I'm creating another entry for today, because I've made what you might call a "stupid discovery," which is to say, a discovery that was staring me in the face, and which I should have recognized a long time ago. I'm not sure what it signifies, actually.
When I was taking a penetrating look into Charles Dickens' character, and in particular, whether he was a habitual plagiarist, I came across a book by a critic named Thomas Powell, who, in 1849, published a book entitled "Living Authors of England." In it, he accuses Dickens of having plagiarized "David Copperfield" from a book published in 1842 entitled "The Career of Puffer Hopkins," by Cornelius Mathews. I did not, at that time, follow up to see precisely which passages Powell compared. Given that there was a comparison, however, Dickens responded in a very odd way--he trashed Powell's reputation. It is actually irrelevant what sort of person Powell is--once the comparison is published, you just make your decision based on that. It could have been published by a gorilla, for all we care, logically. Either it looks like plagiarism, or it doesn't.
So Dickens' response is inherently suspect; and if you look at the history surrounding his long-time affair with young actress Ellen Ternen, and if you read his "Violated Letter," in which he sanctimoniously (and falsely) denies same, you can get a pretty good idea of what these devastating charges against Powell might have been made of. If it's the same MO in the accusations against Powell, and the Violated Letter, then it's entirely spurious--and Dickens ruined this person, socially and professionally.
My conclusion is that Dickens was not a nice guy, despite the myth that was built up around him.
But what had somehow escaped my attention, is that Cornelius Mathews is the same fellow who was Mathew Franklin Whittier's editor in the 1846/47 New York humor magazine, from which I have lately been sharing choice tidbits--"Yankee Doodle." And isn't it interesting that Dickens visited America in 1842? One wonders whether Cornelius Mathews shared his manuscript with Dickens during that tour, just as I believe Mathew shared his and Abby's.
So this morning, I knew I was overdue to see that comparison, myself. I downloaded "Living Authors of England" and found the relevant section. This isn't verbatim (as with Poe's claim for "The Raven"), or near-verbatim (as "A Christmas Carol" must have been). But it's what you might call "too close for comfort." What Dickens appears to have done, in this instance, is to steal the idea. In "Puffer," we have a boorish, gluttonous alderman attending an event, and eating up the entire spread, with everyone else looking on, appalled. In Dickens' version, we have a waiter gobbling up the greatest portion of the patron's meal as he is serving it--but the patron is merely amused.
It occurred to me that Dickens has morphed his version into an allegory for plagiarism. He is stealing the work of other authors, just as the waiter is eating his customer's food--but the customer is supposed to go along with it!
But Dickens' true character comes out if anybody dares stand up to him, as Powell did. Dickens becomes vicious, using the power of his reputation the way an aggressive stand-up comedian uses the power of the microphone to ridicule an audience member. I'm trying to remember what Dickens publicly charged Powell with...I'll bet it was a pack of lies, entirely without foundation. It sounded that way, to me, when I first read it. Let me see if I can look it up quickly...
Here, I just took it from my first book:
He is a Forger and a Thief. He was managing-clerk to an eminent merchant's house in the city of London, and during a series of years forged and altered checks, until he had defrauded them to the extent of thousands upon thousands of pounds. His robberies being discovered one day, he took up his hat, went to a chemist's, bought some laudanum, walked off to a warm bath, and was found in it insensible. ... After some months' endurance of the misery and shame of his position he was taken up at Croydon (ten miles from London,) for passing several forged checks to divers trades-people in that neighborhood; was stated to the magistrate to be mad; and was actually continued for some time in a lunatic asylum, that the prosecutions against him might not go on. From the lunatic asylum he found his way to New York. He arrived there with a forged letter of recommendation...
Historians, apparently, have believed him, and if they have bothered to look at Powell's original comparison, they weren't convinced. I am. But let's suppose, just for a minute, that everything you read in the quote, above, is sheer malicious horseshit. Entirely without foundation. What kind of an asshole would make up such lies about a critic who dared to prove, with a side-by-side comparison, that he had stolen another authors' idea? I'll tell you what kind--a sociopath. A sociopath who has adopted a cloak of philanthropy and kind-heartedness (as they often do), largely by claiming Mathew and Abby Whittier's deeply-spiritual story, "A Christmas Carol," as his own.
You may know that a sociopath's first line of defense is projection: "No, you." That is precisely what Dickens has done with Powell--he leads out calling him a "forger and a thief." Of all the things he could have called him, he calls him what he, himself, is. It's no accident.
Do you see, now, why I am single-handedly going up against the entire world, and in particular the entire world of academia, on these attributions? Dickens' true character will eventually be exposed. I want "A Christmas Carol" reclaimed for Mathew and Abby before that shit hits the fan.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Audio opening this page, opening to the "Lord of the Rings"