What the Dickens!

This was originally posted on 5 January 2011 on my old blog. I have recently picked up this book again as I didn’t get further than page 80 when this post was written. Recently I have committed to reading more and I am looking forward to finishing this delightful find.

What the Dickens!

Sometimes as I browse through second-hand book shops I come across exciting gems. This is my most recent gem. The inside flap reads as follows:
– “It was not the best of times, it was not the worst of times, it was Ottawa.” These words, which open this book, could come from only one pen – that of a Canadian Dickens.Few People know that Charles Dickens had a son who served in the North-West Mounted Police in the days when the Canadian West was wild. Those historians who mention his 12 years in the force (1874-1886) dismiss as a round peg in a square hole, a fat, stammering, slightly def, alcoholic Englishman with a tendency to fall off his horse in the course of the tense confrontations with Indian warriors.These recently discovered letters home to England set the record straight, and reveal the true Dickens. Originally written in hope that a London publisher might be attracted by the Dickensian account of adventures in the Canadian frontier, the collected letters lay, mysteriously ignored, in a university library, until Eril Nicol found them and brought them forth – with proper editorial notes – to dazzle the world.Not only do these letters tell us much about the Dickens family, even to the point of parodying “Pa’s” purple prose, they also tell us a great deal about early Canada as Dickens saw it in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg, and in forts all across the Prairies.

Dickens met everyone worth meeting in the West – including Crowfoot, Gabriel Dumont, Sam Steele, Jerry Potts, and Louis Riel – and even encountered famous visitors such as Sitting Bull, the Governor General, and Col. Harry Flashman (Whom he calls “a humbug”). And while he may have blotted his copy-book surrendering Fort Pitt to Riel’s rebels, we learn here that he deserves credit for inspiring the Mounties’ Musical Ride and the phrase “a Mountie always gets his man.”

Editor Nichol’s wonderful skills have brought this man so alive that when we part from Frank Dickens at the end of the book, we do so with the sense of having lost a friend. – (end quote)

– I am now about 80 pages in and it is a great read! I have actually laughed out loud a couple times. Francis Dickens truly has the writing gift, inherited no doubt from his father. If you manage to find this book, definitely pick it up. I will definitely loan this one out to friends.

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