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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Dickens letter fetches 5,000
The British Library has 300 Dickens documents
The British Library has 300 Dickens documents
A letter written by author Charles Dickens has fetched 5,000 at auction.

The letter was one of 14 by the author found in Tavistock, Devon, at the home of a woman directly descended from a governess who ran a hostel for prostitutes and vagabonds founded by Dickens.

All 14, penned between 1849 and 1854, were sold at auction on Monday in the town.


Will you send underclothing to Eliza Wilkin, with money for her to get a warm bath or two so that she may be perfectly clean and wholesome and make her an appointment to call

Charles Dickens
The total raised for the letters has not yet been totted up, but 5,000 was the highest price paid for a single letter.

Auctioneer Robin Fenner said: "The sale went very well. There wasn't a Dickens Institute that was not represented here today."

He said there had been interest from the US prior to the sale, but following the auction all the letters would be staying in Britain.

Many had been bought by public institutions and museums, he added.

Mr Fenner found the letters while valuing the home of Miss Judith Hughes, who is moving to a nursing home.

Miss Hughes is a direct descendant of Georgina Morson, a governess at Urania Cottage, a women's refuge for prostitutes and vagabonds which Dickens founded in Shepherd's Bush in 1847.

Mr Fenner said he was amazed when he came across the letters, which fell out of a book.

Speculation

"It was wonderful. You are just in awe when you find something unique. It was very exciting."

In one letter Dickens asks Mrs Morson: "Will you send underclothing to Eliza Wilkin, with money for her to get a warm bath or two so that she may be perfectly clean and wholesome and make her an appointment to call."

Mr Fenner said there had been a great deal of speculation about Dickens' private life and his interest in helping fallen women.

But he said from reading the letters he felt that the author was simply a great philanthropist.

"His father had been in debtors' prison and as a child he had to visit him there.

"I believe he was the best of British in that he wanted to help people who fell by the wayside and that is what is revealed in the letters."

See also:

11 May 01 | Arts
Smooth Dickens fetches 40,000
12 Apr 99 | Letter From America
The art and curse of television
07 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Papers show Dickens' hard times
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