Each year, Galveston’s popular “Dickens on the Strand” festival brings to life 19th century Victorian London with costumed carolers, roving musicians, jugglers and parades. But what might very well give the festival an authentic representation of writer Charles Dickens are his two descendants who will join in the fun.
As been done in previous years, the Galveston Historical Foundation will again welcome Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, great-great-great-granddaughter of Dickens, and Jane Dickens Monk, his great-great-granddaughter. Both women will be at numerous events throughout the weekend, and are particularly excited about this year’s special emphasis on Dickens’ children characters. Children’s activities will include a writing contest and expanded Oliver’s Alley kid’s area, presented by the Galveston Children’s Museum.
“I’m thrilled to be part of Dickens on The Strand this year, with more emphasis on children which my great-great-grandfather would have approved of,” says Monk. “I'm also looking forward to seeing old and new faces at the brilliant breakfast and to kick start the weekend at Fezziwig’s Friday night!”
"I always enjoy Dickens on the Strand and this year we'll be doing even more events,” says Hawksley. “I'm happy that we'll be placing greater emphasis on including children at the festival in 2015 and in encouraging them to write. I'm looking forward to seeing if my great-great-great-grandfather is able to inspire any budding Texan writers of the future.”
Writing will be judged from entrants ages 7-9 and 10-12, and the two winners from those categories will get a chance to ride with Dickens’ descendants in a carriage. Hawksley will lead a special writing workshop at Oliver’s Alley for participating kids.
What would Charles Dickens be thinking if he were around today? Jane Monk and Lucinda Hawksley offer some insight in the following Q&A.
Galveston.com: Being a descendant of the famous author, what might Galveston's Dickens Festival mean to you?
Jane Monk: I think the festival is a fantastic way to help Galveston, and for people to really enjoy themselves as a family. I feel particularly proud of taking part as my father Cedric was the first of the Dickens family to attend. Lucinda and I both love lending our "name" to the festival as it always gives us a great buzz to ride in the carriage as Charles Dickens’ descendants.
Lucinda Hawksley: As a great great-great-granddaughter, I am so thrilled that all these years on Dickens has such an important place in people's lives and Christmases. It is wonderful to see how many people turn up every year and how much trouble so many visitors take over creating their costumes.
Galveston.com: What do you feel is Charles Dickens' legacy, not only at Christmas but with maybe his influence on literature?
Jane Monk: I think Charles Dickens’ greatest legacy was to highlight the poverty at the time, and especially the children. Even today when we talk about something being "Dickensian," it means things are very much in a depressed, poor state. As for Christmas, he really reinvented Christmas again, as before Dickens people actually used to work on Christmas Day.
Lucinda Hawksley: His influence remains astonishingly strong and I am always thrilled by how many children tell me they love Dickens. He might not always be studied in schools now, but people still want to read him and sometimes I think it's much better when readers arrive at Dickens by themselves and discover what a wonderful story teller he is, rather than being "forced" to read him at school. He is still cited as an influence by so many writers, from Rohinton Mistry to J K Rowling, as well as film makers and songwriters.
Galveston.com: Do you think your ancestor would have ever imagined the influence "A Christmas Carol" has on the Western world? What might he say if he were around today?
Jane Monk: I certainly don't think he could ever have imagined how popular “A Christmas Carol” would have remained for so long. As for the films, a musical and the even the “Muppets Christmas Carol” and endless new publications, if he could come back today he would be completely amazed. Charles loved Christmas and was a jovial host throwing his heart and soul into everything that was going on, including his acting and magician skills. Possibly always at the back of his mind, however, was his time spent at the blacking factory with his family in the Marshalsea (Debtors) Prison.
Lucinda Hawksley: From the beginning he knew A Christmas Carol was going to be something extraordinary – he had such faith in it that he was determined to publish it even when his publishers weren't as keen. As a result he paid for almost all the costs; in essence, he self-published it. I hope he would be both happy and surprised at how much A Christmas Carol is still revered and loved, but maybe not as surprised as we might think. He always knew it was something special.
Galveston.com: Any other thoughts about the festival?
Jane Monk: New people are discovering it every year. New events appear and this year there is more focus on children which we are both looking forward to helping with.
Lucinda Hawksley: This will be my 7th year at Dickens on the Strand and it has a very special place in my heart now.
This year’s event takes place Dec. 4-6. For more information, click here.