Victorian smackdown: Dickens v. Hans Christian Andersen

In 1857, Hans Christian Andersen was invited to stay at Gad’s Hill for 2 weeks with Dickens and his family.  He stayed five.  Apparently, Andersen never had a grandmother teach him that “fish and guests stink after 3 days.”   Dickensian snark has recently been unearthed by antiquarian bookdealers.  A sample:

The Danish man of letters, a tall, gaunt and rather ungainly character, extended his visit to five weeks. Dickens dropped polite hints that he should leave, but they were, perhaps, too subtle. After he finally left, Dickens wrote on the mirror in the guestroom: “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks — which seemed to the family AGES!”

This all is coming back to public attention thanks to an antiquarian named David Brass, who’s quotable himself:

David Brass, a Californian antiquarian dealer, who is bringing the volume to the Olympia book fair, said: “To Andersen, the visit was timeless Elysium, a holiday, a fairy tale come true. To Dickens, his wife, and particularly his children it was eternal torment, a holy hell, a horror story made real.

. . .

Mr Brass said: “This is the greatest Dickens discovery since I’ve been in the rare book business, over 40 years. It is a legendary literary artefact. I feel like Indiana Jones. It’s like finding the Lost Ark but without the curse, aggravation and people trying to kill you.”

(Via  the Bookninja.)

Those interested in more Dickensian fairy-tale controversy may well enjoy “Frauds on the Fairies,” his vitriolic review of George Cruikshank’s politically-correct fairy tales:

If such a precedent were followed we must soon become disgusted with the old stories into which modern personages so obtruded themselves, and the stories themselves must soon be lost. With seven Blue Beards in the field, each coming at a gallop from his own platform mounted on a foaming hobby a generation or two hence would not know which was which, and the great original Blue Beard would be confounded with the counterfeits. Imagine a Total abstinence edition of Robinson Crusoe, with the rum left out. Imagine a Peace edition, with the gunpowder left out, and the rum left in. Imagine a Vegetarian edition, with the goat’s flesh left out. Imagine a Kentucky edition, to introduce a flogging of that ‘tarnal old nigger Friday, twice a week. Imagine an Aborigines Protection Society edition, to deny cannibalism and make Robinson embrace the amiable savages whenever they landed. Robinson Crusoe would be “edited” out of his island in a hundred years, and the island would be swallowed up in the editorial ocean.

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