The History of Literature #407 – “The Old Nurse’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell had only written one novel when Charles Dickens started publishing her work in his journal Household Words. But soon she would become famous as the author of Cranford and North and South, two of the best novels of the Victorian era. Dickens proved to be a generous and artist-friendly editor, offering suggestions but allowing Gaskell to have the final say over her work (with one exception). In this episode, Jacke looks at the ghost story that Dickens asked Gaskell to write, along with the alternative ending that Dickens first suggested and then wrote for her consideration.

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The History of Literature #358 – Jasmine Griffin) | Charles Dickens’s Gospel (with Scott Carter)

358 The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature (with Farah Jasmine Griffin) | Charles Dickens’s Gospel (with Scott Carter)

In her new book Read Until You Understand, beloved professor Farah Jasmine Griffin entwines memoir, history, and art in exploring the culture of Black genius and the lessons and legacies of Black lives and literature. In this episode, Professor Griffin joins Jacke for a discussion of her father, the role literature played in her life after her father’s untimely death, and the lifetime she’s spent traveling through literature in search of a deeper understanding of concepts like mercy, love, justice, rage, beauty, and joy.

PLUS Scott Carter, author of the play Discord: the Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy joins Jacke for another look at three famous historical figures who each wrote their own version of the gospels. In this installment, Scott tells Jacke about the approach taken by Victorian supernova Charles Dickens.

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The History of Literature #153 – Charles Dickens


Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) was the greatest novelist of the Victorian age. In his 58 years he went from a hardscrabble childhood to a world-famous author, beloved and admired for his unforgettable characters, his powers of observation and empathy, and his championing of the lower classes. He wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of articles and short stories – and also found time to edit a weekly periodical for over 20 years. But that wasn’t all: he also wrote thousands of pages of letters, ran a sizable household, was a tireless reformer, a philanthropist, an amateur theatrical performer, a lecturer, and a traveler, and at times walked 14 miles a day. And he had secrets in his personal life that are still being unearthed today.

How on earth did he get all this done? How was he viewed by his contemporaries? And what do we make of his novels – and his life – today?

For more on Dickens’ classic work A Christmas Carol, try Episode 72 – Top 10 Christmas Stories

For a look at the sentimental in fiction, try Episode 65 – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (with Professor James Chandler)

Does Dickens make you hungry? We explore the phenomenon in Episode 144 – Food in Literature (with Ronica Dhar)

What was Dickens’s favorite book? Find out in Episode 41 – The New Testament (with Professor Kyle Keefer)

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