Newly printed Charles Dickens letters reveal he was ‘a bit of a diva’


LONDON — Handwritten letters by one in all Britain’s most well-known authors, Charles Dickens, will go on public show for the primary time this week, giving a contemporary perception into the Victorian author’s life and thoughts.

Eleven letters had been acquired by the Charles Dickens Museum in London from a non-public vendor within the United States — a rustic Dickens visited twice on common public studying excursions.

One letter — dated Feb. 10, 1866, and written to an I.H. Newman — reveals Dickens, a celeb in his personal time, having a gentle diva second as he complains concerning the potential lack of Sunday postal service in his southern English city and threatens to maneuver elsewhere.

“I beg to say that I most decidedly and strongly object to the infliction of any such inconvenience upon myself,” he writes. “There are many people in this village of Higham, probably, who do not receive or dispatch in a year, as many letters as I usually receive and dispatch in a day,” he stated of his residence in Kent, southern England.

“I am on the best terms with my neighbours, poor and rich, and I believe they would be sorry to lose me,” he continues. “But I should be so hampered by the proposed restriction that I think it would force me to sell my property here, and leave this part of the country.”

In one other, penned on trip in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Aug. 5, 1846, Dickens writes to his buddy and lawyer Thomas Mitton, describing the city as “prodigious if ugly.” He consists of particulars of his keep, notably a mountain hike and washing his face with snow, and he feedback on the native delicacies and the way his kids are passing the time.

“I have no doubt you have been looking once or twice for a letter from me since I have left home. I have written to very few people indeed,” he says.

“It is not at all a cheap place — dearer than Genoa, and as dear, I should say, as Paris. The most astonishing circumstance to me, is that bread, of all things in the world, is dearer at this moment, than in London! Meat is pretty cheap, and very good. … The native wine is something between vinegar and pickled cucumbers, and makes you wink and cry when you taste it,” he provides.

Another letter is a dinner invitation with a dramatic Dickensian ultimate flourish: “Say ‘no’ and I never forgive you. Say ‘yes’ and join us here at ten minutes past six next Thursday, and I shall always remain faithfully yours CHARLES DICKENS.”

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Peter Orford, a lecturer in English literature on the University of Buckingham and a biographer of Dickens, informed The Washington Post on Tuesday that he was “excited” by the brand new trove of letters, which might be a “major resource” for teachers and lovers alike.

Orford described Dickens — the creator of classics reminiscent of “Oliver Twist,” “Great Expectations” and “Bleak House” — as somebody who “tried to be a man of the people,” championing social causes. However, like many trendy celebrities, he was additionally “quite precious about his privacy” and sought to strike a stability, Orford stated.

“He could be a bit of a diva and hold the attention when it suited him,” he stated, as there was “always interest in him as a person,” however at different occasions he discovered the general public consideration “intrusive.”

Dickens, like many Victorians, was a “prolific letter writer” and a person of his time, when a person might obtain mail deliveries a dozen occasions a day. So far, 12 volumes of Dickens’s letters have been printed, some quick “like text messages” confirming plans, stated Orford, and different lengthier missives to family and friends.

Like different British authors together with Jane Austen, Dickens destroyed many letters earlier than his loss of life, holding a bonfire in 1860 to cease them falling into public palms. Those that also exist had been collected from recipients. In his will, Dickens additionally specified that he didn’t want to be remembered by statues or memorials however moderately for his works, Orford added.

Despite his “Bah! Humbug!” perspective, Dickens nonetheless has thousands and thousands of followers across the globe. His portrait has appeared on financial institution notes and stamps, his books have been tailored on display, and numerous schoolchildren nonetheless research his novels and carry out “A Christmas Carol” every year.

“There’s still a great deal of popular interest in Dickens,” stated Catherine Waters, emeritus professor of Victorian literature on the University of Kent. Waters can also be the newest president of the Dickens Fellowship, a worldwide affiliation of people that share an curiosity Dickens’s life and works. The group was based in 1902 and has energetic chapters within the United States, Italy, Australia and Japan.

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But like a lot of his fictional characters, Dickens was not straightforward to sum up. “He shared some of the prejudices of his age,” stated Waters. She famous criticism of his “stereotyped” portrayal of some feminine characters and his real-life affair with Ellen Ternan later in life.

However, he was additionally encouraging of latest feminine writers and journalists, stated Waters, accepting and publishing their works in periodicals that he edited. “He was a complex man,” she stated.

Dickens might have been writing as much as 20 letters a day over a interval of greater than 40 years, Waters informed The Post.

“The range of topics that his letters cover is immense,” she stated, with letters to household, publishers and charities illustrating a broad array of matters and social acquaintances.

“Given the variety and vividness of his letter writing, I’m sure being able to read some of these new letters will be very exciting for people,” she stated.

Other letters within the assortment give an perception into his studying habits and busy social diary. The museum additionally acquired a variety of his private objects, artwork, jewellery and books from the U.S. collector in 2020, amounting to greater than 300 gadgets, valued at simply over $2 million, according to the museum.

The exhibit of his handwritten letters will go on show beginning Wednesday on the museum and on-line for worldwide lovers. Dickens died in 1870 in Higham and is buried in Poets’ Corner of London’s Westminster Abbey together with different British authors Geoffrey Chaucer and Rudyard Kipling.

“There’s no diary, so this is the best we get of what he’s thinking at the time,” stated biographer Orford. “The letters are a fantastic resource.”

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