Legacy of Dickens is everywhere, author says

Charles Dickens descendant and author Lucinda Hawksley explores central Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO:...
Charles Dickens descendant and author Lucinda Hawksley explores central Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A descendant of Charles Dickens believes her socially radical ancestor would view Brexit Britain as the worst of times.

``My personal opinion is that he would be absolutely horrified. Essentially, it was a racist vote, and Dickens was someone who travelled a lot.''

The author's great-great-great-granddaughter, Lucinda Hawksley, spoke at the University of Otago last night about his work as a journalist and editor, rather than as a novelist.

She has written several books on the life of the Victorian writer.

Ms Hawksley said his radical social views, and constant campaigning particularly, came through in his journalism.

``He was the editor of a couple of magazines because he didn't like to be edited by other people.

``He genuinely brought about societal change through his writing, because everybody read his magazines.''

In one case, he wrote of a ``terrible mining accident'' in the north of England, she said.

``He did some investigative journalism and then wrote really serious articles about children working in the mines, and how tired the miners were and just the total lack of awareness of the miners' safety.''

He also helped to found London's Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children, which was the first of its kind in the country.

Ms Hawksley said in some ways her ancestry made it easier to research Dickens, although he ``wasn't massively'' part of her upbringing.

``We used to go to Oliver at the theatre, but I think it was because my grandmother knew someone who worked there who could get us free tickets.''

Her interest in the writer was sparked by an inspirational tutor at university who loved his work. she said.

``I'm also an art historian and in all the biographies I've written he comes up.

``It's strange how you think you're not researching Dickens, and he just comes into everything. He's mentioned all the time. Even in the modern day, people will say something is Dickensian or they'll call someone a Scrooge.''

She was impressed by Victorian-era buildings, such as the Dunedin Municipal Chambers, which still stood in the town.

``In London, Victorian buildings in the 1960s were despised and many of the most incredible works of architecture were just ripped down.

``I love the fact that Dunedin didn't allow that happen.''

She thought the railway station was ``beautiful'', although wished it actually hosted passenger transport trains.

Ms Hawksley will travel to Christchurch next to talk about her book Moustaches, Whiskers and Beards, which is about facial hair and art.




The building with gabled tower and flag is The Best of Times, it is The Worst of Times.