Sunday, October 30, 2011

Was Charles Dickens the first rock star to go on a never ending tour because he needed to be loved?

Just finished Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin. Maybe all biographies should be written by women. Men like Peter Ackroyd, the author of Dickens, tend too much towards hero worship. Tomalin on the other hand describes how he could be callous as well as compassionate, how he condemned his wife to a life of uninterrupted child-bearing and then dismissed her from his life so that he could set up an alternative home with a young actress and how he sent many of his children overseas so that he wouldn't be tainted by their failures.

Her depiction of the novelist in later life, spending much of his time "on the road" in order to maintain his increasingly lavish and complicated lifestyle, recalls nothing so much as a legendary rock star on a never-ending tour, playing the arenas in order to enjoy the uncomplicated affection you can only get from a bunch of strangers.
The applause and praise received at readings became increasingly important as balm to his wounds, allowing him to believe in his own goodness. Having specialized in being a good man for so long and been known as such to the public, he was intent on keeping his good reputation: hence the public statements putting others in the wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely, and if American Notes is any guide, he was just as jaundiced and cynical about the uncomplicated affection as any rock star, bitching about being unable to walk the streets with being followed by adoring fans etc.