Mrs. Charles Dickens
I keep trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the tritest slogan in the entire history of humankind, Home, Sweet Home, is attributed to Charles Dickens.
Victorian home lives were like ours, but more interesting.
Dickens had a "home" fixation. When he was young (this is his famous tragic childhood that got written up by his secretary after he died so we ALL know it), his father went to debtor's prison and young Charles was boarded out and sent to work in a factory to help makes ends meet--for 4 months!
Cue: Oliver Twist and David Copperfield (maybe even The Old Curiosity Shop and Hard Times).
Dickens was definitely ADHD--he slept very little, wrote, talked non-stop, socialized, and walked for hours to burn off steam. His energy enabled him to become a well-known journalist. His first book was in fact, Sketches by Boz, which was a set of " Talk of the Town" pieces.
He married his publisher's daughter, Catherine. She was sweet, not intellectual. Dickens blamed her for the failure of his marriage--after knocking her up 12 times. The Dickens kids were named after all his literary pals--so we have a good idea who they were.
Dickens idolized one of his wife's sisters, who died suddenly before she was twenty. No woman could stand up to her memory.
Fortunately, Dickens's wife had more sisters, so he was able to keep one on as "housekeeper" after he ditched his wife. He followed up the separation by publishing full-page ads in London newspapers about how he had been wronged by his in-laws.
History's first great public relations disaster was Dickens's divorce. Not really a divorce because those were nearly impossible to get.
Dickens hung around with Lady Marguerite Blessington who was famously her rich husband's mistress before his first wife died and he was able to marry her. She had been supported by a man after her first marriage fell apart--Lord Blessington paid him off to cover what he'd spent on her clothes and expenses. No ladies could associate with Lady Blessington, but her huge home was crowded with artistic and literary men.
Dickens supported a home for reformed prostitutes with Angela Burdett-Coutts, the richest woman in England. ABC remained single until middle-age, when she married an American and nearly lost her entire fortune for marrying "an alien."
Wilkie Collins (above), one of Dickens's bestest friends, had two houses in London. In one, he lived with his wife and her child by another man. In the other, he lived under another name with his mistress and their three children. Dickens did NOT approve of this. Wilkie Collins made a very detailed will to make sure that his kids and the women in his life were taken care of.
Dickens is widely believed to have had an affair with the young actress, Ellen Ternan, that lasted until his death. He burned many private letters before he died, apparently, in an effort to preserve his good reputation.
A Virgin Fixation
In his books, Dickens is obsessed with females who are young and sweet and virginal and generous and unassuming. If the character dies young, so much the better. The death of Little Nell in Old Curiosity Shop was a Victorian meme. Dickens made a cult from his young sister-in-law's death.
Factoid: He invented Christmas!A Christmas Carol included several idealized family traditions. This runaway bestseller turned up the commercial burner for the Christmas season.
Recommended: Dickens Novels I Love!
Bleak House--The most fun, the wildest dramas, longest chases, saddest love stories, wierdest saintly young girl, most haunted house, evilest lawyer, poorest loneliest orphan. It's long and detailed and has every Dickens trick--but well blended.
Great Expectations. His masterpiece. In Great Expectations, Dickens pits the earnest, life-long gratitude of the amply reformed convict Magwitch against Society. The novel contains mystery after mystery. The sins of the past generation are slowly revealed to young Pip. He must make his own moral choices--finally. Stella is one of Dickens' few rebellious girls. The "happy ending" was tacked on to satisfy fans--not because Dickens wanted it. Miss Havisham's monumentally decayed wedding feast is one of the most fully realized images in all of Dickens.
Our Mutual Friend--beginning with a drowned body, the novel explores the varieties of greed concerning a fortune left by a London "dustman" or household waste collector. Lots of wonderful scenes in OMF.
Little Dorrit--Little Dorrit is what I think David Copperfield failed to be. The first half introduced the Dorrit family--the patriarch has spent years in debtor's prison, where he thrives via a snobbish reputation. He is released for the second half--and all the character and plot strings get pulled. A wonderful hero in this book.
Nicholas Nickleby: Artists, loansharks, theater people, & life lessons. Nearly as much fun as Bleak House.
Mystery of Edwin Drood--Leon Garfield wrote a brilliant ending to this dark, dreamy, moody mystery novel that Dickens didn't live to finish.
The rest of Dickens in 150 words:
Dombey and Son--Freud stole everything from this book. Barnaby Rudge--Historical drama in England--anti-Catholic riots. Martin Chuzzlewit--Dickens goes to America--doesn't like it. Pickwick Papers--Sam Weller and lots of characters in a big mess David Copperfield-- Betsy Trotwood, Micawber, Factory work. Hard Times--Factory hell. Tale of Two Cities--French revolution, atypical Dickens novel. Old Curiosity Shop--Sentimental beyond belief. Oliver Twist--How does an orphan learn to read? Christmas Carol--read it as well as watch movies. Sketches by Boz--early journalism collection. Uncommercial Traveler--mature journalism collection.
You can have me for 10,000 £
Wilkie Collins will: http://www.wilkiecollins.com/