Writer Lucinda Hawksley responds to a quick shot at great-great-great-grandfather Charles Dickens
DUBAI: February 7 marked the 210th birthday of one of Britain’s greatest writers of the 19th century. Charles Dickens was a polymath, taking on the roles of journalist, theater artist, philanthropist and, above all, novelist who gifted the world with such timeless classics as ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’. “.
Delving into the injustices of Victorian society, his work has been translated into many languages and has never been out of print. He was so influential that his last name became the commonly used adjective, “Dickensian”.
His great-great-great-granddaughter, Lucinda Hawksley, was recently in Dubai at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, telling Arab News why her writing affects people to this day. “It’s pretty amazing how much his fame has spread, and continues to do so. Today, everywhere I go in the world, I meet people who read Dickens in schools. It is read all over the world. It’s amazing,” she said.
“He wrote about real life situations. When you look at his observations of human nature, he understands his weaknesses. Human nature does not change – we still have conflict and jealousy. We still have bankers who rip people off, we still have lawyers who die without leaving a will to their families. All those kinds of things keep happening.
Just like his famous ancestor, Hawksley embarked on a career as a writer. She is also an art historian and animator. In addition to writing insightful biographical books on Dickens, she has devoted her research to women in social and cultural history. Among Hawksley’s subjects are Queen Elizabeth II, 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite model Lizzie Siddal, British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst and Princess Louise, artist-daughter of Queen Victoria.
In her latest pandemic-produced book, “Letters of Great Women,” Hawksley features 50 compelling letters penned by some of history’s iconic leaders, royals, social activists, artists, writers and scientists – from Cleopatra to Virginia Woolf, from Jane Austen to Gertrude Bell, the founder of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.
“To be a woman educated enough to be able to write — and especially to write a letter — you had to be someone who was very lucky,” Hawksley said. “You had to be someone whose parents thought it was worth educating them, despite the fact that they were a girl, and someone who was deemed important enough for those letters to survive and find their way in the archive.”
Lucinda Hawksley answers a quick Q&A about her ancestor, Charles Dickens.
The first Charles Dickens novel you read?
“Oliver Twist”, in the children’s version.
A Dickens novel you’ve re-read?
“A Tale of Two Cities” and “A Christmas Carol”.
Which Dickens novel would you recommend to someone reading it for the first time?
“A Christmas Carol”, just because it’s shorter, but also if they like a really good story, “Our Mutual Friend” or “Bleak House”.
Is there one aspect of Dickens’ life that is least understood by the public?
His mental health issues and the role depression has played in his life, since childhood.
During your research, what surprised you the most about Dickens?
The way he was as a father. There was no physical punishment in the Dickens family. His children were never beaten, which in the 19th century was extraordinary.
What’s your favorite quote from a Dickens novel?
“Have a heart that never gets hardened.” (Our common friend)