"" Writer's Wanderings: A Dickens of a Practical Joker

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Dickens of a Practical Joker

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling around the world is encountering places and things that reinforce the things I have learned about in the past. For example, the first time we visited Westminster Abbey in London, we happened upon the grave of Charles Dickens, author of many classic novels including A Christmas Carol. I stood for a moment and stared at the inscription in the stone on the floor of the Abbey. It was a validation that such a person actually lived. I know. I'm a little strange. But before that moment it was almost as if he were as fictional as the characters he created.

And now I learn that he was quite a practical joker. I came across a story about him that said he had a secret door designed to look like a bookshelf. On the shelves were fake books with titles like Noah's Arkitecture, Cat's Lives in nine volumes, a set of books called The Wisdom of Our Ancestors with subtitles that involved ignorance, superstition, disease, and instruments of torture. The last set of books also had a companion book titled The Virtues of Our Ancestors which was so narrow the title was printed vertically.

I am relatively certain that the grave marker in Westminster Abbey was not fake. . .but then he was one of the great fiction writers and a practical joker as well. . .

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