A letter – dated February 10, 1866 and written to an IH Newman – reveals that Dickens, a celebrity in his day, is having a sweet diva moment as he complains about the potential loss of Sunday Postal Service in his hometown of south of England and threatens to move elsewhere.
“Please say that I resolutely and strongly object to my inflicting such inconvenience on myself,” he wrote. “There are probably a lot of people in this village of Higham who don’t get or send in a year as many letters as I usually get and send in a day,” he said of his home in the Kent, in the south of England.
“I am on good terms with my neighbours, poor and rich, and I believe they would be sorry to lose me,” he continues. “But I should be so bothered by the proposed restriction that I think it would force me to sell my property here and leave this part of the country.”
In another, written while vacationing in Lausanne, Switzerland, on August 5, 1846, Dickens wrote to his friend and lawyer Thomas Mitton, describing the city as “wonderful so ugly.” He includes details of his stay, including hiking in the mountains and washing his face with snow, and he comments on the local cuisine and how his children pass the time.
“I’m sure you’ve looked for a letter from me once or twice since I left home.” I wrote to very few people indeed,” he says.
“It’s not a cheap place at all, more expensive than Genoa, and as expensive, I should say, as Paris. The most astonishing circumstance to me is that bread, of all things in the world, is more expensive at this moment than in London! The meat is quite cheap and very good. … Native wine is something between vinegar and pickled cucumbers, and makes you blink and cry when you taste it,” he adds.
Another letter is a dinner invitation with a dramatic Dickensian ending: “Say ‘no’ and I’ll never forgive you.” Say “yes” and join us here at six ten minutes next Thursday, and I will always remain faithfully yours CHARLES DICKENS.
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Peter Orford, a lecturer in English literature at the University of Buckingham and biographer of Dickens, told the Washington Post on Tuesday that he was “excited” about the new trove of letters, which would be a “major resource” for scholars. and enthusiasts. look alike.
Orford described Dickens – the author of classics such as “Oliver Twist”, “Great Expectations” and “Bleak House” – as someone who “tried to be a man of the people”, advocating for social causes. However, like many modern celebrities, he was also “very valuable to his privacy” and sought to strike a balance, Orford said.
“He could be a bit of a diva and get attention when it suited him,” he said, as there was “always interest in him as a person,” but at other times , he found the public attention “intrusive”.
Dickens, like many Victorians, was a “prolific writer” and a man of his time, when an individual could receive mail deliveries a dozen times a day. So far, 12 volumes of Dickens’ letters have been published, some short “like text messages” confirming the plans, Orford said, and other longer missives to friends and family.
Like other British authors, including Jane Austen, Dickens destroyed many letters before his death, setting up a bonfire in 1860 to keep them from falling into public hands. Those that still exist were collected from the recipients. In his will, Dickens also made it clear that he did not want to be remembered by statues or memorials but rather for his works, Orford added.
Despite his “Bah! Humbug!” attitude, Dickens still has millions of fans around the world. His likeness has appeared on banknotes and stamps, his books have been adapted for the screen, and countless schoolchildren still study his novels and perform “A Christmas Carol” every year.
“There is still a lot of popular interest in Dickens,” said Catherine Waters, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Kent. Waters is also the past president of the Dickens Fellowship, a worldwide fellowship of people who share an interest in the life and work of Dickens. The group was founded in 1902 and has active chapters in the United States, Italy, Australia and Japan.
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But like many of his fictional characters, Dickens was not easy to sum up. “He shared some of the prejudices of his age,” Waters said. She noted criticism of her “stereotypical” portrayal of some female characters and her real-life affair with Ellen Ternan later in life.
However, he also encouraged contemporary female writers and journalists, Waters said, accepting and publishing their work in periodicals he edited. “He was a complex man,” she said.
Dickens could have written up to 20 letters a day over a period of more than 40 years, Waters told the Post.
“The range of topics covered by her letters is immense,” she said, with letters to family, publishers and charities illustrating a wide range of topics and social relationships.
“Given the variety and liveliness of his letters, I’m sure being able to read some of these new letters will be very exciting for people,” she said.
Other letters in the collection provide insight into his reading habits and busy social diary. The museum also acquired a number of his personal items, art, jewelry and books from the American collector in 2020, amounting to more than 300 items valued at just over $2 million, according to the museum.
The exhibition of his handwritten letters will be presented from Wednesday at the museum and online for international enthusiasts. Dickens died in 1870 at Higham and is buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey in London with fellow British authors Geoffrey Chaucer and Rudyard Kipling.
“There’s no log, so that’s the best we have of what he’s thinking at the time,” Orford said. “Letters are a fantastic resource.”