Charles Dickens wrote one book that never appears on his “collected works” lists. That is The Life of Our Lord, a “child’s new testament” that he wrote for his own children for Christmas one year. It was first published in 1934, 64 years after Dickens’s death.
In The Life of Our Lord, Charles Dickens retells the major events in the life of Jesus Christ. He obviously omits a lot, but he focuses on what he wants his children to know. It is an intriguing look at the life of Christ and at the specific faith of Charles Dickens. I appreciated the way he wrote as if speaking directly to a child, and I am glad I read it.
All that said, I wasn’t very impressed with this short children’s book. Publishers warned readers not to expect a typical Dickens book from it, and I have to say I agree: I don’t think it’s typical. It was written for children and for specific children at that (his own). For that reason the tone is incredibly casual.
As I read, I kept thinking “I want to write something like this for my own child!” Because Dickens is writing for his own purposes, he writes what he feels is most important, explicating his own theological understanding on the events of Christ’s life. It is perfectly appropriate, and yet it made me want to do the same with my own understanding and beliefs about the life of Christ. I want my children to know what I believe and what I love from the life of Jesus Christ.
While he was alive, Dickens asked that The Life of Our Lord never be published while he was alive; he wrote it for his family and wanted it to say in the family. In the 1930s, it was published by his descendants. More information can be found at Wikipedia.
The bottom line: I recommend reading The Life of Our Lord if you’re interested in Dickens’ faith and understanding of the life of Jesus Christ. The Life of Our Lord may interest you and inspire you, but I don’t think it’s full of quality Dickens writing. I’m not very inclined to whole-heartedly recommend that you read The Life of Our Lord; it’s purpose wasn’t for me or you or anyone else to read it. I felt like I was reading a personal letter Dickens wrote to his children.
Do you think it was right of Dickens’ descendants to publish The Life of Our Lord? Dickens hadn’t asked that publication be avoided forever, but he obviously wanted to keep it in the family. If you wrote something you never wanted published, what would you think if someone published your writing against your wishes? What if you’ve been dead a long time?
Have you reviewed The Life of Our Lord? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.