Charles Dickens, ca. 1852
(1812 – 1870)
1852 Sat Feb 7th Orinthia Miss Burill Susan & self called this
morning on Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & E Howards
left Susan at Mr Howards, came home with Frank
from a sing this evening. Abby Augusta & Helen were
here awhile this afternoon Helen went out to Bridgewater
last night and came up with Mr & Mrs James Mitchell this
forenoon Orinthia went home about five and this
evening we have been into Olivers. Mr Mitchell returned at nine.
This was a non-stop sociable Saturday for Evelina; she, her daughter Susan, dear companion Orinthia Foss, and another young schoolteacher, Miss Burrell, made calls all morning long. In the afternoon, she entertained three of her nieces and in the evening, visited next door at Oliver Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house. Chat, chat, chat.
In the larger world of letters, Charles Dickens turned 40 years old today. Even at mid-career, he was known as “The Inimitable,” so great was his talent, so voracious his readers. Evelina loved his work and benefited from his prolificacy.
By this point in Dickens’ life, among the books he had already published were The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, various Christmas novellas including A Christmas Carol, Dombey and Son, and David Copperfield, which Evelina had read the previous year. At this time he was composing Bleak House which, like most of his novels, was published in serial form over many months. Its first episode would come out in March, 1852, and run through September, 1853.
Still waiting to be born were future classics such as Hard Times (which targeted Unitarianism, among other entities), Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend – and more. Dickens wrote articles, made speeches, toured, and even acted. He was a high-profile tour de force with a fertile imagination and a thirst for success. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who heard Dickens speak in Boston, compared the author’s ability to “a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest.”*
*Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Annie Field’s diary, 1868.