A retired writer has spent thousands of pounds travelling the globe, to discover if an antique desk he owns was once used by Charles Dickens as a schoolboy.
February 7th was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. On that day, the Daily Mail website published a story to intrigue readers from Cornwall to Cumbria – was an antique desk inherited by one of its former journalists the inspiration which drove a young Charles Dickens to become the greatest writer of the Victorian age?
The desk, actually an early Victorian writing slope, has a fascinating provenance. Currently owned by retired Mail journalist and history writer Desmond Zwar, the inside lid of the ink-stained box bears a handwritten note, dated August 1922, stating the desk was owned by Charles Dickens and used by him as a boy. It goes on to say the box was purchased by John Brooks at a sale of effects at Dickens’ country home, Gad’s Hill, Kent, following the author’s death in 1870. It was sold in 1908 to a dealer in Middlesex, who presented it “as a small token of affection” to his old friend, Albert M Zwar – Desmond’s grandfather.
Mr Zwar, who is 80 years old and now lives in Australia, explained to MailOnline that he was given the antique desk by a cousin – along with a 200-year old mystery: was this really Dickens’ childhood desk, which inspired him to write works such as Oliver Twist and a Christmas Carol? Frustratingly, British historians have been unable to draw a line under this one, but if you live in Lancashire and have an antique desk with interesting provenance, a local antique dealer should be able to help.
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