Charles Dickens signed document

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  • A large and exceptional land lease signed by Charles Dickens 

Charles John Huffman Dickens (1812-1870) is regarded as the greatest English writer of his age. His broad body of work includes some of the most celebrated novels ever written - including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol.

Dickens was born into a middle class family in Portsmouth, but his circumstances changed dramatically when his father was slung into a debtors’ prison in 1824. Dickens was forced to leave school and start work in a boot polish factory to support his family.

While his father was freed a few months later, allowing Dickens to return to school, this formative experience left him burning with a righteous anger at the conditions the working classes had to endure.

Charles John Huffman Dickens (1812-1870) created some of the world's most memorable fictional characters and is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian Period. His works include A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities, the best selling novel of all time.

This exceptionally large document, measuring 26½ x 22 inches, is dated 21st March 1863. Boasting impeccable penmanship the document is an Indenture made between Charles Dickens ('Of Higham, in the County of Kent') and John Brooker, a local farmer for the lease of land.

It relates to 'a piece or parcel of land or garden ground containing by estimation eight acres and sixteen perches or thereabouts as now stumped off formerly woodland part of a piece of land formerly called or known by the name of "Seeming Ruff" but now called "Scrubby Bushes" situate lying and being at or near a certain place called Gads Hill in the Parish of Higham in the County of Kent..."

The document has been signed by Dickens in bold blue fountain pen at the base, either side of a red wax seal affixed to a small green ribbon.

Dickens association with Gads Hill is well documented. In 1856 he purchased Gads Hill Place for £1,790. He had first encountered the house in 1821 when he was nine years old and would often walk from Chatham to Gads Hill Place.

He later wrote "I used to look at it as a wonderful mansion (Which God knows it is not) when I was a very odd little child with the first faint shadows of all my books in my head - I suppose."

35 years later he purchased the house, initially as an investment, and later as his personal country retreat before moving in permanently in June 1857.

It was at Gads Hill Place that Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and his unfinished work The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

One of the main characters in Edwin Drood is Stony Durdles the stonemason, who Dickens based on local farmer John Brooker, referenced in this Indenture. In 1897 Elliot Stock, in his book on Dickens' life, wrote "[In] the late veteran Mr John Brooker, of Higham (whose father planted the famous cedars at gads Hill Place), were recognised some of the better qualities and peculiarities of Stony Durdles"

We've been racking our brains but can't think of another document that mentions both Charles Dickens and the real life inspiration of one of his characters.

A truly interesting and unique item. Huge size makes for a very impressive display piece.

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Provenance: Ex Christie's 2008


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