Nearsighted as we may be, the far-reaching implications of COVID-19 sit ominously and imminently– and unknowably– on the horizon.
Never before seen letters from famous author Charles Dickens were recently discovered, giving us insight into the mind of the literary genius. Twenty-five unpublished letters were recovered from a collection of Dickens’ manuscripts, books from his library, and other personal items. These letters give insight to the life of Charles Dickens, as he was writing some of his most famous works such as A Christmas Carol.
In a letter to a friend, dated 9 November 1843, Dickens wrote, “I have half done the Christmas Book, and am resting for two days before going to Chuzzlewit – that is, if I can call anything rest, with that before me.” These letters shed an important light on Dickens’ creative process and what he did to gather inspiration to write. One thing Dickens often did was exercise, which was an important part of his creative process. In a letter written in 1846, while on vacation with his family in Switzerland, Dickens wrote, “It is a tough day, but it is a great thing to get rid of the heat… I may perhaps take a boat for exercise, this evening after dinner.”
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Cindy Sughrue, director of the Charles Dickens Museum, is fascinated by Dickens’ ability to keep working no matter the circumstances. She says, “It’s this mixture of being on holiday… enjoying a completely different culture and still ‘writing his head off’ and meeting those publication deadlines throughout.” Other unpublished letters reveal Dickens’ strained relationship with his father, though he destroyed most of these letters. The only complete exchange of letters that has survived is between Dickens and a fan of his, a young Danish woman. In his letters, Dickens offers the woman advice writing, “The state of mind which you describe is not a wholesome one… the remedy for it, however, is easy… action, usefulness.”
The letters have been acquired by the Charles Dickens Museum from an American who has been putting the collection together for more than forty years. The museum raised £1.8m to buy these letters with the help of grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Friends of the National Libraries, and the Dickens Fellowship. The letters will be on display at the Charles Dickens Museum in London later in the year and available to view online over the next two years.
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Most writers second-guess the quality of their work, whether these doubts are frequent or limited to insomnia-causing late night angst sessions. Fewer writers guess that those on the bestseller list have these same fears. This week, a letter from a young Theodore Geisel—a.k.a. Dr. Seuss—is available at auction for $3,500. Like Geisel's books, the letter tells a fascinating yet unbelievable story: a vulnerable, personal account of an aspiring author who nearly burned his first children's manuscript.
Norman Aladjem, a Hollywood manager and producer, began writing Letters to Mackenzie as an ongoing series of advice he wanted to give to his daughter. As an ‘older dad’, as he describes himself, he wanted to be able to teach his daughter valuable lessons that he’s learned in his life.
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What once started out as a passion project, quickly turned into a small self-help phenomenon. Letters to MacKenzie was a series of letters of advice that Aladjem would post once a week to his Facebook as a way to keep himself accountable and to stick to the project. Aladjem was contacted by a book agent he had on Facebook, and the book was quickly picked up by Simon & Schuster. “I didn’t set out to become an author,” he said. “I set out to write letters to my daughter and then it seemed to have universal themes of female empowerment and lessons about life and the relationships between parents and their children.”
The MacKenzie in question is actually sixteen year-old actress MacKenzie Aladjem who has starred on shows like Hawaii Five-O and Nurse Jackie.
The blog brought him and his family closer together as it provided him a way to articulate feelings and thoughts that he may not have been able to share before. He used the letters to talk about things from allowances, to deaths in the family, or even the birds and the bees. Norm actually planned to bind the letters together and gift them to MacKenzie during her eighteenth birthday, but he joked, “Then somebody bought the book.”
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The novel, entitled From Me to You, was recently published by Post Hill Press.
Aladjem stated that this was one of the most fulfilling things he has done as a parent. “I’ve had people say, ‘I wish my Dad had done that for me’ or ‘I need to start doing this for my kids.’ It’s never too late to do this for those you love.”
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