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Charles Dickens letter sold by Sotheby's auction

A letter written by Charles Dickens about the aftermath of a Kent train crash has been auctioned off.

The note, which sold for £5,250 at Sotheby's, details the personal impact the Staplehurst railway disaster had on the writer.

The document, which Dickens sent to the Spanish-born opera singer Pauline Viardot, had a guide price of between £3,000 and £5,000.

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The letter sold for more than £5,000
The letter sold for more than £5,000

Written on Gads Hill Place headed paper, it is thought the letter was written on August 16, 1865.

In the note he writes about how he helped with attending to those who had died and been wounded by the rail crash.

He also details how he was left frightened at the prospect of travelling on the train after the incident.

He said: "The scene was so affecting when I helped in getting out the wounded and dead, that for a little while afterwards I felt shaken by the remembrance of it.

"But I had no personal injury whatsoever.

"My watch (which is curious) was more sensitive, physically, than I; for it was some few minutes 'slow' for some few weeks afterwards.

"Except that I cannot yet travel on a railway, at great speed, without having a disagreeable impression - against all reason - that the carriage is turning on one side, I have not the least inconvenience left..."

The disaster killed 10 people and wounded 40 others, according to the Oliver Twist author.

The letter was auctioned off by Sotheby's. Picture: Sotheby's.
The letter was auctioned off by Sotheby's. Picture: Sotheby's.

Professor Catherine Waters from the University of Kent’s School of English said: "The letter by Charles Dickens to Madame Pauline Viardot, dated 16 August 1865, gives further evidence of the post-traumatic stress Dickens suffered following the railway accident at Staplehurst in which he was involved at 3.30 pm on 9 June 1865.

"The story of the rail crash is well known. Dickens was returning from a holiday in France with Ellen Ternan (the actress for whom he had left his wife Catherine), and her mother, when the South Eastern train in which they were travelling from Folkestone to London derailed while crossing a viaduct near Staplehurst in Kent.

"This letter underlines the fact that for Dickens, it was the horror of what he witnessed immediately after he extricated himself from the broken carriage, rather than the accident itself, that most upset him."

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