When Dickens Died, America Mourned. Our Archives Tell the Story.


When Charles Dickens died of an obvious stroke on June 9, 1870, the information was not cabled to the United States till later that night time. Many New Yorkers didn’t find out about the British novelist’s loss of life till the morning of June 11, when it was splashed throughout the entrance web page of The Times.

No author of the age was extra beloved than Dickens. Just as folks had as soon as clamored for the subsequent installment of his serialized novels, they now sought new particulars about his life and loss of life at 58. For months, the newspaper brimmed with tales about Dickens’s ultimate hours, his funeral, his will, the public sale of his artwork assortment, even his property sale, the place a set of outdated flowerpots went for a guinea.

After his death, Dickens’s body had been sent to London on a special train and taken directly to Westminster Abbey. As the paper’s correspondent pointed out, this was emphatically not what he would have wanted: “No man has written a more pointed condemnation of the hideous pomposities of an English funeral than Mr. Dickens. He also declared with great energy that they should never put him in Westminster Abbey. … He would have preferred to lie with so many he loved best in the Kensal Green Cemetery.”

In keeping with at least some of the novelist’s final wishes (he asked “that those who attend my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hat-band, or other such revolting absurdity”), at Westminster Abbey there were “no cloaks, no weepers, no bands, no scarves, no feathers — none of the dismal frippery of the undertaker.”

With the dean “reading our solemn burial services, the organ chiming in subdued and low, and the vast place empty, save for the little group of heart-stricken people” clustered around the “plain oak coffin,” Dickens was laid to rest in Poets’ Corner near Shakespeare, Dryden and Chaucer. “Dust to dust and ashes to ashes — such was the funeral of the great man who has gone.”

Dickens’s eldest son snapped up an “exquisite little water color … of roses in a blue and white jug”; the curator of the National Portrait Gallery bid in vain for a painting of the novelist; and the stuffed raven of “Barnaby Rudge” went for 120 guineas.

People bid on furniture, wine, china, glass, carriages, a wheelbarrow, even a few loads of hay. A coil of rope sold for 10 shillings; the old oak table “on which Mr. Dickens is said to have written for the last time” fetched 5 guineas. During the proceedings, one of the novelist’s favorite dogs, Linda, roamed the grounds, adding “to the sense of desolation and loss.”

The weather was variable that day; when the sun was out, Gad’s Hill, with its “leafy lanes, broad fields, breezy commons,” looked “gay and smiling enough,” but when “the great, dark clouds came sailing over, and the rain pattered down, the sadness of the recent event occurring there was borne in upon the mind.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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