University of Buckingham lecturer labels Charles Dickens 'a bit of a diva'

A University of Buckingham lecturer has branded Charles Dickens as “a bit of a diva” after reading newly uncovered letters penned by the literary legend.
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Peter Orford, a lecturer in English literature at the Buckingham institution was reacting to Dickens’ assertion that he would leave his village if locals didn't do something to help reinstate the Sunday postal service.

Letters written by the world famous author have been acquired by the Charles Dickens Museum in London from an American sellar.

Members of the public can view the newly uncovered writing now.

Charles Dickens  (Photo by John & Charles Watkins/Getty Images)Charles Dickens  (Photo by John & Charles Watkins/Getty Images)
Charles Dickens (Photo by John & Charles Watkins/Getty Images)

Charles wrote: “I beg to say that I most decidedly and strongly object to the infliction of any such inconvenience upon myself. There are many people in this village of Higham who do not receive or dispatch in a year, as many letters as I usually receive and dispatch in a day.

“I am on the best terms with my neighbours, poor and rich, and I believe they would be sorry to lose me, But I should be so hampered by the proposed restriction that I think it would force me to sell my property here, and leave this part of the country.”

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Another of the letters is a dinner invitation with a typically dramatic Dickensian flourish: “Say ‘no’ and I never forgive you. Say ‘yes’ and join us here at ten minutes past six next Thursday, and I shall always remain faithfully yours, Charles Dickens.”

Dr Peter Orford,  English literature lecturer at the University of BuckinghamDr Peter Orford,  English literature lecturer at the University of Buckingham
Dr Peter Orford, English literature lecturer at the University of Buckingham

The Charles Dickens Museum also purchased many of his personal objects including art, jewellery and books from a collector in 2020, amounting to more than 300 items valued at just over £1 million.

University of Buckingham postgraduate students have the opportunity of looking at the items not yet on show and finding out about them prior to them being displayed as part of their studies.

Dr Orford who is also a Dickens biographer said: in The Washington Post he was “excited” by the letters, which would be a “major resource” for academics and enthusiasts alike. He said: "Dickens tried to be a man of the people by championing social causes." However, like many celebrities, he was also “quite precious about his privacy.

"He could be a bit of a diva and hold the attention when it suited him. There was always interest in him as a person,” but at other times he complained that he found the public attention "intrusive" according to Dr Orford.

Dickens was a prolific letter writer at a time when a person could receive mail deliveries a dozen times a day.

Prior to the new correspondence being obtained by the museum 12 volumes of Dickens’s letters have already been published, some short “like text messages” confirming plans, said Dr Orford, and others are longer.

Dickens destroyed many letters before his death, those that exist were collected from recipients.

Other letters in the collection give an insight into his reading habits and busy social diary. Dr Peter Orford added: “There’s no diary so this is the best we get of what he’s thinking at the time. The letters are a fantastic resource.”