The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #140865   Message #3241101
Posted By: MGM·Lion
19-Oct-11 - 12:40 AM
Thread Name: BS: Racial stereotypes in retellings?
Subject: RE: BS: Racial stereotypes in retellings?
It is indeed not quite clear as to whether Dickens' co-worker in his unhappy youthful time at the blacking factory was called Bob Fagan [in which case he would have been Irish, presumably] or Fagin. G K Chesterton gave the name as Fagin, though there seems to be no ref to Jewishness; and it appears from his account that he was a big boy, who showed Dickens the work when he started, and was kind to him when he was taken ill one day and tried to see him home (but as home was the marshalsea debtors' prison where his father was held, D shool him off); but would frequently bully him and mock his depression nevertheless. If he really befriended Dickens throughout this unhappy period, it is hard to asee why Dickens should have chosen to immortalise his name as a despicable villain.

And this Dickens Fellowship note, though not mentioning Fagin/Fagan. suggests and alternative source for the character, one Worms, in place of, or in addition to, Solomon. ~~

Against this background Michael Allen's* discovery at The National Archives of documents from the Chancery Court in London, relating to disputes between the people who owned and ran the blacking factory where Dickens was employed and also between them and their rival Robert Warren, has revealed a wealth of information not previously available to us.  Where Dickens' young memory and understanding failed him these documents do, in many instances, correct and enhance the story. 
Allen's account opens up the world of Warren's Blacking, taking us beyond the knowledge and understanding of a young child.  But more than that, Allen uncovers a great deal of new information, peeling away layers about Lamerte, the man who first offered Charley the job at the blacking factory, Lamerte's family background, its Jewish roots, his Jewish cousins in the Worms family, Henry Worms – a likely model for Fagin, sent to Australia for handling stolen goods.  Here we have, for the first time, an accurate history of Warren's Blacking, written down within two years of Dickens working there.  Allen puts before us, from a contemporary source, what really went on in a blacking factory.  Here is a feast of new material.  For anybody who thought they knew the full story of Dickens' childhood, think again. (*Charles Dickens and the Blacking Factory by Michael Allen)