Charles Dickens Signature on 1851 Rental Agreement Document, Countersigned by William Henry Wills, John Forster

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We sold this item at auction for $3,600
 in May, 2023.

Charles Dickens Signature on Historic Document

Dated May 12, 1851, this historic document outlines the rental terms for office space used by the Guild of Literature and Art. Signed by Dickens, along with William Henry Wills and witnessed by John Forster, the agreement stipulates the terms for renting a room at 10 Lancaster Place in London.

Housed in an olive green folio, this original document on laid watermarked paper bears Charles Dickens signature, is counter-signed by William Henry Wills and twice signed by the witness, John Forster. Britannic Auctions sold this document at auction for $3,600.

The Guild of Literature and Art

The agreement coincides with Dickens’s involvement in the Guild of Literature and Art, founded just two days prior to the document’s signing. This philanthropic organization aimed to support struggling artists and writers, reflecting Dickens’s commitment to social welfare.

The rented space, located near Dickens’s residence at Devonshire Terrace, Regents Park, served as a hub for the Guild’s activities. For a quarterly rent of £38, Dickens and Wills gained access to a room, shared facilities, and gas lighting—a modest yet essential setup for their endeavors.

Dickens’s association with the Guild of Literature and Art underscores his dedication to supporting fellow creatives. This agreement sheds light on his collaborative efforts with Wills and Forster, highlighting the camaraderie and mutual support among literary figures of the era.

Personal Details from the Document

Dickens’ home address is given as Devonshire Terrace, Regents Park, the name of the London house where he lived with his family between 1839-1851. It was here that he completed Barnaby Rudge, David Copperfield, and A Christmas Carol, among other works. The Dickens family moved from Devonshire Terrace six months following the signing of this agreement.

Journalist, playwright, sub-editor of Household Words, and Dickens’ close friend William Henry Wills (1810-1880) accompanied Dickens on his theatrical tour in 1851 as part of the Guild of Literature and Art. Wills served as the Guild’s honorary secretary.

Dickens’ biographer, and literary critic John Forster (1812-1876) has twice signed the document, once including his address, 58 Lincolns Inn Fields.

The Text of the Signed Agreement

The actual text of this historic document which bears Charles Dickens’ signature reads as follows:

Memorandum of Agreement made this Twelfth Day of May, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty One between Thomas Goodall of Brighton Esquire of the one part and Charles Dickens of Devonshire Terrace Regents Park Esquire and William Henry Wills of North Wellington Street North Strand Esquire of the other part.

The said Thomas Goodall agrees to let and the said Charles Dickens and William Henry Wills agree to take of him on the terms after stated the use and occupation of the apartment and premises on the left hand side of the staircase of the three and four pair stories of the house no. 10 Lancaster Place fronting Waterloo Bridge with the use of the landlord, fixtures therein and the same were late in the occupation of Mr. Felton Kirkman and also the use in common with the other tenants of the said Thomas Goodall occupies of the houses no’s 9 and 10 Lancaster Place of a water closet between the two and three pair stories for selves and friends only and the entrance passages and staircase to the three pair story to hold the said apartments from the twenty fourth day of June now next ensuing for the term of one whole year and so on from year to hear determinable nevertheless when notice shall be given by one of the parties as after mentioned at the clear yearly rent of thirty eight pounds payable quarterly on the four usual quarterly days, the first quarterly payment to be made on the twenty ninth day of September now next. And the said Charles Dickens and William Henry Wills also agree to pay the sum of four pounds fifteen shillings for rent up to the said twenty fourth day of June next.

The said Charles Dickens and William Henry Wills also agree to occupy the said apartments in a proper and respectable manner in all respects and not to carry on therein any trade or manufacture or permit any goods to be warehoused therein nor erect any detached or other stove therein nor do anything which shall prejudice or damage the landlord or the other tenants of the houses or increase the hazard or rate of insurance according to the rules of the Sun Insurance Office beyond the rate now payable.

The said Charles Dickens and William Henry Wills further agree to keep the said apartments in tenantable repair and condition and so to deliver up the same at the end of the tenancy. Also to pay their fair proportion of the costs of the lamps to light the passages and staircase and their proportion of the costs of carrying into effect such general regulations as shall be decided upon for the general comfort of the chambers.

The said Charles Dickens and William Henry WIlls also agree that they will not make any substantial alteration in the said apartments without the consent of the said Thomas Goodall and that they will hold the same subject to the conditions of the (…) lease under which the premises are held and that in case any dispute shall arise between them and any other tenants in the said houses no’s 9 and 10 Lancaster Place touching their respecting rights and such dispute cannot be settled between themselves then upon the request in writing of one of the parties to the lessor or his agents with due notice to the other every such dispute shall be referred to the (…) of two indifferent persons or their (…) to be chosen in the usual manner.

And it is hereby lastly agreed that if either of the parties shall be desirous of determining the tenancy at the end of the said year or any succeeding year and of such his or their desire shall give three months previous notice to the other in writing the tenancy at the end of such three months shall cease provided the party giving such notice shall have performed his or their part of his agreement.

And the said Charles Dickens and William Henry Wills hereby agree to pay the expense of this agreement.

As witness the hands of the parties. Signed by the said Charles Dickens in the presence of [signed] John Forster, 58 Lincolns Inn Fields, [signed] Charles Dickens.

Signed by the said William Henry Wills in the presence of [signed] John Forster, [signed] W.H. Wills.

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