Victorian England’s Literary Lion

Charles Dickens Bust on Cast Iron Bookends (LEO Design)

Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812.  As a young boy, he was forced to leave school—and sent to work in a London factory—after his father was locked-away in a debtors’ prison. The second oldest of eight children, young Charles had to help support his family while his father, mother and youngest siblings remained incarcerated.  Even at this tender age, Dickens was experiencing some of the themes his future writings so artfully would explore.  Charles Dickens’s choice of themes, his heartbreaking stories and the wonderful characters (good and evil) which he created, have placed Dickens amongst the greatest of the world’s writers—and certainly one of the most popular.  His works sold vigorously in his lifetime and have remained in-print ever since.

In Victorian England, novels were often written in a “serialized” fashion, that is, published one portion at a time (weekly or monthly), often included as a supplement of a larger publication (a journal or magazine).  This allowed Dickens to take his time writing the story, letting it unfold bit by bit, and even allowing him to modify future story lines based on the public’s reactions to previous installments.  It also allowed the clever writer to maximize suspense and stimulate reader anticipation.  It is fair to say that Dickens was the literary lion of his day—and no doubt very wealthy.

Woven within his works one finds scathing social criticism—of society, class structure, industry, and the legal system that held it all together.  Even today, the term “Dickensian” refers to miserable social conditions (especially for the poor and dispossessed) or the comically repulsive characters which populated his great works.

On 9 June 1870, after experiencing a stroke the day before, Dickens died at his home in Rochester.  His final wishes instructed that he be buried “in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner” in the churchyard of his local parish.  Instead, he was buried in the renowned “Poets’ Corner” at Westminster Abbey, London—wedged-in between Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, and the great composer George Frederic Handel.

The bookends above, made by Bradley and Hubbard, depict the great man in bust form ($275).  Made in the 1920’s or 1930’s they reflect an amount of wear appropriate to their age—though nothing that kept me from buying them.  Please come into the shop to see them or call for further information about them.

LEO Design is open today from Noon ’till 8:00 pm.  Watch for extended shop hours in December.