A Vacancy in my Heart

  • Gwen Watkins

Abstract

'I do not write resentfully or angrily; for I know how all these things have united together to make me what I am: but I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back.n It is strange that Dickens should, at the age of thirty-five, express such burning hostility (in spite of his denials it is clear that he did feel both anger and resentment) against his mother because of an incident which happened twenty years before, and yet express no such hostility against his father. If anyone was to be blamed for Charles' misery at that time, it must be John Dickens: his irresponsibility, perhaps even his dishonesty, had brought the family to circumstances where the earning by one child of six or seven shillings a week was a relief, and when he himself was released from the Marshalsea through the slow procedures of the Insolvency Act in May 1824, it seems not to have occurred to him to release his child ('quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt, bodily or mentally'2) from a much more terrible servitude. Dickens indicts both his parents as almost criminally thoughtless: 'My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge.'3 Both appear to have been unconscious of the child as a child, and of his physical or emotional needs. Physically he was completely neglected (although he had not been a robust child, and still suffered from his 'old attacks of spasm' both at the factory and at his lodgings in Lant Street). He had to support himself on six or seven shillings a week.

Keywords

Burning Dust Income Assure Beach 

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Copyright information

© Gwen Watkins 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gwen Watkins

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