The famed author took the inventory of his cellar just three days before his death.

By Mike Pomranz
September 27, 2019

Charles Dickens may be best known for penning timeless classics like Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities, but one of his final writings was a bit more pedestrian: Three days before his death, the author logged the booze he had stocked in his cellar. Yes, it’s a lesser-known work, but this handwritten inventory still recently sold for over $14,000.

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On September 24, Sotheby’s London auctioned off a lot called “Dickens, Autograph manuscript notebook, titled 'Gad's Hill Cellar Casks', 1870.” If you’re more interested in Dickens’ drinking habits than you are about the French Revolution, this might be the manuscript for you—described as “a household inventory produced by Dickens in the days before his death, listing casks of sherry, brandy, rum, and whisky present in the cellar.”

“Dickens himself was a moderate drinker by the standards of the time, but far from teetotal, and this autograph inventory shows that he kept an eye on the supplies at Gads Hill,” Sotheby’s continues. “It can be compared with an 1865 inventory of the cellar at Gad's Hill (on loan at Dickens House Museum); in the intervening years Dickens appears to have switched from gin to whisky.” Yes, it’s a collector’s item and a research project!

“There’s a hugely passionate collector community for Dickens,” Gabriel Heaton, a specialist from Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, told the site Atlas Obscura. This auction proved him right: Despite pre-auction sales estimates between approximately $5,000 and $7,400, the list of liquor sold for about $14,635. Heaton seemed to imply it was worth the expense. “It’s a poignant record of the final days of one of the greatest writers in the language,” he continued.

Plus, grabbing a copy of Dickens’ booze inventory is a bargain compared to one of his actual books. At the same auction, an inscribed, first-edition copy of A Christmas Carol from 1843 sold for over $115,000. Some people just prefer fiction over nonfiction, I guess.

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