Monday 26 August 2019

Join #historicalmystery author, Heather Redmond, as she takes a look at the life of Charles Dickens #History #Dickens @HeatherARedmond

In the Time of Charles Dickens
By Heather Redmond

Charles Dickens was born near Portsmouth, England in 1812 and died suddenly in Kent, England in 1870. He is considered a preeminent Victorian, and is the bestselling author of the age, but in fact, died only about halfway through Queen Victoria’s long reign. While he certainly had a lot to do with forming the opinions of his fellow man and the attitudes of the era, he wasn’t really considered a Victorian-style man during his lifetime.

For instance, he was a dandy, and had coarser manners than became common in the reticent post-Regency age. Dickens was, after all, born during the Regency, and his personal style reflected his coming of age in those earlier times.

Charles Dickens.

I am concerned with Dickens in his early twenties for my A Dickens of a Crime series. This was the age of William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837. Of course, this is a period that has no official title. It’s between the Regency and the Victorian eras and tends to be neglected. But yes, there was an entirely different king for seven years between the Prince Regent, who reigned as George IV when his mad father finally died, and when Queen Victoria came to the throne at eighteen.

It’s hard for us to imagine her as a young ingénue. We think of her as that sad, overweight widow. But in her youth, men like Dickens professed themselves to be in love with her at dinner parties. Queen Victoria, raised very quietly by her twice-widowed mother, did not like the licentious behavior of her uncles. The attitudes of the court changed quickly when she took the throne, and she married Prince Albert in February 1840. They soon started having children, creating a happy family image for the throne. The Victorian era was born.

A man with a public life like Dickens was very aware of his image. He had married at twenty-three, and quickly had children as well. He knew, especially post his publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843, that he was known as a family man, and his entire career was based that. This led him to become very secretive in the 1850s as his home life fell apart. The Victorian age expected their “Great Men” to toe the line, and it was easier to hide the truth of bad behavior before the age of social media!

His secrets didn’t only include a teenaged mistress. It's hard to imagine someone like Dickens could produce his glorious novels with so little education. In fact, he hid the truth of his interrupted school life. In his era, there was a much higher expectation of privacy. A man’s home was considered his castle. With the police force not forming until 1829, and civil registration for births, deaths, and marriages not legislated until 1837, there were not a lot of government entities interfering in a man’s domestic concerns.

Even Dickens’s own wife was unaware of his actual background of being pulled out of school at age ten after a few years as an excellent scholar, then being left to roam London until he was forced by his family to work in a blacking factory for around a year when he was twelve. After his family recovered their finances, he was sent back to school for a couple of years, but then entered the workforce at fifteen.

He came to novel writing slowly. First he worked as a law clerk, clerking being a huge job category before computers, and for many, many years, contemplated becoming a lawyer. But he had relatives in the newspaper business, and he and his father learned the complicated shorthand that was needed to be a parliamentary reporter. Dickens became the best in the business in this second career, reporting for top liberal newspapers while publishing short stories (initially for free) on the side. This was a high paying job back then (before the Internet.) He also became known for his sketches of modern life, which were collected in book form in 1836. Opportunities began to come his way, and celebrity came very quickly after that. Networking was of paramount importance in building his career, then as it is now.

Cheapside, London

Charles Dickens was the first international literary celebrity. He had both a very unusual life, and one that matched the style of the time in which he lived in its separation between private and public lives that is hard to find in the modern era.

Grave Expectations
By Heather Redmond

In this clever reimagining of Charles Dickens’s life, he and fiancée Kate Hogarth must solve the murder of a spinster wearing a wedding gown...

London, June 1835: In the interest of being a good neighbor, Charles checks in on Miss Haverstock, the elderly spinster who resides in the flat above his. But as the young journalist and his fiancée Kate ascend the stairs, they are assaulted by the unmistakable smell of death. Upon entering the woman’s quarters, they find her decomposing corpse propped up, adorned in a faded gown that looks like it could have been her wedding dress, had she been married. A murderer has set the stage. But to what purpose?
As news of an escaped convict from Coldbath Fields reaches the couple, Charles reasonably expects the prisoner, Ned Blood, may be responsible. But Kate suspects more personal motives, given the time and effort in dressing the victim. When a local blacksmith is found with cut manacles in his shop and arrested, his distraught wife begs Charles and Kate to help. At the inquest, they are surprised to meet Miss Haverstock’s cold and haughty foster daughter, shadowed by her miserably besotted companion. Secrets shrouded by the old woman’s past may hold the answers to this web of mystery. But Charles and Kate will have to risk their lives to unveil the truth . . .

Pick up your copy of
Grave Expectations

Heather Redmond

Crime writer Heather Redmond is a committed anglophile, Dickens devotee, and lover of all things nineteenth century. She writes two mystery series, A Dickens of A Crime, featuring young Charles Dickens in the 1830s, and a new cozy mystery series set in Seattle which debuts in fall 2019.

Connect with Heather: Website • Twitter.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx