The originals of the letters by Charles Dickens printed in this volume are, with one exception/ in the handwriting of the author. Some of them are herein reproduced in photographic facsimile. The letters in the early series were written to Miss Maria Beadnell, the young lady with whom Dickens had his first love affair, just prior to becoming of age. Those in the later series, beginning in 1855, were written about twenty-two years after, to the same person, who in the meantime had married Mr. Henry Louis Winter, of Number 12 Artillery Place, London. At this period Dickens had reached great prominence in the literary world.
The members of The Bibliophile Society are indebted to the unceasing generosity of Mr. William K. Bixby for the rare privilege
> The exception is a letter that was returned to Dickens by Miss Beadnell, after a lovers' quarrel, but which before returning she carefully copied in her own handwriting. See facsimile at p. 46.
of possessing the first printed edition of these excessively valuable MSS. That a collection of such important autobiographical material should have remained so long in obscurity is a most singular fact. So sacredly were these letters guarded after their discovery and purchase from a daughter of Mrs. Winter in England by one who realized their worth, that their owner allowed only a single one of them ever to be copied, and that only for private reference, with all the names omitted. Finding that their publication in England would be prohibited, he personally brought them to America, when the entire collection was purchased by Mr. Bixby.
If an authentic autobiography of Dickens were suddenly to spring into existence, it would produce a literary sensation. If such a work were found to contain many important identifications of characters and personal traits of the author which were unknown to his most intimate friends, and new even to the members of his own family, it would immediately excite the interest of the entire literary world. The present is, in effect, such a volume. The letters of which it consists — which were written in the strictest confidence....