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2. Dickens's Use of the Autobiographical Fragment

Nicola Bradbury


Subject Literature » Victorian Literature

People Dickens, Charles

Key-Topics biography

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405130974.2008.00005.x


Extract

Charles Dickens recorded his childhood experience of working life alone in London in 1824 during the period when his father fell into debt and was imprisoned in the Marshalsea, but he kept the manuscript secret. It survives only in the mediated version of his friend John Forster. Under “Hard Experiences in Boyhood” in The Life of Charles Dickens (Forster bk. 1, ch. 2), the biographer includes some 20 pages centered on the “Autobiographical Fragment” given him by Dickens himself “very shortly [after]” March or April 1847. Dickens had not, according to Forster, yet thought of the “idea of David Copperfield , which was to take all the world into his confidence,” where parts of the fragment would reappear in the text of David's “Personal History,” closely echoing Dickens's early struggles. What interests Forster is how openly “what it had so startled me to know, his readers were afterwards told with only such change or addition as for the time might sufficiently disguise himself under cover of his hero.” The biographer quotes directly from Dickens's autobiography, with brief interruptions: I lose here for a little while the fragment of direct narrative, but I perfectly recollect that he used to describe … There is here another blank, which it is however not difficult to supply from letters and recollections of my own … I have heard him say … I must not omit what he told me of … I ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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