Two hundred years ago today, on May 19, 1815, Catherine Hogarth Dickens was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Thanks to The Buzfuz for the tip!)
Of all I've read about Charles Dickens's wife and all that she went through, my favorite remains Gaynor Arnold's novel Girl in a Blue Dress. Though the story is fictionalized and the names are changed, the book is full of profound emotional and psychological truth, and pays a great tribute to this woman about whom we know so much and yet so little.
And so, in honor of her birthday, here's a passage from that book about a pivotal moment in her life:
. . . Well, only figuratively. (But it makes a good post title, doesn't it?) I'm referring to an article by Frances Wilson in the New Statesmanabout "vampiric writers" -- a vampiric writer being one who "one who sinks his, or her, fangs into the flesh of another writer, and in so doing gives him or her a second life as a fictional figure." Wilson argues that Stephen Jarvis does this to Charles Dickens in his novel Death and Mr. Pickwick, accusing Jarvis of both "demonising" and "dehumanising" Dickens.
Well, I've sent for a review copy of Jarvis's novel, so we shall see . . .
Mr. Pickwick's faithful servant has been getting a bit of media attention lately. In The Paris Review, Nina Martyris writes about how the creation of this character became a turning point in Dickens's life and career, while at the blog SleuthSayers, Stephen Jarvis (author of Death and Mr. Pickwick) argues that Sam was originally illustrator Robert Seymour's idea. (H/T The Buzfuz)
Readers are swept away from the first page of J. C. Briggs's The Murder of Patience Brooke, deep into the streets of foggy London and the quiet, sleeping Urania Cottage. When Patience Brooke, one of the women who has been helped by the home for women established by Charles Dickens, is found brutally murdered, Charles Dickens is sent for at once. Together with his friend Sam Jones, Superintendent of Scotland Yard, Dickens sets out to find the murderer.
This summer will see the publication of Stephen Jarvis's novel Death and Mr. Pickwick, which will attempt to answer the old question of just how much of The Pickwick Papers was Dickens's and how much was original illustrator Robert Seymour's. Blogger Martin Rundkvist, who's reading an advance copy, gives his thoughts on what he's read so far.
"He was born on a Friday, on the same day as his young hero David Copperfield, and for ever afterwards Friday became for him a day of omen. Whether like his young hero he was born just before midnight, when the tide was in, is not recorded; but this strange association between himself and his fictional characters is one that he carried with him always. He said once, during a speech in memory of Shakespeare's birthday, that: 'We meet on this day to celebrate the birthday of a vast army of living men and women who will live for ever with an actuality greater than that of the men and women whose external forms we see around us . . .' He was thinking here of Hamlet and Lear, of Macbeth and Prospero, but is it not also true that in this small front bedroom in Portsmouth, in the presence of a surgeon and a monthly nurse, there was born on this February day Pecksniff and Scrooge, Oliver Twist and Sairey Gamp, Samuel Pickwick and Nicholas Nickleby, Pip and David Copperfield, Miss Havisham and Little Nell, the Artful Dodger and Wackford Squeers, Thomas Gradgrind and Little Dorrit, Sydney Carton and Paul Dombey, Fagin and Edwin Drood, Uriah Heep and Wilkins Micawber, Quilp and Sam Weller, Barnaby Rudge and Bill Sikes, Tiny Tim and Tommy Traddles, all of them tumbling out into the light?"