Christmas was late for the actor William Macready 166 years ago, but it's set to come early for collectors at Sotheby's on December 17.
Macready (1793-1873), a celebrated star of the English stage for over two decades, was originally gifted this signed First Edition of a Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol the week after Christmas.
Including the author's signature, its inscription reads: "WC Macready, from his affectionate friend, Charles Dickens, New Year's Day, 1844."
First published on December 19, 1843, the book was quickly met with commercial and critical success. According to Sotheby's, Dickens (pictured top right) began inscribing copies for his friends on December 17.
Baroness Burdett-Coutts and Anthony Trollope were among the early recipients, while Dickens apparently reserved later copies for his closer associates, including John Forster and Thomas Beard.
This copy of A Christmas Carol will go under the hammer at Sotheby's in London estimated at £200,000. It has reportedly been consigned by an anonymous, 75-year-old seller.
The morality tale, featuring the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption upon meeting three ghosts on Christmas Eve, was originally published with illustrations by John Leech.
A Christmas Carol has since been interpreted as an indictment of 19th century capitalism - and is also credited with playing a key role in returning Christmas to prominence in British and American culture.
Records show that Macready lived in Cheltenham the last 12 years of his life. He remained friends with Dickens until the author's death in 1870.
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