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    Autograph Letter Signed by Charles Dickens to Thomas Battam

    Charles Dickens. Autograph Letter Signed by Charles Dickens to Thomas Battam, 31 May 1852.

    Two small octavo pages (approximately 6.9375 x 4.3125 inches; 177 x 110 mm.) on the recto and verso of half of a folded leaf. Written in black ink on white paper. Framed between glass.

    "Tavistock House, London / Thirty First May 1852 / Dear Sir / Pray accept my very sincere / thanks for the elegant present you / have had the kindness to send me. / I am glad you were amused by the / Paper which my interesting visit / to the works over which you preside / -and to the Dodo-suggested. / Mr Wills had brought me such / alarming reports of the indignation / of the people of Stafford in behalf / of their brick, and their town that / when I found myself, three weeks ago, obliged / to wait at the station there, three hours, / I was not without personal apprehensions / and a secret resolution never to be taken / alive. / With many thanks / my Dear Sir / Very faithfully yours / Charles Dickens / [flourish] / Thomas Battam Esquire."

    This letter is apparently unpublished (there are no letters to Thomas Battam in The Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens).

    At the beginning of April 1852 (April 1-4), Charles Dickens and W. H. Wills "evidently went to get material for their jointly written 'process' article on pottery manufacture ('A Plated Article', HW, 24 Apr). This shows that they travelled to Stoke in the morning and surveyed the works of William Taylor Copeland (MP for Stoke and a former alderman and Lord Mayor of London). They spent the night at Stafford (not named, but obvious), fifteen miles to the south; the article opens with a dismal picture of this 'dull and dead town' and the gloomy 'Dodo' inn in the 'High-street' (really the Swan in Green Gate St) where the solitary author is imagined with nothing to do all evening until he notices a plate and recalls the previous day's experiences. The Staffordshire Advertiser, 24 Apr, quoting this article, defended the town against CD's supposed strictures and attributed them to disordered nerves or stomach" (The Letters of Charles Dickens, VI, p. 634, note 1).

    "A Plated Article" (originally published in Household Words, Vol. 5, No. 109, April 24, 1852) begins: "Putting up for the night in one of the chiefest towns of Staffordshire, I find it to be by no means a lively town. In fact, it is as dull and dead a town as any one could desire not to see. It seems as if its whole population might be imprisoned in its Railway Station. The Refreshment-Room at that Station is a vortex of dissipation compared with the extinct town inn, the Dodo, in the dull High-street."

    The article continues with a description of the Swan Hotel: "If the Dodo were only a gregarious bird-if it had only some confused idea of making a comfortable nest-I could hope to get through the hours between this and bedtime, without being consumed by devouring melancholy. But the Dodo's habits are all wrong. It provides me with a trackless desert of a sitting-room, with a chair for every day in the year, a table for every month, and a waste of sideboard where a lonely China vase pines in a corner for its mate long departed, and will never make a match with the candlestick in the opposite corner, if it live till Doomsday. The Dodo has nothing in the larder. Even now, I behold the Boots returning with my sole in a piece of paper; and with that portion of my dinner, the Boots, perceiving me at the blank bow-window, slaps his leg as he comes across the road, pretending it is something else. The Dodo excludes the outer air. When I mount up to my bedroom, a smell of closeness and flue gets lazily up my nose like sleepy snuff. The loose little bits of carpet writhe under my tread, and take wormy shapes...The Dodo is narrow-minded as to towels; expects me to wash on a freemason's apron without the trimming: when I asked for soap, gives me a stony-hearted something white, with no more lather in it than the Elgin marbles. The Dodo has seen better days."

    Thomas Battam (1810-1864), art director at the Copeland porcelain factory from 1835, is credited with inventing Parian Ware. "The first idea of imitating marble in ceramic manufacture originated with Mr. Thomas Battam, the artist directing the extensive porcelain manufactory of Mr. Alderman Copeland, at Stoke-upon-Trent, in the commencement of 1842. After a series of experiments he succeeded in producing a very perfect imitation of marble, both in surface and tint" (Robert Hunt, Hunt's Hand-Book to the Official Catalogues: An Explanatory Guide to the Natural Productions and Manufactures of the Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, 1851, I, p. 465). Battam was also founder‚ and president‚ of the Crystal Palace Art Union. From the H. Barry Morris Collection.


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

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