As we approach Dickens’ bicentenary next year there will be plenty of discussion about his life and work, including several new books which promise to shed light on the man behind the novels.
It is unlikely, however, that any of them will be as controversial as Carl Roberts’s This Side Idolatry, a novel published in 1928 which portrayed Dickens as ‘a hypocrite, philanderer, selfish, an egoist, vulgar, morose, and avaricious, caricaturing his friends in his books behind their backs,’ according to the reviewer from The Sunday Times upon its release.
The book so offended the city of Portsmouth, where Dickens was born in 1812, that it was banned from its libraries; only now has it been restored to their shelves in the name of ‘freedom of expression and debate,’ says Dom Kippin, Portsmouth City Council’s literature officer.
‘Dickens’s literary legacy is strongly established and [Roberts’s] book merely adds to the rich tapestry of ideas and opinions that make him one of the English language’s greatest writers,’ he continues. So if you’re in Portsmouth and want to catch up on some literary gossip then head down to your local library and join in the debate!
The Reader Organisation’s annual Penny Readings, which follow in a tradition established by Dickens, will take place in St George’s Hall in Liverpool on December 4th – full details to follow in mid-November so watch this space!