‘Mystery’ as Dickens letter is found in Bible

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A PREVIOUSLY unknown letter written by Charles Dickens revealing his desperation to be rid of his wife has surfaced in the Cotswolds.

The letter was found tucked between the pages of a small paperback Bible in Blockley after a spring clean. It is expected to reach up to £3,000 when it goes under the hammer at Fraser’s Autographs of London on Thursday, September 27, but mystery surrounds how the signed correspondence came to be in the village.

It is addressed to Dickens’ solicitor, Frederick Ouvry, and discusses arrangements for divorce from his wife, Catherine.

The letter reads: “Dear Ouvry, I have considered and re-considered the points we talked of yesterday, and have gone over them again...we must come off for a payment of Six Hundred a year, including everything. This will keep her Brougham quite as well as she has ever had it kept, and will do all she wants, I am sure.”

After being discovered, the letter was given to Dr Jackie Sheehan, who is offering it up for auction. She said the Bible was part of a batch of books given to her sister’s mother-in-law by an elderly neighbour who moved to a residential home.

“She had them some years before she discovered the letter.

She’d given away a lot of the books to jumble sales but felt she couldn’t do that with the Bible.”

The flyleaf of the Bible bears two names – ‘James Flanders, 3 July 1870’ and ‘Olive Tempest Flanders’. The name Flanders does not have any connection with the elderly neighbour and it is unknown how the Bible arrived in her care.

Dr Sheehan said she had consulted online census records.

“Sorry I can’t shed more light on it, but perhaps the Flanders name might mean something to a Dickens buff,” she added.

In May 1858, a bracelet that Dickens bought as a present for the teenage actress Ellen Ternan was accidentally delivered to his house and was discovered by his wife. They separated the following month.

􀁥 Anyone with information on how the letter came to Blockley can contact Journal reporter Freya Leng on 01905 742383.

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