Charles Dickens

by Mary VanNattan


Proverbs 22:24 Make no friendship with an angry man;
and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

The writings of Charles Dickens are generally viewed as being especially good books and classic reading for kids and adults alike. While Dickens was obviously a talented writer and was a great advocate for better treatment of the poor, his personal life and many of the things that he included in his writing were wicked.

To begin with, Dickens was raised in a very unhappy home and, as a child was even required to work in a factory at one time after his father's unstable life habits landed him, his wife and other children in debtor's prison. He did not spend much time in any kind of schooling, but interestingly, one of the places that he did go for educating was to a school run by a Baptist minister (1). This is of particular note because there is reason to believe from this that Charles Dickens quite possibly heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and was taught godly living by this teacher whom he was said to have liked. He was nine when he left this school, which is old enough to have understood the gospel, especially for a child that must have had a keen mind. How he chose to live his life as he grew to manhood should be viewed in light of this early exposure to the truth.

Dickens entered upon his fame by writing the notes to accompany a series of pictures illustrated by the then notable, Robert Seymore. After establishing his own superior intellect in this and convincing the editors to allow him to write the story to suit himself, he quarrelled with Seymore, who ended up shooting himself. Dickens defended himself in this matter and thus established his own carrier. (Not a good way to start one's writing carrier, in my opinion.)

After becoming successful in this manner, Dickens married a young woman by the name of Catherine Hogarth. She was quite attractive, but some feel that she was not overly intelligent, at least not up to Dickens' level. It is not rare for men to marry for looks rather than sense, and we see Dickens' lack of reasoning here. In a typical foolish fashion of unsaved youth, he did not consider if she was "an help meet for him." Genesis 2:18

Shortly after they were married, Catherine's sister Mary went to live with them. Perhaps she came as a helper to her sister, but it was not necessary since Mary had a home to live in. As it turned out, Dickens became, or perhaps already was, highly attached to Mary and his attitude toward her gives a strong appearance of unfaithfulness to his wife in at least feelings and attitude. He was said to have been holding her when she died (of illness) and apparently wore a ring of hers much or all of his life thereafter. He said he "thanked God that her last words were of me."

Malachi 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

We will find that this was also how Dickens ended his marriage as well-- in unfaithfulness. After Mary Hogarth died, another of Catherine's sisters came to live with them.

The stories that Dickens wrote, though interesting in style, are full of too much "realism." Drinking, fornication, and other vices find their places in his tales. They are rather far removed in content from Philippians 4:8; Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Now, some sniveling person that doesn't like to hear sin called sin will doubtless make the sarcastic remark, "What about the Bible? Those things are in the Bible too. Should we stop reading it?" To which we reply, For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4 Charles Dickens' stories are not the word of God. They were not written for the purpose of warning the saints that they might learn and have patience, comfort and hope. And, today his writings are primarily viewed as entertainment and literature. We can get along without them very nicely, thank you.

Added to his ungodly novels, there were the "Christmass" stories of Dickens. His "Christmass" tales, such as "A Christmas Carol", "The Cricket", and "The Chimes" became quite, to very popular and the first listed is still admired today and portrayed as "Christian" by some people. This story in particular helped this "holiday" to more popularity. So, he contributed to the hideous "Christmas tradition" which has such a powerful witchery to hold people in its' thrall . Jeremiah 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen... [See our page on the Christmas Cult.]

How the Dickens' marriage was during the years that they were together is not entirely known, but it is noteworthy that his portrayal of his wife in the autobiographical David Copperfield indicated that he considered his wife less than desirable as an help meet, though admirable in her physical aspects. What is known is that Dickens and his wife were supposedly "temperamentally unsuited" and that there was a long period of marital trouble. Sometime in this period Dickens started his theatrical group. A whorish woman who joined this group in 1857, one Ellen Lawless Ternan, attracted Dickens' attention (2). "Lawless" was a good name for her since she was perfectly willing to commit adultery with Dickens. Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

As one source notes, "According to E.D.H. Johnson, Dickens's affair with Ellen Lawless Ternan, which lasted until his death, had several influences on his work: 'The girl's name certainly influenced the naming of the heroines of the last three novels, Stella in Great Expectations, Bella Wilder in Our Mutual Friend, and Helena Landless in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The willful and imperious ways of the first two of these characters represent a noteworthy departure from the earlier ideal of saintly meekness [in some of his heroines]...And there can be no mistaking that Dickens' later fiction explores sexual passion with an intensity and perceptiveness not previously apparent.'" (3)

Proverbs 5:18 ...rejoice with the wife of thy youth...20 And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a  strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? 21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings. 22 His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.  23 He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

How can literature with a foundation like this possibly be useful? And, as has been noted, Dickens' relationship to his sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, years early was also highly suspect.

In 1858, after this "affair" with Ternan was begun, Dickens and his wife separated, he living with at least some of their children and his sister-in-law at his Gad's Hill residence. It should also be noted that it was totally inappropriate for him to have his sister-in-law living with and keeping house for him in this fashion. Whether or not there was anything between them, it was a horrible appearance. For the Christian the admonition is in 1Thessalonians 5:22, Abstain from all appearance of evil. Thus Dickens' example is poor, at best.

The 1963 Encyclopedia Brittanica says of Ternan on page 382, "It seems clear that sometime during the 1860's she became his mistress. He provided her with somewhere to live; he left her [1,000 pounds] when he died; and, meanwhile, he divided his time between her, his public career and what remained of his family at Gad's Hill."

She was not a strictly secret mistress either. He was bold enough to take her on vacation with him. "In 1865, an incident occurred which disturbed Dickens greatly, both psychologically and physically: Dickens and Ellen Ternan, returning from a Paris holiday, were badly shaken up in a railway accident in which a number of people were injured..." (4)

At least the later part of Dickens' life was plagued by restlessness and what appears to be discontent. As has been noted already, it is entirely possible that Dickens had a knowledge of the truth at one time, having sat under the teaching of a Baptist. Secondly, there was no lack of sound doctrine available in Great Brittain in those days. Dickens did not die until 1870. He not only had access to the preaching of Charles H. Spurgeon and George Muller in his day, but D. L. Moody made his first visit to England in 1867, well before Dickens' death. It is of interest that when Moody was preparing for this trip he expressed a great desire to meet Charles Spurgeon and George Muller, but he did not mention a desire to meet Dickens who was still alive and enjoying his fame.

It is most likely a true statement to say of Dickens that he was one of those " of the world, which have their portion in this life..." Psalm 17:14 This life was all the heaven that his wretched soul probably ever knew. In all probability he is now in hell lifting up his eyes and regretting the days that he wrote all those ungodly books which have polluted the minds of so many, knowing full well that he must stand before God for judgment. If, perchance, Charles Dickens was actually born again at a young age and the misery and discontent of his later life was chastening from God for walking carnally, then the best that can be said for him is that he did nothing or little to enrich his soul for the next life and when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ, his "great works" will go up in so much smoke.

1Corinthians 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

In either of these cases, why waste the precious time that we have to prepare ourselves and our children for service to God in pursuing such worthless reading material? There is nothing in his works to inspire Christians to godly in Christ Jesus... (2Timothy 3:12) nor to rightly divide ...the word of truth. (2Timothy 2:15) All that these stories do is pollute the mind and the peril is that one should learn the ways of Charles Dickens and his unequal standards. Proverbs 22:25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

Besides all this, Dickens talked "spiritual" talk, wrote a History of the New Testament and prayers for his children and is passed off as a Christian. We are clearly told to avoid this kind of person.

1Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Charles Dickens falls into the fornicator category easily with his shameless "affair" with Ellen Ternan. He may also have been covetous as he seems to have had an overpowering desire to get out of the poverty that he was born into. If we are not to keep company with nor eat with someone like this that is "called a brother", how can we then excuse reading his books?

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

(1) Biographical Sketch To The Life Of Charles Dickens; "A frail child, Charles took to bookish-ness early. As a child, Dickens never attended a real school; at first, he attended a "homemade" school run by local women, and then, for two years, until the age of nine, he attended a school run by a Baptist minister.

(2) "Dickens's theatrical company performed The Frozen Deep for the Queen, and when a young actress named Ellen Ternan joined the cast in August, Dickens fell in love with her. In 1858, in London, Dickens undertook his first public readings for pay, and quarreled with his old friend and rival, the great novelist Thackeray. More importantly, it was in that year that, after a long period of difficulties, he separated from his wife. They had been for many years 'temperamentally unsuited' to each other. Dickens, charming and brilliant though he was, was also fundamentally insecure emotionally, and must have been extraordinarily difficult to live with..."