To Unknown Correspondent, 12 January 1849

Period: 
1841-1850

To UNKNOWN CORRESPONDENT, 12 JANUARY 1849

MS Swann Galleries, New York.

Devonshire Terrace | Twelfth January 1849.

Dear Mr. [ ]1

I am much obliged to you for your kind information about the Cenci.2 I will not trouble you to get the account transcribed (though you have so stimulated my curiosity that I must go and read it myself)3 for I merely wanted the narrative to send to a lady-borrower,4 and the account prefixed to Shelley’s poem5 will answer her purpose well enough.

Faithfully Yours

CHARLES DICKENS

  • 1. The name, of some 8 or 10 characters, has been cut away; clearly the Unknown Correspondent of 5 Jan (Pilgrim Letters 5, p. 469); that letter is similarly mutilated.
  • 2. A Roman family, notorious for the supposed incestuous rape by Count Cenci of his daughter Beatrice, his murder at her instigation, and the execution of Beatrice, her step-mother, and brother in 1599. A portrait supposedly of Beatrice by Guido Reni (formerly in the Palazzo Colonna; now in the Palazzo Barberini) was much admired in the nineteenth century: CD describes it in Pictures from Italy (“Rome”) and it is an obsessive object in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, 1860.
  • 3. This “account” not identified; presumably in a printed source, possibly a magazine. James Whittle, “Beatrice Cenci, the Parricide”, Bentley’s Miscellany, XXII (1847), 105-18, is possible. George Bowyer, A Dissertation on the Statutes of the Cities of Italy, 1838, appended a translation of the “Pleading of Prospero Farinacio in defence of Beatrice Cenci and Her Relatives”.
  • 4. To whom CD had promised to lend an account: see To Unknown Correspondent, 5 Jan.
  • 5. Shelley’s poetic drama, The Cenci (1819); Shelley claimed to have come to the subject through a manuscript shown him in 1818.