19th May 2016 at 1:41 pm #1008Peter ScottGuest
The 1897 edition of “My first Book” is available on line, electronically.
The Introduction to this Book, by JKJ, reveals an intruiging aspect to the Dickens meeting described in Paul Kelver. It tells the story of a remarkably similar meeting between a Boy and a Man on a bench in the Park. However this “version” is written in the first person from JKJ’s perspective; with him as the older person and not the Boy. Much of it is identical but no allusion is made to Dickens and one wonders, as it is a book about authors, why that would be so. If JKJ were so enthralled to have met Dickens [or who he considered to be Dickens], why would he not mention it in1894.
It would be possible to make a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of both pieces to compare them but that would be too lengthy for this Forum format, however one or two points are worth mentioning.
“My First Book” is clearly a reminiscence of his childhood. It is an evocative creation of someone having a conversation with their younger self and where Dickens has no relevance. Both pieces contain the main themes of JKJ’s mother and his ambitions but this is about himself as he refers to the “new humour” and the fact that the Boy had never heard of him.
In spite of the similarities of the story it is far from being just a reversal of roles of the characters. In the original there is a deal of insight into JKJ’s thoughts which of course could not be transposed on to Dickens in the later version.
The emphasis of the ending is different; in the first it is about JKJ not explaining why he likes to sit “of an evening” in the Park. In Paul Kelver it’s about “Dickens” not telling the young JKJ his name.
In her book, “Below the Fairy City”, Carolyn Oulton identifies an article in Youth’s Companion, 4th January 1912, “Charles Dickens, The Fellowship of Love”, by JKJ. [not in Idle Thoughts?] This appears, [not having it available to read] even more years later, to be a further reminiscence of their meeting.
Carolyn also puts a possible date for the meeting as the summer or autumn of 1869 but Dickens was seriously incapacitated for a year or more before his death in June 1870. In a more sceptical age we might ask how would Dickens be sitting in Victoria Park in the evening miles from his home?
I recommend reading it and look forward to other’s views…………
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