Saturday, November 05, 2011

Left at the altar

Did you know there were real women believed to have inspired Dickens' stranded-at-the-altar Miss Havisham?

From Wikipedia: "Eliza Emily Donnithorne (1827–1886) of Camperdown, Sydney, was jilted by her groom -- who had the surname "Cuthbertson" -- on her wedding day in 1846 and spent the rest of her life in a darkened house, her rotting wedding cake left as it was on the table, and with her front door kept permanently ajar in case her groom ever returned (although he died in 1852). She was widely considered at the time to be Dickens' model for Miss Havisham, although this cannot be proven.[1][2] Although Charles Dickens had a deep-seated interest in Australia, saw it as a place of opportunity and encouraged two of his sons to emigrate there, the writer never visited it himself, but it features in detail in many of his works, notably Great Expectations itself. He obtained his information on colonial life in New South Wales from two Sydney researchers. He also had numerous friends and acquaintances who settled in Australia who sent him letters detailing curious aspects of life in the colonies, knowing he could use it as source material for future novels. They could easily have conveyed the Donnithorne story to him. Australia features prominently in Great Expectations, and New South Wales is where Pip’s benefactor Abel Magwich made his fortune."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm fascinated by the real people behind fictional characters. I recently discovered that "The Count of Monte Cristo", of all books, is based on a true story. I learned this from a great book called "Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris" by Graham Robb, which I cannot recommend too highly. Utterly fascinating book.