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Sunday, May 06, 2018

Faith, Angels and the Poor by Keith Hooper

Charles Dickens wrote near the end of his life that: 'I have always striven in my writings to express
veneration for the life and lessons of our Saviour'.  He certainly did that, writing novels that enlightened Victorians about the terrible poverty in their midst and even helping to change cruel laws. He also tried to live a Christian life, helping many people and charities, agitating for change, and even starting a home for 'fallen' women.

Dickens had a religious Anglican upbringing. His parents went to church, sent him to Anglican schools and sent him to stay with an Anglican minister, the Reverend Giles and his family at one stage. The wise minister and schoolteacher and his family made a deep impression on ten-year old Charles and he became good friends with Reverend Giles's sons. His mother read him Bible stories as well and he had a good knowledge of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer.

Dickens's time at the blacking warehouse when he was a young boy after his father was imprisoned for debt working in terrible conditions and drudgery not only made him determined to succeed but it also made him aware of what the poor had to endure.  His early careers as a legal reporter and journalist with the Morning Chronicle deepened his knowledge of laws relating to the poor and their conditions.  John Black, his editor, remembered the kindness of his young colleague when they walked through the markets and saw a poorly-dressed boy being carried by his father. As they followed the father and son, Dickens fed the boy a whole bag of cherries without his parent knowing.

 The great writer believed in a practical Christianity and that Christians had a responsibility to care for the underprivileged.  Hooper relates how Dickens used his knowledge of social conditions in his novels to awaken the social conscience of his readers who had old-fashioned ideas about poverty.  He achieved great changes with his books.  For example, there was such an outcry about the terrible Yorkshire schools after the publication of Nicholas Nickleby that the government introduced strict regulations and the worst of them were closed down.

This is an inspiring and interesting analysis of Dickens's Christianity and how he exemplified it in his life and novels.  There are detailed analyses of his novels and how he used the Christian 'angels' featured in them.    also explains Dickens's attraction to Unitarianism but his decision to stay Anglican. There is not much detail about Dickens's rather shabby treatment of his wife, however.  This is a book that is well-worth reading for any fan of Dickens or any student of Dickens.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

EDITION    Paperback

ISBN9780745968513

PRICE        £9.99 (GBP)


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