A N I N T E R V I E W W I T H
Cedric Charles Dickens
Great-Grandson of Charles Dickens
On April 16th, 1997 the publishers of Britannia met Cedric ( pronounced said-drick ) Charles Dickens at the Dickens Inn, Restaurant and English Pub, in Headhouse Square, Philadelphia, near Penn's Landing. Cedric, the great-grandson of Charles Dickens and a director at the Inn, was in fine humor and informed us it was his 80th year and that this trip to America was keeping him very busy what with interviews and speeches at this and that Pickwick Club. And, of course, there was the St. George's Dinner at the Dickens, that he and wife Elizabeth are hosting, after which, at the end of the month they return to their home in Somerset.
After remarking about what seemed a slightly amusing and mutual addiction to the word "absolutely." Cedric went about signing various Dickens books we had brought for that exact purpose including a new edition of "Great Expectations" provided to Britannia by Running Press Book Publishers of Philadelphia.
As it turns out, Elizabeth, who is 83, has an older aunt who is getting deaf and came to stay with them in Somerset. "Every time she couldn't hear she said "absolutely," Cedric explained smiling. "It's absolutely hilarious," he remarked, "that word's a terrible word once you get it in your head."
Cedric was educated at Eton and Cambridge. He served in the Royal Navy during the World War II where he met Elizabeth. They married in 1948. After the war, Cedric's career was as Director of Communications for International Computers.
When asked about the weight of his name, Cedric recalled his early years when it wasn't yet apparent. "I was brought up by my grandmother", he said, "because my mother went over to France in 1916 to be close to my father who had been wounded. My grandmother was French so my first language was French. I regret to say I can't speak a word of it now. After a bottle of red wine though I can understand myself, but nobody else can.
Cedric's mother had never met Charles Dickens. "She married the youngest son but one", Cedric said, "so he (Charles Dickens) had been dead quite a long time before they had gotten together. All she knew of him was that he was a most wonderful person and it was that that she taught me. I sat on her knee and she read to me out of the manuscript of 'The Life of Our Lord'."
"It was only when I went to school that I realized the gravity of my name when everybody expected I should know so much and I knew so little. I resisted enormously until my father died in1968. He had just been made president of the Dickens Fellowship and I had to take over. I remember saying to the secretary, John Grieves (unsure of the spelling) who is dead long ago, who was absolutely like Mr. Pickwick, 'John I can't', I said, and he said 'Don't worry, I know all about Dickens, I'll teach you...you've got the name'.
"That was a very frightening time. I had to go to all about to these Dickens Fellowship meetings and all the time people would surround me with questions I didn't have the answers to. All I kept asking was where is John Grieves.
"Then I suddenly realized what a wonderful name it was", Cedric remarked, "it is embarrassing though because it's not me the people want to talk to its the name". "It's humbling".
Cedric, too, is an author, having written three books, "Drinking with Dickens", 1980; "Dining with Dickens", 1984; "A Dickens Christmas", 1991; and a pamphlet entitled "The George and Vulture in Pickwick Papers", 1995. In the first three books Cedric takes to weaving Dickens references and quotes with recipes for drinks, meals and a delightful Christmas Carol Evening. The "George and Vulture" pamphlet is altogether a different proposition. But Cedric came to publishing late in life unlike his great grandfather who was an international superstar author at age 24 following the publication of Pickwick Papers. According to Cedric its the best selling novel of all time, the first paperback and the first serialized suspense story.
For your own culinary suspense story, try this drink recipe taken from Cedric's first book, "Drinking with Dickens". He edited the recipe in The Little Curiosity Shop next to the Dickens Inn where I bought a copy, saying some of the ingredients weren't available in the US.
Recipe for "A Smoking Bishop"
Taken from "Drinking With Dickens", published in the US by New Amersterdam Books, NY
'Port was the base for a number of drinks: "we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop." Bishop seems to have been a very popular drink, and no wonder. I discovered it many years ago and it quickly became a traditional winter party drink. Not only is its taste exquisite, but equally its medicinal qualities are great. You can feel it doing good. Temperatures go up, from the top of the head (bald heads turn red) right down to the toes.'
Ingredients5 sweet oranges
For an American version
1 old fashioned grapefruit
1/4 lb sugar to taste
2 bottles cheap strong red wine
1 bottle ruby port
How It's Done
Bake the oranges and grapefruit in the oven until they are pale brown and then put them into a warmed earthenware bowl with five cloves pricked into each. Add the sugar and pour in the wine - not the port. Cover and leave in a warm place for about a day.
Squeeze the oranges and grapefruit into the wine and pour it through a sieve. Add the port and heat, but do not boil. Serve in warmed goblets and drink hot.