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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning in History

Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning in History has just been published by Routledge. It includes articles by Terry Hadyn (What does it mean to be good at ICT as a history teacher and We Need to talk about PowerPoint), Neal Watkin (The history utility belt: getting learners to express themselves digitally), Ali Messer (History Wikis), Arthur Chapman (Using discussion forums to support historical learning), Dan Lyndon (Using blogs and podcasts in the history classroom), Richard Jones-Nerzic (Documentary film making in the history classroom), Terry Haydn (We need to talk about PowerPoint), John Simkin (Making the most of the Spartacus Educational website), Ben Walsh (Signature pedagogies, assumptions and assassins: ICT and motivation in the history classroom), Johannes Ahrenfelt (Immersive learning in the history classroom: how social media can help meet the expectations of a new generation of learners), Alf Wilkinson (What can you do with an interactive whiteboard?), Nick Dennis and Doug Belshaw (Tools for the tech savvy history teacher) and Janos Blasszauer (History webquests).

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Guardian today named one of the top Tory politicians accused of sexually abusing young boys. To do this they have argued that Lord Alistair McAlpine (born in 1942) is not guilty of these offences. A personal friend of Margaret Thatcher he was treasurer of the Conservative Party between 1980-90. He was rewarded by being made a peer in 1984.

During this period he obtained money from some very dubious characters. For example, Asil Nadir, who was recently convicted of corruption.  

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Tom Watson needs to ask William Hague in the House of Commons:

1. Did you know that claims of sexual abuse had been made against Tory politicians when you set up the Sir Ronald Waterhouse inquiry in 1996?

2. Why did you set up an inquiry with terms of reference that did not allow the boys to testify about sexual abuse by people outside the children's homes?

3. Did you ever attend one of the parties where Jimmy Savile supplied boys and girls from children homes for the enjoyment of the guests?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

BBC, the JFK Assassination and Political Scandals

Several years ago I was approached by a former BBC journalist and government advisor about making a documentary on the JFK assassination. He said that with his BBC contacts he would have no difficulty getting the film made. Over the next few months we spent a lot of time working on an outline of the proposed documentary. However, the BBC eventually rejected the proposal. I thought we should go to C4 or C5 with it because over the years they had been more interested in investigating political conspiracies than the BBC, but for some reason he had completely lost interest in the project and all the work we had put in was in vain.

While we working on the documentary he told me that he had become interested in political conspiracies because of his experiences at the BBC and in government. He had been appalled about how the BBC had quashed great stories while he was working as a political journalist. He told me one story that involved a paedophile ring in the British government in the 1980s.
In 1996 it was agreed than an investigation into claims of abuse in children's homes in Wales. It was led by Sir Ronald Waterhouse QC, a retired High Court judge. The inquiry was held in private and Waterhouse heard evidence from more than 150 victims of abuse at 40 children’s homes. The published report in 2000 admitted that the children had been abused but it was decided that none of the important political figures involved in the abuse should be named. In 2001, 140 compensation claims were settled with victims of the abuse.

My journalist told me that one of the men named was Home Secretary at the time. He was later given a job in the European Union to get him out of the country. Another abuser was still a leading figure in the Conservative Party. In fact, he was the same man who had appointed Waterhouse to head the inquiry. It seems that the inquiry was all part of the cover-up. It was a bit like Lyndon Johnson putting Allen Dulles on the Warren Commission.

On 3rd October, 2012, ITV1 broadcasted a documentary, Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, with claims by up to 10 women, including one aged under 14 at the time, that they had been sexually molested or raped by him during the 1960s and 1970s. Jimmy Savile, one of BBC’s biggest stars, had died the previous year. It has since emerged that the police carried out several investigations into Savile’s activities following complaints from under age girls and boys, but they were all dropped. Maybe it was because he was a close friend of Margaret Thatcher (they used to spend Christmas Day together).

It has also been revealed that earlier in 2012 BBC Newsnight were investigating Savile’s sexual behaviour on BBC premises (he apparently carried out his abuse of girls, usually from children homes who had been invited to appear on programmes such as Top of the Pops, Clunk, Click and Jim'll Fix It, in his dressing room). Obviously concerned that it would seem that the BBC was involved in a cover-up, they cancelled the documentary. However, journalists working on the documentary, leaked the story.

Since the programme was broadcast, over 300 people have come forward to the police stating they were sexually abused by Savile and other high-profile figures. So far Gary Glitter and Freddie Starr have been arrested. Others are expected in the next few weeks.
Last night Newsnight carried an interview with Steven Messham, who was one of those abused in the children’s homes in Wales. He claimed that he had been raped by a leading Conservative Party politician in the 1980s. In other words, the Home Secretary, that the BBC journalist told me about. I expect him to be arrested in the next few weeks. I am not so sure if the current government minister will be arrested for the same offence.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Charles Dickens E-book

Dickens: A Biography 1 873598 03 3
In September 1860 Dickens burnt thousands of letters on a bonfire at his home at Gad’s Hill Place in Kent. He also wrote to friends asking them to destroy any letters that they had received from him. We know that Dickens had always kept secrets from his friends and relatives. When he was a child his father was arrested for debt and sent to the Marshalsea Prison in Southwark. Yet during his lifetime he only told two people about this event. The same is true of his experiences working in the Warren's Blacking Factory. Dickens admitted he had fears about what biographers would say about him in the books written after his death. Why was Dickens so ashamed about these events and what influence did it have on his work? This biography attempts to answer these questions. It also includes a large collection of primary sources so that the reader can make up their own mind about this deeply flawed genius.

Narrative Text (54,359)

Primary Sources (22,577)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

George Gallup and British Intelligence

According to a secret report published by the British Security Coordination (The Secret History of British Intelligence in the Americas, 1940-45), George Gallup was recruited to work for British Intelligence in 1940 as part of its campaign against the America First Committee:

As the campaign against Fifth Columnists in the US continued, BSC was able, through the Gallup Poll, to see how its progress was affecting American public opinion. The results, as polled by Gallup, were most gratifying. On 11 March, only 49% of the American people thought that Britain was doing her utmost to win the war. On 23 April, this proportion had jumped to 65%, although no important naval or military victory had occurred during this period to influence the public in Britain's favour.
Gallup's assistant, who eventually joined the staff of BSC, was able to ensure a constant flow of intelligence on public opinion in the United States, since he had access not only to the questionnaires sent out by Gallup and Cantril and to the recommendations offered by the latter to the White House, but also to the findings of the Survey Division of the Office of War Information and of the Opinion Research Division of the US Army. The mass of information which BSC collected in this way was obviously of interest to London. But it was most immediately useful in helping the British Information Services, the Embassy and the Consulates throughout the country to plan effective counter-measures against anti-British propaganda in the United States. The BSC reports were described by one Department of the Embassy as "the most reliable index of Anglo-American relations available".

Gallup himself was by no means unreservedly pro-British, but BSC's contact was able to dissuade him from publishing the results of certain polls which would have had a damaging effect on British prestige. It would have been unfortunate, for instance, if Gallup had released to the hundred or more newspapers which published his findings the fact that only 50% of the British people believed that Britain was doing her utmost to win the war and only 54% believed that America was doing hers. Yet these were the results of a poll conducted by Gallup's representative in England in 1942. Nor, again, could it have proved other than harmful had it become generally known that a large number of Americans were in favour of immediate self-government for India and of the formation of a Palestinian army.  

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Charles Dickens: Important Announcement

My webpage on Charles Dickens has recently gone missing in the Google rankings. I imagine it was too large a file and caused problems loading. The narrative had reached 56,218 words and the primary sources on Dickens accounted to another 15,057 words.

I have therefore decided to divide the material into five different parts. It has allowed me to include a lot more photographs of Charles Dickens.

1812-1836 (Part 1)

1836-1840 (Part 2)

1840-1850 (Part 3)

1850-1860 (Part 4)

1860-1870 (Part 5)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hadley Cantril and the Lend-Lease Conspiracy

As an Englishman I am very grateful that Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941. However, recent research that the act would not have been passed but for the activities of British intelligence.

Winston Churchill became British prime-minister in May, 1940. Soon afterwards Churchill appointed William Stephenson as head of British Security Coordination (BSC). As William Boyd has pointed out: "The phrase (British Security Coordination) is bland, almost defiantly ordinary, depicting perhaps some sub-committee of a minor department in a lowly Whitehall ministry. In fact BSC, as it was generally known, represented one of the largest covert operations in British spying history... With the US alongside Britain, Hitler would be defeated - eventually. Without the US (Russia was neutral at the time), the future looked unbearably bleak... polls in the US still showed that 80% of Americans were against joining the war in Europe. Anglophobia was widespread and the US Congress was violently opposed to any form of intervention."

At the time Britain was in a very difficult situation. In 1940 Germany had a population of 80 million with a workforce of 41 million. Britain had a population of 46 million with less than half Germany's workforce. Germany's total income at market prices was £7,260 million compared to Britain's £5,242 million. More ominously, the Germans had spent five times what Britain had spent on armaments - £1,710 million versus £358 million. Churchill was informed that Britain would soon run out of money to fight the war.

Churchill asked Franklin D. Roosevelt for help to beat Nazi Germany. At first Roosevelt said he was unable to help because public opinion in the United States was completely opposed to becoming involved in the war. However, British intelligence had some important agents within the White House. This included Ernest Cuneo, Robert Sherwood and David Niles. Cuneo later recalled: "Given the time, the situation, and the mood, it is not surprising however, that BSC also went beyond the legal, the ethical, and the proper. Throughout the neutral Americas, and especially in the U.S., it ran espionage agents, tampered with the mails, tapped telephone, smuggled propaganda into the country, disrupted public gatherings, covertly subsidized newspapers, radios, and organizations, perpetrated forgeries - even palming one off on the President of the United States - violated the aliens registration act, shanghaied sailors numerous times, and possibly murdered one or more persons in this country."

Eventually Roosevelt was persuaded to change his mind. On 17th December, 1940, Roosevelt made a speech to the American public: "In the present world situation of course there is absolutely no doubt in the mind of a very overwhelming number of Americans that the best immediate defence of the United States is the success of Great Britain in defending itself; and that, therefore, quite aside from our historic and current interest in the survival of democracy in the world as a whole, it is equally important, from a selfish point of view of American defence, that we should do everything to help the British Empire to defend itself... In other words, if you lend certain munitions and get the munitions back at the end of the war, if they are intact - haven't been hurt - you are all right; if they have been damaged or have deteriorated or have been lost completely, it seems to me you come out pretty well if you have them replaced by the fellow to whom you have lent them."
Isolationists like Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan and Thomas Connally of Texas argued that this legislation would lead to American involvement in the Second World War. In early February 1941 a poll by the George H. Gallup organisation revealed that only 22 percent were unqualifiedly against the President's proposal. It has been argued by Thomas E. Mahl, the author of Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44 (1998), has argued that the Gallup organization had been infiltrated by the British Security Coordination (BSC).

Hadley Cantril, a member of the faculty of Princeton University Department of Psychology, had used a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to establish the Office of Public Opinion Research. A supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and intervention in the Second World War he was also an agent for the British Security Coordination and did work for the anti-isolationist group, Fight for Freedom. Cantril was of the opinion that Roosevelt needed "an improving body of public opinion to sustain him in each measure of assistance to Britain and the USSR." Cantril was also an advisor to George H. Gallup and worked closely with David Ogilvy, who was employed by Gallup and was also an agent for BSC.

Another BSC agent, Sanford Griffith, established a company Market Analysts Incorporated and was initially commissioned to carry out polls for the anti-isolationist Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. Griffith's assistant, Francis Adams Henson, a long time activist against the Nazi Germany government, later recalled: "My job was to use the results of our polls, taken among their constituents, to convince on-the-fence Congressmen and Senators that they should favor more aid to Britain."

As Richard W. Steele has pointed out: "public opinion polls had become a political weapon that could be used to inform the views of the doubtful, weaken the commitment of opponents, and strengthen the conviction of supporters." William Stephenson later admitted: "Great care was taken beforehand to make certain the poll results would turn out as desired. The questions were to steer opinion toward the support of Britain and the war... Public Opinion was manipulated through what seemed an objective poll."

Michael Wheeler, the author of Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America (2007) has pointed out how this could have been done: "Proving that a given poll is rigged is difficult because there are so many subtle ways to fake data... a clever pollster can just as easily favor one candidate or the other by making less conspicuous adjustments, such as allocating the undecided voters as suits his needs, throwing out certain interviews on the grounds that they were non-voters, or manipulating the sequence and context within which the questions are asked... Polls can even be rigged without the pollster knowing it.... Most major polling organizations keep their sampling lists under lock and key."

The main target of these polls concerned the political views of leading politicians opposed to Lend-Lease. This included Hamilton Fish. In February 1941, a poll of Fish's constituents said that 70 percent of them favored the passage of Lend-Lease. James H. Causey, president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Social Sciences, was highly suspicious of this poll and called for a congressional investigation.

It has been argued that both Arthur Vandenberg and Thomas Connally were targeted by British Security Coordination in order to persuade the Senate to pass the Lend-Lease proposal. Mary S. Lovell, the author of Cast No Shadow (1992) believes that the spy, Elizabeth Thorpe Pack (codename "Cynthia") who was working for the BSC, played an important role in this: "Cynthia's second mission for British Security Coordination was to try and convert the opinions of senators Connally and Vandenberg into, if not support, a less heated opposition to the Lend Lease bill which literally meant the difference between survival and defeat for the British. Other agents of both sexes were given similar missions with other politicians... with Vandenberg she was successful; with Senator Connally, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, she was not."

During the Lend-Lease debate Vandenberg announced on the floor of the Senate that he had finally decided to support the loan. He warned his colleagues: "If we do not lead some other great and powerful nation will capitalize our failure and we shall pay the price of our default." Richard N. Gardner, the author of Sterling Dollar Diplomacy in Current Perspective (1980), has argued that Vandenberg's speech was the "turning point in the Senate Debate" with sixteen other Republicans voting in favour of the bill.

On 11th March 1941, Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act. The legislation gave President Franklin D. Roosevelt the powers to sell, transfer, exchange, lend equipment to any country to help it defend itself against the Axis powers. A sum of $50 billion was appropriated by Congress for Lend-Lease. The money went to 38 different countries with Britain receiving over $31 billion.

When David Ogilvy read an early draft of The Quiet Canadian (1962) he requested that William Stephenson put pressure on H. Montgomery Hyde to remove all references to Hadley Cantril and George H. Gallup: "I beg you to remove all references to Hadley Cantril and Dr. Gallup... Dr. Gallup was and still is, a great friend of England. What you have written would cause him anguish - and damage. One does not want to damage one's friends... In subsequently years Hadley Cantril has done a vast amount of secret polling for the United States Government. What you have written would compromise him - and SIS (MI6) does not make a practice of compromising its friends."

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Michael Faraday

In 1933 Harper's Magazine published an article stating: "At no period of Michael Faraday's unmatched career was he interested in utility. He was absorbed in disentangling the riddles of the universe, at first chemical riddles, in later periods, physical riddles. As far as he cared, the question of utility was never raised. Any suspicion of utility would have restricted his restless curiosity. In the end, utility resulted, but it was never a criterion to which his ceaseless experimentation could be subjected." William Ewart Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, once asked Michael Faraday about the practical worth of electricity. He said he did not know but "there is every probability that you will soon be able to tax it!"

Ivar Bryce

Ivar Bryce joined with Ernest Cuneo and a group of investors, including Ian Fleming, to gain control of the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA). Andrew Lycett has pointed out: "With the arrival of television, its star had begun to wane. Advised by Ernie Cuneo, who told him it was a sure way to meet anyone he wanted, Ivar stepped in and bought control. He appointed the shrewd Cuneo to oversee the American end of things... and Fleming was brought on board to offer a professional newspaperman's advice." Fleming was appointed European vice-president, with a salary of £1,500 a year. He persuaded James Gomer Berry, 1st Viscount Kemsley, that The Sunday Times should work closely with NANA. He also organized a deal with The Daily Express, owned by Lord Beaverbrook.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Fanny Eugene Simkin and the lost children

As a young boy I remember being taken to see Aunt Ginnie by my dad. I was told that I should feel sorry for her as she had never been married and did not have any other family. Ginnie was the sister of my dad’s father who had been killed in the First World War. As she was all alone she became part of the family and Stella, my mum’s sister, used to invite her to her home for Christmas. According to Stella, Ginnie spent most of the time sleeping in the armchair or talking about her time working as a live-in servant. Ginny eventually died aged 79 in 1957.

Recently, my brother, David Simkin, has been researching our family history. In the 1911 census he discovered that our grandfather, John Edward Simkin, was living in the home of Aunt Ginnie. However, her name was Fanny Eugene Frost. In other words she lied about never being married. Further research by Christine Trott discovered the Ginnie was the mother of seven children. What is more, they were all living close to their mother in the last few years of their life. Why did lie about never being married? Why did she lose contact with her seven children?

Further research by David indicated that Ginnie’s husband, Thomas Edward Frost, was killed in Italy in the final days of the First World War and is buried at the Faenza Communal Cemetery. War widow’s was poorly treated after the war and even they managed to deal with the officialdom needed to get a pension, the maximum was half of their husband’s earnings before the war. For many women, her husband’s death condemned her to a life of poverty. Did Ginnie desert her children and become a live-in servant? If so, she seems to have completely whipped out all memories of her former life as a mother of seven children. In doing so, she never enjoyed the pleasures of being a grandmother (records show that she had 17 grandchildren).

Thursday, 21 June 2012

QR Codes

QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes. They have been around for a while, but it wasn’t until smartphones became the norm that they have really taken off as a marketing tool. QR Codes solve the problem of asking your audience to type long or complex URLs and web addresses into the tiny keypads on their phones – you can easily point them to the information you want them to see, when you want them to see it.

Monday, 4 June 2012

John F. Kennedy and Ian Fleming

In March 1960, Henry Brandon contacted Marion Leiter who arranged for Ian Fleming to have dinner with John F. Kennedy. The author of The Life of Ian Fleming (1966), John Pearson, has pointed out: "During the dinner the talk largely concerned itself with the more arcane aspects of American politics and Fleming was attentive but subdued. But with coffee and the entrance of Castro into the conversation he intervened in his most engaging style. Cuba was already high on the headache list of Washington politicians, and another of those what’s to-be-done conversations got underway. Fleming laughed ironically and began to develop the theme that the United States was making altogether too much fuss about Castro – they were building him into a world figure, inflating him instead of deflating him. It would be perfectly simple to apply one or two ideas which would take all the steam out of the Cuban." Kennedy asked him what would James Bond do about Fidel Castro. Fleming replied, “Ridicule, chiefly.” Kennedy must have passed the message to the CIA for on as the following day Brandon received a phone-call from Allen Dulles, asking for a meeting with Fleming.
Kennedy was a fan of Fleming's books. In March 1961, Hugh Sidey, published an article in Life Magazine, on President Kennedy's top ten favourite books. It was a list designed to show that Kennedy was both well-read and in tune with popular taste. It included Fleming's From Russia With Love. Up until this time, Fleming's books had not sold well in the United States, but with Kennedy's endorsement, his publishers decided to mount a major advertising campaign to promote his books. By the end of the year Fleming had become the largest-selling thriller writer in the United States.

This publicity resulted in Fleming signed a film deal with the producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Dr No, starring Sean Connery, opened in the autumn of 1962 and was an immediate box-office success. As soon as it was released Kennedy demanded a showing in his private cinema in the White House.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Death of Hugh Gaitskell and Ian Fleming

Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party, died at the Middlesex Hospital, London, of the rare disease lupus erythematosus, on 18th January 1963. He was replaced as leader of the Labour Party by his long time enemy, Harold Wilson. Some members of MI5 believed that Wilson was a Soviet agent. Anatoli Golitsyn also told them that Gaitskell had been poisoned by the KGB.

A senior figure in MI5, Peter Wright, explained in his biography Spycatcher:

Much has been written about Harold Wilson and MI5, some of it wildly inaccurate. But as far as I am concerned, the story started with the premature death of Hugh Gaitskell in 1963. Gaitskell was Wilson's predecessor as Leader of the Labour Party. I knew him personally and admired him greatly. I had met him and his family at the Blackwater Sailing Club, and I recall about a month before he died he told me that he was going to Russia.


After he died his doctor got in touch with MI5 and asked to see somebody from the Service. Arthur Martin, as the head of Russian Counterespionage, went to see him. The doctor explained that he was disturbed by the manner of Gaitskell's death. He said that Gaitskell had died of a disease called lupus disseminata, which attacks the body's organs. He said that it was rare in temperate climates and that there was no evidence that Gaitskell had been anywhere recently where he could have contracted the disease.

Arthur Martin suggested that I should go to Porton Down, the chemical and microbiological laboratory for the Ministry of Defense. I went to see the chief doctor in the chemical warfare laboratory. Dr. Ladell, and asked his advice. He said that nobody knew how one contracted lupus. There was some suspicion that it might be a form of fungus and he did hot have the foggiest idea how one would infect somebody with the disease. I came back and made my report in these terms.

The next development was that Golitsin told us quite independently that during the last few years of his service he had had some contacts with Department 13, which was known as the Department of Wet Affairs in the KGB. This department was responsible for organizing assassinations. He said that just before he left he knew that the KGB were planning a high-level political assassination in Europe in order to get their man into the top place. He did not know which country it was planned in but he pointed out that the chief of Department 13 was a man called General Rodin, who had been in Britain for many years and had just returned on promotion to take up the job, so he would have had good knowledge of the political scene in England.

There is in fact another possibility. Gaitskell was having an affair with Anne Fleming, the wife of Ian Fleming. Had the novelist used his contacts in the SIS to kill Gaitskell? Was Peter Wright's story part of a cover-up.

Interestingly, in 1968 Wright became involved with Cecil King, the publisher of the Daily Mirror, in a plot to bring down Wilson's government and replace it with a coalition led by Lord Mountbatten.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Oscar Wilde and the real Dorian Gray

In 1889 Oscar Wilde met twenty-three year old poet, John Gray. He immediately fell in love with Gray. Wilde later described him as being: "Wonderfully handsome, with his finely-curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth's passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world." A mutual friend, Lionel Johnson, said that he had the "face of a fifteen" year-old boy. George Bernard Shaw recalled that he was "one of the more abject of Wilde's disciples".

Wilde decided to write a story that would revive a debate that he had with James McNeill Whistler, four years earlier. Wilde had argued that poetry and prose were superior to painting and sculpture because the writer could make use of all experience rather than a part: "The statue is concerned in one moment of perfection. The image stained upon the canvas possesses no spiritual element of growth or change. If they know nothing of death, it is because they know little of life, for the secrets of life belong to those, and those only, whom the sequence of time affects, and who possess not merely the present but the future, and can rise or fall from a past of glory or of shame. Movement, that problem of the visible arts, can be truly realised by Literature alone."

Wilde also wanted to challenge the new naturalism movement that was headed by the novelist Émile Zola. Wilde argued: "Zola's characters have their dreary vices, and their still drearier virtues. The record of their lives is absolutely without interest. Who cares what happens to them? In literature we require distinction, charm, beauty and imaginative power. We don't want to be harrowed and disgusted with an account of the doings of the lower orders." He suggested that "the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of art".

The Picture of Dorian Gray appeared in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20th June 1890. The story tells of a young man named Dorian Gray (John Gray), who is being painted by Basil Hallward. The artist is fascinated by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him. Lord Henry Wotton meets Dorian at Hallward's studio. Espousing a new hedonism, Wotton suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses.

When Dorian Gray sees the portrait he remarks: "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day in June... If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that - for that - I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!" In the story Dorian's wish is fulfilled.

Richard Ellmann has argued: "To give the hero of his novel the name of Gray was a form of courtship. Wilde probably named his hero not to point to a model, but to flatter Gray by identifying him with Dorian. Gray took the hint, and in letters to Wilde signed himself Dorian. Their intimacy was common talk... Wilde and Gray were assumed to be lovers, and there seems no reason to doubt it." As a result some critics believed the book, named after his lover, promoted homosexuality. On 30th June, 1890 The Daily Chronicle suggested that Wilde's story contains "one element... which will taint every young mind that comes in contact with it."

The most hostile review came from Charles Whibley in The Scots Observer. "Why go grubbing in muck heaps? The world is fair, and the proportion of healthy-minded men and honest women to those that are foul, fallen and unnatural, is great. Mr Oscar Wilde has again been writing stuff that were better unwritten; and while The Picture of Dorian Gray, which he contributes to Lippincott's is ingenious, interesting, full of cleverness, and plainly the work of a man of letters, it is false art - for its interest is medico-legal; it is false to human nature - for its hero is a devil; it is false to morality - for it is not made sufficiently clear that the writer does not prefer a course of unnatural iniquity to a life of cleanliness, health and sanity. The story which deals with matters fitted only for the Criminal Investigation Department or a hearing in camera is discreditable alike to author and editor. Mr Wilde has brains, and art, and style; but if he can write for none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph-boys, the sooner he takes to tailoring (or some other decent trade) the better for his own reputation and the public morals."

Whibley's comments about "outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph-boys" was a reference to the so-called Cleveland Street scandal. This was particularly offensive to Wilde. The scandal involved Arthur Somerset, the son of the 8th Duke of Beaufort and the Henry James FitzRoy, the son of the 7th Duke of Grafton, who were said to have frequented a homosexual brothel off the Tottenham Court Road. According to Harford Montgomery Hyde, the author of Oscar Wilde (1975), this was "where telegraph-boys from the General Post Office were able to earn additional money by going to bed with the Cleveland Street establishment's aristocratic customers." Wilde saw this as an attempt to link him with a homosexual scandal.

Wilde wrote to William Ernest Henley, the editor of the newspaper: "Your reviewer suggests that I do not make it sufficiently clear whether I prefer virtue to wickedness or wickedness to virtue. An artist, sir, has no ethical sympathies at all. Virtue and wickedness are to him simply what the colours on his palette are to the painter. They are no more, and they are no less. He sees that by their means a certain artistic effect can be produced and he produces it. Iago may be morally horrible and Imogen stainlessly pure. Shakespeare, as Keats said, had as much delight in creating the one as he had in creating the other."

Wilde was concerned by the suggestions that he was trying to promote an illegal act. He decided to turn the short-story into a novel by adding six chapters. He also took the opportunity to remove some of the passages that indicated that The Picture of Dorian Gray was about homosexual love. Wilde also added a Preface that was a series of aphorisms that attempted to answer some of the criticisms of the original story. This included: "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written."

Wilde also used the Preface to attack the naturalism movement: "No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style... No artist is ever morbid... Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril... The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim."

You can see a picture of John Gray here:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Claire Tomalin

Anthony Howard took over from Richard Crossman as editor of New Statesman in 1972. Soon afterwards Claire Tomalin was appointed as literary editor of the journal. "I was happy to inherit the best established contributors, but I wanted to make something new, and I looked for younger writers." This included Neal Ascherson, Paul Theroux, Clive James, Alan Ryan, Shiva Naipaul, Jonathan Raban, Alison Lurie, Julian Mitchell, Hilary Spurling, Marina Warner, Timothy Mo and Victoria Glendinning. Tomalin was especially impressed with Martin Amiss. "Amis was a contributor and then my assistant. His first novel made me laugh with pleasure at its high spirits, and because he had that rare thing, a voice of his own, not borrowed from anyone else. His speech was unmistakable too, the deep smoker's voice coming as a surprise from his slight frame. He had the presence of a star already. Sure of himself and sure of his taste, he was rude about what he didn't admire, as assured as the most arrogant young Oxbridge don."

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Ellen Ternan and Charles Dickens

1857 Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens wrote The Frozen Deep. The inspiration for the play came from the expedition led by Rear-Admiral John Franklin in 1845 to find the North-West Passage. Dickens offered to arrange its first production in his own home, Tavistock House. Dickens also wanted to play the part of the hero, Richard Wardour, who after struggling against jealousy and murderous impulses, sacrifices his life to rescue his rival in love.

Dickens, who grew a beard for the role, also gave parts to three of his children, Charles Culliford Dickens, Kate Dickens, Mamie Dickens and his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth. Dickens later recalled that taking part in the play was "like writing a book in company... a satisfaction of a most singular kind, which had no exact parallel in my life". Dickens invited the theatre critic from The Times to attend the first production on 6th January, 1857 in the converted schoolroom. He was very impressed and praised Kate for her "fascinating simplicity", Mamie for her "dramatic instinct" and Georgina for her "refined vivacity".

The star of the play was Charles Dickens, who showed he could have had a career as a professional actor. One critic, John Oxenford, said that "his appeal to the imagination of the audience, which conveyed the sense of Wardour's complex and powerful inner life, suggests the support of some strong irrational force". The Athenaeum declared that Dicken's acting "might open a new era for the stage". William Makepeace Thackeray, who also saw the production, remarked: "If that man (Dickens) would go upon the stage he would make £20,000 a year."

The temporary theatre held a maximum audience of twenty-five, four performances were given. A private command performance, with the same cast, was also given for Queen Victoria and her family on 4th July and three public benefit performances were given in London in order to raise money for the widow of Dickens's friend, Douglas Jerrold.

Dickens approached his friend, the actor and playwright, Alfred Wigan, about putting on a production of The Frozen Deep in Manchester. This time Dickens wanted the women to be played by professional actresses. Wigan suggested the names of Frances Jarman and her three daughters. The play was given three performances in the Free Trade Hall with Ellen playing the part that was originally performed by Kate Dickens. During the production Dickens fell in love with the eighteen-year-old Ellen Ternan.

The author of The Invisible Woman (1990) has argued: "A bright, penniless girl of eighteen who found herself admired by a rich older man had good reason to be excited. The role laid down by her society were suddenly reversed: having been always powerless, she now began to be in command. In Nelly's case the man she might command was also brilliant and famous, a charming and entertaining companion, and in a position to transform her life, which in any case held few counter-attractions." Dickens wrote to Wilkie Collins claiming that "there never was a man so seized and rended by one spirit".

Two months later Dickens moved out of the master bedroom and now slept alone in a single bed. At the same time he wrote to Emile De La Rue in Genoa, saying that Catherine was insanely jealous of his friendships and that she was unable to get on with her children. He wrote to other friends complaining of Catherine's "weaknesses and jealousies" and that she was suffering from a "confused mind".

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Charles Dickens in America

By 1842 Charles Dickens was an extremely popular writer in America. The public had read Oliver Twist (1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1839) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840) in large numbers. The New York Herald Tribune explained why he was so popular: "His mind is American - his soul is republican - his heart is democratic." Despite the high sales of his novels, Dickens did not receive any payment for his work as the country did not abide by international copyright rules. He decided to travel to America in order to put his case for copyright reform.

His publishers, Chapman and Hall, offered to help fund the trip. It was agreed they would pay him £150 a month and that when he returned they would publish the book on the visit, American Notes for General Circulation. Dickens would then receive £200 for each monthly installment. At first, Catherine refused to go to America with her husband. Dickens told his publisher, William Hall: "I can't persuade Mrs. Dickens to go, and leave the children at home; or let me go alone." According to Lillian Nayder, the author of The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth (2011), their friend, the actor, William Macready, persuaded her "that she owed her first duty to her husband and that she could and must leave the children behind."

Dickens and his wife left on The Britannia from Liverpool on 4th January, 1842. Their ship was a wooden paddle steamer designed for 115 passengers. The Atlantic crossing turned out to be one of the worst the ship's officers had ever known. During one storm the smokestack had to be lashed with chains to stop it being blown over and setting fire to the desks. When they approached Halifax in Nova Scotia, the ship ran aground and they had for the rising tide to release them from the rocks. Catherine Dickens wrote to her sister-in-law: "I was nearly distracted with terror and don't know what I should have done had it not been for the great kindness and composure of my dear Charles."

The ship arrived in Boston on 22nd January. Dickens was impressed with the city and especially liked the "elegant white wooden houses, prim, varnished churches and chapels, and handsome public buildings." Dickens also observed that there were no beggars and approved of its state-funded welfare institutions. Charles Sumner, a young radical republican, gave him a tour of the city. The two men became close friends and Dickens approved of Sumner's strong anti-slavery views. Dickens visited the Asylum for the Blind, the House of Industry for the Indigent, the School for Neglected Boys, the Reformatory for Juvenile Offenders and the House of Correction for the State, and found them models of their kind.

Dickens was introduced to the writer, Richard Dana, who described Dickens as "the cleverest man I ever met." Dickens wrote that "there never was a King or Emperor upon the Earth so cheered, and followed by crowds and waited on by public bodies and deputations of all kinds." He found it impossible to go out for his usual daily walk as people "tried to snip bits off his fur coat and asked for locks of his hair".

Many people commented on Dickens's appearance. Peter Ackroyd has argued in Dickens (1990): "They noticed his shortness, his quick and expressive eyes, the lines around his mouth, the large ears, and the odd fact that when he spoke his facial muscles slightly drew up the left side of his upper lip... as well as the long flowing hair falling on either side of his face." The writer, Washington Irving argued that he was "outrageously vulgar - in dress, manners and mind." One woman described him as "rather thick set, and wears entirely too much jewellery, very English in his appearance and not the best English". Another commented that he had "a dissipated looking mouth with a vulgar draw to it, a muddy olive complexion, stubby fingers... a hearty, off-hand manner, far from well-bred, and a rapid, dashing way of talking."

After leaving Boston he visited Worcester, Springfield and Hartford. At a public meeting he complained about the pirated copies of his work being distributed in the country. The local newspaper was not sympathetic to his opinions and took the view that he should be pleased and grateful with his popularity. Later he issued a statement saying that he intended to refuse to enter into any further negotiation of any kind with American publishers as long as there was no international copyright agreement. This was a decision that was to cost him dearly.

Dickens also visited Philadelphia where he met Edgar Allan Poe. Dickens also liked Cincinnati, "a very beautiful city: I think the prettiest place I have seen here, except Boston... it is well laid out; ornamented in the suburbs with pretty villas." He then moved on to New York City. On 14th February, 1842, over 3,000 people attended a dinner in his honour. He sent his friend Daniel Maclise the Bill of Fare, which included 50,000 oysters, 10,000 sandwiches, 40 hams, 50 jellied turkeys, 350 quarts of jelly and 300 quarts of ice cream. At another dinner, organised by Washington Irving, he raised once more the subject of international copyright.

Dickens wrote to John Forster on 6th March: "The institutions at Boston, and at Hartford, are most admirable. It would be very difficult indeed to improve upon them. But that is not so at New York; where there is an ill-managed lunatic asylum, a bad jail, a dismal workhouse, and a perfectly intolerable place of police-imprisonment. A man is found drunk in the streets, and is thrown into a cell below the surface of the earth... If he die (as one man did not long ago) he is half eaten by the rats in an hour's time (as this man was)."

In Washington Dickens had a meeting with President John Tyler who had recently replaced William Henry Harrison who had died in office. Dickens was unimpressed with Tyler who was known as "His Accidency". Tyler commented on Dickens's youthful appearance. Dickens thought of returning the compliment but "he looked so jaded, that it stuck in my throat". Dickens found Tyler so uninteresting he declined the invitation to dine with him at the White House. However, he did time with Henry Clay who he described as "a fine fellow, who has won my heart".

Dickens found the habit of spitting out gobs of chewed tobacco on the floor, common with American men, "the most sickening, beastly, and abominable custom that ever civilization saw". In a letter to Forster he described a train journey where he encountered the habit: "The flashes of saliva flew so perpetually and incessantly out of the windows all the way, that it looked as though they were ripping open feather-beds inside, and letting the wind dispose of the feathers. But this spitting is universal... There are spit-boxes in every steamboat, bar-room, public dinning-room, house of office, the place of general resort, no matter what it be.... I have twice seen gentlemen, at evening parties in New York, turn aside when they were not engaged in conversation, and spit upon the drawing-room carpet. And in every bar-room and hotel passage the stone floor looks as if it were paved with open oysters - from the quantity of this kind of deposit which tessellates it all over."

Dickens took a stagecoach in Ohio: "The coach flung us in a heap on its floor, and now crushed our heads against its roof... Still, the day was beautiful, the air delicious, and we were alone: with no tobacco spittle, or eternal prosy conversation about dollars and politics... to bore us." He also met some members of the Wyandot tribe. He thought them "a fine people, but degraded and broken down".

Dickens wrote to John Forster: "Catherine really has made a most admirable traveller in every respect. She has never screamed or expressed alarm under circumstances that would have fully justified her in doing so, even in my eyes; has never given way to despondency or fatigue, though we have now been travelling incessantly, through a very rough country... and have been at times... most thoroughly tired; has always accommodated herself, well and cheerfully, to everything; and has pleased me very much."

Dickens was disappointed by what he found in America. He told his friend, William Macready: "This is not the Republic I came to see. This is not the Republic of my imagination. I infinitely prefer a liberal Monarchy... to such a Government as this. In every respect but that of National Education, the country disappoints me. The more I think of its youth and strength, the poorer and more trifling in a thousand respects, it appears in my eyes." He wrote to Forster complaining: "I don't like the country. I would not live here, on any consideration. It goes against the grain with me. It would with you. I think it impossible, utterly impossible, for any Englishman to live here, and be happy."

At the end of March they visited Niagara Falls. Dickens commented: "It would be hard for a man to stand nearer to God than he does there." He was less impressed with Toronto where he disapproved of "its wild and rabid Toryism". He also spent time in Montreal and Quebec before travelling back to New York City where he got to the boat to Liverpool. Dickens arrived back in London on 29th June, 1842.

American Notes for General Circulation was published by Chapman and Hall on 19th October, 1842. Thomas Babington Macaulay, who considered Dickens a genius, refused to review it for The Edinburgh Review, because "I cannot praise it... What is meant to be easy and sprightly is vulgar and flippant... what is meant to be fine is a great deal too fine for me, as in the description of the fall of Niagara." The book received mixed reviews but sold fairly well and made Dickens £1,000 in royalties.

The book was heavily criticised by the American critics. The New York Herald Tribune called the book the work of "the most coarse, vulgar, impudent and superficial mind" They especially disliked the chapter devoted to an attack on slavery. His friend, Edgar Allan Poe, described it as "one of the most suicidal productions, ever deliberately published by an author." In the last chapter of the book Dickens complained of the viciousness of the American press and the lack of moral sense among people who prized smartness above goodness. Despite these criticisms, the pirated copies of the book sold very well. In the two days following its publication in New York City, it is reported that over 50,000 copies were purchased. Booksellers in Philadelphia claimed that they sold 3,000 in the first 30 minutes of it becoming available.

Although Dickens was now a very successful novelist, he continued to be interested in social reform. Dickens also decided to invest some of his royalties in a new radical newspaper, The Daily News. Dickens became editor and in the first edition published on 21st January 1846, he wrote: "The principles advocated in The Daily News will be principles of progress and improvement; of education, civil and religious liberty, and equal legislation."

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Robert Seymour, Hablot Knight Browne and Charles Dickens

Robert Seymour was an illustrator who specialised in sporting scenes. In 1835 Chapman and Hall published a successful collection of his illustrations, Squib Annual of Poetry, Politics, and Personalities. The following year, Seymour suggested to William Hall, that he should publish in shilling monthly parts a record of the exploits of a group of Cockney sportsman. Hall approached Charles Whitehead to provide the words. He had just been appointed as editor of the Library of Fiction and was to busy to take up the offer. Whitehead suggested he should approach Charles Dickens about taking on this work.

Hall offered Dickens £14 for each monthly episode and added that the fee might rise if the series did well. John R. Harvey, the author of Victorian Novelists and their Illustrators (1970), has argued: "Dickens, however, had no intention of writing up anyone else's pictures. When the Seymour plan was put to him, he insisted that he should write his own story and Seymour should illustrate that." Dickens already had an idea for a comic character, Samuel Pickwick, a rich, retired businessman with a taste for good food and a tendency to drink too much. He was based on Moses Pickwick, a coach proprietor from Bath, a man whose coaches he used while working as a journalist. The first number appeared in March 1836. It came in green wrappers, with 32 pages of print material and 4 engravings, and priced at one shilling. The publishers sold only 400 copies of the first part of the project.

On his return from honeymoon Dickens began work on the second episode of The Pickwick Papers. On the 18th April he had a meeting with Robert Seymour. According to Peter Ackroyd: "Dickens asserted his proprietor rights over their venture by suggesting that Seymour alter one of his illustrations - a task which Seymour, no doubt against his wishes, carried out... Two days later, Seymour went into the summer-house of his garden in Islington, set up his gun with a string on its trigger, and shot himself through the head. He was, like many illustrators, a melancholy and some ways thwarted man. It has been suggested that Dickens's request to change the illustration was one of the causes of his suicide, but this is most unlikely. Seymour was used to the imperatives of professional life, and it seems that it was essentially anxiety and overwork which eventually killed him."

Dickens suggested that Hablot Knight Browne should be the new illustrator. As his biographer, Robert L. Patten, has pointed out: "Dickens recommended Browne for the position. Though the author was an exacting taskmaster, Browne supplied everything Dickens needed in an illustrator. He was a skilled and rapid designer, co-operative, witty, and self-effacing." John R. Harvey, the author of Victorian Novelists and their Illustrators (1970) has argued: "Hablot Knight Browne, was younger than Dickens, little-known, and pliable; and the collaboration was harmonious and happy."

After Dickens's introduced the character of Sam Weller, in the fourth episode of The Pickwick Papers, sales increased dramatically. Weller, the main character's valet, has been described as "a compound of wit, simplicity, quaint humour, and fidelity, who may be regarded as an embodiment of London low life in its most agreeable and entertaining form."

The illustrations by Browne were also helping to sell Dickens work. It was the etchings which were displayed in the windows of booksellers. Henry Vizetelly, later recorded in his autobiography, Glances Back Through Seventy Years (1893): "Pickwick was then (in 1836) appearing in its green monthly numbers, and no sooner was a new number published than needy admirers flattened their noses against the bookseller's windows, eager to secure a good look at the etchings, and peruse every line of the letterpress that might be exposed to view, frequently reading it aloud to applauding bystanders." By the end of the series it was selling over 40,000 copies a month.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Mary Scott Hogarth

I recently carried out a search for "Mary Hogarth" and discovered that there is a fair amount of comment about the possibility that Mary Hogarth was murdered on 7th May, 1837. Although it was an unexpected death, I can find no possible evidence that the 17 year-old girl was murdered. I suspect the confusion has arisen because of a passage in Peter Ackroyd's book, Dickens (1990): "His (Dickens) grief was so intense, in fact, that it represented the most powerful sense of loss and pain he was ever to experience. The deaths of his own parents and children were not to affect him half so much and in his mood of obsessive pain, amounting almost to hysteria, one senses the essential strangeness of the man... It has been surmised that all along Dickens had felt a passionate attachment for her and that her death seemed to him some form of retribution for his unannounced sexual desire - that he had, in a sense, killed her."

Although she was not murdered, it is an interesting story. Mary Scott Hogarth, who was born in Edinburgh in 1819, was the sister of Catherine Hogarth, who married Charles Dickens on 2nd April, 1836 at Lukes Church, Chelsea. After a wedding breakfast at her parents, they went on honeymoon to the village of Chalk, near Gravesend. Dickens wanted to show Catherine the countryside of his childhood. However, he discovered that his wife did not share his passion for long, fast walks. As one biographer put it: "Writing was necessarily his primary occupation, and hers must be to please him as best she could within the limitations of her energy: writing desk and walking boots for him, sofa and domesticity for her."

The couple lived in Furnival's Inn where Dickens had rented three rooms. Mary moved in with them when the arrived back after their honeymoon. She stayed for a month but friends said that she always seemed be with Catherine in her new home. Dickens later wrote: "From the day of our marriage, the dear girl had been the grace and life of our home, our constant companion, and the sharer of all our little pleasures."

Catherine Dickens had her first child, Charles Culliford Dickens, in January, 1837. She had difficulty feeding the baby and gave up trying. A wet nurse was found but Mary believed that her sister was suffering from depression: "Every time she (Catherine) sees her baby she has a fit of crying and keeps constantly saying she is sure he (Charles Dickens) will not care for her now she is not able to nurse him."

Dickens now travelled around London with Mary to find a new home. On 18th March he made an offer for 48 Doughty Street. After agreeing to a rent of £80 a year, they moved in two weeks later. Situated in a private road with a gateway and porter at each end. It had twelve rooms on four floors. Mary had one of the bedrooms on the second floor. Dickens employed a cook, a housemaid, a nurse, and later, a manservant.

On 6th May, 1837, Charles, Catherine and Mary went to the St James's Theatre to see the play, Is She His Wife? They went to bed at about one in the morning. Mary went to her room but, before she could undress, gave a cry and collapsed. A doctor was called but was unable to help. Dickens later recalled: "Mary... died in such a calm and gentle sleep, that although I had held her in my arms for some time before, when she was certainly living (for she swallowed a little brandy from my hand) I continued to support her lifeless form, long after her soul had fled to Heaven. This was about three o'clock on the Sunday afternoon." Dickens later recalled: "Thank God she died in my arms and the very last words she whispered were of me." The doctor who treated her believed that she must have had undiagnosed heart problems. Catherine was so shocked by the death of her younger sister that she suffered a miscarriage a few days later.

Charles Dickens cut off a lock of Mary's hair and kept it in a special case. He also took a ring off her finger and put it on his own, and there it stayed for the rest of his life. Dickens also expressed a wish to be buried with her in the same grave. He also kept all of Mary's clothes and said a couple of years later that "they will moulder away in their secret places". Dickens wrote that he consoled himself "above all... by the thought of one day joining her again where sorrow and separation are unknown". He was so upset by Mary's death that for the first and last time in his life he missed his deadlines and the episodes of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist which were supposed to be written during that month were postponed.

Dickens told his friend, Thomas Beard: "So perfect a creature never breathed. I knew her inmost heart, and her real worth and values. She had not a fault." He told other friend that "every night she appeared in his dreams". Michael Slater, the author of Charles Dickens: A life Defined by Writing(2011) has suggested: "It was the third great emotional crisis of his life, following the blacking factory experience and the Beadnell affair, and one that profoundly influenced him as an artist as well as a man."

In 1841 Mary's brother, George Hogarth, died suddenly. It was decided that he should be buried in the same grave as his sister. Charles Dickens was intensely distressed by the news and told John Forster that "it seems like losing her for a second time".

Monday, 19 March 2012

John Stuart Mill

After the death of John Taylor in 1849, John Stuart Mill married Harriet Taylor. A few months after the wedding the Westminster Review published The Enfranchisement of Women. Although the article had been mainly written by Taylor, it appeared under John Stuart Mill's name. The same happened with the publication of an article in the Morning Chronicle (28th August, 1851) where they advocated new laws to protect women from violent husbands. A letter written by Mill in 1854 suggests that Harriet Taylor was reluctant to be described as joint author of Mill's books and articles. "I shall never be satisfied unless you allow our best book, the book which is to come, to have our two names on the title page. It ought to be so with everything I publish, for the better half of it all is yours".

Friday, 16 March 2012

Charles Dickens: The Making of a Novelist

Sigmund Freud argued that to fully understand an artist you need to examine his childhood. Not that Freud was terribly sympathetic to artists. According to Freud they were “people who had no occasion to submit their inner life to the strict control of reason” - i.e. immature and narcissist individuals. Whereas adults satisfied their erotic urges in private imagination, the artist flaunted his in public fantasies.

One of the personality traits evident in any great artist is their tremendous energy levels. This is combined with a passionate self-belief in what they are doing that they are capable of accepting constant rejection. According to Freud, this energy is a result of the repression (pushing conflicts back into the unconscious) and sublimation (the artist channelled the sexual drive into the achievement socially acceptable goals). In other words, it is only the unhappy neurotic who becomes a great artist. This is something that is definitely true of Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens, the son of John Dickens and Elizabeth Dickens, was born at 13 Mile End Terrace (now 393 Old Commercial Road), Landport, just outside the old town of Portsmouth, on 7th February 1812.

John Dickens was the son of William Dickens and Elizabeth Ball Dickens. His parents were servants in the household of John Crewe, a large landowner in Cheshire with a house in Mayfair. William Dickens, recently promoted to the post of butler, died just before his son was born. His mother continued to work as a servant at Crewe Hall.

John Crewe was the member of the House of Commons for Cheshire. His wife, Frances Crewe was a leading supporter of the Whig Party and regular visitors to Crewe Hall included leading politicians, Charles James Fox, Augustus FitzRoy and Edmund Burke. They also hosted artists and writers such as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Charles Burney, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Sarah Burney and Hester Thrale. During this period Frances became the mistress of Sheridan, the country's leading playwright. He dedicated his most famous play, The School for Scandal, to her in 1777.

John Dickens was treated very well by the Crewe family. He was allowed to use the family library and in April 1805 was appointed to the Navy Pay Office in London. The Treasurer of the Navy at this time was George Canning, a close friend of the Crewe family. The job came to Dickens through Canning's patronage, on which all such appointments depended. Claire Tomalin, the author of Dickens: A Life (2011): "John Dickens may have been the son of the elderly butler, but it is also possible that he had a different father - perhaps John Crewe, exercising his droit de seigneur, cheering himself up for his wife's infidelities, or another of the gentlemen who were regular guests at the Crewe residences. Or he may have believed that he was. His silence about his first twenty years, his habit of spending and borrowing and enjoying good things as though he were somehow entitled to do so, all suggest something of the kind, and harks back to the sort of behaviour he would have observed with dazzled eyes at Crewe Hall and in Mayfair."

Charles Dickens' mother, was the daughter of Charles Barrow, who worked as Chief Conductor of Monies at Somerset House in London. According to her friends she was a slim, energetic young woman who loved dancing. She had received a good education and appreciated music and books. Elizabeth had several brothers. John Barrow was a published novelist and poet. Edward Barrow was a journalist who married an artist. A third brother, Thomas Barrow, worked in the Navy Pay Office, where he met fellow worker, John Dickens. Elizabeth married Dickens at St Mary-le-Strand in June, 1809. The following year her father, Charles Barrow, was forced to leave the country, when it was discovered that he had been defrauding the government. A daughter, Fanny Dickens, was born the following year.

R. Shelton MacKenzie, the author of Life of Charles Dickens (1870) has pointed out: "Elizabeth Dickens... was tall and thin, with a wasp's waist, of which she was very vain... She was a good wife, very fond of her husband and devoted to her children... She has been described to me as having much resembled Mrs. Nickleby... in the charming inaccuracy of her memory and the curious insecutiveness of her conversation."

Charles Dickens later recalled that his mother was an amazing woman: "She possessed an extraordinary sense of the ludicrous, and her power of imitation was something quite astonishing. On entering a room she almost unconsciously took an inventory of its contents and if anything happened to strike her as out of place or ridiculous, she would afterwards describe it in the quaintest possible manner."

John Dickens continued to make progress at the Navy Pay Office. In 1809 he was promoted and given a salary of £110 a year. He almost certainly got this post because Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the Treasurer of the Navy, had been a supporter of his career. It has been speculated that Sheridan, the country's leading playwright, was Dickens' father.

Dickens was transferred to London and the family found lodgings in Cleveland Street. Dickens was now earning £200 a year. However, he always had trouble managing money. He liked to dress well, enjoyed entertaining friends and bought expensive books. Dickens was in debt and had to ask for loans from family and friends.

In April 1816, a fourth child, Letitia, was born. Seven months later John Dickens was sent by the Navy Pay Office to work at Chatham Dockyard. Dickens rented a house at 11 Ordnance Terrace. Charles Dickens remembers his father taking him aboard the old Navy yacht Chatham and sailing up the Medway to Sheerness, where he had to distribute wages to the workers. It has been claimed that "this landscape and the sludge-coloured tidal rivers haunted him and became part of the fabric of his late novels".

The salary of John Dickens continued to grow and by 1818 he was earning over £350 a year. He still could not manage and in 1819 he borrowed £200 from his brother-in-law, Thomas Barrow. When he did not pay the money back, he told him that he would not have him in his house again. The family finances were not helped by the birth of two more children, Harriet (1819) and Frederick (1819). John Dickens did earn a small amount of money from journalism. This included an article in The Times about a big fire that had taken place in Chatham.

While living in Chatham Charles and his sister Fanny Dickens attended a school for girls and boys in Rome Lane. In 1821 he went to a school run by the twenty-three William Giles, the son of a Baptist and himself a Dissenter. His friend, John Forster, has commented: "He (Charles Dickens) was a very little and a very sickly boy. He was subject to attacks of violent spasm which disabled him for any active exertion. He was never a good little cricket-player; he was never a first-rate hand at marbles, or peg-top, or prisoner's base; but he had great pleasure in watching the other boys, officers' sons for the most part, at these games, reading while they played; and he had always the belief that this early sickness had brought to himself one inestimable advantage, in the circumstance of his weak health having strongly inclined him to reading."

Dickens was given access to his father's collection of books: "My father had left a small collection of books in a little room upstairs to which I had access (for it adjoined my own), and which nobody else in our house ever troubled. From that blessed little room, Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas and Robinson Crusoe came out, a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time - they, and the Arabian Nights, and the Tales of the Genii - and did me no harm; for, whatever harm was in some of them, was not there for me."

In 1822 John Dickens returned to work at Somerset House in London and the family moved to Camden Town. Here he met and became friendly with a fellow worker, Charles Dilke. The following year, Fanny Dickens was awarded a place at the Royal Academy of Music in Hanover Square. She was to study the piano with Ignaz Moscheles, a former pupil of Ludwig van Beethoven. The fees were thirty-eight guineas a year, an expense that they family could not really afford.

Claire Tomalin, the author of Dickens: A Life (2011), has argued: "Dickens maintained that he never felt any jealousy of what was done for her, he could not help but be aware of the contrast between his position and hers, and of their parents' readiness to pay handsome fees for her education, and nothing for his. It is such a reversal of the usual family situation, where only the education of the boys is taken seriously, that the Dickens parents at least deserve some credit for making sure Fanny had a professional training, although none for their neglect of her brother." Dickens' friend, John Forster, commented: "What a stab to his heart it was, thinking of his own disregarded condition, to see her go away to begin her education, amid the tearful good wishes of everyone in the house."

Elizabeth Dickens thought that she could educate the rest of the children by starting her own school. She took a lease on a large house in Gower Street North. Charles helped his mother distribute circulars advertising the school. He later recalled: "I left, at a great many other doors, a great many circulars calling attention to the merits of the establishment. Yet nobody ever came to school, nor do I recollect that anybody ever proposed to come, or that the least preparation was made to receive anybody. But I know that we got on very badly with the butcher and baker; that very often we had not too much for dinner."

In February 1824, John Dickens was arrested for debt and sent to the Marshalsea Prison in Southwark. It has been estimated that over 30,000 people a year were arrested for debt during this period. The insolvent debtor was classed as a quasi-criminal and kept in prison until he could pay or could claim release under the Insolvent Debtors' Act.

Charles was used by his father as a messenger to carry his requests for help to family and friends. He already owed these people money and no one was willing to pay the money that would free him from captivity. Dickens later told John Forster: "My father was waiting for me in the lodge, and we went up to his room (on the top story but one), and cried very much. And he told me, I remember, to take warning by the Marshalsea, and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a year, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy; but that a shilling spent the other way would make him wretched. I see the fire we sat before now; with two bricks inside the rusted grate, one on each side, to prevent its burning too many coals."

Although only twelve years old, Charles was now considered the "man of the family" and was given the task of taking the books that he loved to a pawnbroker in the Hampstead Road. This was followed by items of furniture, until after a few weeks the house was almost empty. Peter Ackroyd has argued in Dickens (1990): "It was not so many years before that Dickens's maternal grandfather had absconded as an embezzler, and there were theories in this period concerning some inherited propensity towards crime as well as towards madness. It might have seemed to the young Dickens that this was indeed his true inheritance, which is perhaps why some critics have believed that Dickens's great contribution to the description of childhood lies in his depiction of infantile guilt."

A family friend, James Lamert, suggested to Elizabeth Dickens, that Charles should work in his uncle's blacking factory, that was based at a warehouse at 30 Hungerford Stairs. Warren's Blacking Factory, manufactured boot and shoe blacking. Lamert offered Charles the job of covering and labelling the pots of blacking. He would be paid six shillings a week and Lamert promised that he personally would give him lessons during his lunch hour to keep up his education. Charles was disappointed by his parents’ reaction to the offer: "My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge."

On Monday, 9th February, 1824, just two days after his twelfth birthday, he walked the three miles from Camden Town to the Warren's Blacking Factory. Charles Dickens later recalled: "The blacking warehouse was the last house on the left-hand side of the way, at old Hungerford Stairs. It was a crazy, tumbledown old house, abutting of course on the river, and literally overrun with rats. Its wainscotted rooms and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rise up visibly before me, as if I were there again. The counting-house was on the first floor, looking over the coal-barges and the river. There was a recess in it, in which I was to sit and work. My work was to cover the pots of paste-blacking; first with a piece of oil-paper, and then with a piece of blue paper; to tie them round with a string; and then to clip the paper close and neat, all round, until it looked as smart as a pot of ointment from an apothecary's shop. When a certain number of grosses of pots had attained this pitch of perfection, I was to paste on each a printed label; and then go on again with more pots. Two or three other boys were kept at similar duty downstairs on similar wages. One of them came up, in a ragged apron and a paper cap, on the first Monday morning, to show me the trick of using the string and tying the knot. His name was Bob Fagin."

Charles Dickens took lodgings in Little College Street in Camden Town. Mrs Royance took in the children cheaply and treated them accordingly. He had to share a room with two other boys. On Sundays he collected Fanny Dickens from the Royal Academy of Music and they went together to the Marshalsea Prison to spend the day with their parents. He told his father how much he hated being separated from the family all week, with nothing to return to each evening. As a result he was moved to another lodging house in Lant Street that was close to the prison and he was able to spend time with his parents every evening after work. At this time Dickens believed that his father would remain incarcerated until his death.

Charles Dickens later told John Forster about this period in his life: "I know I do not exaggerate, unconsciously and unintentionally, the scantiness of my resources and the difficulties of my life. I know that if a shilling or so were given me by any one, I spent it in a dinner or a tea. I know that I worked, from morning to night, with common men and boys, a shabby child. I know that I tried, but ineffectually, not to anticipate my money, and to make it last the week through; by putting it away in a drawer I had in the counting-house, wrapped into six little parcels, each parcel containing the same amount, and labelled with a different day. I know that I have lounged about the streets, insufficiently and unsatisfactorily fed. I know that, but for the mercy of God, I might easily have been, for any care that was taken of me, a little robber or a little vagabond... I suffered in secret, and that I suffered exquisitely, no one ever knew but I. How much I suffered, it is, as I have said already, utterly beyond my power to tell. No man's imagination can overstep the reality."

In April 1825, John Dickens' mother died. He inherited the sum of £450, and he was able to pay off his debts. This allowed him to petition for release from prison, and at the end of May he was discharged from Marshalsea Prison. The Naval Pay Office agreed to take Dickens back and although he was only 39 years old, he requested to be retired early with an invalid's pension because of "a chronic infection of the urinary organs". He was eventually granted a pension of £145.16s.8d. a year.

Despite the improvement in his financial circumstances, John Dickens expected his son to continue working at Warren's Blacking Factory. The business had moved to Chandos Street in Covent Garden where he worked by a window looking out on the street and where his humiliating drudgery was exposed to public view.

Charles Dickens health was still poor: "Bob Fagin was very good to me on the occasion of a bad attack of my old disorder. I suffered such excruciating pain that time, that they made a temporary bed of straw in my old recess in the counting-house, and I rolled about on the floor, and Bob filled empty blacking-bottles with hot water, and applied relays of them to my side, half the day. I got better, and quite easy towards evening; but Bob (who was much bigger and older than I) did not like the idea of my going home alone, and took me under his protection. I was too proud to let him know about the prison; and after making several efforts to get rid of him, to all of which Bob Fagin in his goodness was deaf, shook hands with him on the steps of a house near Southwark Bridge on the Surrey side, making believe that I lived there."

Dickens later wrote: "No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sunk into this companionship of common men and boys." Peter Ackroyd has argued in Dickens (1990): "Here one senses some imitation of his father's own projection of a genteel persona (it is clear enough how John Dickens's fear, stemming from the fact that he was so perilously hovering between classes, was transmitted to the son). It also tells us much about his instinctive reaction to the labouring poor, although it is one that would have been widely shared in his lifetime; the working classes were in a very real sense a race apart, a substratum of society which bred in those above them a fear of disease, a horror of uncleanliness and of course the dread of some kind of social revolution."

John Dickens and George Lamert were often in dispute: "My father and the relative so often mentioned quarrelled; quarrelled by letter, for I took the letter from my father to him which caused the explosion, but quarrelled very fiercely. It was about me. It may have had some backward reference, in part, for anything I know, to my employment at the window. All I am certain of is that, soon after I had given him the letter, my cousin (he was a sort of cousin, by marriage) told me he was very much insulted about me; and that it was impossible to keep me, after that. I cried very much, partly because it was so sudden, and partly because in his anger he was violent about my father, though gentle to me. Thomas, the old soldier, comforted me, and said he was sure it was for the best. With a relief so strange that it was like oppression, I went home."

However, Elizabeth Dickens wanted Charles to continue at the blacking factory. "My mother set herself to accommodate the quarrel, and did so next day. She brought home a request for me to return next morning, and a high character of me, which I am very sure I deserved. My father said I should go back no more, and should go to school. I do not write resentfully or angrily: for I know how all these things have worked together to make me what I am: but I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back. From that hour until this at which I write, no word of that part of my childhood which I have now gladly brought to a close, has passed my lips to any human being. I have no idea how long it lasted; whether for a year, or much more, or less. From that hour, until this, my father and my mother have been stricken dumb upon it. I have never heard the least allusion to it, however far off and remote, from either of them."

Andrew Sanders, the author of Authors in Context: Charles Dickens (2003), has pointed out: "Dickens, like his parents, was to remain almost completely silent about this dark but formative period in his life. Only in the 1840s was he privately prepared to record the painful details and to show them to his wife and to his friend, John Forster. It was Forster who published most of his self-pitying autobiographical fragment after the novelist's death. For the most part, Dickens's boyhood misery was translated into fiction. The memory of his months in the blacking-factory became part of a habit of secrecy. It may also be integral to Dickens's awareness of the significance of leading a double life, a doubleness so frequently practised by his later characters."

On the insistence of his father, John Dickens was sent to Wellington House Academy on Granby Terrace adjoining Mornington Crescent. Dickens passionately disliked the man who owned the school: "The respected proprietor of which was by far the most ignorant man I have ever had the pleasure to know, who was one of the worst-tempered men perhaps that ever lived, whose business it was to make as much out of us and to put as little into us as possible."

Owen P. Thomas was a fellow student at the school: "My recollection of Dickens whilst at school, is that of a healthy looking boy, small but well-built, with a more than usual flow of spirits, inducing to harmless fun, seldom or ever I think to mischief, to which so many lads at that age are prone.... He usually held his head more erect than lads ordinarily do, and there was a general smartness about him. His week-day dress of jacket and trousers, I can clearly remember, was what is called pepper-and-salt; and instead of the frill that most boys of his age wore then, he had a turn-down collar, so that he looked less youthful in consequence. He invented what we termed a lingo, produced by the addition of a few letters of the same sound to every word; and it was our ambition, walking and talking thus along the street, to be considered foreigners." Another boy pointed out: "He appeared always like a gentleman's son, rather aristocratic than otherwise."

At Wellington House Academy Dickens was taught traditional subjects such as Latin. Dickens did not distinguish himself as a scholar at the school. However, he did enjoy helping to produce the school newspaper. He also wrote and performed in plays. One boy at the school observed that "he was very fond of theatricals... and used to act little plays in the kitchen." He also spent a lot of time reading a sixteen-page weekly, The Terrific Register. He later recorded that the murder stories "frightened my very wits out of my head".

Dickens left the school in February 1827, when he was fifteen years of age. Once again John Dickens was deeply in debt. Fanny's fees at the Royal Academy of Music were so badly in arrears that she had to leave; but she showed such promise and determination that she was able to make an arrangement which allowed her to return and pay for her studies by taking on part-time teaching.

Elizabeth Dickens was able to arrange for her son to work as an office boy at the Ellis & Blackmore law firm in Gray's Inn. A fellow clerk, George Lear, described Dickens during this period: "His appearance was altogether prepossessing. He was a rather short but stout-built boy, and carried himself very upright - and the idea he gave me was that he must have been drilled by a military instructor... His complexion was a healthy pink - almost glowing - rather a round face, fine forehead, beautiful expressive eyes full of animation, a firmly-set mouth, a good-sized rather straight nose... His hair was a beautiful brown, and worn long, as was then the fashion."

Dickens was popular with the other clerks. Lear claimed that "Dickens could imitate, in a manner that I have never heard equalled, the low population of the streets of London in all their varieties, whether mere loafers or sellers of fruit, vegetables, or anything else.... He could also excel in mimicking the popular singers of the day, whether comic or patriotic; as to his acting he could give us Shakespeare by the ten minutes, and imitate all the leading actors of that time." According to Dickens: "I went to some theatre every night, with a very few exceptions, for at least three years: really studying the bills first, and going to see where there was the best acting... I practised immensely (even such things as walking in and out, and sitting down in a chair)."

In November 1828 Dickens went to work for another solicitor, Charles Molloy, in Chancery Lane, where he knew one of the clerks, Thomas Mitton. Dickens disliked legal work and he purchased a copy of Gurney's Brachgraphy and taught himself shorthand. In 1829 he joined his father working for his brother-in-law, John Barrow, who had started up a newspaper, the Mirror of Parliament. Barrow's intention was to rival Hansard by offering a complete record of what went on at the House of Commons. Dickens quickly obtained a reputation for speed and accuracy in recording debates.

On reaching eighteen in 1830 he applied to the British Museum for a ticket to the Reading Room. He used to spend his mornings reading history books and the afternoons and evenings reporting on the events in parliament. This included recording the debates on issues such as parliamentary reform, the abolition of the slave trade and legislation to protect factory workers. Dickens considered most politicians to be "pompous" who seemed to spend most of the time speaking "sentences with no meaning in them". However, Dickens was impressed with some of the MPs who genuinely appeared to be interested in making Britain a better place to live.

Dickens met Maria Beadnell in May 1830. He was eighteen and she was two years older. According to Peter Ackroyd: "She was quite short... dark-haired, dark-eyed with the kind of slightly plump beauty which can so easily dissolve in later life; and from all the available evidence, she was something of a flirt if not quite a coquette." Dickens fell in love straight away but Maria's parents disapproved of the relationship. Her father was a senior clerk at the bank at Mansion House and considered himself well above the Dickens family financially. In 1832 the Beadnell's took action to end their daughter's flirtation by sending her to Paris. Dickens wrote a letter, telling her, "I never have loved and I never can love any human creature breathing but yourself."

Dickens did see Maria when she returned to London but it was clear that she did not return his feelings for her. Dickens wrote to her accepting defeat: "Our meetings of late have been little more than so many displays of heartless indifference on the other hand while on the other they have never failed to prove a fertile soil of wretchedness in a pursuit which has long since been worse than hopeless." He also returned her letters and a present she had given him in happier times. Dickens told John Forster that his love for Maria "excluded every other idea from my mind for four years... I have positively stood amazed at myself ever since! The maddest romances that ever got into any boy's head and stayed there". However, he added that Maria had inspired him "with a determination to overcome all the difficulties, which fairly lifted me up into" becoming a writer.

Maria Beadnell remained unmarried until, at the age of thirty-five, she became the bride of Henry Winter, a saw-mill manager in Finsbury. Over the next few years she had two daughters.

In 1855 Maria wrote to Dickens. The letter was later destroyed but Dickens's letters in reply have survived. In his first letter to Maria he wrote: "Your letter is more touching to me from its good and gentle association with the state of Spring in which I was either much more wise or much more foolish than I am now".

In his second letter he told her that he had "got the heartache again" from seeing her handwriting. "Whatever of fancy, romance, energy, passion, aspiration and determination belong to me, I never have separated and never shall separate from the hard hearted little woman - you - whom it is nothing to say I would have died for.... that I began to fight my way out of poverty and obscurity, with one perpetual idea of you... I have never been so good a man since, as I was when you made me wretchedly happy."

Dickens wrote another letter to her claiming their failed relationship changed his personality. The "wasted tenderness of those hard years" made him suppress emotion, "which I know is no part of my original nature, but which makes me chary of showing my affections, even to my children, except when they are very young."

Dickens suggested they met in secret. She agreed but waned him she was "toothless, fat, old, and ugly", to which he replied, "You are always the same in my remembrance". As Claire Tomalin, the author of Dickens: A Life (2011) has pointed out: "The meeting took place. He saw an overweight woman, no longer pretty, who talked foolishly and too much. The edifice he had built up in his mind tumbled, and he beat an immediate retreat. There was, however, a dinner with their two spouses, which allowed him perhaps to compare the appetites and girths of Maria and Catherine and brood on their resemblances."

Maria Beadnell was the model for Dora Spenlow in David Copperfield (1850) and Flora Finching in Little Dorrit (1855).

In 1832 Dickens began contributing articles to the radical newspaper, the True Sun. Unlike most radical newspapers such as the Poor Man's Guardian and The Gauntlet, it did pay the 4d. stamp duty. Despite having to charge the heavy tax imposed on newspapers, the newspaper sold 30,000 copies a day. In his articles, Dickens used his considerable knowledge of what went on in the House of Commons to help promote the cause of parliamentary reform. Charles Dickens was pleased when Parliament eventually agreed to pass the 1832 Reform Act, however, like most radicals, he thought it did not go far enough. The new reformed House of Commons passed a series of new measures including a reduction in newspaper tax from 4d. to 1d. As a result, the circulation of the newspaper increased to over 60,000.