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Charles Dickens and the Mystery of Staplehurst,9781848687936

Charles Dickens and the Mystery of Staplehurst

Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2/28/2020
Publisher(s): Amberley Publishing
Availability: This title is currently not available.


Most biographers of Charles Dickens recognise that the rail crash at Staplehurst, Kent, on 9 June 1865 influenced the final five years of his life for the worse. He certainly felt nervous about any form of transport after the accident, especially by train, and expressed his feelings in both private letters to friends and public letters to the newspapers. It also seems to have reduced the volume of his literary output, although some of his best short stories and an intriguing, but unfinished, murder novel followed the event. The Christmas supplement of All the Year Round for 1866 (alias Mugby Junction) is a collection of short stories about the railways, and includes The Signalman, a short story about the premonition of accidents and disasters. The accident was caused by railwaymen working on a low bridge who misread the timetable for the "tidal train" from Folkstone. They thought that they had time to complete their work before any trains arrived. But the train arrived earlier than expected and ran onto the bridge, crushing and breaking the girders. Dickens was travelling with his mistress, Ellen Ternan and her mother in a first class carriage at the front of the train and was very lucky to escape serious injury. He clambered out and gave assistance to many of the injured and dying passengers. But up until his death exactly 5 years after the accident, he had a morbid fear of travelling by train, suffering it seems, from a form of post-traumatic stress.

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