Dickens' "Great Expectations" desk to be auctioned

Wed Apr 2, 2008 6:00am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - The desk where Charles Dickens wrote "Great Expectations" and his final correspondence hours before his death will be sold at auction in June, Christie's said on Wednesday.

The writing desk and chair from the study of his Gad's Hill residence near Rochester, Kent, was passed on by descent to Christopher Charles Dickens and his wife Jeanne-Marie Dickens.

She then donated them to the Great Ormond Street children's hospital in London, with which Dickens had a close association, so that they could be sold to raise funds.

The items, included in the Christie's valuable books and manuscripts sale on June 4, are expected to fetch 50-80,000 pounds ($100-160,000).

"Charles Dickens was a champion of the poor and needy and an enthusiastic patron of Great Ormond Street hospital in its early days," said Jeanne-Marie Dickens.

"My husband shared his ancestor's desire to help the disadvantaged and when I became aware of the fundraising needs of Great Ormond Street children's hospital, I knew that I had to give the desk and chair to them."

Dickens was an early patron of Great Ormond Street, and was a friend of its founder Charles West. The hospital also benefited from the support of other famous British authors including Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie and Oscar Wilde.

In its early years, Great Ormond Street would organize fundraising events including the Annual Festival Dinner, where Dickens and Wilde both spoke.   Continued...

<p>The desk where Charles Dickens wrote "Great Expectations" and his final correspondence is seen in an undated handout photo, released to Reuters on April 2, 2008. REUTERS/Christie's/Handout</p>