What the Dickens
Published on 7th January 2021
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The Victorian Literature module includes annotated bibliographies on over 100 topics including Gender, Charles Dickens, Race, and many more. In the British and Irish Literature module you’ll find over 100 bibliographies, including topics such as Arthurian Literature, John Keats, and Christopher Marlowe.
Here are some little known fun facts about Charles Dickens:
Shakespeare was the first person to ever use the “what the dickens,” in his fiction work, The Merry Wives of Windsor. This phrase was used as a euphemism for conjuring the devil.
In his book Other Dickens: Pickwick to Chuzzlewit, author John Bowen explained the name “was a substitute for ‘the devil,’ or the deuce (a card or a dice with two spots), the doubling of the devil in short. It could be for this reason that, in his early writing career, Dickens used Boz as his pen name. He did not want to be compared to or seen as the devil. After the public became familiar with his writing, he switched to his given name.
There was a secret door in the form of a fake bookcase in his study. These fake books had titles such as The Life of a Cat in nine volumes. His home was at Gad’s Hill in Kent. The bookshelf had other fake book titles like 47 volumes of the History of a Short Chancery Suit, Socrates on Wedlock, King Henry the Eighth’s Evidence of Christianity, and the series The Wisdom of Our Ancestors: I Ignorance, II Superstition, III The Block, IV The Stake, V The Rack, VI Dirt, and VII Disease.
The fake door led to a room that is the most preserved in his house. The book titles were all made up by Dickens himself.
Dickens owned a raven whom he named Grip. Grip was not only a beloved pet but also featured in one of his novels, Barnaba Rudge. Grip died after eating lead paint chips and was soon replaced by another who was also named Grip.
This raven inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write the poem, The Raven. After his second pet died, Dickens had it stuffed by a taxidermist and placed it in a wooden and glass case. The bird is now in the Free Library of Philadelphia.
When his cat Bob died in 1862, he had its paw stuffed and mounted to an ivory letter opener and engraved with “C.D., In memory of Bob, 1862.” The letter opener is now on display at the Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library.
Although it was not proven, many believed that Dickens had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This was because he would always re-arrange the furniture in any hotel room, he stayed in. It is also alleged that Dickens would always inspect his children bedrooms and would point out what was untidy and not neat. Either way, Dickens wanted things to be in order around him.
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