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Fine Books, Atlases and Manuscripts / DICKENS (CHARLES) Autograph letter signed (Charles Dickens), to Dear Miss Marryat, concerning a story that he refuses to publish, Tavistock House, 13 February 1860

Lot 169
Autograph letter signed ("Charles Dickens"), to "Dear Miss Marryat", concerning a story that he refuses to publish, 'I DO NOT THINK IT IS A GOOD STORY', Tavistock House, 13 February 1860
16 March 2016, 13:00 GMT
London, Knightsbridge

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Autograph letter signed ("Charles Dickens"), to "Dear Miss Marryat", concerning a story that he refuses to publish: he upbraids her for being utterly unreasonable in her demands upon him ("...You have no idea of the labor inseparable from the editing of such a Journal as All The Year Round, when you suppose it within the bounds of possibility that those who discharge such duties can give critical reasons for the rejection of papers. To read professed contributions honestly, and communicate a perfectly unprejudiced decision respecting every one of them to its author or authoress, is a task, of the magnitude of which you evidently have no conception..."); and in sorrow invokes the shade of her father [Frederick Marryat] ("...your name is associated with an old friend and a great regard..."); he also reminds her that, as an editor, he has "but one object and one interest – to get the best writing possible"; and concludes by condemning her story in the very strongest terms: "I cannot, however, alter what seems to me to be the fact regarding this story (for instance), any more than I can alter my eyesight or my hearing. I do not deem it suitable for my Journal. You ask me to pass my pen over the paragraphs which displease me. Surely that is scarcely reasonable. I do not think it is a good story. I think its leading incident is common-place, and one that would require for its support some special observation of character, or strength of dialogue, or happiness of description. I do not find any of these sustaining qualities in it. I am not interested in the young people, therefore, and I cannot put away from myself the unfortunate belief that the readers of All The Year Round would not be interested in them"; telling her that he must therefore return the story "where I would five hundred thousand times rather have the pleasure of accepting it"; subscribed in pencil, in a nineteenth-century hand: "addressed to Miss Florence Marryat", 3 pages, engraved heading, 8vo, Tavistock House, 13 February 1860


'I DO NOT THINK IT IS A GOOD STORY' – an exasperated Dickens turns down a story by Frederick Marryat's daughter Florence and upbraids her for the preposterous demands she makes upon him as an editor. Marryat had two other daughters who wrote fiction, Augusta and Emilia, although the identity of Florence as recipient of this wonderfully rude missive is confirmed by an early pencil note (which probably quotes the wording of the now lost envelope). Two stories by a Miss Marryat had already appeared in Dickens's earlier journal, Household Words, 'Cast Away' (Vol. XIX, 5 February 1859, pp. 222-27) and 'Friends in Australia' (Vol. XIX, 21 May 1859, pp. 584-88), but these could have been by either Augusta or Emilia who are known to have written works, like these stories, with an Australian setting. Florence herself, who although married wrote under her illustrious maiden name, had returned from India earlier that year. She is recorded by Percy Fitzgerald as being a 'contributor of an occasional kind' and writing 'stories which were much read, besides a few light articles for the journal' ( Memories of Charles Dickens, with an account of 'Household words' and 'All the year round', and of the contributors thereto, 1913, p. 297). Her first novel, Love's Conflict, was published in 1865; and in 1869 she published a tale of bigamy entitled Véronique, which bore a dedication to Dickens which declares that: 'My offering is but a common flower – perhaps a weed – but, at any rate, plucked feebly from the fields of my imagination; and neither forced in a hot-house, nor sprung from a dunghill, as some of the criticisms upon modern novels would lead one to believe'. The present letter is not published in the Pilgrim edition of Dickens's letters.

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