18 My Father As I Recall Him
From his earliest childhood, throughout his earliest married life to the day of his death, his nature was home-loving. He was a "home man" in every respect . When he became celebrated at a very early age, as we know, all his joys and sorrows were taken home; and he found there sympathy and the companionship of his "own familiar friends". In his letters to these latter, in his letters to my mother, to my aunt, and, later on, to us children, he never forgot anything that he knew would be of interest about his work, his successes, his hopes or fears. And there was a sweet simplicity in his belief that such news would most certainly be acceptable to all, that is wonderfully touching and child-like coming from a man of genius.
His care and thoughtfulness about home matters, nothing being deemed too small or trivial to claim his attention and consideration, were really marvelous when we remember his active, eager, restless, working brain. No man was so inclined naturally to derive his happiness from home affairs. He was full of the kind of interest in a house which is commonly confined to women, and his care of and for us as little children did most certainly "pass the love of women"! He was a tender and most affectionate nature.
For many consecutive summers we used to be taken to Broadstairs. This little place became a great favorite with my father. He was always very happy there, and delighted in wandering about the garden of his house, generally accompanied by one or other of his children. In later years, at Boulogne, he would often have his youngest boy, "The Noble Plorn ",trotting by his side. These two were constant companions in those days, and after these walks my father would always have some funny anecdote to tell us. And when years later the time came for the boy of his heart to go out into the world, my father, after seeing him off, wrote: "Poor Plorn has gone to Australia. It was a hard parting at the last. He seemed to become once more my youngest and favorite little child as the day drew near, and I did not think I could have been so shaken. These are hard, hard things, but they might have to be done without means or influence, and then they would be far harder. God bless him!"
When my father was arranging and rehearsing his readings from "Dombey", the death of "little Paul" caused him such real anguish, the reading being so difficult to him, that he told us he could only master his intense emotion by keeping the picture of Plorn, well, strong and hearty, steadily before his eyes. We can see by the different child characters in his books what a wonderful knowledge he had of children, and what a wonderful and truly womanly sympathy he had with them in all their childish joys and griefs. I can remember with us, his own children, how kind, considerate and patient he always was. But we were never afraid to go to him in any trouble, and never had a snub from him or a cross word under any circumstances. He was always glad to give us "treats", as he called them, and used to conceive all manner of those "treats" for us, and if any favor had to be asked we were always sure of a favorable answer. On these occasions my sister "Katie" was generally our messenger, we others waiting outside the study door to hear the verdict . She and I used to have delightful treats in those summer evenings, driving up to Hampstead in the open carriage with him, our mother, and "Auntie", and getting out for a long walk through the lovely country lanes, picking wild roses and other flowers, or walking hand in hand with him listening to some story.
In later years there came changes in our home, inevitable changes. But no changes could ever alter my father's home-loving nature. As he wrote to Mr. Forster, as a young man, so it was with him to the time of his death: "We shall soon meet, please God, and be happier than ever we were in all our lives. Oh! Home—home—home!!!"
(By Mamie Dickens )