As promised, here is more facts and information about both Charles Dickens and his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.
(Sorry about the lack of space between some paragraphs, seems to be a problem with the site.)
I have a little trouble connecting with Mr. Pickwick and company. They are the typical overly dramatic Dicken’s type characters. But the “stories” they hear and report to the Pickwick Club instantly catch my attention. Especially the darker ones. What can I say? It’s my dark side. I was completely pulled into “The Convict’s Return” as told by a clergyman.
It’s the tale of young John Edmunds who grows up protected by his mother from his violent father. His mother takes the abuse to spare him. He is very close to his mother, and goes to church with her regularily. As he grows older, he drifts from his mother’s side, and no longer goes to church with her.
Once grown, John Edmunds is accused of a crime spree and sentenced to death. His mother’s heart is broken. His sentence is commuted to 14 years in prison.
Despite his hardened attitude, his mother visits him everyday, until she grows ill. He suddenly realizes how much he loves her and how sorry he is when she stops coming to the prison gate to see him. The clergyman tells John Edmunds that his mother is ill and tells him of her love and forgiveness, and the clergyman tells the man’s dying mother of his repentance. During the night John Edmunds is moved to another prison and the clergyman has no way to tell him that his mother had passed away. She was buried in the corner of the church graveyard without even a headstone.
Although John Edmunds had written letters to his mother via the clergyman, none had ever made it and the clergyman had assumed that John had died in prison. John’s father never visited, or cared what happened to his son.
Once released John returned to his village, looking for his mother. He went to the church, but the familiar pew they always sat in together was empty. He went to his childhood home, but someone else lived there. He didn’t have the heart to enquire further, and wandered on, sad and alone.
Quote: ‘On a fine Sunday evening, in the month of August, John Edmunds set foot in the village he had left with shame and disgrace seventeen years before. His nearest way lay through the churchyard. The man’s heart swelled as he crossed the stile. The tall old elms, through whose branches the declining sun cast here and there a rich ray of light upon the shady part, awakened the associations of his earliest days. He pictured himself as he was then, clinging to his mother’s hand, and walking peacefully to church. He remembered how he used to look up into her pale face; and how her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she gazed upon his features — tears which fell hot upon his forehead as she stooped to kiss him, and made him weep too…’
Later, John Edmunds came upon an old man. At first he didn’t recognize the person who had caused him and his mother so much pain. Then, when the man cursed him and hit him with a stick, he knew it was his father. Although he wanted to choke the man, John couldn’t bring himself to harm his father. The man collapsed on his own of a burst blood vessel right there and then. He died before his son could even raise him off the ground.
The old clergyman finished his story with – ‘In that corner of the churchyard,’ said the old gentleman, after a silence of a few moments, ‘in that corner of the churchyard of which I have before spoken, there lies buried a man who was in my employment for three years after this event, and who was truly contrite, penitent, and humbled, if ever man was. No one save myself knew in that man’s lifetime who he was, or whence he came — it was John Edmunds, the returned convict.’
I actually teared up a bit. Not only is the story heartbreaking, but Dickens creates art with his words. His poetic style brings real emotion to the page.
And now to Mr. Dickens – Here’s one of many interesting fun facts about Charles Dickens. Hans Christian Andersen was Dicken’s close friend and mutual influence. Andersen even dedicated his book Poet’s Day Dream to Dickens in 1853. But this didn’t stop Dickens, a bit of a jokester, from letting Andersen know when he’d overstayed his welcome at Dickens’s home. He made a sign and left it on Andersen’s mirror in the guest room. It read: “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks, which seemed to the family like AGES.”