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An Unsparing Attack Upon Dickens.

A letter of great interest to every reader of Dickens, signed “ J.M.R appeared in the Newcastle 1 Weekly Chronicle ’ in reference to an article which that paper has published on Dotheboys Hall, Bowes. The correspondent, who is a native of the Barnard Castle district, says:— “ NicholasNickleby,” astudy in untruth, broke the hearts of two very decent people, and sent them to their grave before time time. The book (as far as the school aimed at was concerned) was a terrible libel. In the second edition Dickens protests that he meant no particular school. This may pass with outsiders ; but those who know the district are aware that, like Dickens's picture of the school, and like his letters about tho Rev. Thomas Binney, his protest lies on tha cloudy side of truth. Anyone over iifty who has read the book, and who knows the district, can sec a dozen fingerposts iu the novel directly pointing atone school. “Squeers,” says Dickens, "had only one eye,” This alone would show who was meant, as there was only one schoolmaster rear Greta Bridge who bad only one eye. The blow aimed so meanly was the outcome of spite and fun, for Dickens would have his laugh if his best friend had died for it. The prototype of Squeers gave great offence to H K.'Brown and Dickens by his haughty bearing when they invaded his school. For this he_ was deprived of character, reason, oncl ultimately of bis crueller wrong was ever done than tais by any literary writer of o.tr time. The picture drawn of the school was as far from the truth as it well could be. In Dickens’s novel Nicholas was the only usher. Tho school contained about forty scholars. They wore bleary-eyed, hair-lipped, and deformed. This picture was made to do duty for a nchcol where the scholars numbered 200, and where the teachers were seldom fewer than seven. The charges of feeding the boys on cattle that had died a natural death, the brimstone and treacle farce, the frozen pump story— all these and a heap of other novel furniture, were simply so many artistic untruths. I have beard Mr Kailton, game dealer, of Barnard Castle, tell how many geese, turkeys, etc,, he used to supply for " boy consumption.” My grandfather, who lis-ed near Bowes, knew the schoolmaster well. I have talked to him many an hour about Dotheboys, and his indignation at the perversion of fact by Dickens was fierce enough to be almost amusing. He used to describe the scholars as perfectly healthy young scamps, declaring that he thought they knew the flavor of every apple, pear, and plum tree in the neighborhood. His description of the master was that he was a kindly, goodhearted fellow, just a shade hasty in his temper, not by any means the man to feed boys on natural dead cow Ax to tho picture of Miss Fanny Squeers, the lady who has had to suffer vicariously for that imaginary character was one of the sweetest and kindest of women. 'When I was an apprentice lad I knew her fairly well. Her consideration for tho feelings of others, her fear lest she herself should give you any unnecessary trouble, I shall never forget. Every word I ever beard her utter, every glance of her eye or motion of her hand, bespoke a kindly heart. She was the sort of a woman a dog or a child leaps to instinctively. She has suffered her undeserved martyrdom in silence, but even now our Dickens worshippers will not let her rest.

Tho correspondent you quote writes about “the occupant of Dotheboys Hall objecting to the visits of gentlemen like himself,” and suggests that he might have got pitched out if the proprietor had found him prying about his kitchen. Well, J wish more strength to the arm of the pitcher, and a healthy energy to his foot the next time a gentleman of the Dickens cult invades his privacy. In my youth I remember it was said that the book which had killed the father and mother had married the daughter, that some gentleman who knew the family had stood by tho girl in her deepest agony, affd that indignant sympathy blossomed and budded into love and marriage. If that was to, it would hi delightful to heane that a descendant of such a union periodically varied the monotony of Bowes life by lifling these literary Paul Prys out of his invaded kitchen, and by assisting them along the broad road that leads from Bowes to Greta Bridge. The article you quote says Fanny Squeers is dead. If ever lam in the neighborhood where she lies, I hope to lay a flower upon the tomb of the patient, silent, injured dead. —‘Pall Mall Gazette.’

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890810.2.35.9

Bibliographic details

An Unsparing Attack Upon Dickens., Evening Star, Issue 7982, 10 August 1889, Supplement

Word Count
803

An Unsparing Attack Upon Dickens. Evening Star, Issue 7982, 10 August 1889, Supplement

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