Thursday, November 13, 2014


Dickens Averts Suicide

Maurice Shadbolt, One of Ben's (Auckland: David Ling, 1993), pp. 205-206 (on poet Denis Glover):
Denis was between marriages, often drunk, and also depressed. He confessed that he had seen suicide as a solution to his problems. A gas oven looked the most useful means. He put his head in the oven and turned on the gas. Waiting on oblivion, he felt there must be a more dignified way to die. He heaved mattress and pillow into the kitchen and sealed up windows and doors. He arranged mattress and pillow to his satisfaction. At least this new posture was comfortable. Then he turned on the gas again. It hissed steadily, beginning to fill the kitchen, but taking too long. Boredom set in. Denis found himself in need of a time-killing book. He turned off the gas, unsealed the kitchen and hunted along his bookshelves for a likely volume. Here was a pickle: What was his last book to be? It had to be an old favourite. He was never going to finish it; a fresh story wouldn't do. He fell on The Pickwick Papers, bore it off to the kitchen, resealed the room, turned on the gas, and was soon absorbed in his book. Soon he was laughing so much that he reached for cigarettes and matches. On the verge of lighting up he was struck by the thought: If I light this cigarette I'll kill myself.

Dickens kept Denis writing for another two decades.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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