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    Autograph Letters Signed by Charles Dickens and Annie Adams Fields to Captain James M. Dolliver

    Charles Dickens. Autograph Letter Signed by Charles Dickens to Captain James M. Dolliver, Inspector, Boston Custom House, 24 December 1867.

    One small square octavo page (5.4375 x 5.1875 inches; 138 x 132 mm.). Written in blue ink on white paper.

    "Boston Christmas Eve 1867 / Dear Captain Dolliver / Accept my cordial thanks for / your kind reminder of Home and Christmas-time. / It was highly acceptable to me when I saw it lying / on my breakfast-table. / With all good wishes in (and out of) / season, Believe me / Faithfully Yours always / Charles Dickens / [flourish]."

    This note is published in Volume XI of The Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens, p. 521.

    [Framed together with:]

    Annie [Adams] Fields. Autograph Letter Signed
    by Annie Fields to Captain Dolliver, 31 December 1868. Consisting of one small octavo page (5.375 x 4.0625 inches; 136 x 102 mm.) the recto of half of a folded leaf (at left).

    "Mr Fields. joins me in / best wishes to you for the / New Year. / Boston. 148 Charles St. / December 31st 1868."

    [And:]

    Two pages on the recto and verso of one small octavo leaf (5.375 x 4.0625 inches; 136 x 102 mm.) on Annie Fields's monogrammed letterhead (at right).

    "Captain Dolliver / Dear Sir: / Oddly enough, / talking of Mr Dickens, (as who does not / with the return of this season) to a / couple of friends yesterday, I was / saying that I considered one of / the most delicate attentions paid to him / while in this country, and one that / pleased him greatly, was your bringing / him a mistletoe bough from England / and laying it upon his table Xmas / morning-My sentence was hardly / ended when your wonderfully beautiful / branch of holly mingled with / mistletoe was brought to me. / How pleasant said one to be made / residuary legatee in this way! / But I thought how very kind / of you to remember us in this / grand Christmas season apart / from our mutual interest in our / friend in England and yet so gently / to remind us of his house. / Thank you most sincerely / and believe me / Cordially yours / Annie Fields."

    In November 1867 Dickens began his second American reading tour, arriving in Boston on 19 November. "Far and away the most important friends Dickens made in America were his publisher, J. T. Fields, of Ticknor, Fields & Osgood, of Boston, one of the party who met his boat, and his wife Annie. He had met them eight years previously, in 1859, on their first visit to London, and Fields had written several times since, asking him to give this American tour. From now on, Fields became a close friend and Mrs Fields an even more affectionate one. Their house, looking out on Charles River, became Dickens's second home. They gave frequent dinner-parties for him; Fields joined him for long walks; Mrs Fields constantly decorated his hotel-room with flowers; they were his chief bulwark against the illnesses that afflicted him...the five months Dickens spent in America and for his increasingly close relationship with both Mrs Fields and her husband. Annie Fields, it is generally agreed, with conspicuously beautiful, charming and intelligent; her Diary shows her as a sensitive and perceptive commentator as well. It fully records her devotion to Dickens, her admiration for his readings and her grief and tears when he returned to England" (The Letters of Charles Dickens, XI, p. xii).

    His first reading was on 2 December in Boston. On Monday, 9 December, Dickens began a two-week series in New York, returning to Boston on 21 December. George Dolby, Dickens's readings manager, describes their return to Boston: "We left New York on Saturday, Dec. 21st; starting by a midday train in order that Mr. Dickens might not be hurried in the morning, and in the hope that he would obtain some relief from the effects of his cold, which at the time was causing him many sleepless nights. The railway line had been cleared of snow, and our train was but very little late in arriving at Boston, where a delightful surprise was awaiting us at the hotel, the result of the affectionate thoughtfulness of Mrs. Fields and of Captain Dolliver-Mrs. Fields had decorated our rooms with flowers and English holly, 'with real red berries,' festoons of moss dependent from the looking-glasses and picture-frames; and Captain Dolliver had sent to England for some enormous boughs of mistletoe (a great rarity in America), so that the rooms presented such a homely Christmas appearance that we were both deeply affected by it" (George Dolby, Charles Dickens as I Knew Him: The Story of the Reading Tours in Great Britain and America (1866-1870), p. 198).

    Because Dickens had contracted to perform in Boston on 23 and 24 December and in New York on Christmas Day, Annie Fields prepared a traditional English Christmas dinner for him on 22 December-"a meal that included goose, roast beef, and a blazing plum pudding. 'It was really a beautiful Christmas festival, as we intended it to be for the love of this new apostle of Christmas,' she wrote in her diary" (Rita K. Gollin, Annie Adams Fields: Woman of Letters, p. 68).

    In his letter to his sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth, dated 22 December 1867, Dickens wrote: "When we got here last Saturday night, we found that Mrs. Fields had not only garnished the rooms with flowers, but also with holly (with real red berries) and festoons of moss dependent from the looking-glasses and picture frames. She is one of the dearest little women in the world. The homely Christmas look of the place quite affected us. Yesterday we dined at her house, and there was a plumpudding, brought on blazing, and not to be surpassed in any house in England. There is a certain Captain Dolliver, belonging to the Boston Custom House, who came off in the little steamer that brought me ashore from the Cuba. He took it into his head that he would have a piece of English mistletoe brought out in this week's Cunard, which should be laid upon my breakfast-table. And there it was this morning. In such affectionate touches as this, these New England people are especially amiable" (The Letters of Charles Dickens, XI, p. 518). From the H. Barry Morris Collection.


    View all of [The H. Barry Morris Collection of Charles Dickens' First Editions ]

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