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Lost portrait and unpublished letters of Charles Dickens to go on display

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Lost portrait and unpublished letters of Charles Dickens to go on display

LONDON (Reuters) – A lost portrait of Charles Dickens and 25 of his unpublished letters will be shown for the first time after a major acquisition by a private collector.

ARCHIVE PHOTO: An overview shows the Charles Dickens Museum in central London on December 10, 2012. REUTERS / Toby Melville / File Photo

The Charles Dickens museum in London purchased a huge collection of objects belonging to the Victorian novelist, including a delicate chalk and pastel portrait of Samuel Laurence.

A lithography of the portrait already exists, but it was thought that the original was lost. It is likely to be 1837, the museum said.

Among more than 300 items, there are 144 letters, offering a window into the author's life through his famous and vivid prose.

A letter from 1857 describes how to get lost on a walking tour with fellow novelist Wilkie Collins, who sprained his ankle after the course "required incredible gymnastics".

In another, he responds to fan mail, writing "The mystery is not here, but far beyond the sky …".

The collection, purchased in the United States for 1.8 million pounds ($ 2.3 million), also includes a handwritten excerpt from "David Copperfield", original drawings by illustrator George Cruikshank, jewelry, books and a golden writing tool which also serves as a pen and pencil.

"This is a treasure – a truly unique moment in life for the museum," said Cindy Sughrue, director of the Charles Dickens Museum.

"150 years after Dickens's death, it is wonderful to be able to bring such a rich and important collection to the museum in his first family home."

The great-grandson of the writer, Mark Dickens, said that "this very impressive material brings us even closer to the man, his character, feelings, family and friends".

The objects will be cataloged and kept in the museum – which is in a house in the town of Bloomsbury that Dickens moved to 1837 – before being displayed in the next two years.

Elizabeth Howcroft reporting; edition by Stephen Addison

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