Dickens, His Character, Comedy, and Career

Dickens, His Character, Comedy, and Career

Dickens, His Character, Comedy, and Career

Dickens, His Character, Comedy, and Career

Excerpt

AN AMIABLE clerk in the Navy Pay Office at Portsmouth took his wife to a dance one evening early in 1812. Their second child, Charles Dickens, was born the following day, February 7th, and though we cannot prove cause and effect, it is difficult to resist the feeling that the excitement of the dance and its unexpected result had some influence on one who was at his happiest in a whirl of activity and whose behaviour was so frequently surprising.

In character and disposition he owed practically nothing to his parents. His father, John Dickens, son of a footman and housemaid who became a butler and housekeeper, was a genial if slightly pompous fellow, friendly, agreeable, easy-going, light-hearted, open-handed, partial to funny stories, and much too partial to wine and spirits. His mother, socially rather above his father, some of her relations being civil servants, was a gentle, kindly, upright soul, rather feather-headed, and quite incapable of influencing her husband or of grappling with the realities of life as they developed under his benign but wholly disastrous management of affairs.

When Charles was nearly five months old the family moved from his birthplace in Mile End Terrace to Hawke Street, Portsea, where they remained until 1814, when they went to London. Towards the close of his life Dickens gave a public reading from his works in Portsmouth, and was strolling with his agent through the streets when he noticed the name of a terrace. "By Jove!" he exclaimed: "here is the place where I was born." But he could not locate the number. They walked up and down, Dickens pointing to one house and saying that he must have lived there because it looked so much like his father; then he favoured another because it looked like the birthplace of a man who had deserted it; then he picked on a third because it had obviously been the home of a puny . . .

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