Dickens Christmas Reading

Dickens.jpgCharles Dickens missed dinner with his wealthy benefactor, Angela Burdett-Coutts, because he had a gig that night. In this letter, offered by James Cummins Rare Books in New York City for $12,000, Dickens sends his regrets, for he is "going to Bradford in Yorkshire to give a Christmas Reading to some three thousand people." That was December, 1854, one year after Dickens began giving such public readings of A Christmas Carol. Turned out that 3,700 people attended his performance.

Seeing this letter about Dickens' 'theatrical career,' if we can call it that, brought to mind a feature we published two years ago about his stage performances in America and the prompt book he carried--containing the marginalia that reminded him know how to inflect certain words or lines, when to turn a page, and how to deliver particular phrases--which now resides at the New York Public Library.

The holiday catalogue from James Cummins is a wonderful selection of Christmas books, letters, and cards. From the first printed illustration of Santa going down a chimney in the New York Mirror, 1841, to a first edition, first issue of The Christmas Carol with "very rare variant state with pink endpapers" and an even more scarce "trial issue" of that book. Grab some eggnog and take a look.