In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

Dickens and I*Gavin Ewart
Close
Close
Vol. 2 No. 22 · 20 November 1980
Poem

Dickens and I*

Gavin Ewart

225 words

After a reading in a Derbyshire school, the fifteens and the sixteen-year-olds are clustering round me (no fool like an old fool), the clevers, the athletics, the shys, the bolds, for me to sign their poem-photostats; I write ‘Best wishes to Clare; John; Clive; Maureen.’ These are their souvenirs – Bard Rock, Hippocrene beer mats – xeroxed to help them sort out what I mean, like worksheets. I’m the only worksheet on the scene!

Behind me I feel pressure from the girls, the gentle touch of blouses, sweaters, blazers; felt but not seen. But something feminine swirls into my brain. Young eyes cut clear as lasers. It’s like the scent of roses from a bed where, still unpruned, the roses, jostling, cluster and of the senses only one is fed but that’s enough to soothe the sensual luster – sex is that killing air, I tell you, buster!

But this is calm. I’m old. To jump about in goat-like joy is something long gone by. Yet we have much in common, there’s no doubt, if you consider it – Dickens and I. He came on Ellen Ternan crying backstage, a teenage girl ashamed of wearing tights; he loved young women less than half his age, he went round reading, liked his name in lights. We’d be called tender, if we had our rights.

* The prose of Dickens often contains iambic pentameters, unconsciously admitted. In these instances it should be renamed: prerse or vose. This poem, consciously, is made up of rhyming lines printed as prose. Ellen Ternan became Dickens’ mistress.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences