HE is an author famously associated with Christmas. Now two Sheffield sisters are set to enjoy a very merry festive period thanks to Charles Dickens.
The siblings have sold a signed first edition of David Copperfield, presented to their family in 1851, for £61,250.
Dickens inscribed the copy for the knife and tool manufacturer William Brookes of Sheffield.
The author – famous for A Christmas Carol – had previously written to the Woodbourn tradesman explaining that the inclusion of a character called Brooks of Sheffield in his 1850 novel was just a coincidence.
He, in turn, presented Dickens with a case of cutlery, prompting the author to then send the inscribed copy from his own library, in fear of an old superstition that when a knife is given as a gift, the relationship between the two parties will be severed.
Now The Diary can reveal that the tome stayed with the same city family for 161 years until this summer when the two elderly sisters, who have asked not to be named, decided to sell.
Neither of the pair, who are direct descendents of Brookes and live in the Ecclesall Road area, has children to pass the book to. The buyer has also refused to be identified.
“It’s a lovely story,” says Valerie Baylis, chairwoman of the Victorian Society South Yorkshire Group. “Dickens visited Sheffield on a handful of occasions but I think we can safely say Brooks was not based on the real life Brookes.”
That didn’t, however, stop the knife man himself from claiming to be the inspiration for the character.
When interviewed by the Sheffield Weekly Independent in November 1887, he was asked if Dickens had based Brooks on him. He replied simply: “That is so”.