I feel immersed in Charles Dickens’s world and awed at how productive he was because I am reading the new biography Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin. Always short of money the first half of his life, Dickens took on an enormous amount of work writing and editing for newspapers and monthly serials with ever-looming deadlines. It makes me feel that one ought to just produce, produce, produce without fretting too much over perfection. Sure, the deadlines, strain, and constant labor created some bad melodrama but also some wonderful characters. (What are the chances this could work for my writing?)
Dickens wasn’t all genius and light. Despite becoming a moral crusader publicly, I’m just getting to the scandalous part of the biography when his personal life shows him as his worst: bullying, sacrosanct, and cruel. I have great sympathy with his wife between the constant pregnancies for over a decade and then being summonarily put aside and made fun of as fat to friends while Dickens took up with an actress. Of course, he died at 58 less than 10 years later, which shows what happens when you take up with actresses. The biography itself is excellent, but if you are feeling lazy, as I often do when staring at 400+ pages, may I recommend:
Also, I’m inspired to try a Dicken’s novel as it was meant to be read originally- in serial form. Or close to it. I could sit down every week and read one chapter of Bleak House or Our Mutual Friend or maybe The Pickwick Club! Any recommendations on which would be best?
For more blathering about Dickens:
- A Tale of Two Centuries on NPR
- The Guardian reviews Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life. The biography is fantastic, and evocative of Dickens’s times. However, it is also this author’s opinion that children today don’t have the attention spans for Dickens, which I don’t see as true at all. His works are quite melodramatic and meant to be read in short installments, and difficulty with the language is more one of distance than attention span.
- A YouTube commercial for the book with its author.