Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Desperation, a Speech, and a Sick Child: Dickens and “A Christmas Carol”

It was 1843. Charles Dickens was publishing Martin Chuzzlewit in serial form, and the story wasn’t doing that well, at least compared to his earlier books like Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. And Americans hated it; Dickens came close to losing his American audience for his portrayal of Americans he drew from his recent visit. His household expenses were rising, particularly with a new baby coming, and he had just learned that his usually spendthrift and almost always broke father was expecting him to pay his debts.

He needed something, something new, something to recapture the public’s imagination. 

In October, Dickens traveled to Manchester, to give a speech and to visit his beloved sister Fanny and her family. He was especially concerned about his young nephew Harry, who’d been born with a number of serious disabilities; his parents didn’t expect him to live to adulthood. Before the speech, he walked around the city, and he was horrified by the plight of poor families and how they lived. It was as bad as it was in London. His speech at the Athenaeum Club was a fiery one, full of outrage over the conditions of the poor, and was reported all over Britain.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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