How anti-semitic was Charles Dickens?

On the great story-teller’s 200th birthday, I’ve dusted off a column I published in the Standard seven years ago, examining the facts and causes of Charles Dickens’s racism. Read it here.

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  • Hi.
    I read your article about Charles Dickens you wrote in 2005, where you focused on his alleged anti-Semitic attitude. In the article you quote Dickens when he said he knew no Jews. This of course is not true. He knew many Jewish families. Dickens may have had a great loathing of the wealthy Jewish people around him especially when he was a child. His grudge against his mother for sending him to work at Warren’s Blacking Factory is well documented. It was owned by people with a Jewish background and who retained Jewish family interests. Dickens despised the factory and his mother for sending him there so would be a stretch to suggest he also despised those who owned it and/or were associated with it?

    My great grandmother knew Charles Dickens. Sadly she died in 1941 and took her stories with her. Nobody believed her you see when she said she was related to him. If you look at Dickens last will and testament you will find her grandfather named as a witness. It wasn’t until 2010 that the family link to her by marriage via Warren’s Blacking Factory was proven in court documents held at the National Archives.

    Anyway, what makes me really sad is that the myth of Charles Dickens has overwhelmed the real man and his work. One day maybe the story of the real people who shaped Dickens early life will be told.

    • I would be quite interested in more specific proof of his relationships with Jews. Names, dates, and proof of Jewish heritage of these individuals. This is an astounding comment and, if true, indeed changes what we know of Dickens into a myth.

  • Why ? let is rest Mr. Lebrecht ..it serves no purpose except in turning over the same old ashes again and again ..

  • and what will this change ? nothing …. and if he were so … still nothing … except one can finger point that a famous /infamous character in one of his books was portrayed of Jewish origin and a character not favourable to the way a Jew sees himself / herself .There is not an ethnic group in this world that does not view some other group with a
    jaundiced eye as to their validity on this planet . Look around you ……. If you don’t believe the character valid
    that’s one thing but to believe that no Jewish person could represent that character is game playing . Any one could have been that character, Dickens chose the Jewi – don’t like it don’t read it -simple as that . Unless one finds a document in which Dickens states his desire to portray all Jews as this dreadful character everything
    is but supposition . Sewing the fabric to suit the premise .

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