Dickens: Great Expectations…

…for my friend, Charles Dickens

Lost portrait of Charles Dickens

Portrait of a thirty-something Charles Dickens as he looked when he wrote A Christmas Carol was found caked in mould at a South African market 150 years after it vanished

A youthful portrait of British writer Charles Dickens that went missing for 150 years went on display in London in late November, 2018 after being found covered in mould next to a metal lobster at a market in South Africa.

The miniature watercolour and gouache portrait by Margaret Gillies, valued at £220,000 pounds was painted in 1843 as the young Dickens, then in his early 30s, was writing ‘A Christmas Carol’.

The painting shows the Victorian writer clean shaven, with long, wavy hair, looking over his left shoulder, a contrast to the more common image of an ageing Dickens, with long bushy beard and messy, balding hair.

The portrait was last on public display in 1844 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, only to then disappear some time after, with Gillies writing in a letter in the 1860s that she was unsure of its whereabouts.

After a fruitless search, she reported it unaccounted for in 1886.

How the portrait got to South Africa may never be fully known but new research suggests it was given to one of two brothers-in-law of Gillies’ adopted daughter who both emigrated to South Africa in the 1860s.

The five-and-a-half inch (14cm) high oval portrait was found late last year in KwaZulu-Natal by an unknown buyer and has since been restored.

London Art dealers Philip Mould and Company now own the painting, which went on display at the Charles Dickens Museum this past November.

Charles Dickens (1812- 1870) was an English writer and social critic who wrote some of the world’s best known fictional characters into life

‘Dickens was a celebrity, people followed him down the street and so with that dramatic twist of the head she has caught that, she has caught the man that turned heads himself,’ Philip Mould told Reuters.

It is unknown how exactly the portrait moved from London to South Africa. One theory offered by the dealers is that the portrait was taken to South Africa by family friends of the Dickens and Gillies family.

The Dickens Museum, situated at the author’s former home, is trying to raise money to buy the portrait at a reduced price of £180,000 pounds.

‘This must never escape again. This is such an important, emotive face at such a critical time in his career,’ Mould added.

Written by Zoie O’Brien for The Daily Mail ~ November 21, 2018

~ My friend, Charlie ~
Charles R. Dickens was born in 1951, is a veteran of the Vietnam, for which he volunteered, and the great-great grandson of the noted author, whose name he shares.

He is a fiercely proud American, who still believes this is the greatest country on the planet, with which we’ve lost control and certainly our direction. He grew up in moderate financial surrounding; were not rich by any stretch, but didn’t go hungry – his incredibly hard working father saw to that. As most from that era, he learned about life from his father, whose story would take too long to tell, other than to say that, he is also a fiercely proud American; a WWII and Korean war, veteran Marine.

Charlie was educated in the parochial system which, demanded that you actually learn something, and have capability to retain it before you advance. He attended several universities in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, and chased the goose further to a master’s, and has retained some very definite ideas about education in this country.

In addition, Charlie is a professional (struggling) blues guitar and vocalist – a musician. This is his therapy career. Nothing brings him as much joy as playing music, and he wishes that he could make a living at it… maybe some day!

…and that is how I met Charlie… playing his guitar and singing at a local Blues Jam. ~ JB

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