Charles Dickens: The Ultimate Poster Boy for Nike

london street 19th century

So here’s the thing: not only can’t I write like Charles Dickens, I can’t even walk like Charles Dickens. He routinely walked for about 20 miles every day, and sometimes more. Has anyone ever tried to figure out how many pairs of shoes the man went through?

Think about your typical day. Maybe you work at home like I do, maybe you have a high pressure job and you’re in the office by seven. Then there’s family, children, chores, house maintenance, email, Facebook, reruns of your favorite shows and books to read.

Okay, factor all that in and now picture this: every day at 2 pm, you go outside and you walk. You walk until 7 pm. Every single day without fail. Walk for five hours. Oh, and while you’re at it, squeeze in 14,000 personal letters and 25 of the best books in English literature. You only have 58 years to do it; that’s how old he was when he succumbed to a stroke. So much for a healthy lifestyle. It would seem he walked himself to death.

I’d be willing to try walking 20 miles a day if I had any assurance at all that I could then churn out a masterpiece like Oliver Twist, or even a small masterpiece like A Christmas Story.
I suppose it helped that he was a man. I can’t see myself wandering around at all hours in my neighborhood. It’s amazing to me that he never got mugged. Although his routine usually involved late afternoon into early evening strolls, he was just as likely to start roaming the streets at 3 am. Victorian London was by no means the wild, wild, west, but surely it wasn’t safe to be out alone in the hours before dawn.
His nocturnal roaming through the dark thoroughfares of 19th century London, I like to think, must have triggered the associations necessary for him to write with such eloquence about desolation, melancholy and bleakness.

His essay, “Night Walks,” illustrates his captivating, sometimes brooding, writing style. “The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil conscience in a tumbled bed,” he wrote, “and the very shadow of the immensity of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river.”

My version would have been, “It was a dark and scary night.” On the other hand, unlike Dickens, I’m not a spouse abuser and adulterer, so there’s something to be said for that.

For now, I’ll content myself with my normal short daily walk; which I do only because I have to restore the blood circulation to my limbs. That daily jaunt will have to suffice and I will have to be content with producing less than one million publishable words before I die.

His essay, “Night Walks,” illustrates his captivating, sometimes brooding, writing style. “The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil conscience in a tumbled bed,” he wrote, “and the very shadow of the immensity of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river.”

My version would have been, “It was a dark and scary night.” On the other hand, unlike Dickens, I’m not a spouse abuser and adulterer, so there’s something to be said for that.

For now, I’ll content myself with my normal short daily walk; which I do only because I have to restore the blood circulation to my limbs. That daily jaunt will have to suffice and I will have to be content with producing less than one million publishable words before I die.

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2 thoughts on “Charles Dickens: The Ultimate Poster Boy for Nike

  1. I love Dickens, and I love to walk. But 20 miles a day? Yikes. At the rate I walk, which is approximately 1 mile in 14 minutes, I would spend 4.66 hours a day walking! And he still had time to write boatloads of stuff. Of course, he had a wife to do all the mundane things like running a household, making sure he had clean clothes, was properly fed, etc.

    • I walk at about the same speed as you do. I have long thought that the dominance of males in the arts is due to the fact they had a wife to take care of everything. I will concede, however, that writing a book in the 19th century was far more tedious than it is today. I’m sure all my papers would have huge ink splats all over them, not to mention my fingers:-)

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