There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.
Happy Birthday Charles……February 7, 1812
Dickens’ youth carried with it dark shadows……shadows which he never really let go…..starting with his twelfth year…….
Shortly after his twelfth birthday, Charles was sent to work…..pasting labels on shoe bottles at Warren’s Blacking Factory, amidst the hovel and rats….a three mile walk for a tired, overworked, young boy.
A father’s disgrace and family imprisonment would set the tone for the host of abandoned characters Dickens would weave with his pen……
Abandonment and betrayal were the shadows that darkened the pages of his memories and his tales……
What later in life started out as entertaining his co-workers with “spot on” impersonations of London passerbys….became the training ground for his acting, writing, and public speaking…..
Perhaps this says it best……
I think Dickens is one of the best friends mankind has ever had. He has held the mirror up to nature, and of its reflected fragments has composed a fresh world, where the men and women differ from real people only in that they live in a literary medium, so that all ages and places may know them. And they are worth knowing, just as one’s neighbours are, for their picturesque characters and their pathetic fates. Their names should be in every child’s mouth; they ought to be adopted members of every household.
–George Santayana, “Dickens” (1921)
On a personal note, Dickens battled epilepsy….enabling him to write about it so truthfully during a time when its mysteries were not completely revealed.
He suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder……would rearrange furniture, would have beds face north-south due to magnetic fields…..
He was excessively tidy…combed his hair hundreds of times a day and would need to touch certain objects three times for “luck”…..
Perhaps the mind haunted by shadows is best at bringing the light of human frailties to pen…….