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article imageTwisted tale of the headless Charles Dickens statue

By Kimberley Pollock     Feb 11, 2011 in Entertainment
A unique life-sized marble statue of Charles Dickens has been restored and erected at Centennial Park just outside of Sydney, Australia for his 199th birthday.
The statue is the only life size marble statue of Charles Dickens in the world. Dickens masterpieces include Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield.
The Australian statue was commissioned in 1889 by the premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes, who was a great Dickens fan. After being installed in Centennial Park the statue was vandalised in 1972, mysteriously beheaded, and subsequently disappeared into storage. The statue was almost forgotten until the New South Wales Charles Dickens Society embarked on a public campaign that lead to a series of anonymous telephone messages that helped locate the marble but headless Dickens in 2007.
Dickens made a specific request in his will for there to be "no monument memorial or testimonial whatever" erected in his honour. He was adamant that he be remembered through his published works alone.
At the launch of the statue Paul Thurloe, one of the sculptors involved with the restoration divulged that there had been several mishaps and wondered if the “curse of Dickens’s ghost” had struck again.
The only other life sized statue of Dickens is located in Philadelphia. Frank Elwell, the sculptor who designed and cast a bronze of Dickens and Little Nell, was unaware of the restrictive clause in Dickens's will and the statue was commissioned for the Chicago 1894 World Fair. At the conclusion of the Fair the exhibition directors decided to ship the statue to England as a gift of the American people. However, the author’s son and current head of the family, Sir Henry Dickens, was so angry about the unapproved statue and the disrespect of the American people that he sent the statue right back without it even being unpacked. The bronze Dickens statue also spent several years in a warehouse before it was installed in its present parklands location in Philadelphia.
With Charles Dickens 200 birthday in February 2012 there have been other proposals for monuments to the great writer and his descendants seem to be wavering on the issue. In an interview with The Independent the writer's great-great grandson, Mark Charles Dickens, said a statue was "long overdue". In the same report Ian Dickens, another relative, asked: "Can you obey the desires set out in a will when numerous 'monuments' have appeared in the last hundred years? Like my Uncle Cedric and my cousin Mark, I endorse the call for a formal monument and if one appears in Rochester, another in Portsmouth and another in London, then hurrah to that."
So despite his best efforts to ensure the opposite we may see more controversial and perhaps mysterious statues to Charles Dickens in the future. We can only hope that they manage to keep their heads.
More about Charles dickens, Sculpture, Curse, Mystery, Headless
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