Dickens, Charles (1812-1870)


Dickens, Charles (1812-1870)


Charles Dickens crossed paths with George Eliot in May of 1852 at John Chapman's residence in the Strand, where he chaired a meeting to protest the price-fixing of the Booksellers' Association. While Eliot found his appearance undistinguished, showing none of the benevolence she had expected, she was still impressed by having met him, describing him as a “man one can thoroughly enjoy talking to.” After having read the first of the two stories in Scenes of Clerical Life, Dickens wrote to Eliot through her publisher, praising the “exquisite truth and delicacy, both of the humour and the pathos” in them, and maintaining that the masculine name of the author did not convince him: “If they originated with no woman, I believe that no man ever before had the art of making himself, mentally, so like a woman, since the world began.” Eliot was deeply moved by this, but was unable to write back to him to express her appreciation due to “the iron mask of [her] incognito.”
After the publication of Adam Bede, Dickens wrote to her directly, announcing the pleasure in being able to address her as a woman and warmly praising the novel. Back in 1853, Lewes had attacked Dickens in his weekly paper, The Leader, over the lack of scientific realism in Bleak House, specifically, the spontaneous combustion of Mr. Krook. Dickens took offense and the friendship was strained for several years, but in November of 1859, Dickens put aside any remaining bitterness and accepted a visit to Eliot and Lewes’s home, where he met George Eliot in person for the first time. He hoped to convince her to write for his journal, All the Year Round, but she did not accept the invitation. The two remained on pleasant terms until Dickens’s untimely death in 1870.


George Eliot Archive, edited by Beverley Park Rilett, https://georgeeliotarchive.org


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