Monday, June 12, 2017

Resistance Writer Charles Dickens

For the anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens (died Jun 9, 1870), I read Charles Dickens: Compassion and Contradiction by Karen Kenyon.

This concise biography of 112 pages covers all aspects of the author: his childhood trauma; his career as an author and actor; his love affairs and unhappy marriage; and his commitment to social justice.

Dickens was a megastar in his day: a best-selling author, an outstanding orator and actor, an entrepreneur who started several magazines.

This was an era when literacy and cheap reading materials were peaking, and magazines were in their heyday. Dickens serialized his novels in the magazines. His readers would scramble for the next installment.
Charles Dickens in 1842

I appreciated learning about the events, places, experiences, and people who inspired Dickens characters and plot lines.

Kenyon notes that Dickens may have had epilepsy and he may have been obsessive-compulsive. He was a 'dandy' in his fashion and bathed daily. He had a strict schedule which included long walks daily. Often he walked the streets of London all night as well.

Obsessed with money and adulation, he was a workaholic who worked on several works at once. He also 'saw' and imagined his entire novel before setting pen to paper then put his heart and soul into his books.

The subtitle of the book points out the crux of Dickens' personality. He was a great social commentator whose novelizations of the plight of the poor actually impacted his society and lead to changes. The Industrial Revolution had brought rural folk to the cities for factory jobs. The lack of housing, air pollution, a lack of clean water, poverty, and long hours working for small wages brought the average age in London to 27. Only one child out of three attended school. There were over 70,000 prostitutes.

At the same time, Dickens was able to emotionally detach from his wife and family, casting his wife aside (after 11 children!) and idealizing her younger sisters.

Thirty years ago I read a two-volume biography of Dickens. It was nice to revisit his life again.

I received a free ebook from the publisher

Charles Dickens: Compassion and Contradiction
Karen Kenyon
The Odyssey Press
$3.99

Charles Dickens Quilt designed and made by Nancy A. Bekofske

Charles Dickens, Nancy A. Bekofske