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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 27 May 1994 15:55:40 -0700
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    Last December, John O. Jordan delivered the following talk on
    the occasion of a gift of a complete collection of THE DICK-
    ENSIAN to the UCSC McHenry Library.

    On behalf of the Dickens Project, I want to express my
gratitude to The Friends of the Library and to Lou and Isabel
Bartfield for their gift to the Library of a full back run of THE

    I would like to say a few words about the journal you have
selected as your gift. Its full title is THE DICKENSIAN: A
lot about the magazine's purpose and intended audience, for the
novels of Dickens continue to elicit not just the admiration but
the love of many readers. The magazine is published by the Dick-
ens Fellowship in London, which was founded by a small group of
enthusiastic admirers of Dickens in 1902. By 1905, the year of
the first publication of THE DICKENSIAN there were 30 branches of
the Fellowship, most of them in England.Today there are over 60
branches scattered around the world, including four in

    As you can see, the journal has a drab green cover. Each
issue was originally 32 pages long and had a 19th-century
illustration on the cover. All of these features repeat the
format and appearance of the monthly serial installments in which
Dickens's novels appeared during his lifetime.

    THE DICKENSIAN has been in continuous publication since 1905.
It thus provides an invaluable record not only of the activities
of the Dickens Fellowship but, more importantly, of what the pop-
ular and the scholarly response to Dickens has been throughout
the twentieth century. This is its chief value to students and
scholars of Dickens today. Full sets of THE DICKENSIAN are some-
what difficult to come by these days. McHenry Library has a con-
tinuous run from 1965 to the present, but with only a random and
very incomplete sample of issues from earlier years. Now, thanks
to the donation by the Friends of the Library and to a special
contribution by longtime Dickens Project friends and supporters,
Lou and Isabel Bartfield, we have been able to acquire this com-
plete back run of the journal from 1905 through 1974.

    THE DICKENSIAN is unusual in being both a scholarly journal,
read by scholars, and a magazine for enthusiasts and amateurs--
what today might be called a "fanzine." It contains articles of
rather ephemeral value--a record of the various Christmas
celebrations by different Fellowship branches, for example. But
it also contains a treasure trove of background information about
Dickens and the nineteenth century that is fascinating in itself
and potentially of considerable use to students and scholars
doing research on the Victorian age. Opening volumes almost at
random, I came across articles on Victorian street fire alarms,
on nineteenth-century dramatic adaptations of Dickens's novels,
on Dickens and his illustrators--these along with bibliographies,
reviews of recent books, poetical tributes to Dickens, identifi-
cations of original people and places that appear in the novels,
and countless attempts to solve the unfinished MYSTERY OF EDWIN
DROOD. If you need an original recipe for the holiday wine drink
called "smoking bishop," you can find it here.

    In recent decades, the articles have tended to be more
scholarly in nature, reflecting the modern recognition of Dick-
ens's rightful place among the very greatest writers of English--
right up there with that fellow Shakespeare, whose plays for some
reason have attracted considerable attention from local devotees
of the theatre. Until the 1950s, Dickens was generally thought of
as a great popular entertainer--which of course he was--but not
as a major figure in world literature. The Dickens Fellowship was
thus ahead of its time in granting him such recognition. We of
the Dickens Project were late in jumping on the bandwagon in

    At least some, if not all, of the early volumes in this dona-
tion appear to have once been the property of C. H. Green, a mem-
ber of the London Dickens Fellowship beginning in 1911 and its
Honorable Secretary from 1920-25, who died in 1951 at the age of
93. Mr. Green was the first full-time Secretary of the Fellow-
ship, and it was under his direction that the Fellowship realized
its dream of purchasing the Dickens House on Doughty Street in
London, which now serves as its headquarters--and which many of
you no doubt have visited.

    C. H. Green was also one of the seventeen members of the Fel-
lowship whose signatures appear in the January 1926 souvenir
issue of the journal, a copy of which is included in today's
donation. Published in a limited edition of 50 to commemorate the
"Coming of Age" of THE DICKENSIAN--that is, its 21st birthday-
this special souvenir issue contains a history of the journal by
one of its members, along with a menu of the birthday meal served
for the occasion. The meal began with fresh oysters and continued
with ox tail soup, boiled turbot with lobster sauce, roast saddle
of mutton, topped off with a Dickens pudding--all appropriately
robust Victorian fare.

    Other curiosities that accompany this particular set of The
Dickensian include a 1921 copy of the Fellowship's bylaws, list-
ing the "aims and objects" of the Dickens Fellowship. I can do no
better by way of ending this little talk than to quote the first
three goals of the Dickens Fellowship and to invite you to lend
your support to these goals by joining one of the several
California branches (Los Angeles, Monterey, Palo Alto, and San
Francisco) or, by joining the Friends of the Dickens Project.
Here, then, are the first three goals of the Dickens Fellowship:

1. To knit together in a common bond of friendship lovers of that
great master of humour and pathos, Charles Dickens.
2. To spread the love of humanity, which is the keynote of all
his work.
3. To take such measures as may be expedient to remedy those
existing social evils, the amelioration of which would have
appealed so strongly to the heart of Charles Dickens, and to help
in every possible direction in the cause of the poor and

    These seem to me worthy goals--as much so for the last decade
of the twentieth century as for the first. I therefore invite you
to join me at this holiday season, so well remembered and
celebrated by Dickens, in drinking a toast to the Inimitable Boz,
as he was called, and in invoking the last words of his Christmas
book of 1848, THE HAUNTED MAN,  in which he wrote: "Lord, keep my
memory green!" In pledging his name and in reopening the drab
green covers of THE DICKENSIAN we do indeed keep alive the memory
and to keep alive the memory of this great writer.