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Rosenberg Treasure: Charles Dickens – The Life of Our Lord

Charles Dickens – The Life of Our Lord

Rosenberg Treasure of the Month

Last Updated: December 11, 2023 by Rosenberg Library | History


During the month of December, the Rosenberg Library is displaying a special scrapbook put together by Frieda Margaret “Greta” Oppe, whom Oppe Elementary school was named after, featuring newspaper clippings of Charles Dickens’ lesser-known work, The Life of Our Lord, which he wrote for his children.

Charles Dickens Scrapbook First Page
Charles Dickens Scrapbook First Page Rosenberg Library and Museum

You may be familiar with some of Charles Dickens’ most famous works – A Christmas Carol; Great Expectations; Oliver Twist; etc., all of which can be found at Rosenberg Library. But did you know that Dickens also wrote a secret book for his children?

The Life of Our Lord is an abbreviated version of the New Testament, focusing on the life of Jesus Christ. Dickens was a devout Christian, though he did not often speak about his faith publicly. In one of his letters, Dickens explained his reasons for keeping his faith private, stating,

There can not be many men, I believe, who have a more humble veneration for the New Testament, or a more profound conviction of its all-sufficiency, than I have…My observation of life induces me to hold in unspeakable dread and horror these unseemly squabbles about the “letter” which drive the “spirit” out of hundreds of thousands.

Dickens wrote The Life of Our Lord in 1849 as a way to share the Gospel with his very young children. He read it to them every Christmas, and never intended for it to be published. In fact, in his will, Dickens forbade its publication until after the deaths of all of his children.

The book was very precious to Dickens’ children, and although they respected his wishes, they felt that his work should be shared with the world. Upon the death of Dickens’ last living child, Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, in 1934, his family sold the publication rights to the London Daily Mail for $210,000 (about $4.7 million in today’s dollars). The London Daily Mail then sold serial rights to several newspapers around the globe, including the Galveston News.

The release of a never-before-seen “first edition” work of Charles Dickens caused a stir. The Life of Our Lord was published in 14 daily installments, along with many articles about Dickens, his children, and the story behind the new book. Newspapers encouraged readers to cut out each installment and paste them into a scrapbook to create their own “collector’s edition.”

Charles Dickens Scrapbook Cover Rosenberg Library and Museum

This scrapbook is part of the Greta Oppe Papers housed in the Galveston and Texas History Center. Frieda Margaret “Greta” Oppe taught chemistry at Ball High School in Galveston from 1918 to 1964. She also served as the head of the school’s science department from 1922 to 1964. Oppe received honors for her teaching at the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association in 1964, and was named “Teacher of the Century” by the city of Galveston in 1980. Oppe Elementary Campus of Coastal Studies is named after her.

Parents’ Night at Ball High School, Greta Oppe Center Rosenberg Library and Museum

Oppe wrote many articles on chemistry, education, and religion, and was an active member of the First Lutheran Church in Galveston. It is no surprise that she would have been interested in the posthumous publication of Dickens’ work. Not only did this new book provide additional reading material for Dickens fans, but it also revealed previously unknown information about the author’s personal life and close relationship with his children.

If you are interested in reading The Life of Our Lord in its entirety, visit the Galveston and Texas History Center on the 4th floor of Rosenberg Library.

The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9:00 a.m. – 8:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, please contact Ivy Albright, Museum Curator at 409.763.8854 Ext. 125 or at museum@rosenberg-library.org.


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Rosenberg Library

Rosenberg Library has offered over a century of community service to the Galveston area, and is the oldest public library in Texas in continuous operation. The building itself was dedicated on June 22, 1904, the birthday of its patron, Henry Rosenberg. The Moody Memorial Wing opened in 1971, more than doubling the floor space and allowing for a children’s library, a history center, several galleries to showcase museum collections, and later, a computer lab. The Library accepted its first museum piece shortly after it opened in 1904. Since then, thousands of rare and interesting objects from around the world have been added to the collection. Each month they display a “Treasure of the Month”. Learn more by visiting the Rosenberg Library page and the Gifts of Henry Rosenberg section.

2023-12-11T09:57:57-06:00

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This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.