Tuesday, 8 July 2008

My Dickensian Great-Grandfather

Apologies, I haven't posted for ages - as other bloggers will know, the longer you leave between posts the harder it is to get round to posting anything. It's been a busy time but things are gradually winding down for the summer and today I had my first proper day-off (i.e. actually away from the presbytery) for several weeks.

I had a wonderfully domestic day with my parents - celebrating Mass, mowing the lawn and writing up some notes my mother had scribbled about her parents, both of whom died in the 1950s and therefore long before my time. I thought it would be good to preserve these memories for posterity.

It was particularly interesting to find out more about my great-grandfather, Charles Grigsby. All I knew about him was that he was quite a character (and I suspect a bit of a rogue), wrote a few books about Charles Dickens (using the pen name 'Edwin Charles') and apparently knew both Belloc and Chesterton. I thought that this last detail was no more than dubious family legend but I discovered today - much to my excitement - that Chesterton actually provided the 'Foreword' to my great-grandfather's second book, Some Dickens Women, which I quickly ordered via the internet. Moreover, it seems that Ronald Knox gave the book a favourable review, though he lamented that Mary the housemaid (from the Pickwick Papers) had not been given a place amongst the other Dickensian characters.

The war correspondent and novelist Sir Philip Gibbs, wrote the ‘Foreword’ to the sequel, Some Dickens Men, and referred to ‘Edwin Charles’ as ‘an old friend of mine in the Street of Adventure [i.e. Fleet Street]. He is a regular Dickens character, steeped in the works of that master as few living Englishmen, and touched not a little with the best quality, the noble optimism in adversity, of Mr Micawber himself.’ Great Grandpa confessed that ‘from my boyhood’s days, Dickens has been my constant companion, my consolation and my delight. My love for him is part of my inmost self and will continue to be so till the Author of all things shall write “finis” to my book of life.’

He died in 1950, aged 88, and his obituary in the Ilford Recorder reported that ‘Mr Grigsby added considerably to the colour and spice of life which he enjoyed to the full’ and that ‘he was a fine speaker, using all the arts of wit and poise and at times jamming his famous monocle in his eye to crush an interrupter with a glare.’ Furthermore, ‘his silver hair and handsome face and his courtly manners made him the most distinguished figure in any company.’

Hmmm, I must find out more about him!



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