One of the many memorable scenes in Charles Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’ was the portrayal of the apparent spontaneous combustion of Mr Krook, leaving “the cinder of a small charred and broken log of wood sprinkled with white ashes”.
Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Jonathan Franks
The publication of the instalment with this episode in December 1852 sparked a long-running controversy with the literary critic and playwright George Lewes.
Although he was a friend of Dickens, Lewes attacked the author in an article in the newspaper The Leader in no uncertain terms, seeking to disprove the then common theory of spontaneous human combustion, accusing him “of giving currency to a vulgar error”.
Stargardt in Berlin is selling one of the many letters the passionate believer Dickens addressed to his critic.
On the February 18, 1853, he wrote: “I believe you to be quite as wrong about the spontaneous combustion question now as you were in the beginning…”
The arguments and counter-arguments smouldered on for many months, until September 1853, when the final episode of Bleak House was published. Dickens and Lewes agreed to disagree and renewed their friendship.
In the sale of March 10-11, the one-and-a-half-page letter is expected to bring €1200.