Description

    Presentation Copy, Inscribed by Charles Dickens to His Close Friend Serjeant Talfourd

    Charles Dickens. American Notes for General Circulation. In Two Volumes. London: Chapman and Hall, 1842.

    First edition, first issue, with the preliminary pages in Volume I misnumbered (p. [x] numbered xvi). Presentation copy, inscribed and signed by Charles Dickens on the half-title: "Mr: Serjeant Talfourd / From his friend / Charles Dickens / [flourish]." Two small octavo volumes. [12], 308; vii, [1, blank], 306, [6, advertisements] pages.

    Bound by Rivière & Son (stamp-signed on the verso of the front flyleaf) in full light brown polished calf. Covers with gilt triple fillet border and gilt corner ornaments, spines decoratively tooled in gilt in compartments with red and black morocco gilt lettering labels, board edges ruled in gilt, turn-ins decoratively tooled in gilt, top edge gilt, others uncut. Original variant binding grayish reddish brown vertically-ribbed cloth covers and spines bound in at the end of each volume. Light rubbing to corners and to joints. Volume I with C4 (pp. 23/24) creased, causing a printing flaw affecting a few letters, but with no loss, and tiny ink stain to the outer edge of N2 and N3 (pp. 179/180 and 181/182). Volume II with small piece torn from the upper blank corner of R5 (pp. 249/250). An excellent copy, with an important provenance. Each volume protected in a red cloth chemise and the two volumes housed together in a quarter red morocco book-backed slipcase with the spines lettered in gilt with five raised bands.

    "Not one of Dickens' books was the subject of so much adverse criticism as the book he wrote after his return from America in 1842. He composed a chapter which he intended for the introduction to the volumes, which may have softened the American attitude, had it been printed. But a week before the 'Notes' appeared it was decided to cancel it. That is why all first issues of the first edition carry a test which is infallible. In Vol. I the first pagination is page XVI, that being the last page of the 'Contents to Volume I.' Forster, in the 'Life,' prints the eliminated chapter in full under the heading: 'Introductory, and necessary to be Read.' Before the suppression was agreed upon the sheets had been partly printed and the pagination was not altered. Later and before the first edition was exhausted, the pagination was revised" (Eckel).

    Thomas Noon Talfourd (1795-1854) "was made a Serjeant in 1833 and a Judge in 1849. Dickens seems to have met him shortly after he had introduced his Copyright Bill into Parliament in May 1837 (it gave an author copyright protection during his life and for seven years after his death, and passed into law in 1842). Evidently, Dickens took very strongly to Talfourd and they became good friends. Pickwick Papers was dedicated to him (September 1837), Dickens writing in the dedicatory epistle, 'Many a fevered head and palsied hand will gather new vigour in the hour of sickness and distress from your excellent exertions', and referring to their friendship as 'the most gratifying...I have ever contracted'...Both as genial host and ever-welcome guest Talfourd played a prominent and much-valued role in Dickens's social life for twenty years, and Forster comments that Dickens 'had no friend he was more attached to'. He visited Dickens in Switzerland in 1846 and in Bonchurch in 1849, immediately after his elevation to the bench ('I am really quite enraptured at his success', Dickens wrote to Forster). Dickens vividly recalls this latter visit in the fine tribute he paid to his friend in Household Words (25 March 1854). In it he writes of Talfourd: 'So amiable a man, so gentle, so sweet-tempered, of such noble simplicity, so perfectly unspoiled by his labours and their rewards, is very rare indeed upon this earth.' Talfourd is often cited as the 'original' for Traddles in David Copperfield, but there is no external evidence for this supposition" (Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens).

    Eckel, pp. 108-109. Gimbel A66. Smith II, 3.


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