We are the new nexus of the literary world

Back in April, I posted a note from our friend Dale Nelson, about a record of a meeting between Dostoevsky and Dickens, which showed up in a recent book.

Since then a lively discussion has been going on in the comments. A couple different contributors have shown up to question the authenticity of that reference. It appears that the published account lacks corroboration, and there are reasons to doubt whether, although Dostoevsky did visit London in 1862, the two men ever actually spoke to one another.

Commenter Robert Newsom conveys the following statement from The Dickens Fellowship’s The Dickensian web site:

“Dickens and Dostoyevsky: A Notice

“In the Winter 2002 issue of The Dickensian (vol 98, pp.233-35) we published an article on Dickens and Dostoyevsky which contained remarks apparently made by Dickens in an interview with Dostoyevsky in London in 1862. The occasion was allegedly recalled by Dostoyevsky in a letter of 1878 which was transcribed in a journal cited by the article’s author. Subsequent researchers have so far not been able to locate the journal cited nor indeed to verify that such a journal exists. The author was the unfortunate victim of a very serious road accident some time ago, and is not in a condition to respond to further enquiries on this issue.

“We are therefore bound to issue a caution that the authenticity of this letter by Dostoyevsky remains to be proven, in spite of the fact that it has gained currency in a number of recent publications on Dickens.”

Mr. Newsom goes on to say, “Michael Slater had previously withdrawn his account of the alleged meeting from the paperback edition of his biography.

“All very mysterious.”

Thanks to everyone who has participated in this illuminating discussion.

3 thoughts on “We are the new nexus of the literary world”

  1. Yes, it really has been interesting to see the continuing discussion. I’d be delighted if, somehow, it did turn out that the two met, but that doesn’t seem likely to be what happened after all.

    The number of publications about either author affected by the story will, so far, have been few, I imagine, but how many people will come across the original announcement(s) and not notice the subsequent questions about the story?

    Lin Carter started a dubious story going when he wrote that Tolkien “rather likes” the Conan stories. What it seems to come down to is that L. Sprague de Camp gave Tolkien an anthology he’d prepared that contained one Conan story (“Shadows in the Moonlight”), and Tolkien may have said he liked the story or that he liked the book.

    By now there probably are enough dubious stories circulating about the various Inklings to fill a small book, if each was examined. Who was it again who said “Not another f—— elf!” when Tolkien was reading from LOTR as a work in progress — and did he indeed say that? What about reports that Dorothy L. Sayers was an Inkling? Or that Charles Williams had some sort of contact with Aleister Crowley?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.