DICKENS (CHARLES)
Lot 134
DICKENS (CHARLES)
Sold for £1,680 (US$ 2,722) inc. premium

Lot Details
ENGLISH LITERATURE
DICKENS (CHARLES)
Autograph letter signed ("Charles Dickens"), to Mary Cowden Clarke, written in his capacity as stage manager: "As I am the stage manager, you could not have addressed your inquiry to a more fit and proper person. The mode of address would be unobjectionable, but for the knowledge you give me of that family usage - which I think preferable, and indeed quite perfect. Enclosed is Knight's cabinet edition of the Merry Wives; from which the company study. I also send you a copy of Love, Law, and Physic", 2 pages, labels on verso, 8vo, Devonshire Terrace, 16 April 1848

Footnotes

  • DICKENS WELCOMES MARY COWDEN CLARKE INTO HIS THEATRICAL COMPANY. His production of The Merry Wives of Windsor was held under the auspices of the committee set up to purchase Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford. Mary Cowden Clarke was daughter of Vincent Novello and the friend of Mary Shelley, the Lambs, and Keats. She had just finished her Shakespeare Concordance, which made her a particularly suitable choice, and was to go on to edit the plays themselves in 1860 "for which she felt particular 'pride and gratification', as it made her 'the first (and as yet, only) woman editor of our great poet'" (Betty T. Bennett, ODNB). In Dickens's production she took the part of Mistress Quickly; although in this - as a female amateur actress - she was also something of a pioneer: "Introduced to Dickens by Leigh Hunt about six weeks prior to the first performance, Mrs Cowden Clarke, who had recently completed her monumental The Complete Concordance to Shakespeare, and would subsequently dedicate 'Meg and Alice, the Merry Maids of Windsor' in The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines to Dickens, volunteered to join the company. In light of her recent accomplishment Dickens saw the 'appropriateness of such a proceeding' and sent her a first rehearsal call: 'Falstaff (who very much depends on Mrs Quickly) may have, in his modesty, some timidity about acting with an amateur actress. But I have no question, as you have studied the part and long wished to play it, that you will put him completely at his ease on the first night of your rehearsal.' As was common with amateur productions performed in public during the Victorian era, the other female roles were played by professional actresses" (Valerie L. Gager, Shakespeare and Dickens: the Dynamics of Influence, 1996, pp.110).

    The other play sent with this letter is Kenney's Love, Law, and Physic, a farce which was played after The Merry Wives: of which Mary Cowden Clarke was to write in her Reminiscences: "In Love, Law and Physic he used to tuck me under his arm with the free-and-easy familiarity of a lawyer patronising an actress whom he chances to find his fellow traveller in a stage-coach... It is something to remember, having been tucked under the arm by Charles Dickens, and had one's hand hugged against his side! One thinks better of one's hand ever after".

    The first rehearsal of the Merry Wives was held at Mrs Kelly's theatre in Dean Street, Soho, on 22 April, and the first performance of the play on 15 May at the Haymarket. Two days later, at the same theatre, she played Tib in the revival of Dickens's production of Every Man in His Humour, in the presence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
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