Dickens gift to city journalist to fetch £10k auction price

WHEN it goes under the hammer there are sure to be great expectations in the sale room.

A silver claret jug once gifted by Charles Dickens to an Edinburgh journalist is tipped to bring in £10,000 when it’s sold at an auction later this month.

It belonged to William Henry Wills, the author’s confidant, who was presented with the engraved token of friendship in 1862 and treasured it for the rest of his life.

The jug, presented in the year Dickens celebrated his 50th birthday, is inscribed with the words: “Willm Henry Wills from Charles Dickens.”


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It is also accompanied by a letter dated April 5, 1862, in which Dickens wrote: “Dear Wills, A little packet will come to you today from Hunt and Roskell’s: almost at the same time, I think, as this note. Packet will contain a claret jug. I hope it is a pretty thing in itself for your table and I know that you and Mrs Wills will like it none the worse because it comes from me.

“It is not made of perishable material and is so far expressive of our friendship.

“I have had your name set upon it, in token of our many years of mutual reliance and trustfulness. It will never be so full of wine, as it is today of affectionate regard. Ever faithfully yours, Charles Dickens.”

Wills worked in Edinburgh in the 1840s after he was appointed assistant editor of Chambers’ Journal. He had been a writer on satirical magazine Punch.


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He married Edinburgh girl Janet Chambers, the sister of his employers, in 1846 and soon met Dickens when he became assistant editor for the Daily News, which the author had just founded.

He remained there until March 1850, when his friend set up Household Words, Wills joining him as secretary, sub-editor and proprietor and holding an eighth share.

Wills was more than just a friend and colleague of Dickens. He was described in biographical studies of the author as being “indispensable to Dickens” as a “factotum” for his business and personal affairs.Wills wrote letters on Dickens’ behalf and looked after his bank accounts with the authorisation to make payments.

A keen hunter, Wills was killed on September 1, 1880 at the age of 70 when he was thrown from his horse.


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The claret jug is due to be sold at Christie’s auction house in London on May 30.

Harry Williams-Bulkeley, head of silvers at Christie’s, said: “Dickens has gone to the best silversmith and got one of the most fashionable objects to say thank you for the great friendship shown over the years by Wills.

“People are fascinated by Charles Dickens. We sold his desk a few years ago and it went for more than £430,000.”