Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Charles Dickens, a racist who never treated his wife Catherine well!!


Charles Dickens. International Policy Digest
Among the giants in the English language literature, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a highly respected story teller  and still he works are liked both by the public and the researchers. Equally questionable  is the other side side of his life and it  was known that he had scant respect for other ethnic groups. Nor did he treat well  his better-half Catherine, his companion of two decades and mother of 10 children  by him.  Suffice to say he was a man of complex personality that is overshadowed by his amazing spree of literary works that  created a niche for him in the world of English literature.  Let me give a brief note on his personal life later.  First let me focus on his racist attitude and how his tongue wagged in dealing with the non-whites, etc.  With such a biased view of other ethnic people, it is no doubt. in  some of his works one could see a streak of racism running  here and there which he dealt with unashamedly, not withstanding the fact that never had he failed to express his sympathy towards the disadvantaged in England. Such a prejudicial view  of  other races shows him in bad light and, more often than not, he is tagged as racist and xenophobic in his journalism and fiction.
Catherine DickensWikipedia
Catherine Dickens 
c.1847 by Daniel Maclise
Wikipedia
 Above image:  Catherine Thomson "Kate" Dickens (née Hogarth; 19 May 1815 - 22 November 1879) was the wife of English novelist Charles Dickens, and the mother of his ten children. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1815, Catherine came to England with her family in 1824. She was the eldest daughter of 10 children to George Hogart,  a journalist for the Edinburgh Courant, and later became a writer and music critic for the Morning Chronicle, where Dickens was a young journalist, and later the editor of the Evening Chronicle. Catherine and Dickens became engaged in 1835 and were married on 2 April 1836 in St Luke's Church, Chelsea. They set up a home in Bloomsbury, and went on to have ten children. In June 1858 Charles and Catherine Dickens separated. The  exact reason of the separation is unknown,  however rumor was thick in the air that Dickens had romantic escapades with  Ellen Ternan and/or Catherine's sister, Georgina Hogarth.................................... 

An obvious case in point is his famous work ''Oliver Twist'',   first published in a serial form between 1837 and 1839.   In this work  his racist bent of mind  comes to the brim. The portrayal of Fagin, a Jewish character who ran a school for the pickpockets in London, is  seen by many as deeply antisemitic. Normally, the ethnicity of the fictional characters is never mentioned by great workers of repute because the personality of the character is more important than his religion or ethnic background. Believe it or not, the  famous novel refers to Fagin 257 times in the first 38 chapters as "the Jew"  According to Nadia Valdman, who specializes on the  portrayal of Jews in literature,  'Fagin's  characterization  was drawn from the image of the Jew as inherently evil, that the imagery associated him with the Devil, and with beasts''.
Charles Dickens.  me.me
 The complex and paradoxical approach of Dickens  towards  his   support for various liberal causes  on one hand, and on the other, his crass display of racism,  nationalist chauvinism and imperialist mentality or superiority  ( now it is referred to as Britishness)  made him become a  controversial figure  and consequently, he won more brickbat than laurels.  His carping tongue never failed to impact other  ethnic groups across the globe.  Though he was against slavery in America, during the civil war there he sided with the southerners and also mentioned the absurdity of giving votes to the American blacks! It implies that he never gave due importance to the equality of human races  in a democratic set-up. As for the Native Americans, he considered them dirty, cruel, and constantly fighting among themselves and others. His literary work on ''Noble Savage is a blend of his sympathy for the native American Indians and the arrogance of European colonialism in the New World where the Indian natives  had been enjoying freedom and fresh air before the arrival of Europeans on the shores of America.
1857 the great Indian rellion Alamy
Dickens' racism toward the Natives of India came to the fore during the 1857 Rebellion against the wily, dishonest and corrupt  East India Company that cheated on the Indian natives. rich Maharajahs and Nawabs in every  conceivable manner without any scruples.  Dickens was much in rage over the massacre in which over a hundred English prisoners, most of them women and children, were killed, and on 4 October 1857 he wrote a letter to Baroness Burdett-Coutts: Reacting to the massacre of the British in Cawnpoor (Kanpur), Dickens, without verifying facts and what the British were doing to the natives of India, made very damaging  and nauseating remarks that  angered the Indian leaders. 

Dickens  in a letter to  Emile de la Rue on 23 October 1857, about the so-called Indian Mutiny of 1857 : “I wish I were Commander in Chief over there [ India ]! I would address that Oriental character which must be powerfully spoken to, in something like the following placard, which should be vigorously translated into all native dialects, “I, The Inimitable, holding this office of mine, and firmly believing that I hold it by the permission of Heaven and not by the appointment of Satan, have the honor to inform you Hindoo gentry that it is my intention, with all possible avoidance of unnecessary cruelty and with all merciful swiftness of execution, to exterminate the Race from the face of the earth, which disfigured the earth with the late abominable atrocities [2,000 British killed in the 1857 Indian War of Independence - Indian Mutiny] (see Grace Moore (2004), “Dickens and the Empire. Discourses of class, race, and colonialism in the works of Charles Dickens”
(Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot , UK ). 


Dickens had no idea under company rule to what extant the Indian subcontinent had  been squandered and the  natural resources exploited  by the British Bobs to scale up the British economy. Nor was he aware of how many thousands of  revolting Indian  soldiers and innocent Pundits were killed by some maniac East India company military men. Countless Indian soldiers were blown before the powerful cannons. The British Crown finally stepped in to save their neck and the colony so that they could  loot and keep filling the coffer as much as they could before leaving India for good in the future.

As for Dickens'  relationship with his wife, a recent article by one Palko Karasz (vide: ''The Hindu'' dated 25 February 2018 (''Dickens tried to send his wife to asylum, letters show'') is an interesting one.  Dickens' separation from his wife was never revealed to the public and he was very particular about keeping it as a secret. More damaging and unethical act was he wanted his wife imprisoned for good in an asylum. Considered as the ''more damning  account of Dickens' behavior than others'', the revelation came from  one John Bowen, professor of 19th century English literature  at the university of York in north England whose article appeared in the ''Times' Literary Supplement'' published recently. The analysis was made based on the letters kept at Harvard University, USA.

Dickens never wanted the dark side of  his life exposed  as this would damage his reputation, social status and legacy. So what he did was he burned almost all the letters;  However, scholars and biographers, driven by curiosity,  wanted to go deep into his private life and toiled to bring out the truth about Dickens and his relationship with other women. Ms. Catherine never mentioned about her separation from Dickens and, at last, 10 years later after Dickens' death,   she  confided in  Edward Dutton cook, a theater critic and her neighbor in Camden, North London.  Dutton wrote as many as 98 letters about Dickens and his lousy treatment of his wife. The Harvard  University (Houghton library)  got the letters written by Dutton  through auction in 1984.  

The letters  written by Dutton to his friend, a journalist bring to light the mean and maniac character of a man  who strode the English literary world like a giant. He made a vein attempt to send his wife  to the asylum as he had no proof.   Dutton in his letter pointed out that Dickens lost interest in his wife as she grew old and became unattractive. How could Dickens expect  his wife, a mother of 10 children,  to remain ever charming and beautiful  while wilting under age.  His racism and the treatment of his wife will ever remain a blot on this weird literary wizard in the English language.
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/24/india.randeepramesh
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_the_work_of_Charles_Dickens