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The Life of Our Lord: Written for His Children During the Years 1846 to 1849 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 9, 1999
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Charles Dickens wrote The Life of Our Lord around the same time he was finishing up David Copperfield, but to readers raised on a diet of Dickensian wit and indignation, his rendering of Jesus' life may come as something of a surprise. You won't find even the shadow of a Micawber or a Mrs. Gamp anywhere in this brief volume; no Pecksniffs, Podsnaps, or Mulberries, either. Instead, Dickens approaches his subject with simple reverence, retelling the New Testament in a manner suitable for his own young children--who were, in fact, his only intended audience. Indeed, he strictly forbade publication of The Life during his lifetime and begged his sister to make sure that they "would never even hand the manuscript, or a copy of it, to anyone to take out of the house." It wasn't until the death of Dickens's last living son that the manuscript was finally published in 1934. Though he left his trademark comedy behind, Dickens's liberal social conscience is still evident in what he chooses to emphasize about Jesus: "My Dear Children," he begins,
I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as He was.This is a simple, straightforward account of Jesus' life and teachings, with an occasional touch of whimsy: "You never saw a locust, because they belong to that country near Jerusalem, which is a great way off. So do camels, but I think you have seen a camel. At all events, they are brought over here, sometimes; and if you would like to see one, I will show you one." Occasionally, Victorian attitudes and prejudices creep through--Dickens writes that the Jewish Sabbath was Sunday, that Jews were "very ignorant and passionate," and also that "they were very proud, and believed that no people were good but themselves." Fortunately, such comments are few and far between, and for the most part the author focuses on the miracles Jesus performed and on the lessons in charity, forgiveness, and compassion that Christians can take away from them. This may not be among the greatest of Charles Dickens's literary accomplishments, but it is certainly one of his most heartfelt. --Sheila Bright
From Kirkus Reviews
Dickens rivals Uriah Heep at his umblest in this mawkish rehearsal of the Christ story. The Victorian master novelist wrote it for his children in the late 1840s, when he was composing David Copperfield, and read it aloud to them every Christmas. His handwritten manuscript was passed down after Dickenss death in 1870 to his descendants, who also read it at Christmas and, at the authors request, delayed publication until the last of his children died (which happened in 1933). Though a bestseller at the time, it is way down on the list of rewrites of the life of Jesus that an adult would ever care to read. (One can imagine Dickens's grown-up sons and daughters suffering through it each Christmas.) Phrased with deliberate artlessness meant to woo children, the text pales in comparison to A Christmas Carol as a piece of holiday storytellingnot a fair comparison, perhaps, but it is fair to note its puzzling lack of any of the strengths Dickens is noted for. Well, that's not quite true. He decorates the Resurrection with Roman soldiers fainting as the earth trembles and shakes, while an angel, whose ``countenance was like lightning,'' rolls away the rock sealing the tomb. Piety for mopheads. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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The book is a retelling of the life of Jesus Christ, especially using the Gospel of St. Luke, with parts from the other Gospels thrown in, and with his own interpretations added to help young children understand the Gospel message. He refers to "bad King Herod" at one point, a simplification, yet appropriate to a child's understanding. This book does not profess itself to be profound and is short and concise, unlike most of Dicken's other writings. It is a pleasure to read and to share with my own family.
The lessons about kindness toward the poor go straight to the heart. "Never be proud or unkind, my dears, to any poor man, woman, or child. If they are bad, think that they would have been better if they had had kind friends, and good homes, and had been better taught. So, always try to make them better by kind persuading words; and always try to teach and relieve them if you can. And when people speak ill of the poor and miserable, think how Jesus Christ went among them, and taught them, and thought them worthy of His care."
While there may be some theological misconceptions, (that people become angels when they die, for example,) it is still a jewel.
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It’s a question that comes up now and then. Overt religious themes and characters seem to be rare in his novels and stories, while...Read more