Claire Tomalin’s Dickens: A Life

I can’t put down Claire Tomalin‘s biography of Charles Dickens.  I feel as if I am living in the nineteenth century, an observer of the writer’s life, perhaps a servant or maybe a butcher’s boy who calls with the chops and sausages and is astonished by his energy and sometimes alarmed by his mania.

Charles Dickens, circa 1860

Image via Wikipedia

For make no mistake, Dickens was a man of phenomenal energy and life-force.  His constitution must have been magically strong.  Charisma is too small a word to encompass him.

The beauty of this biography is that Tomalin’s shows him warts and all yet indicates that the warts were, perhaps, an essential part of his towering, monumental personality.  In fact there were more than warts, there were huge failings as a human being.  Yet, I am reminded of the fact that we are dealing with a man who was born almost two hundred years ago and that some of these faults would not have needed to surface in the way they did in another era.

As I read with mounting distress the harsh way he treated his wife Catherine and his young lover Nelly I thought for a moment, why doesn’t he just marry the girl?  But he couldn’t.  Divorce was not an option, especially not for a man who did so much to create the notion of the happy family enjoying the Christmas turkey.

My favourite part of the book so far takes place when Dickens was in the midst of his marital break-up, a break-up considered so terrible that many long-time friends deserted him.  He was starting a new weekly magazine and insisted that it be called ‘Household Harmony.’  His best friend Forster suggested that such a title would raise a few eyebrows.  Isn’t it delicious that the great spinner of words could not see what a terrible error of judgement such a title would have proved.  In the end, Forster’s arguments prevailed and the magazine was called ‘All the Year Round.’





About Martin Lake

Martin Lake lives in the French Riviera with his wife. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director. A serious accident shattered his arm and meant that he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. He writes a wide range of fiction. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults. Martin has a series of novels 'The Lost King' which are set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. They concern Edgar Atheling, last representative of the ancient English royal dynasty and his fight to regain the throne from William the Conqueror. Martin has also published 'Artful' the further adventures of the Dodger and 'Outcasts' a novel about fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. His latest novel, 'A Love Most Dangerous' is about a maid of honour who becomes the lover of Henry VIII. Martin’s work has been broadcast on radio. He won first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society competition to write a story based on 'The Wind in the Willows.' You can get the collection, 'The Wind in the Willows Short Stories' from Amazon.
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One Response to Claire Tomalin’s Dickens: A Life

  1. Pingback: Bicentenario Charles Dickens 2012 « First Studio Institute

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