A remarkable 1853 letter of praise for David Copperfield illustrations
ALS, two pages, 4.5 x 7, Tavistock House, London, April 19, 1853. Letter to J. C. d'Arnaud Gerkens. In full: “Your counsel general has had the kindness to forward to me, your most interesting and gratifying letter, and its accompanying representation, by your pencil, of some of the chief characters in David Copperfield. I can honestly express to you my great admiration of the delicacy and tenderness with which you have illustrated my book. I have examined your drawings with great pleasure and shall preserve proofs of your sympathy with the creatures of my imagination with great pride. Their conception is so quiet and gentle, and their execution so free, that they united two great qualities which I very rarely find in similar designs. Accept my heartfelt thanks, and the assurance of my high estimation and regards.” In fine condition, with subtle scattered foxing. Published in The Dickensian, edited by Bertram Waldrom Matz. Provenance: Christie’s, November, 2011.
Three years after the publication of David Copperfield in novel form, Dickens received a set of illustrations from a young Dutch artist and teacher in The Hague named Johannes Christiaan d’Arnaud Gerkens. Created not for commercial use, but out of his sheer love of the book, Gerkens’s illustrations were distributed among his friends and colleagues, one of whom sent them to the author. Considering the large number of images that Dickens had seen depicting his work, it is quite remarkable that these touched him so deeply, striking a chord with their “delicacy and tenderness,” and “their execution so free.” A charming letter of appreciation for what must have been an outstanding set of unsolicited illustrations.