A Cheque from Charles Dickens

Object 66: A History of Charterhouse in 100 Objects

Object 66 in the series is a Coutts Bank cheque for £10, 10 shillings signed by Charles Dickens on 13 April 1863. The cheque is made out to “House and Boys”, which is, perhaps, why it was acquired by the Housemaster of Verites as an appropriate piece of literary memorabilia. However, the cheque has no connection with Charterhouse - “House and Boys” was Dickens’ usual title for money to be allocated his own home and sons. In any case, Dickens was an outspoken critic of the London Charterhouse and the way it carried out its charitable functions, so would have been unlikely to give Charterhouse money.

By 1863 Charles Dickens had found fame and success, but as a child he had experienced poverty and he struggled financially for many years before making his fortune as a writer. ‘A Christmas Carol’, for example, was written in 1843 when Dickens was desperately short of cash. Realising that there was a market for feel-good Christmas stories, he scribbled off this masterpiece in just six weeks in order to publish in time for Christmas. 

The cheque is crossed to indicate that it was paid in at the London & County Bank in Chatham, near Dickens’ home, Gad’s Hill Place. He had admired the house when he was a child and his father, a clerk in the navy pay office at Chatham, jokingly told him that one day, if he worked hard enough, perhaps he could afford to live there. He held on to this aspiration until finally, in 1856, the dream become a reality and he bought Gad’s Hill Place.