A Dickens of a Fiction Fan; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), January 19, 2018 | Go to article overview

A Dickens of a Fiction Fan; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION Do we know what Charles Dickens liked to read? CHARLES DICKENS was a voracious reader and in his novels you can find references to his favourite authors. He was also a champion of new writers, many of whom he serialised in his magazine, All The Year Round.

Born in Portsmouth on February 7, 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens, he was the second of eight children. His nursemaid Mary Weller helped inspire his passion for fiction.

Her bedtime stories featured characters such as Captain Murderer, who made pies out of his wives. She also introduced him to fairy tales. These were the original dark tales of the Brothers Grimm, not the sanitised versions re-written by the moralising Victorians.

As a young man, Dickens's favourite works were Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding and Arabian Nights -- all picaresque novels composed of a series of loosely linked adventures, a format evident in his early works.

Dickens was a life-long devotee of William Shakespeare and in 1838 made a pilgrimage with friends to the Bard's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.

In his letters, he writes of how the group 'sat down in the room where Shakespeare was born, and left our autographs and read those of other people and so forth'.

The visitors' book containing Dickens's signature is on display in the house.

In Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839), Dickens expressed his strength of feeling about this visit through his character Mrs Wititterly: 'I don't know how it is, but after you've seen the place and written your name in the little book, somehow or other you seem to be inspired; it kindles up quite a fire within one.' Dickens admired the social realism of Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) and called her his 'dear Scheherazade' -- the legen-dary queen and storyteller of One Thousand And One Nights (Arabian Nights). He serialised her novels Cranford and North And South in All The Year Round.

He also had a close bond with Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), whose most successful novels, The Woman In White and The Moonstone, were serialised in the magazine, too. They were travel companions and collaborated on plays such as The Frozen Deep.

Another writer he admired was William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), the celebrated author of Vanity Fair. They became friends, but after a quarrel they didn't speak for years and only began a reconciliation shortly before Thackeray's death.

Dickens praised the works of Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), a prolific author and playwright, and Sir Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), the essayist and social political commentator.

And he was on good terms with George Henry Lewes, the partner of Marian Evans, aka George Eliot.

He greatly admired Eliot's Adam Bede, published in 1859, and offered to serialise her next book, The Mill On The Floss, but she turned him down.

Davin Finch, Matlock, Derbys.

QUESTION Was Star Wars the first film to use an opening scroll to set the scene? WHILE Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope in 1977 was the first feature film to use what is called an opening crawl sequence -- which begins: 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ' -- the director, George Lucas, was inspired by the popular motion picture serials of the Thirties, such as Flash Gordon (1936) and Buck Rogers (1939), both starring Buster Crabbe. …

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