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Mystery over Dickens’ desk

PUBLISHED: 16:47 19 March 2008 | UPDATED: 09:35 23 August 2010

IT is a gift any author would treasure, but was this small writing desk made and worked on by Charles Dickens? A former journalist, who now lives in Australia, claims to possess a desk handed down through generations of his family which belonged to the w

IT is a gift any author would treasure, but was this small writing desk made and worked on by Charles Dickens?

A former journalist, who now lives in Australia, claims to possess a desk handed down through generations of his family which belonged to the world's most famous author.

Desmond Zwar has contacted the Reporter in the hope he can collect more information in a bid to seek its authentication.

Glued inside the desk is a handwritten paper saying: "This desk belonged to Charles Dickens and was used by him as a boy. It was purchased at the sale of the effects of the great author at Gad's Hill after his death, by John Brooks, who sold it to A F Taylor at West Drayton, Middlesex, in 1908, who now presents it as a small token of affection to his old friend, Albert M Zwar - Silverdale, Rayleigh, Essex, August, 1922."

Mr Zwar said his grandfather, Albert Zwar, was a member of the Victorian Parliament and gave public readings of Dickens. The desk was passed to his late uncle, Keith Zwar, and one of his three sons, David, then generously passed it on.

He added: "I have little doubt that the presentation 83 years ago to the honourable Albert Zwar was a genuine gift of appreciation and recognition from one Dickens lover to another from across the seas.

"But researching the little desk's background has thrown up a mystery. Nobody seems to be able to authenticate its background; indeed its genuineness. My uncle was never in any doubt that the little slope with wallpaper lining had been made by the young Dickens."

Charles Dickens lived at Gad's Hill, near Gravesend, from 1856 until 1870, when he died. During that time he wrote A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend and was in the process of writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but died during the 23rd chapter.

Research missions have taken the former Daily Mail journalist to Dickens House in London, the Curator of Art at Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery; The Dickens Fellowship of Victoria; The Dickensian; The Dickens Fellowship; Dickens scholar and Professor Malcolm Andrews at the University of Kent, in an effort to authenticate it, but so far its origins cannot be confirmed.

The Dickens House Museum has been through the list of sales of Dickens' effects at Gad's Hill and can find no item corresponding to the desk.

The desk made in dark, now cracked, wood is 14in wide, 11.5in deep and rises 4.5in at the back and 2.5in in front. Inside, there is an ink-stained compartment for pens, divided into three, with a leatherette writing surface which opens to reveal an inner compartment.

Are you a descendent of John Brooks or A F Taylor or can you help solve the mystery? Call the Reporter on 01474 320753.

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