Acclaimed Biographer Discusses Charles Dickens’ Quest to Unearth Truths About “Cruelty at Yorkshire Schools” in New Book

English author, Lucinda Hawksley has penned over 20 books during her successful career, covering various topics in art history, 19th-century history, and travel. Her in-depth accounts of the trials and tribulations of some of the biggest names in British and European history have sold vast numbers of copies but few are so popular as her books about Charles Dickens. Being his great-great-great-granddaughter and patron of the Charles Dickens Museum in London, the celebrated writer, speaker and lecturer is best known for sharing stories of the literary great’s life.

Her most recent offering to English Literature lovers and the millions of Charles Dickens fans across the globe was released in June of this year and it gives a fascinating insight into Dickens’ travel experiences.

Although commonly associated with London, where the majority of his colourful characters resided and the gloomy streets provided the perfect backdrops for his gritty stories, Dickens actually wasn’t too fond of the capital. Suffering from depression for much of his adult life, the writer’s symptoms were often exacerbated by the man-made fog of Industrial Revolution-era London and, in later life, he travelled as a means of improving his low mood.

Hawksley’s ‘Dickens and Travel’ discusses Charles’ various travels from his early days as a freelance journalist to the more pleasurable voyages he embarked on with family in his later years. Interestingly, the book highlights how many of his travels inspired his fictional characters and aided him in his future writing. For example, in the 1930s, Dickens made numerous travels between London and Bath via stagecoaches owned by a family by the name of ‘Pickwick’. The surname was emblazoned on the side of the coaches he travelled in and went on to become the surname of one of his most famous characters.

Dickens often used his writing to draw attention to the many social issues and scandals of the 19th Century. The third chapter in Hawksley’s latest biography describes how one particular issue led Dickens to visit Yorkshire in the year 1938. According to Hawksley, Charles Dickens encountered a former pupil of a Yorkshire school during his childhood – the headmaster of which was on trial for allegedly abusing boys in his care. Dickens visited the largest county in England over a decade later to learn why abusive Yorkshire schools were still operating, in the hopes of highlighting the issue in his new book, Nicholas Nickelby. Armed with a fictional story about being the friend of a recently widowed mother seeking a school for her fatherless sons, Dickens headed to Yorkshire for the very first time.

Of course, the book goes on to describe in great detail the various journeys taken by Dickens during his lifetime. Various British city-to-city and town-to-town excursions during his early career are discussed as well as his various travels around Europe, years spent living in Switzerland, and his tours of America. A fascinating read that not only invites the reader into the eventful lives of Victorian travellers, but also illustrates how Dickens’ work was inspired by so many places besides London.

Published by Pen and Sword, Dickens and Travel by Lucinda Hawksley is available to order HERE.

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