Boston Twenty Second February 1868
I have received your earnest letter with much gratification and esteem it as a very high privilege to be so addressed. Accept my thanks and the assurance of my sympathy
Louisiana Tech has received two letters on loan written by Charles Dickens – including the one above which, before now, has been unpublished.
Dr. Donald Kaczvinsky, director of the School of Literature and Language, said the letters are owned by Lorna Kardatzke, whose father, Frellsen Smith, taught at Tech from 1938 to1972. Kardatzke contacted Tech English professor Dr. Pat Garrett and first gave the university a 17th century biography of Queen Elizabeth with a copper plate engraving of Elizabeth.
“In January, she sent us a list of letters – the Dickens letters – on loan,” Kaczvinsky said. “One of them is unpublished and tells details of Dickens’ life. It has Charles Dickens’ signature, and the other has Dickens’ letterhead with his address from the Tavistock House, printed at the top.”
Dr. Rick Simmons, director of the Center for Academic and Professional Development and an associate professor of English, said the unpublished letter was written in January 1859.
“I’ve been in touch with Leon Litvack, one of the editors of the Dickens letters, and he was the first one to tell me that the letter was unknown,” Simmons said. “He confirmed it and was really excited.”
Simmons said Dickens was to be in Providence, R.I., the day before the letter was sent, but this new letter puts Dickens in Boston on the day he wrote it, which is a detail about Dickens life that had not been known.
“To think that we have something here at Tech that no one has seen before is remarkable,” Simmons said. “There aren’t many opportunities like this.”
Kardatzke, who resides in Wichita, Kansas, said Garrett is the one who came up with the idea of the letters being loaned to Tech in honor of her father.
“I am so thrilled,” she said. “I can’t tell you how happy I am with the idea of a memorial for my father, and the manuscripts are being studied and enjoyed.”
She said she was also surprised when one of the letters was discovered to have been unknown.
“It slipped through the cracks, and it had been in our house for probably 10 years,” Kardatzke said.
Kardatzke’s father was Tech’s first technical writing professor who, besides being an alumnus from Tech himself and marrying a Tech alumna, instilled a love for literature in Kardatzke.
“I love literature,” she said. “(Collecting manuscripts) started as a hobby, and my husband and I began a museum in Wichita eight years ago.”
Her husband, Dr. Jon Kardatzke, and she founded the Museum of World Treasures, which displays their historical collection of various world documents and artifacts, some which Jon Kardatzke started collecting when he was 16 years old.
Kardatzke has collected letters and documents written by a variety of literary greats, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Frost, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron and several others. She even gave a letter written by Mark Twain to Garrett, who loaned the document to Tech’s archives.
“The Frellsen Fletcher Smith Memorial Collection will give Tech a cultural attraction which will testify to the worth of the humanities, an often neglected domain in our rush to new technologies,” Garrett said.
The letters are available for viewing at Tech’s Prescott Memorial Library on the fourth floor.
“We are thrilled to have this collection on loan at Tech and hope we can get some more,” Kaczvinsky said. “It’s good for the students; they see a bit of Dickens’ background, and I hope this is the start of a growing collection.”
Kardatzke said when she visits Tech in the spring, she plans to bring a handwritten stanza by Alfred Tennyson, whom her father wrote his thesis on.
“I consider Ruston home and always will,” she said. “To be part of the Tech scene is really exciting for me. To have this connection to Tech is very important and special, and I will continue to bring signed manuscripts as long as they want them.”
Written by Judith Roberts