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A Child's Dream of a Star

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Short Fiction i
Subjects Children; Childhood; Pregnancy; Childbirth; Child Rearing; Adoption; Child Labor
Death; Grief; Mourning; Mourning Customs in Literature; Funeral Rites and Ceremonies; Life Cycle, Human; Old Age; Mortality
Dreams; Visions; Sleep
Health; Diseases; Personal Injuries; Hygiene; Cleanliness—Fiction
Religion; Religion and Culture
Supernatural; Superstition; Spiritualism; Clairvoyance; Mesmerism; Ghosts; Fairies; Witches; Magic; Occultism
Other Details
Printed : 6/4/1850
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume I
Magazine : No. 2
Office Book Notes
Views : 8584

Dickens wrote to Forster on 14 March that he had felt, when reviewing the proposed contents for the second number of HW, 'an uneasy sense of there being a want of something tender, which would apply to some universal household knowledge'; looking at the stars during a journey on the railway ('always a wonderfully suggestive place to me when I am alone'), he found himself 'revolving a little idea about them' and, putting the two things together, wrote this piece 'straightway' (Pilgrim, Vol. VI, p. 65). It was given pride of place in the new number.

      Forster notes (Book 6, Ch. 4) apropos of this piece that Dickens told him he and his much-loved sister Fanny 'used to wander at night about a churchyard near their house [in Chatham] looking up at the stars', and that Fanny's early death in the summer of 1848 'had vividly reawakened all the childish association which made her memory dear to him'. There seems to be a clear reference to his childhood companionship with Fanny in the opening paragraph of 'A Child's Dream', but, as I have argued elsewhere, the presence of his idolised sister-in-law Mary Hogarth (whose sudden death at the age of seventeen had been such a terrible blow to him in 1837) can also be strongly felt in the piece (see Slater, Dickens and Women [1983], p. 92). 
      The form and style of this 'Child's Dream' echoes that of [F. W.] Carovés's Das Märchen Ohne Ende ('The Story without an End' [trans. by Sarah Austin, 1834]), which Dickens had drawn on many years earlier for the purposes of policial satire ['The Story without a Beginning', Morning Chronicle, 18 December 1834]. 

MS.  John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. The MS. variants mainly concern accidentals (Dickens consistently wrote Angel with a capital A, for example) apart from three places: for 'the man who had been a child saw his daughter,' the MS. reads 'he saw his child'; for 'old man', the MS. reads 'old old man'; for 'I thank thee', the MS. reads 'I thank thee humbly'. 

Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume II: 'The Amusements of the People' and Other Papers: Reports, Essays and Reviews, 1834-51 (1996). DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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