Dickens The Dad

Dec 15 2012 @ 12:44pm

Katherine A. Powers reviews Robert Gottlieb's Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens:

Dickens rejoiced in his children when they were young and gave them a merry time, with the high point of every year being, as in his stories, Christmas. But soon enough the warping effect of his own disordered childhood showed itself, and he began to discern in his sons what he loathed and feared most: passivity, lack of direction, and fecklessness, the qualities that had put his parents in a debtors' prison and led them to deposit his young self in the infamous blacking factory. And while he believed that the germ of the financial irresponsibility that marked a number of his sons came from his side of the family, he was convinced  that the odious lethargy and purposeless drifting he also found in them was inherited from his wife, Catherine. Beginning with the eldest, Charley, in whom he saw Catherine's "indescribable lassitude of character," he really spared only Henry (a success from the start) in his laments over "deficiencies in energy and attitude," even going so far as to say he wished Sydney, his fifth son, were dead.