Desk where the classics Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood were written on display at author’s former London home.
A grant of just over £780,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has enabled the Charles Dickens Museum in London to purchase the world-famous author’s desk and chair.
Since his death in 1870, Charles Dickens’ desk and chair has become almost totemic of the man. So much so, this particular desk and chair which he used in his final home, Gad’s Hill Place in Kent, are depicted in two paintings begun in the year of this death – The Empty Chair by Luke Fildes and Dickens’ Dream by RW Buss.
The items were passed through the Dickens family after his death before being auctioned for the Great Ormond Street Charitable Trust in 2004. They are currently in private ownership and could have been sold at public auction if they had not been bought by the museum. The desk and chair are on display at the Charles Dickens Museum in London.
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of NHMF, said: “Charles Dickens is one of the UK’s most celebrated literary figures, whose stories and characters means he is as popular today as he was in this lifetime. It’s exciting news that visitors to his London home can continue to enjoy the unique opportunity to see the very desk at which some of his most famous works were created.”
Robert Moye, Director of the Charles Dickens Museum, said: “We are delighted to have been able to acquire Charles Dickens’s iconic writing desk and chair for permanent display in his Study at 48 Doughty Street. They hold a unique place in our literary heritage and, as we embark on our exhibition exploring The Mystery of Edwin Drood, it is timely that the desk he used when writing his final novel has been secured for the benefit of all our visitors.”
Margaret Ford, International Head of Books and Manuscripts, Christie’s, said: “This evocative desk and chair, the most important associated with Charles Dickens, is close to my heart. Having sold it to benefit the Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2008, I am delighted to have negotiated its sale to a permanent home, thanks to the vision and determination of the Charles Dickens Museum and the generosity of the NHMF.”
Notes to editors
Charles Dickens Museum
The Charles Dickens Museum holds the world’s most important collection of material relating to the great novelist and social campaigner. Located in Dickens’s only surviving London family home, the museum gives visitors a unique insight into the life and work of the author. ‘My house in town’, as Dickens referred to 48 Doughty Street, was an important place in the writer’s life. Within its walls his eldest two daughters were born, his sister-in-law Mary died aged 17 and some of his best-loved novels were written, including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. The museum is particularly grateful to the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Dickens Fellowship and The Robert Gavron Charitable Trust for their generosity and support in acquiring these two items.
Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction and private sales in 2014 that totalled £5.1billion / $8.4billion, making it the highest annual total in Christie’s history. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's has since conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers around 450 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery. Private sales totalled £916.1m ($1.5bn) in 2014, an increase of 20% on the previous year.
Christie’s has a global presence with 54 offices in 32 countries and 12 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Mumbai. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in growth markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Shanghai, New Delhi, Mumbai and Dubai.
For further press information and images, please contact:
NHMF press office: Natasha Ley or Tom Williams on 020 7591 6143 / 6056 or out of hours 07973 613 820, email: natashaL@hlf.org.uk .