Charles Dickens and Catherine Hogarth married in 1836, when he was 24 and she was 21. From then until the time of their divorce 20 years later, Catherine got pregnant at least a dozen times, had at least two miscarriages and gave birth to 10 children. Nine survived infancy, eight reached adulthood, and all of them disappointed their father, who lamented “having brought up the largest family ever known with the smallest disposition to do anything for themselves.”
A new group biography, Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens (FSG, 256 pp., $25) by Robert Gottlieb, documents the lives of the mediocre progeny of a great man. Making use of existing scholarship, Mr. Gottlieb has digested the stories of the Dickens children into easily consumed biographical sketches, illustrated with photographs and portraits. But this neatly condensed book offers more than mere trajectories of not-so-great lives. Instead, Mr. Gottlieb, the dance critic for this paper, has produced a comparative study of child-raising, one that would seem to attest to the value of contemporary ideas: cuddling, affirmation, diagnosis of pathologies, psychopharmacology, college. The Victorians were more resigned. A child’s path through life was not so much guided as observed and judged, perhaps with the occasional input of a phrenologist. A failed child was a failure. A dead child was dead. “There are things about the Victorians that we will never understand,” Mr. Gottlieb writes. And yet, after brief contemplation of today’s pampered scions (George W. Bush, Paris Hilton, Chet Hanks), the Victorians might have had a point.
Print to Digital
Trident Media Group, a powerful New York literary agency whose clients include Deepak Chopra, “Millionaire Matchmaker” Patti Stanger and The Vatican, has announced it will launch an e-book division to “create, manage and implement innovative e-book strategies for its authors, including the distribution of a variety of e-books directly to a large number of e-tailers in North America and internationally.”
Our favorite parts of Tracy Daugherty’s history of the publication of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 in the August Vanity Fair, which describes how Catch-22 was a project ushered to life by young people.
This description of Candida Donadio, Heller’s 24-year-old agent:
She rarely spoke about what she implied was a grim Sicilian Catholic upbringing. Read More
Nina Bourne–the legendary Knopf advertising director who died last month at 93–was memorialized Wednesday afternoon at the New York Ethical Culture Society.
“A meeting-up of the old Knopf family,” was how Jane Friedman said she’d described the service to Random House CEO Markus Dohle. But the crowd that assembled Wednesday also included the family Ms. Read More
Several months ago, I received a letter from a New Jersey couple who were distressed over the schedule for City Ballet’s current season. (“I reviewed it with disbelief and shock.”) Out of the 56 upcoming performances, they specify, 37 are of five full-evening ballets. “What’s going on? Why this concentration on such a narrow range, Read More
Stephen Frears’ The Queen, from a screenplay by Peter Morgan, turns out to be an unexpectedly sublime blend of modesty, intelligence and subtlety to open the 44th New York Film Festival—and I should know. I have been following the festival over its full 44 years, several of them as a member of the programming committee, Read More
Remember the good old days of the dance boom? The excitement! Margot and Rudi! Misha! Suzanne! Here comes the Royal, here comes the Bolshoi, here comes the Kirov. The must-see hits: Dances at a Gathering, Jewels, Push Comes to Shove. The galas! And let’s not forget Glamorama Martha! This was not just dance, it was Read More
Let’s Not Be Hasty
To the Editor:
Chris Lehmann wrote a great article on the coming Congressional races [“Bush Flickers Out, Republicans Face Mass Hibernation,” Feb. 13]. It was very interesting, but I have been the communications director for four Congressional campaigns in New York City and Westchester County, and I found his Read More
Stick to Politics
To the Editor:
Did I actually read an editorial in your newspaper called “Bad Marriage and Babies” [July 11]? This is truly painful. I read The Observer for its intelligence, style, irreverence and chutzpah. As a mother of five, I don’t need to be told that couples report a drop in Read More
Whoever said “Change is good” clearly never worked in the publishing industry. The book business generally likes to do things the way it has always done them, and any proposed alteration to the plan is usually met with ambivalence at best. So only if you’d just dropped down from Mars would you expect book people Read More