Charles Dickens Legal Papers

Scope and Content

The collection comprises publishing papers detailing legal and financial dealings between Charles Dickens or his representatives and his publishers; domestic papers; executor's papers and accounts from the estate of Charles Dickens; papers from the estate of Mary Dickens and related family documents.

Many documents relate to Charles Dickens's children, Charles Culliford Boz Dickens, Mary Dickens, Kate Perugini, Walter Landor Dickens, Francis Jeffrey Dickens, Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens, Sydney Smith Haldiman Dickens, Henry Fielding Dickens, Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens; his wife Catherine Dickens; and his executors, sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth and friend John Forster.

Many of the legal documents were written by Charles Dickens's legal represenatives Thomas Mitton of the solicitors Smithson, Dunn and Mitton and the solicitors Farrer, Ouvry and Farrer. Certain documents were also written by William Chapman, solicitor for the publishing firm Chapman and Hall.


Arranged in the following series:

  • Publishing papers: legal documents and agreements: Add MS 88903/1
  • Domestic papers: Add MS 88903/2
  • Estate of Charles Dickens: executor's papers, inventories and accounts: Add MS 88903/3
  • Estate of Mary Dickens and related family papers: Add MS 88903/4

Access Information


Not Public Record(s)

Acquisition Information

These documents were originally offered for sale at auction by Sotheby's on 15 July 1999 (see Sotheby's catalogue English Literature and History, including the Charles Dickens archive). The archive was divided into lots 160-187, of which lots 171, 174, 180 and 183 were sold. In 2000, the remaining archive was purchased by the British Library from Bernard Quaritch Ltd. In 2005, a second acquisition was made from Bernard Quaritch Ltd. These documents had been part of the original archive, but had been loaned to Professor Kathleen Tillotson (1906-2001) for use in the Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens. They were returned to the trustees of Charles Dickens after Tillotson's death. The specific items that formed part of this second acquisition are identified later in the catalogue.

Custodial History

Prior to 1999 these documents were in the custody of the Dickens family.

Related Material

The Widener Library at Harvard University, USA, holds items that are connected with this collection, including some of Dickens's publishing agreements and related correspondence, see A. S. W. Rosenbach, A Catalogue of the Writings of Charles Dickens in the Library of Harry Elkins Widener (Philadelphia: privately printed, 1918).

The Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, USA, holds some related items (reference Berg Coll MSS Dickens), see Dictionary Catalog of the Henry W and Albert A Berg Collection of English and American Literature, volume 1 (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1969).

The Charles Dickens Museum, London also holds some related items.


Many of these documents have been transcribed and published in The Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens, volumes 1-4 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965-1977).

See also Robert Lowry Patten, Charles Dickens and his Publishers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978) and J. A. Sutherland, Victorian Novelists and Publishers (London: The Athlone Press, 1976).