Death of Charles Dickens
In the summer of 1865 Charles Dickens was returning from a trip to France with his lover Ellen Ternan when their train was derailed at Staplehurst on a bridge undergoing repairs. Happily for the couple theirs was the only first class carriage not to topple from the line, and Dickens was able to help the injured escape the wreckage in which 10 of their number died.
The accident was a shock to the author, however, and further damaged his already fragile health: he had developed gout over a decade earlier and suffered the agonies of its attacks until his death; in his boyhood and youth he had suffered privations and the exhaustion of a child labourer; and his literary career placed enormous demands on him, frequently working on several novels at the same time as well as editorial duties on the periodicals that he graced, and giving his famous readings to audiences throughout Britain and as far afield as the USA.
The year after the Staplehurst crash Dickens's health began a serious decline: he showed the symptoms that threatened future heart trouble, but rather than slow down his workload increased, as if he hoped to cheat death by a show of vigour, paying no heed to the advice of his physicians, even embarking on a new tour of America in 1867-68. It was not until early in 1869, by when he had completed more than 400 public readings, that finally he was forced to call a halt to his hectic schedule, the heart problems by then impossible to ignore. He now withdrew from the world, living at his country home of Gad's Hill in Kent.
In spite of his illness he walked regularly and began a new work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but he did not live to complete it.
On June 8 1870 the writer, who had gone for a walk earlier that day, was eating dinner at Gad's Hill when suddenly his face reddened, and he rose from the table saying he had to travel to London . He had a paralytic stroke, and collapsed, never to regain consciousness. Dickens died the next day, five years to the day from the Staplehurst crash.
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