A cheque for 100 pounds signed by Charles Dickens and sent as a gift to his sons in Australia, but never cashed, goes on display this week in the National Library’s remarkable Treasures Gallery.

Just as the great English novelist sent his characters Abel Magwitch and Uriah Heep to Australia, he also encouraged two of his ten children to seek their ‘fortunes’ here. Alfred, always a financial drain on his father, migrated in 1865. Edward (known as Plorn), the youngest of the Dickens children, followed in 1869. The cheque, from the same year, was made out to both sons.

The cheque goes on display with a letter written by Dickens in 1870 to Alfred expressing concern that Plorn wasn’t ‘taking to Australia’. Dickens died 19 days later. His sons were telegraphed the news before they received the letter.

The Dickens cheque and letter, a copy of the ‘Mona Lisa’ by Mortimer Menpes and a number of other extraordinary items from the Library’s collection are part of a refreshed Treasures Gallery display. The gallery has attracted more than 130,000 people since it opened late last year.

While Charles Dickens never visited Australia, he was very interested in the land ‘down under’. He published numerous articles about voluntary emigration and his novels are littered with references to Australia, which he saw as a land of opportunity. It was the 200th anniversary of his birth this year.

Alfred (1845-1912) lived in Australia for 45 years. Later he lectured on his father's life and works in England and America. Edward (1852-1902) became a Member of Parliament in NSW. 

Media are invited to see the cheque as it is installed in the gallery and to interview Director of Exhibitions Nat Williams and Assistant Curator Susannah Helman.

MEDIA PREVIEW: 9.30am, Wednesday 12 December 2012, National Library of Australia, Canberra.

Sally Hopman                                                  T    02 6262 1704  
Media Liaison Manager                                M   0401 226 697  
National Library of Australia                        E    shopman@nla.gov.au