Addicted to Dickens….and Dickinson

Responding to Reena’s prompt #129, exploring Addiction

Addiction- a strong inclination to indulge in something repeatedly.

I’ve shaken a few addictions. Cigarette smoking from the age of 15 to 33. Playing blackjack in London’s west end casinos in my late teens. Scoffing boxes of chocolate. My worst chocolate experience was at a friends Christmas party where I spent the afternoon consuming a box of black magic chocolates washed down with rum and coke. I can still feel the buzz to this day and shudder every time I think of it. Today I console myself with two squares of Lindt 95% dark chocolate daily.

The one addiction I have never shaken is books. I can still remember the thrill when I graduated from the children’s section of the library to the adults. We were allowed a maximum of three books and I would visit the library twice a week for my quota. My earlier reading was adventure stories, Biggles, The Hardy Boys, Robinson Crusoe, The Three Musketeers,The Count of Monte Cristo. I discovered the Lord of the Rings when I was 16 and read it repeatedly, over and over that first year and then at least once a year for the next 30 years.

When I emigrated to Canada in my early twenties, I would stop at a book store Friday evenings after work and purchase a number of books. As soon as I entered my basement apartment, I popped a chicken pot pie in the oven and settled down to reading, usually till five in the morning. I would arise at noon, pick up a book and continue with my addiction.

In my twenties I read Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace, Dennis Wheatley and Arthur Conan Doyle. In my thirties I read Catholic spiritual books, St.John of the Cross, John Main, Thomas Merton, Fulton Sheen. Through my forties I had a biography craze, reading the lives of T.E.Lawrence, Rudyard Kipling, Samuel Pepys. This was also my yoga phase where I practiced and read a number of yoga books. I still read the Gospel of Sri Ramakhrisna from time to time. In my fifties I became a lay Carmelite and immersed myself in Carmelite spirituality, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Edith Stein. But my one constant over these years have been the books of Charles Dickens.

I was drawn to Charles Dickens (1812-1870) over the top characters that haunt his books together with his social commentary on the ills of 19th century England. Many readers find him too wordy but I glory in his descriptions as they add to the characterizations and plot I have also read numerous biographies of Dickens and am fascinated by his long walks through London by night. He was an insomniac. It’s a mystery what draws us to certain authors. I tried to read Hilary Mantel’s, Wolf Hall, when she won the Booker Prize but found it too wordy and not enough plot to keep me interested. I have been in the habit of reading A Christmas Carol every Christmas season along with his other Christmas stories, The Chimes, The Cricket on The Hearth.

“Why do you doubt your senses” said Marley’s ghost

“Because,” said Scrooge, ” a little thing effects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are”.

My interest in poetry has been confined to the classics, Milton, Tennyson,Kipling,Wordsworth,Blake. My poetry bible has been a school book ‘Selections of Prose and Poetry’ published in 1921. Since joining WordPress two years ago I have been introduced to a number of more modern poets. My favorite by far is Emily Dickinson ( 1830-1886 ). I am intrigued as much by her life story as by her poetry. That she could exist in relative solitude at the age of 33, confined to her room and write a number of poems shows her addiction to her writing craft. She only had about 8 poems published during her lifetime. The majority of poems, around 1,600 were found by her sister after Dickinson died and published posthumously. Here’s a more famous poem written by her:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson both admired Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Emily Dickinson had attended one of Emerson’s lectures and Charles Dickens on his second visit to America in 1867 dined with him frequently. I often wonder what it would have been like for Emily Dickinson if she had attended the suppers of Emerson and Dickens. Though inclined to solitude she was very good socially and Dickens was a gifted actor. They would have had some great conversations. Likewise with Emerson, her conversations with him would probably be on the nature of God. They both questioned the thinking of the day on Christian practice and interpretation of God. I wish someone would make a movie of the interaction between these three characters. It would be fascinating. Long may Dickens and Dickinson be remembered and their works cherished for the masterpieces that they are.

I’ll say goodbye I’m off to feed my addiction. I’m trying to get through the Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn and finding it a tough read. Though I did manage Primo Levi’s ‘ If This is a Man ‘ about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. Happy reading.

“This diary is my kief, hashish and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice.”

Anais Nin

Published by lensdailydiary

Born Stepney, London, England. Emigrated to Canada. Married, two children, six grandchildren. Retired. Conservative and cultural catholic. LOVE soccer. Tottenham Hotspur. Read historical and fantasy fiction..

14 thoughts on “Addicted to Dickens….and Dickinson

  1. They are my favourites too! Dickens is just out of this world. And I grew up reading Agatha Christie as well.


  2. Interesting quotes from Scrooge and Anais Nin! I’ve read Anais Nin in younger days. Reading books is now separated from reading on devices in small capsules. Books help one catch the gist of the author’s mind, a character or ideology. Small capsules don’t.

    My food addictions used to be 3Cs – chicken, coffee and chocolate. Low availability of chicken has forced a change in eating habits. The other two continue 🙂


    1. We downsized to a small bungalow three years ago and I donated around six bookcases of books to the local library. I used to be a member of the Folio Society and have about three hundred of their books. I kept them along with my religious book collection. I now own a Kindle which has a few hundred books downloaded. I can relate to the coffee addiction, it went with my cigarettes. I gave coffee up the same time as cigarettes because they were so related in my mind. My substitute was green tea, which I still drink.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed hearing about your addictions and reading choices, Len. Dickens is an author I enjoyed reading but have only read one or two of his books. Dickenson small smatterings and am impressed by how sharp her mind is. Maybe if you wrote the screenplay for the movie with the three (those 2 and Emerson) someone would take it on to produce. Who would you see playing the parts of the three? I parallel you in having phases of reading. As a kid it was one historical romance after another and occasional pilfered blue books from my friend’s dad. In 20’s a lot of science fiction as my ex-husband had a good selection to choose from. I love Robert Heinlein books. I read the Tolkien books but just once each. In my 30’s, just divorced, I got into philosophical taoism heavily and was part of a scholarly discussion group with some very wise and educated people. Since then, a little of this and a little of that. I’ve read almost all of Tom Robbins’ books and find him one of the most interesting writers I’ve come across. I’ve read all of Chuck Palahniuk’s books except for Snuff and his brand new one. Now there is no special interest other than whatever strikes my fancy. I won’t go into the other addictions.


  4. That is the wonderful thing about books, there is one for everyone’s tastes. So many varied writers. I also had a science fiction period and read Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov and my favourite Herberts, Dune series. Can’t wait for the upcoming movie. I’m not very familiar with modern actors. Other than the Harry Potter movies, and one or two that have caught my eye I rarely frequent the movies anymore. I saw excerpts of the new Emily Dickinson series that played on Apple ( I think) and this just reinforced my reasons for staying away. Thanks for sharing your reading pleasures with me JadeLi.


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