City goes against Dickens’s will to put up a statue

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

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ADMIRERS of Charles Dickens say they will press ahead with plans to build a statue of him – even though the great author didn’t want one.

As reported in The News, a memorial to the writer will be built in Portsmouth in time for the anniversary of his 200th birthday next year.

But in his will Dickens, who was born in Old Commercial Road, wrote that he didn’t want to be the subject of ‘any memorial or testimonial whatever’.

The city’s Dickens Fellowship and Portsmouth City Council – who are commissioning the tribute – said they were aware of the author’s request. But they believe the author’s work was so important that it is right to celebrate it with a permanent memorial. Dickens fellowship member, Professor Tony Pointon, said the plans for Portsmouth had the full backing of Dickens’s remaining descendants.

‘It is only right that such an important figure in Portsmouth’s history has a statue here,’ he said. ‘He wanted his legacy to be his writings, which is understandable.

‘But along with the other celebrations of the bicentenary next year, the statue will help bring future generations to his work – it is vital that he is remembered and revered.’

He added that although few statues of Dickens had been built, there were countless busts of the great man all over the world.

‘I see very little difference between a bust and a statue,’ he said. ‘Except that everyone can enjoy a statue. It will become part of the city.’

The writer’s great-great grandson, Mark Charles Dickens, said a statue was ‘long overdue’, and other family members have also voiced support for the proposal.

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said any monument to Dickens would be a huge boost to tourism in the city.

‘We should make as much of his memory as we can,’ he said. ‘Not just to remember him, but also to bring jobs and money into Portsmouth.

‘Money has been raised worldwide for this statue, and that shows how much people want it.’

But that doesn’t convince Malcolm Andrews, Dickens expert and professor of english at Kent University.

He said: ‘Dickens was clear enough in his will that he did not want that ever to happen. Dickens is a household name – a worldwide name. Why do we need a statue?’