Henry Fielding Dickens

Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, KC (16 January 1849[1] – 21 December 1933) was the eighth of ten children born to English author Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine.[2][3] The most successful of all of Dickens's children, he was a barrister, a KC and Common Serjeant of London, a senior legal office which he held for over 15 years. He was also the last surviving child of Dickens.

Henry Fielding Dickens
Henry Fielding Dickens in the 1890s.jpeg
Henry Fielding Dickens in the 1890s
Born16 January 1849
London, England
Died21 December 1933 (aged 84)
London, England
NationalityBritish
OccupationCommon Serjeant of London
Known forSon of novelist Charles Dickens.
Spouse(s)Marie Roche
Children7
Signature
Henry-dickens-signature

Early life

Baptized in the church of St. Mary Marylebone in London on 21 April 1849,[4] Henry Fielding Dickens was named after Henry Fielding, one of his father's favourite authors. His father had originally thought to name him after Oliver Goldsmith, but thinking that his son would constantly be teased as "Oliver asking for more", he changed his mind.[5] His family nicknames were 'H', 'Mr Harry', and 'Mr H'. While a boy living at Gads Hill Place, his father's country home, he, with his brother Edward, started the 'Gad's Hill Gazette', a family newspaper printed on a small printing press given to him by Mr Wills, the sub-editor of All the Year Round. His father, Charles Dickens, and H F Chorley were contributors.[6][7] Dickens was educated at Wimbledon School at Wimbledon and at Mr Gibson's boarding school in Boulogne-sur-Mer, along with his brothers Alfred and Sydney.[8] He became the only one of Dickens's seven sons to attend university.[9]

Legal career

He attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge from 1868, graduating BA in Mathematics (29th Wrangler) in 1872 before studying Law at the university.[10] Of that period at Cambridge, Dickens later wrote:

"Looking back now upon the years that are gone, I find that there are one or two scenes or incidents which arise with astonishing vividness to my mind that may be worth recording...I hope it will not be thought that I tell this story vaingloriously, as it was but a small matter so far as I was concerned. Nothing is farther from my thoughts. I do so because it is typical of a strange reticence on [my father's] part, an intense dislike of 'letting himself go' in private life or of using language which might be deemed strained or over-effusive; though, as will be seen later, when he was deeply moved he was at no pains to hide the depth of his emotion. Thus it came about that, though his children knew he was devotedly attached to them, there was still a kind of reserve on his part which seemed occasionally to come as a cloud between us and which I never quite understood."

Dickens-vanity-fair-1897
Dickens by 'Spy' in Vanity Fair in 1897

"In the year 1869, after I had been at college about a year, I was fortunate enough to gain one of the principal scholarships at Trinity Hall, Cambridge – not a great thing, only 50 pounds a year; but I knew that this success, slight as it was, would give him intense pleasure, so I went to meet him at Higham Station upon his arrival from London to tell him of it. As he got out of the train I told him the news. He said, 'Capital! capital!' – nothing more. Disappointed to find that he received the news apparently so lightly, I took my seat beside him in the pony carriage he was driving. Nothing more happened until we had got half-way to Gad's Hill, when he broke down completely. Turning towards me with tears in his eyes and giving me a warm grip of the hand, he said, 'God bless you, my boy; God bless you!' That pressure of the hand I can feel now as distinctly as I felt it then, and it will remain as strong and real until the day of my death."[11]

In 1873 he was called to the Bar, and in 1892 he was appointed Queen's Counsel. In 1899 he became a Bencher of the Inner Temple. Sir Henry's best recalled case was his defence of Kitty Byron for the murder of her lover in 1902. Although she was convicted, Dickens's defence was so spirited that she was given a reduced prison sentence due to public petition.

For some years he was the Recorder for Deal and Maidstone in Kent. His interests included fencing, and he was the first President of the Chatham Yachting Club. He succeeded Sir Frederick Albert Bosanquet as Common Serjeant of London in November 1917,[12] an ancient office first recorded in 1291 with the appointment of Thomas Juvenal, and the second most senior judicial position at the Old Bailey after the Recorder of London. As Common Serjeant Dickens judged criminal trials at the Old Bailey for over 15 years, retiring on 18 October 1932.[13] He was succeeded by Cecil Whiteley KC.

On one occasion Dickens was judging a case when the male prisoner interrupted him by saying "You ain't a patch on your father." "I quite agree with you. What do you know of my father?" Dickens replied. The prisoner, who had spent most of his life in prison, answered "Well, I have read some in prison." "Have you?", Dickens replied, "That's capital; for you will now have eighteen months in which to resume your studies."[14] He repeatedly refused nominations for election to Parliament, believing it would adversely affect his legal practice.[15]

Later years

At family Christmas gatherings at his home at 8 Mulberry Walk in London he performed imitations of his father giving his famous "Readings", during which he would wear a geranium, his father's favourite flower, and lean on the same velvet-covered reading stand used by Charles Dickens during his reading tours. He had listened to his father many times, and older members of his audience said Henry Dickens's performances were amazingly like those given by his father. To celebrate his eightieth birthday in 1929 he went through the whole of A Christmas Carol without a hitch, his false teeth loosening at the melodramatic sections: 'I know him – Marley's ghosht!'.[16]

From October 1914 he performed the recitals of his father's works in support of the Red Cross Society. These included excerpts from David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth. Through his efforts he raised £1,200 for the Society.[17][18] He was a Life President of the Dickens Fellowship.

Personal life

Dickens-common-serjeant
Sir Henry Dickens, KC, as Common Serjeant of London

Henry 'Harry' Dickens married Marie Roche (1852–1940), the daughter of Monsieur Antonin Roche, on 25 October 1876 in Portman Square in London; they had four sons and three daughters together. Within the Dickens family the couple were known as 'The Guvnor' and 'The Mater'. Their son Philip Charles Dickens is buried beside them in Putney Vale Cemetery in London, while a second son, Henry Charles Dickens, was the father of the author Monica Dickens. Henry Charles was a long serving member of Kensington Council in London where he was very active in improving housing in the poorer part of the borough after World War II; a block of flats in North Kensington is named after him. On his retirement when the borough was amalgamated with Chelsea in 1955 he was created an honorary Freeman. A third son, Cedric 'Ceddy' Dickens, fell in action at the Battle of the Somme in World War I.[17][19]

Dickens was also the father of Admiral Sir Gerald Charles Dickens and the grandfather of Cedric Charles Dickens, an author and the steward of Charles Dickens's literary legacy.[20] He is the great-grandfather of actor and performer Gerald Dickens and the great-great-grandfather of biographer and writer Lucinda Hawksley and actor Harry Lloyd.[3]

Dickens was appointed a Knight Bachelor in 1922, and retired in August 1932. He died at St. Luke's Hospital, Chelsea in 1933, five days after being hit by a motorcycle while crossing Chelsea Embankment at his usual place and by his usual method of warning motorists by holding up his walking stick and stepping out into the road.[21][22] He was the last surviving child of Charles Dickens.

Henry Fielding Dickens was buried in Putney Vale Cemetery.

See also

References

  1. ^ Birth certificate of Henry Fielding Dickens. General Register Office (GRO) ref: 1849 MAR – Marylebone I 260
  2. ^ The Children of Charles Dickens
  3. ^ a b Dickens Family Tree website
  4. ^ Dickens genealogy
  5. ^ Dickens, Henry Fielding 'The Recollections of Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, K.C.' Published by William Heinemann Ltd (1934) pg xviii
  6. ^ Recollections pg 22
  7. ^ A Dickens Chronology
  8. ^ 'Recollections' pg 11
  9. ^ Gorra, Michael (2 December 2012). "Charles Dickens's Unhappy Children". Book Beast. The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  10. ^ "Dickens, Henry Fielding (DKNS868HF)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  11. ^ 'Memories of My Father' by Sir Henry F Dickens Published by Victor Gollancz Ltd, London (1928) pgs 18–20
  12. ^ 'Recollections' pg 276
  13. ^ 'Recollections' pg 366
  14. ^ Recollections pg 280
  15. ^ Today in History
  16. ^ Dickens, Monica An Open Book, Mayflower Books/Heinemann (1978) pg 14
  17. ^ a b 'Recollections' pg 301
  18. ^ The Charles Dickens Page
  19. ^ "Casualty Details: Dickens, Cedric Charles". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  20. ^ Charles Dickens Biography, Life, Books and his work on Literature
  21. ^ 'Time Magazine' January 1, 1934
  22. ^ Dickens, Monica pg 99

Publications

  • 'Memories of My Father' Gollancz, London (1928)
  • 'The Recollections of Sir Henry Dickens, K.C.' William Heinemann Ltd (1934).

External links

Albert Bosanquet

Sir Frederick Albert Bosanquet, KC, JP (8 February 1837 – 2 November 1923) was a British judge who was Common Serjeant of London, the second most senior permanent judge of the Central Criminal Court after the Recorder of London.

Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens

Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens (28 October 1845 – 2 January 1912) was the sixth child and fourth son of English novelist Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine. He made lecture tours in Australia, Europe and the United States on his father's life and work.

Catherine Dickens

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.

Cedric Charles Dickens

Cedric David Charles Dickens (24 September 1916 – 11 February 2006) was an English author and businessman, and the last surviving great-grandson of Charles Dickens and steward of his literary legacy.

Charles Dickens

Charles John Huffam Dickens (; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.Born in Portsmouth, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.

Dickens's literary success began with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication. Cliffhanger endings in his serial publications kept readers in suspense. The instalment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience's reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback. For example, when his wife's chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities, Dickens improved the character with positive features. His plots were carefully constructed, and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives. Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha'pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them, opening up and inspiring a new class of readers.Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction. Dickens has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell, G. K. Chesterton and Tom Wolfe—for his realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of sentimentalism. The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.

Common Serjeant of London

The Common Serjeant of London (full title The Serjeant-at-Law in the Common Hall) is an ancient British legal office, first recorded in 1291, and is the second most senior permanent judge of the Central Criminal Court after the Recorder of London, acting as deputy to that office, and sitting as a judge in the trial of criminal offences.

He is also one of the High Officers of the City of London Corporation, and must undertake certain civic obligations alongside his judicial duties: each Midsummer he presides at the election of Sheriffs in the Guildhall, and each Michaelmas he plays a key role in the ceremonial election of the Lord Mayor. He presents the Sheriffs to the Queen's Remembrancer at the annual Quit Rents ceremony, and is in attendance on most other major ceremonial occasions.The Common Serjeant is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor.

Formerly, the Common Serjeant of London was a legal officer of the City Corporation of London. The Common Serjeant of London attended on the Lord Mayor of London and the Court of Aldermen on court days, and acted with them in council. He also attended the Court of Aldermen and Common Council, and had charge of the Orphans' EstatesThe 81st incumbent is His Honour Judge Richard Marks, QC, who was appointed on 3 March 2015.

David Copperfield

David Copperfield is the eighth novel by Charles Dickens. The novel's full title is The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account). It was first published as a serial in 1849–50, and as a book in 1850.

The novel features the character David Copperfield, and is written in the first person, as a description of his life until middle age, with his own adventures and the numerous friends and enemies he meets along his way. It is his journey of change and growth from infancy to maturity, as people enter and leave his life and he passes through the stages of his development.

It has been called his masterpiece, "the triumph of the art of Dickens", which marks a turning point in his work, the point of separation between the novels of youth and those of maturity. Though written in the first person, David Copperfield is considered to be more than an autobiography, going beyond this framework in the richness of its themes and the originality of its writing, which makes it a true autobiographical novel. In the words of the author, this novel was "a very complicated weaving of truth and invention". Some elements of the novel follow events in Dickens's own life. It was Dickens' favourite among his own novels. In the preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens wrote, "like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield."Dickens wrote this novel without an outline, unlike the way he wrote Dombey and Son, the previous novel. He wrote chapter summaries after the chapters were completed. Some aspects of the story were fixed in his mind from the start, but others, like the obsession of Mr Dick with Charles I, the profession of David Copperfield as a writer, and the sad fate of Dora, were not decided by Dickens until the serial publications were underway; August 1849, December 1849 and May 1850, respectively, were the dates when those decisions were made.At first glance, the work is modeled in the loose and somewhat disjointed way of "personal histories" that was very popular in the United Kingdom of the 18th century; but in reality, David Copperfield is a carefully structured and unified novel. It begins, like other novels by Dickens, with a rather bleak painting of the conditions of childhood in Victorian England, notoriously when the troublesome children are parked in infamous boarding schools, then he strives to trace the slow social and intimate ascent of a young man who, painfully providing for the needs of his good aunt while continuing his studies, ends up becoming a writer; the story, writes Paul Davis, of "a Victorian everyman seeking self-understanding".The novel has a primary theme of growth and the changes that occur on the way to maturity. In addition, Dickens included many aspects of Victorian Era life that he wanted to highlight or wished to change, which were primarily integrated into the story, using satire as one device. The plight of prostitutes and the attitude of middle class society to them, the status of women in marriage, the rigid class structure, are aspects that he highlighted, while the system for handling criminals, the quality of schools, and the employment of children in the fast-spreading factories of the 19th century were aspects he wished to influence, to change for the better. He, among other authors, achieved success in bringing about changes regarding child labor and schooling for more children up to age 12.

Dickens (surname)

Dickens is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Ted Dickens ( Battle of Cable Street)

Dickens family

The Dickens family are the descendants of John Dickens, the father of the English novelist Charles Dickens. John Dickens was a clerk in the Royal Navy Pay Office and had eight children from his marriage to Elizabeth Barrow. Two were from previous wives, having had ten children overall.

John Dickens was according to his son Charles "a jovial opportunist with no money sense" and was the inspiration for Mr Micawber in David Copperfield.

The family members include:

John Dickens (1785–1851)married Elizabeth Barrow (1789–1863); 8 children

Frances Elizabeth Dickens (1810–1848)

Charles Dickens (1812–1870), English novelist of the Victorian eramarried Catherine Hogarth (1815–1879); 10 children

1. Charles Culliford Boz Dickens (1837–1896), editor and writer, married Elizabeth Matilda Moule Evans; 8 children, including

Mary Angela Dickens (1862–1948), journalist and novelist and writer of Children's Stories from Dickens

Sydney Margaret Dickens, married Thomas WhinneyHumphrey WhinneyMichael Humphrey Dickens Whinney (1930–2017), Church of England bishop

2. Mary "Mamie" Dickens (1838–1896)

3. Catherine Elizabeth Macready Dickens (1839–1929), artist, married (i) Charles Allston Collins (1828–1872), (ii) Charles Edward Perugini (1839–1918); 1 child by (ii), died in infancy.

4. Walter Savage Landor Dickens (1841–1863), officer in the British Indian Army

5. Francis Jeffrey Dickens (1844–1886), member of the North-West Mounted Police

6. Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens (1845–1912), emigrated to Australia; lecturer on his father's life; 2 daughters

7. Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens (1847–1872), a Royal Navy officer

8. Henry Fielding Dickens (1849–1933), King's Counsel and barrister; married Marie Roche (1852–1940); 7 children

Enid Henrietta Dickens (1877–1950) married Ernest Bouchier Hawksley (1876–1931)Aileen Dickens Bouchier Hawksley (1907–1961) married (i) Downing (ii) Alan Napier-ClaveringJennifer Downing (1932–1993), actress, married Peter Forster (1920–1982)Brian Forster, actor, great-great-great grandson of Charles DickensCyril Dickens Bouchier Hawksley (1909–1976)Henry Dickens Bouchier HawksleyJoanna Mary Dickens Baldwin, great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Dickens

Virginia (Ginny) Jane Dickens Hawksley-Lennard, great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Dickens

Lucinda Anne Dickens Hawksley, author, great-great-great granddaughter of Charles DickensHenry Charles Dickens (1878–1966)Monica Enid Dickens (1915–1992), British writer, great-granddaughter of Charles DickensGerald Charles Dickens (1879–1962), admiral in the Royal NavyPeter Gerald Charles Dickens (1917–1987), captain in the Royal NavyMark Dickens, Royal Navy officer

Marion Evelyn DickensHarry Lloyd, actor, great-great-great grandson of Charles DickensDavid Charles Dickens (1925–2005), editor of medical books, great-grandson of Charles DickensGerald Charles Dickens, actor, great-great grandson of Charles DickensCameron Thomas Charles DickensPhilip Charles Dickens (1887–1964)Cedric Charles Dickens (1916–2006), great-grandson of Charles Dickens and steward of his literary legacyCedric Charles Dickens (1889–1916), died in World War I9. Dora Annie Dickens (1850–1851)

10. Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens (1852–1902), emigrated to AustraliaAlfred Allen Dickens (1813)

Letitia Dickens (1816–1893), married Henry Austin, architect and artist

Harriet Dickens (1819–1824)

Frederick Dickens (1820–1868), the inspiration for two different Freds in his brother's books: the jovial nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and the dissolute brother of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop.

Alfred Lamert Dickens (1822–1860), railway engineerAlfred Charles Dickens (1847–1878), Edmund Henry Dickens (1849–1910), Florence Helen Dickens (1850–1941), Katherine Louisa Dickens (1853/54–1921), Augusta Maud Colls (1857–1941)Augustus Dickens (1827–1866), moved to Chicago in the United States with Bertha Phillips (1829–1868)

Felix Reginald Dias Bandaranaike I

Justice Felix Reginald Dias Bandaranaike I (Sinhala: ෆෙලික්ස් රෙජිනල්ඩ් ඩයස් බණඩාරනායක) (26 July 1861 - 30 January 1947) was a Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) judge and lawyer. He was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Ceylon.

Born to Rev. Canon Samuel William Dias Bandaranaike, he was educated at S. Thomas' College and the Colombo Academy. He went on to Trinity Hall, Cambridge

gaining a MA and LLM from the University of Cambridge. He apprenticed to Henry Fielding Dickens, KC and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1887 and took oaths as an Advocate in Ceylon in 1888.He started his practice as an Advocate, before joining the judicial service as Police Magistrate and Commissioner of Requests in Gampola. From 1893 to 1897 he served as Crown Counsel. He became the acting District Judge of Colombo in 1897, Additional District Judge in 1898 and District Judge in 1906. In 1902 he was among the Ceylonese representatives invited to attend the London Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. He was a member of the Royal Colonial Institute.Dias Bandaranaike married Annie Lucy "Florence" D' Alwis, third daughter of James De Alwis, with whom he had three children who survived to adulthood. These were Dr Reginald Felix Dias Bandaranaike II, Annette Lena Dias Bandaranaike who married William Ilangakoon the first Sinhalese Attorney General of Ceylon and Samuel James Felix Dias Bandaranaike who served as an agriculture officer.

Gerald Charles Dickens

Admiral Sir Gerald Louis Charles Dickens (13 October 1879 – 19 November 1962) was a senior Royal Navy officer and the grandson of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens.

Gerald Charles Dickens (actor)

Gerald Roderick Charles Dickens (born 9 October 1963) is an English actor and performer best known for his one man shows based on the novels of his great-great-grandfather, Charles Dickens. He was the President of the Dickens Fellowship from 2005 to 2007.

Kitty Byron

Emma 'Kitty' Byron (1878 – after 1908) was a British murderer found guilty in 1902 of stabbing to death her lover Arthur Reginald Baker, for which crime she received the death sentence. This was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment.

Mary Angela Dickens

Mary Angela Dickens (31 October 1862 – 7 February 1948) was an English novelist and journalist of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, and the oldest grandchild of the novelist Charles Dickens. She died on the 136th anniversary of her grandfather's birth.

Monica Dickens

Monica Enid Dickens, MBE (10 May 1915 – 25 December 1992) was an English writer, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens.

Peasenhall Murder

The Peasenhall Murder is a notorious unsolved murder committed in Peasenhall, Suffolk, England, on the night of 31 May 1902. The house where the murder occurred can be found in the centre of the village, on the opposite corner to Emmett's Store. It is a classic 'unsolved' country house murder, committed near midnight, during a thunderstorm, and with many ingredients of mystery.

Putney Vale Cemetery

Putney Vale Cemetery and Crematorium in southwest London is located in Putney Vale, surrounded by Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park. It is located within 47 acres of parkland. The cemetery was opened in 1891 and the crematorium in 1938. The cemetery was originally laid out on land which had belonged to Newlands Farm, which was established in the medieval period.The cemetery has two chapels, one being a traditional Church of England chapel and the other being used for multi-denomination or non-religious services. It has a large Garden of Remembrance.There are 87 Commonwealth war grave burials from World War I and 97 from World War II in the cemetery. Six Victoria Cross recipients have been buried or cremated here. The burials are scattered throughout the grounds of the cemetery and a Screen Wall Memorial has been erected to record the names of those whose graves are not marked by headstones. Those who have been cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium also have their names recorded on these panels.

Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens

Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens (18 April 1847 – 2 May 1872) was a Royal Navy officer; the fifth son and seventh child of English novelist Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine.

The Life of Our Lord

The Life of Our Lord is a book about the life of Jesus Christ written by English novelist Charles Dickens, for his young children, between 1846 and 1849, at about the time that he was writing David Copperfield. The Life of Our Lord was published in 1934, 64 years after Dickens' death.A Christian, Dickens wrote The Life of Our Lord exclusively for his children, to whom he read it aloud every Christmas. He strictly forbade publication of The Life during his own lifetime and begged his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth, to make sure that the Dickens family "would never even hand the manuscript, or a copy of it, to anyone to take out of the house." His handwritten manuscript was passed down to Georgina Hogarth after Dickens's death in 1870. On her death in 1917, it came into the possession of Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, Dickens's last surviving son. The Dickens family continued to read it at every Christmas and, at the author's request, delayed publication until the last of Dickens's children had died.The book begins:

My Dear Children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as He was.

There then follows a simple account of Jesus's life and teachings, with an occasional touch of Dickens's humour: "You never saw a locust, because they belong to that country near Jerusalem, which is a great way off. So do camels, but I think you have seen a camel. At all events, they are brought over here, sometimes; and if you would like to see one, I will show you one." Occasionally, Victorian attitudes are apparent — Dickens writes that the Jewish Sabbath was Sunday, that Jews were "very ignorant and passionate," and also that "they were very proud, and believed that no people were good but themselves." In the remainder of the book Dickens concentrates on the miracles Jesus performed and on the lessons in charity, forgiveness, and compassion from which Christians can learn.On the death of Sir Henry Fielding Dickens in 1933, his will provided that, if the majority of his family were in favour of publication, The Life of Our Lord should be given to the world. By majority vote, Sir Henry's widow and children decided to publish the book in London. Through Curtis Brown Ltd., London literary agents, Lady Dickens sold world publication rights for The Life of Our Lord to the Daily Mail for $210,000. The first serial rights for North and South America went to United Feature Syndicate Inc., whose General Manager Monte Bourjaily outbid King Features Syndicate, Bell Syndicate, NANA, and NEA. United Features promptly resold The Life of Our Lord to a sufficient number of United States newspapers to avoid giving first publication to a magazine. It was first published, in serial form, in March 1934. In 1934, Simon & Schuster published the first American edition, which became one of the year's biggest bestsellers. In the United Kingdom it was published by Associated Newspapers Ltd, also in 1934.

Dickens's original manuscript was purchased by a group of private collectors and in 1964 was presented to the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has held it ever since.To Begin With, an adaptation of The Life of Our Lord by Jeffrey Hatcher was performed by the author's great great grandson Gerald Charles Dickens in 2015 at the Music Box Theatre in Minneapolis. The play was revived in 2017.

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