Friday, 18 December 2015

Charles Dickens

  While attending a book retreat in Banff, the group was discussing "A Tale of Two Cities".  One of the ladies attending the retreat said that she did not read that book because Charles Dickens was not a good man and she would not read his novels.
He does look a little rough here.  
But in his youth, he was quite dashing.
The biography that I am reading states  "his sexual needs were urgent".  
Quote: "As Catherine grew stouter and more exhausted- those dozen or so pregnancies in fifteen years, plus severe post-partum depressions- and to his mind, duller, his flirtations with and attentions to other women grew more active."
   When Dickens was 45, he moved his wife, Catherine, to London and kept the ten children living with him, with Catherine's sister running his house and caring for his children.  Then he set up his mistress, Ellen Turnan, in another location.

I was delighted when I found this book because I had always known that Dickens had many children and I wondered about their life.
Because Dickens was a prolific writer, not only in novels, but also in letters to friends, we know a lot about his relationships.  And his relationship with his children was conflicted.  He played with them when they were young and they adored him.  He always found time for them when they had problems or they were sick.  He would sit with them for hours. And so, he was loving, generous and involved.  But he was also demanding and harsh, especially as they grew older. 
  But let's look at Charles Dickens' childhood. 
  When Charles was 11, his father was in debtors' prison and Charles, at that young age, had to work in a factory to support the family.  He was not successful in keeping the bills paid, and the whole family, except Charles, joined their father in debtors' prison.  Charles wandered the streets and fended for himself.  But he was very successful at improving his life little by little until he became an instant success as a writer.  He became the best known person in England- next to the Queen.
  What a tremendous effect this childhood had on his fathering.  Since he had been able to care for himself and make a success of his life, he had "GREAT EXPECTATIONS'" for his children.  And when they didn't show that drive and ambition that Charles had, he was disappointed and let them know.
Format of the book:
  After an interesting introduction, the author wrote a chapter on each child's life up to the father's death.  I didn't enjoy the way he wrote about the children, mostly using  excerpts from letters.  It seemed disjointed.
  The last section was, once again, a chapter on each child after their father's death.
  Charles Dickens was certainly a strange man.  His children all adored him, even though they realized that he had treated their mother terribly.  The household was filled with interesting activities- play acting, story writing.  But it was difficult to be a child of Charles Dickens!

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