Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Visiting Dickens in Bloomsbury

Dickens and his wife Catherine lived in this house on 42 Doughty Street in the Bloomsbury area of London. Inside, the place has been fitted up to 1837 standards and includes a tea room and gift shop.

I did a lot of thinking about Charles as I toured the four  floors. His big writing desk with its slanted top (alas no photos were allowed), reminded me that even though D. had 10 children, it was the wife and servants' job to make sure nothing interfered with his writing routine which took place between breakfast and lunch, every working day. No distractions of any kind were allowed. After lunch he spent time at his club or went for a long walk.  He also had many charitable and theatrical projects on hand as well as people to meet etc.  He often invited his pals home for dinner. Patriarchy creates the writer.

I learned that Dickens was instrumental is getting the concept of international copywriter drilled into the fuzzy brains of the legislators. He describes their views in his novel, Nickolas Nickelby. A member of parliament tells Nickolas: "if any preposterous bills were brought forward giving grubby devils of authors a right to their own property,  I should like to say, that I for one could never consent....the creations of the pocket, being man's, belong to one man, or one family, but that the creation of the brain, being God's, ought, as a matter of course, belong to the people at large...

How wonderful if  Dickens could time travel to the present and take on both Amazon and Google. Or all those who think intellectual property should be free. A Dickensonian curse upon you!

Dickens was a great humanitarian and his books roused the social conscience of the nation. No argument. But at home, Dickens, a loving father, was a not so great husband. For one thing, he blamed Catherine for having too many children!  Eventually they separated, against her wishes. She wasn't up to his exacting household standards perhaps due to her post-natal depression.  Since the law stated that all children belonged to the father, he decided to take all the children except the eldest boy who lived with Catherine.  To make matters worse, her own sister stood by Charles and took her place running the household.  To make matters worser, Catherine loved him to her death, showing that patriarchy also creates the female.


  1. How sad. Just recently watched a movie on t.v. about Dickens and his mistress. My sympathies were with his wife.

  2. Yes, a fascinating man, but you really wouldn't want him for a husband. A contradictory soul brilliantly portrayed in Claire Tomalin's biography.
    I thought the museum was pretty good but could you read those dark, bronze labels on the exhibits? I couldn't. Very frustrating.