Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Charles Dickens - not a lover of the Catholic Faith

Dickens - the Catholic Faith
appears in only one of his works

I intended posting this yesterday, the anniversary of Dicken's birth.
 I did not post it because, on its own, I felt that it lacked any real depth but, in the light of posts made by two of my favourite blogging priests, Fr Z and Fr T, I have put it up as something of an "add on".

Fr Tim mentions Barnaby Rudge which does have a Catholic connection so, I stand corrected. You may read Fr T's post HERE 

 And, from me.....

Yesterday marked the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, in my opinion, one of the great men of English literature.

His novels, mark the social structure, or lack of it, of the day and there is always a moral tone that finally surfaces triumphant over the most appalling adversity.

Evil is overcome by plain, goodness, poverty is tranformed into comfort and wandering entangled hearts are, somehow sorted out and united with their own true love.

It is all very gratifying and entertaining but, nowhere in any of his writings (as far as I am aware), does the Catholic Church in some form or another, make an appearance.

Yet, the great man was a Christian and even wrote a simplified version of the New Testament for children and a life of Christ.

He travelled throughout America and extensively in Italy, being most unimpressed with Rome.
Eventually, he came to appreciate the ancient ruins and the Colisseum but, as far as the churches were concerned, it was hard times.

He despised the Church and all its rich pageantry contrasting the splendour of the Vatican with the back streets of London, the slums of Wapping and believing that, somehow, there was an imbalance that should have been corrected.

I have not read his book Pictures from Italy so cannot comment on the content but, according to one biographer, Dickens expresses strong distaste for all things Papist in the book.

He had commissioned his Catholic friend, William Clarkson Stanfield, an outstanding artist of his day, to provide the illustrations for the book but Stanfield was so disgusted by the tone that he withdrew; a man of honour, obviously.

Of course, in the England of the 19th century, the Catholic Church was very much a bit player, it was in the States and Mainland Europe that Dickens witnessed the Church and its works and it is something of a tragedy that he "took against it".

As Father Tim points out, however:

"If you want to start on Dickens, Barnaby Rudge is a good choice for Catholics because it involves Lord Gordon and the riots in London against the Papist Act of 1778 which relieved some of the penalties imposed upon Catholics".


  1. Nice post! I don't wish to defend Dickens in his anti-Catholicism, but England in general has a long and deep-seated history of anti-Catholicism going back to the 1500s. Yet that does not mean that Catholics cannot take something good from Dickens as a writer. I would particularly recommend his semi-autobiographical David Copperfield.

  2. If I am not mistaken, Dickens wasn't happy about most brands of Christianity. He was a product of his environment and upbringing. He had negative experiences amongst the various believers he encountered early on. Perhaps he did the best he could with what light he was given.

  3. Our mistakes makes us realize things to be a better person,to strong and firm,to survive life.Things happen with reason and we should not give up instead let us stand up to start a new beginning.
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