Digitizations of Dickens’s personal correspondence 4

Three students from ENG337 digitized a collection of letters (H6) from Charles Dickens to his friend Clarkson Stanfield, written in 1845 from Devonshire Terrace, London. 1 Devonshire Terrace, an address near Regent’s Park, in London, was Dickens’s residence from 1839-1851.

Dickens and Stanfield, a prominent London painter of maritime scenes, were close friends. Dickens was apparently one of the last people Stanfield saw on his death day in 1867, and was the author of his obituary. UiB has a copy of this draft, which is digitized in the next section of this exhibit.

The letters are jovial in tone – in the first, dated 26 October 1845, Dickens writes to Stanfield to ask him to be ready to play in an amateur theatrical play called “Every Man in His Humours” – Prince Albert was keen to see the play, in which Dickens played the role Bobadil. He signs the letter “Bob”, as a tongue in cheek reference. “My dear Stanny”, he writes, “Here is the devil to pay. Prince Albert has written to say that he dies to see the amateur performance!”

The second two letters relate to Stanfield’s work illustrating one of Dickens’s short Christmas stories, “The Cricket on the Hearth”. Stanfield usually did not do work for his friends, but for Dickens he made an exception. In addition to illustrating this short work, Stanfield also designed scenery for Dickens’s amateur theatricals. These letters reveal a little of the illustration process: Dickens writes to Stanfield, “I have no doubt [the drawings] can be easily copied on the blocks, and I will send them down to Bradbury’s directly.” This refers to transferring the drawings onto the blocks that would eventually become the wood blocks that would go into the printing press with the rest of “Cricket”. Later, Dickens promises Stanfield that he’ll “insert a full-sized Blue Bottle in the ear of the printer” for running late.