Dickens’s family says he wouldn’t object to statue

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Picture: Pierandrea Guarnieri

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DESCENDANTS of Charles Dickens have insisted the great author would not have disapproved of a proposed statue of him.

As reported in The News, a statue will be built in Portsmouth as part of celebrations to mark Dickens’s 200th birthday next year.

But plans to erect a monument to the writer – who was born in Old Commercial Road – have been criticised for going against the wishes left in his will, in which Dickens wrote: ‘I conjure my friends on no account to make me the subject of any monument, memorial or testimonial.’

The head of his remaining family, great-great-grandson Mark Charles Dickens, 55, said he believed the author’s request was only intended for those organising his funeral and did not forbid a statue being built in the future.

‘The family is absolutely convinced that there is no reason why there should not be a statue of Charles Dickens in England,’ said Mr Dickens.

‘And I am sure that there would have been one by now if some purists had not interpreted a passage in his will to be a statement that he never wanted one. It is really clear that he is talking about his funeral, and didn’t mean for the ban to continue forever.’

Mr Dickens, who served as a commander in the Royal Navy and now lives near Crowborough, in East Sussex, said all his family agreed the writer was indicating his dislike of the large monuments which often towered over famous Victorian graves.

‘He didn’t want an elaborate funeral,’ he said. ‘But that no longer has relevance so many years later. In fact his intentions were not even honoured at the time; Queen Victoria organised a huge funeral, and now there are innumerable busts, museums, plaques and tributes to him all over the world. Yet despite this there exists an illogically strong view opposing the erection of a full-size statue of Charles Dickens in this country.’

He added: ‘I personally think Charles Dickens would be highly amused by the debate and particularly chuffed to think there is such interest in him 200 years after he was born.

‘And I am sure that the erection of a statue in the town of his birth would have given him the greatest pleasure of all.’

Dickens’ longest-surviving son, Henry, objected to the idea of a statue and sent back one that was made by Dickens followers in Philadelphia, in America. But he only saw the will as binding while he was alive, and released future generations from this obligation before his death in 1933.

Another great-great-grandson, 55-year-old Ian Charles Dickens, from Old Portsmouth, said not building any memorials would be ridiculous.

He said: ‘You would have to have a very low opinion of the man to think he would be so arrogant as to order future generations not to put up any statues at all.’