A Christmas Carol is a concept story of Christmas: a story of a delight of care over mean-spiritedness, amiability over misapplication and poverty. Charles Dickens could write it since he had been there. His father was a ongoing debtor, and Dickens himself gifted impassioned misery as a child. Today’s universe of tellurian inequality and dispute would be all too informed to him.
His great-great-grandson, Mark Charles Dickens, is a paterfamilias of a residence of approach Dickens descendants and a heading believer of a Charles Dickens Museum in London. As we applaud Christmas, National Geographic talks to him about since he had to take a DNA test, a novelist’s tip venerate eventuality with an 18-year-old actress, what Dickens desired about Christmas, and since a good British author still matters today.
Mark, you’re a conduct of a Dickens clan, and a genealogist. How many approach descendants of a good masculine are there?
Being conduct of a Dickens family is a bit of an anachronism, since it goes down a masculine line. There are a lot of us in a family, substantially over 300. Charles Dickens himself had 10 children, so we’re widespread apart and far-reaching around a world. We do have a few authors. Monica Dickens, a novelist, my father’s initial cousin, lived in Cape Cod [Massachusetts] and sadly died a few years ago now. Lucinda Hawksley, a cousin, is utterly a successful writer.
We also have utterly a lot of actors. Not many people know that Charles Dickens indeed wanted to be an actor. When he was young, he went for an try-out during Drury Lane. He desired acting, did a lot of acting, and there are utterly a lot of behaving geniuses in a family. My nephew, Harry Lloyd, has got utterly a critical melodramatic career already. He was in Game of Thrones and Robin Hood.
Charles Dickens desired doing elaborate home theatricals. In one, The Frozen Deep, he met a singer Ellen Ternan, who became his mistress when he was 45 and she was 18. How does a family feel about that?
He did a lot of pledge dramatics. He put on genuine shows and did positively everything. He was not usually a principal actor, he [also] was a theatre manager, a director, a producer—down to a many extraordinary detail. He was a arrange of masculine who had unusual appetite and spent 24 hours a day working. Whatever he was doing, he did it to sum detail. He had a tiny museum in his home during Tavistock Square and did shows there. But he also did some in a West End. He even achieved for Queen Victoria.
The relationship with Ellen Ternan was a tip he envy guarded. Dickens was such a family man, and his attribute with his open was undeniably important. If he was seen to be usually as bad as everybody else, and had mistresses, it would have had a vital outcome on his life. He did leave his mom unequivocally tragically, and badly, and he came out of that not during all well. But unequivocally few people knew about his immature mistress, and he wanted to keep it that way.
He had a vital bonfire of all a papers that compared him with Nelly. His children, including his son, Henry, my great-grandfather, pooh-poohed it. And it wasn’t until a 1930s that a few clues started to come out. Of course, no talent is perfect. They all have their flaws. And in a approach it creates him some-more human. We, as a family, are fascinated. We’re not stealing anything. We’d like to know more.
There are utterly clever rumors that he and Nelly had a baby who died in infancy. Whether that’s loyal or not, who knows? Some Dickensian scholars and purists still splutter over their coffee and consider a whole thing is rubbish. But we consider there’s adequate justification now to uncover that this was a vital eventuality in his life and unequivocally consummated. She was also unequivocally critical to him toward a finish of his life. Don’t forget, it was unequivocally dire in those days for a singular lady to be kept as a mistress. So it was unequivocally formidable for Nelly.
His wife, Catherine Dickens, your great-great grandmother, has not perceived a kindest press. She’s mostly decorated as remote and prudish. Is this how she was seen and is seen in a family?
I’ve got a unequivocally soothing mark for Catherine. we consider it contingency be unfit to be married to someone like Dickens. Here’s a talent who works twenty-three-and-a-half hours a day, with extraordinary appetite and ability. You can’t keep adult with him! Catherine was also not academic. She was rather overawed by him. At cooking parties she was unequivocally many a stewardess who sat sensitively in a corner. He had 10 children with her. She was effectively profound for about 19 years, with a few miscarriages. So it was unequivocally many a comfortable marital bed, yet they were never equals.
She also had terrible postnatal depression, that was not unequivocally accepted in those days, and he couldn’t cope with that. Eventually, she was unceremoniously dumped. Today Hollywood superstars change marriages utterly regularly. But in those days we couldn’t do that.
You recently had a DNA test. Why?
I was called adult out of a blue by a journalist, who was articulate about utterly a famous descendant, Hector Charles Dickens. There was a prolonged story about how he was an deceptive child of Charles Dickens. He had managed to get reason of one of Charles Dickens’s rings by an auction, so people suspicion there contingency be some law to this story. This publisher asked me what we thought, and a usually approach we could unequivocally get to a bottom of this gossip was to have a DNA test.
So we took one, and so did a successor of Hector Dickens, that I’m gay to contend did not match! Just to infer my lineage, we had a apart cousin of cave also take a test, that valid that we did indeed match. I’m gay that my mom and grandmother behaved themselves in a family line. [Laughs] This arrange of thing happens from time to time. we get people toll me adult and seeking how they’re associated since of some family story. But we have nonetheless to find one that is true.
So there are Dickens imposters?
There are indeed. we had one masculine who was a priest in California, a unequivocally righteous masculine and a unequivocally nice, honest chap, who wanted to snippet his story and his grandmother, and we had to let him down. He was ashamed since he was a masculine of a cloth.
Of course, what occurred in those days is that ancestors who emigrated to America invented a attribute with a good masculine to give them acclamation in environment adult a new life. Their story grows and grows and becomes family folklore, so a children and grandchildren trust it. It happens utterly frequently.
As it’s Christmas Day, tell us about a Dickens family gatherings.
We’re utterly advantageous in carrying such a famous ancestor. Not many families know their third and fourth cousins, yet we do. And when there’s an event to get together, we make a many of it. In 2012, a bicentenary of a birth of Charles Dickens, we all went to a famous use in Westminster Abbey, that Prince Charles attended. we was absolved to review a letter. Afterwards, we had a large family luncheon. we consider there were over 200 people there, all associated to Dickens or married into a family. It was a largest entertainment of a residence we’ve ever had.
Every year, a masculine descendants of Dickens also get together in a smashing aged Dickensian pub in London, a one he wrote about in Pickwick Papers, called a George and Vulture. We have a lunch there, that tends to go on a prolonged time, and be unequivocally liquid. [Laughs] It’s good for us to get to know any other and any other’s children. The ladies have a entertainment as well, in another good Dickensian pub, called a Bleeding Heart Tavern. So we hang together, and we have a good reason to do so. It’s fun.
How did Dickens applaud Christmas?
He was a good celebration man. He unequivocally distinguished Christmas in sum style, usually like a ones we see in A Christmas Carol. He was a core of life and a core of parties and a core of games. He had to classify all and take assign of everything, and positively his booze attic was intensely good stocked. Lots of singing, lots of games. Party games went on for days. There were cricket matches with a internal village. You name it, he did it! we was brought adult in a identical way. Christmases have altered a lot, of course. But we still unequivocally like to accumulate a family around and have a smashing normal Christmas.
A Christmas Carol is a anniversary classic. But Dickens wrote it since he was roughly broke during a time, didn’t he?
I consider that’s a slight exaggeration. He came from nowhere. His father was in debtor’s prison. And as shortly as Dickens started to make income as a writer, his family, all a apart cousins and brothers and fathers, called on him to assistance them. So a some-more income he made, a some-more he indispensable to support his ever flourishing family and a problems they were having.
His hermit Augustus was married to this poetic lady who went blind. He dumped her and ran off to Chicago. In fact, a descendants of Augustus in Chicago are alive and good today, and we’re usually creation hit with them now. But Dickens was left looking after his sister-in-law. One of his spinster sisters was also a financial drain, and his sons were all always causing him problems. His father was accurately like Mr. Micawber, in David Copperfield. He was always seeking for money. He would tell people, “I’m a father of Charles Dickens, so give me a line of credit.” Just like Micawber did. So of march Dickens had to bail him out.
So yet he wasn’t bankrupt, he found he never had adequate income to live comfortably, that is since he started essay Christmas books. He wrote A Christmas Carol in a remarkably brief time, a few weeks, and brought it out usually in time for Christmas in 1843. It sole unequivocally well. But he didn’t make that many income on a initial edition. Of course, it was reprinted again and again, and became a famous story that we all know and venerate today.
Charles Dickens was a initial author as superstar, wasn’t he?
I consider he was a world’s initial superstar. His books were created as weekly or monthly serials. He invented a soap opera. They were review out aloud in a cities or halls. The ignorant would come around to hear them; vicars would review them during a encampment hall. Everyone hung on a words, and any section had an finale that finished we wish to know what was going to occur next. He generated huge unrestrained for his books, and since they were published in weekly or monthly titles, they were affordable for a unequivocally initial time. Books were unequivocally costly in those days, yet he had a mass readership.
The story goes that when Little Nell was on her deathbed in The Olde Curiosity Shoppe, a boat was sailing to New York with a new copies of a book onboard, and a pier was swamped by thousands of people desperately perplexing to get their hands on a book to find out if Little Nell died or not.
When Dickens himself eventually landed in America a initial time, it was like a Beatles in 1964. Total mania. He was a unequivocally initial chairman outward a stately family to have this effect. Amazing.
Dickens’s initial home is now a museum. Why was 48 Doughty Street so critical to him?
Doughty Street was a initial residence he rented when he started to pierce adult in a world. A lot of London was broken in a war, so Tavistock House doesn’t exist anymore. But Doughty Street does. He wrote Oliver Twist and Great Expectations there, and his youngest children were innate there. It was a smashing stepping-stone in his life. It’s usually been renovated, and it now looks accurately like it would have finished in his day. It is also a usually museum in London open on Christmas Day!
Each epoch rediscovers Dickens for itself. What do we consider is a source of his fast popularity?
A unequivocally good question. If we demeanour during a 10 many famous Britons of all time, Dickens always comes up. It’s utterly amazing. we consider one of a reasons for that is that radio and film venerate duration stories. His novels are not usually amazingly good stories, they’re [also] full of amour and twists and turns and implausible characters. You can’t do anything yet follow a story. You can update Shakespeare and put Shakespeare into complicated dress. But we can’t do that with Dickens. It has to be a epoch that it was written. And that’s since he comes opposite so good in radio array and films. The stories are universal. Christmas Carol is a concept book of Christmas.
There’s a touching story in your family about your great-great aunt, Dickens’s sister-in-law, a 17-year-old Mary Hogarth. Tell us a story.
Catherine’s sister, Mary Hogarth, came to Doughty Street to live and assistance Catherine with a babies. She was perfect—this idyllic, desirable girl, who unexpected and tragically died. Bang! They had all been out to a theater, and when they came back, she felt a bit odd. Dickens hold her, and she died in his arms. She was wearing a ring on her finger when she died. Dickens took that ring off her finger, put it on his possess finger, and he wore it for a rest of his life.
I possess that ring now. It’s beautiful.
What do we admire many about your great-great grandfather?
He was a good champion for a poor. He’d been there. He’d seen it. And he indeed altered laws. He was asked to mount for Parliament many times yet refused. He said, we can do apart some-more good with my essay than station in Parliament. And he did. MPs would write to him with their stories, and he would put them in his books, and the laws would change.
He did a lot of good, and an huge volume of free work. He upheld systems to update and change a universe for a better, and we consider those are a things that make him a good man. People consider about him essentially as an author, yet he was a lot some-more than that.