Twenty-Five Things About Me;
Being But an Incomplete List of the Idiosyncrasies that Together Form the Better Part of One Man’s Existence in the Present Age*
by Charles Dickens
Author of The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzlewit, Hard Times, David Copperfield, &cetera, and Editor of Household Words
1. My life has been filled with the best of times. (The worst of times I choose not to mention.)
2. When I was a child, my father called me “Chuckles,” in jesting reference to my less than enthusiastic reaction on being taken from school and sent to work in a blacking factory to help pay his debts.
3. The schoolmaster Mr. M’Choakumchild is based on a real teacher in my grammar school, who did his best to educate me according to his own philosophy (until I was sent to work in a blacking factory). I found his real name, Mr. Gentlesweet, to be odiously inappropriate. I am of the opinion that a name should reveal something accurate of a man’s character.
4. And that children should not be sent to work in blacking factories.
5. I feel a desperate urge to throw stones every time I visit the Crystal Palace Exhibition. However, my friend Wilkie argues even I could not excuse such behavior in an immense glass-house by blaming the sparrows, which are an avowed annoyance. Pity.
6. I have a particular fondness for an elegant turn of phrase; and find that a descriptive passage, when once properly constructed, veritably takes on a life of its own and brings before the reader a vision of such power and vividness as to render him almost breathless.
7. I am paid by the page for my prose.
8. I have never read the whole of Bleak House.
9. My mother was a pretty, silent, persevering, delicate, loving, little thing. Had it not been for my father, she would have been quite perfect.
10. I would like to write more romantic scenes in my fiction and cannot fathom why I am unable to do so successfully.
11. My wife, Catherine, has chosen lilac for the drawing-room. I cannot abide lilac. I am not convinced she has considered this carefully as a means of torturing me; however, she is nothing but indifferent to the tremendous strains and pressures of my extensive work obligations.
12. I like my slippers just so, and my pipe already filled when I retire to the drawing room of an evening. Catherine cannot seem to recall this. I suspect laziness on her part.
13. I have lately lost my ninth child, a sweet infant called Dora, and am most crushed by the loss.
14. My other children are some comfort, but Catherine is positively useless. I cannot think why she is not more supportive of me in my grief. Certainly it affects my writing.
15. I am partial to hand-cut swan quill pens, constructed of right-wing feathers. I do not feel it is too much to ask that my desk be prepared accordingly before I come down to write of a morning.
16. Catherine cannot manage this either. I cannot fathom what she does all day long to make such a simple thing impossible to recall.
17. Once and for all, David Copperfield is not myself. The fact that he is sent to work in a bottle factory, having been removed summarily from school at the age of ten despite his promising intelligence, is merely coincidence.
18. I am of the opinion that every man would do well to mature far beyond the child he once was.
19. I find gruel abhorrent and would rather take nothing at all.
20. I strongly resist attending any dinner party that I reasonably suspect will not end with several games at charades and at least one impromptu set of magical tricks.
21. I have asked my publishers to withhold all mail suggesting plot changes for my novels while they are running serially. Having once been coerced by popular opinion to alter the outcome of a novel, much to my own dissatisfaction, I have sworn firmly to resist such influence forevermore.
22. In my experience, Americans have an ill-formed sense of humour when it comes to considering themselves. However, they have a quite proper respect for fame.
23. I once had an aunt who could not abide donkeys on the village green. She would chase them off with sticks. I used to lure donkeys to the village green with carrots, just to watch her emerge running from her house in her enormous turban (the headwear that had been fashionable in her youth, and that she saw no reason to change on a sudden whim after forty-years’ passage of time).
24. I am unaccountably timid of railway travel.
25. I find David Copperfield to be the funniest of the productions of my pen and will be much gratified if the public adjudges it likewise. I should so like to be remembered as a man who could make people laugh.
* A thing I wrote a long, long time ago, recycled here because I still crack myself up over it periodically.