9 Sites on the River Thames That Tell the Story of Charles Dickens | Heritage Calling

Portrait of Dickens (detail) in 1843 when he was 21, painted by Margaret Gillies. Public Domain.

Portrait of Dickens (detail) in 1843 when he was 21, painted by Margaret Gillies. Public Domain.

2020 sees the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens, considered by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era; author of books such as Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend. Many of his novels – and his journalism – were shaped by a time of hardship in his childhood and by firsthand knowledge of the cruel…

Source: 9 Sites on the River Thames That Tell the Story of Charles Dickens | Heritage Calling

The Cockney Novelists | Spitalfields Life

Originally posted on Spitalfields Life.

The ‘Cockney’ – that is the born East Ender – has long since been a regular figure in fiction. Originally, in appearances from Jacobean plays to mid-nineteenth century sporting fiction, the type was not working-class. It was the geography not the sociology that mattered. Wealthy merchants were still Cockneys and revelled in the name.

The East End of modernity, which (at least until recently) meant primarily poverty, is a mid-nineteenth century invention. Its citizens emerge, struggling and insecure, via the pages of Henry Mayhew’s pioneering sociological study, London Labour and the London Poor (1851). They are further investigated by Mayhew’s many successors, notably James Greenwood, but not until the nineteenth century was nearly over, were they fictionalised.

Dickens had portrayed Cockneys, but mainly as comic walk-on parts or, as in Oliver Twist, criminals who properly spoke cant. Other novelists, often temperance advocates whose ‘novels’ may as well have been tracts, looked East, but they made no attempt to put flesh on their caricatures. They were all in dreary earnest, propagandizing the proles, permitting neither…

via The Cockney Novelists | Spitalfields Life.

The Real Artful Dodger?

History forever fails to provide a satisfactory voice for the suppressed. Records and documents are formal and impersonal, as if the individual being written about was not an individual, or human, at all. This is exhibited through young convicts of the 19th century. My research led to John Camplin of Tottenham, a fourteen-year-old boy sentenced to transportation for life in 1818 over the robbery of a dwelling-house. The label of ‘convict’ appears to coldly define him within history, as if life outside of crime and punishment ceased to exist as society decided he did not deserve one. But what about his story?

John Camplin’s silence is broken through Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, which offers a literary insight into the lives of real lower class delinquents during the 1800s. The novel conveys a dramatic yet detailed account of child criminality rather than a strictly factual one. The most memorable character, Jack Dawkins, otherwise known as the ‘Artful Dodger’ for his experience in the trade of pickpocketing, is of a similar age and lifestyle to the juvenile. He possesses a larger than life nature with the ‘gift of the gab’, and communicates through a language of confidence and buoyancy, forever voicing his opinion. The comparison of the two youths…

Continue reading: The Real Artful Dodger?