I'm guessing there will be some sort of fence in place to stop me just going over and sitting on his lap. You know I will. Anyway, all this marvellous Dickensian revelry got me thinking about how Dickens view of life through his books defines how we see the Victorians and how that was expressed in art.
|Florence Dombey in Captain Cutler's Parlour (1888) William Maw Egley|
|A Passing Cloud Arthur Hughes|
|Little Nell and her Grandfather (1845) William Holman Hunt|
|Little Nell Leaving the Church J. Lobley|
|Little Nell and Her Grandfather W. Orchardson|
Unstoppably good and wonderful, Nell Trent is the sort of Dickens woman who is an angel too good for this life which slowly breaks her down until she is killed by metaphoric worldliness. Damn you world! Look how lovely she is...
|Kit's Writing Lesson Robert Braithwaite Martineau|
Moving away from actual images from his novels, it's easy to see Dickensian narratives playing out in Victorian art. I would argue that I find the stories told in Pre-Raphaelite art to be more Thomas Hardy than Dickens (if they touch on the contemporary) but there are no shortage of plots in traditional Victorian art that would make Charlie proud. Take this example...
|Past and Present Augustus Egg|
|Thoughts of the Past John Roddam Spencer Stanhope|
No one does the vast theatre of Dickensian England like William Powell Frith. Have a look at this lot...
|Derby Day William Powell Frith|
I have always preferred the romantic fatalism of Thomas Hardy to the morals of Dickens, but no-one shows you the Victorian Dream like Charlie-boy. It is black and white, good and bad. There are redemptions of bad characters but they are few and far between if you expect the character to keep living. Mostly you have to realise your mistake then die, like absolving yourself of sin by confession on the way out. For a man (like Frith) who had a home life in multiple, this moralising is a little difficult to take, but it is archetypally Victorian in its glorious double standard.
Happy Birthday Charles Dickens, you cuddly Victorian hypocrite. Your home-life was complex but your stories are classic. You informed so much narrative art and filled Sunday tea-time telly and so I cannot help but love you.