500 .

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