Hello and welcome to our spot on the Charles Dickens: My Life blog tour. Please scroll down for a Q&A with the author Derwin Hope.
When Charles Dickens died prematurely on the 9th June 1870 aged only 58, he left behind a legacy unsurpassed in English fictional literature. But he also wanted to write his true life story and this remained undone. 150 years on from his death, I have found that sufficient material has now been uncovered to enable that narrative of his life story to be produced for the first time. Research amongst 15,000 of his letters, journalistic articles, documents and other relevant material connected to him have all combined to make it possible for me to piece together that evidence and, guided by the way he wrote his two travel books, has resulted in the production of this personal story in his own words that he so desired to tell. It shows exactly how, from difficult beginnings, he descended into acute humiliation and abject poverty, before then emerging due to his talent and incredible resolve, into one of the most famous men and popular authors the world has ever known. It chronicles his enormous public triumphs and his profound private turmoils, as well as the secret life he led when, on his own admission, he became “seized with lunacy”. It includes his two momentous visits to America, and his withering and radical opinions of institutions and situations he found there, as well as those he encountered at home – all expressed in his own inimitable style. This is his compelling and personal narrative, put together for the first time in a way that he wished his legacy to be told. It is the real and true story of his life.
Information about the Book
Title: Charles Dickens: My Life
Author: Derwin Hope
Publication Date: 5th May
Page Count: 536
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Q&A with the author:
Q. What was your favourite thing about writing this book?
A. Time and again, finding out things about Charles Dickens’s personal life that I had no idea about.
Q. What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Q. Do you have any bad habits while you are writing?
A. None that I am aware of.
Q. Why did you decide to write a book about Charles Dickens?
A. Because the story of people’s lives has always fascinated me, and I heard that he had led a secret life which had been covered up for more than 100 years and I wanted to find out the true and full story about his life. When I became a Judge in Portsmouth in 2004, I visited the humble house of his birth and as I stood in the bedroom where he was born, the question went through my mind: “How did he get from here to the life of fame he went on to lead, and how much of this did he explain in his own words?” This led me on in my research to then focus only on things that he himself had said about his life, and to put it into narrative form – something he wanted to do himself, but he died suddenly at the age of 58 leaving it undone. 150 years later I have found that sufficient material has now been uncovered to enable that narrative of his life story to be produced for the first time and so I have done it in this book.
Q. Was there one thing about Charles Dickens that you really enjoyed learning?
A. Yes, to find out that some people’s perception of him and his treatment of his wife that arises out the way their separation unfolded was caused by him reacting in anger to what members of her family were falsely saying about him; and that everything else about his life showed that he was someone who was incredibly sympathetic and generous towards woman, and would be (e.g.) the first to step in and seek to help them if they were left destitute on the death of a husband. He also throughout his life championed women’s causes for their better treatment in society, and I really enjoyed finding out about this true side of his character that overrides to my mind any perceptions to the contrary.
Derwin Hope was born in Somerset in 1944 and attended local schools until the age of 12. He then went to the Quaker boarding school, Leighton Park in Reading, where he became Head Boy, as well as captaining the school at cricket and rugby and becoming athletics champion. He then attended the College of Estate Management, London University, where he obtained a Degree in Estate Management and played rugby for the College 1st XV before deciding to become a lawyer. He joined Middle Temple as his Inn of Court and qualified as a Barrister. Following pupillage, he became a member of Western Circuit Chambers at 3, Paper Buildings, Temple, London and their annex in Winchester and practiced in the Criminal Courts in both London (including the Old Bailey) and throughout the West Country, dealing with every type of case from shoplifting to murder. He also appeared in Courts Martial Cases in Germany, as well as acting as a specialist lawyer in Town and Country Planning inquiries and legal appeals. He wrote the book “The 1990-91 Planning Acts” as the official book on the subject for the Royal Institute of British Architects.
In 1993 he became a Recorder – a part-time judge alongside his work as a Barrister – and in 2002 became a full-time Circuit Judge. For 2 years he sat in Bolton, Greater Manchester, before being transferred to Portsmouth, the birthplace of Charles Dickens. After 2 years he transferred to Southampton, where he sat as the Resident Judge (the most senior) for 8 years and was appointed the Honorary Recorder of Southampton by the City. He retired from the law in 2014 and from the Honorary Recordership in 2020. He is married to Heidi, and they have one son, Matthew, and one daughter, Zoe.
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