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.
Christopher Hitchens had one more Vanity Fair column in the hopper when he passed away late last night, and it will appear in the magazine’s February issue, Politico reports. It’s on the topic of Charles Dickens, about whom Hitchens wrote a long piece for The Atlantic last year. Read More
"[W]hen the current [New Yorker] editor, David Remnick, ordered up a bunch of articles for the magazine’s formidable presidential inauguration issue, some of the reporters drove to Washington and stayed at friends’ houses. Mr. Remnick, who was among those who bunked with a friend in Washington, declined comment, beyond suggesting it was just common sense Read More
If you haven’t heard, My Bloody Valentine are touring again—for the first time in 16 years. It’s nearly impossible to over-state the influence of this London-by-way-of-Ireland quartet on the entirety of independent music. Kevin Shields’ woozy guitar sound on the band’s 1991 album Loveless hangs over every skinny-jean twenty-something with a six-string from Williamsburg Read More
As you may have noted by now, I like the friction—sometimes comic, sometimes revealing—that results from juxtaposing high-culture and pop-culture references. In part because of the light, or shadow, they cast on each other, in part because of what they share (e.g., Anna Karenina and the fatal love triangles of the tabloids).
Which is why Read More
Don’t miss today’s story on Elizabeth Redvers, a 15-year-old model-hopeful. It’s truly… wow.
Of course, last night the Observer broke the news about Rupert Murdoch installing himself as publisher of the NY Post.
And, in The Transom itself, the story of two dogs, one rich, one poor, and the assault that brought Read More
Here we are, back in the suicide season: It’s Christmas time. Half of us are thinking not of our fellow man and woman, but of pills and pistols; the other half are out shopping, partying and trying to make the Christmas feast fit the picture they have of a fat, ho-ho-ho Santa in the living Read More
“Ed Koch is out of Dickens, and so is Giuliani, in his way,” said screenwriter and director Douglas McGrath. “Bloomberg isn’t, because he is far too colorless. In Dickens, only the heroes are colorless.” It seemed that Mr. McGrath did not consider Mr. Bloomberg a hero. “Joseph Papp would have been Crummles,” he said of Read More
The parties I go to are not the sort of affairs where people exchange stock tips or lay the groundwork for insider trading; we’re more likely to compare restaurants and argue over movies and books. But this summer, there has been furtive chortling over bull-market bulimia and each week’s fresh revelation of corporate malfeasance.
With Read More
On a recent weekend, Master Francis and I drifted over to the annual Potato Festival at the Hampton Day School. This should not be confused in readers’ minds with the annual Potatohead Festival, which was simultaneously taking place in East Hampton. This is also known as the Hamptons International Film Festival-a five-day period when pointless Read More