Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Rags to Riches to Rags Story

From the Chicago (Ill.) Tribune:

Few realize Francis Dickens, third son of Charles, came to a sad end in Moline. How did that happen?

By Mike Conklin
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 21, 2005

MOLINE, Ill. -- It might seem curious enough that Francis J. (Frank) Dickens, son of England's most-acclaimed Victorian-era writer, Charles Dickens, was buried nearly 120 years ago in a cemetery in the heart of Midwestern farm country.


In [a Chicago Tribune] story, Dickens was said to have worked his way east after his discharge by partying away $5,000 he received selling land awarded by the Canadian government. When he arrived in Chicago, his drinking (alcohol was called "Fleet Street microbes" in the article) and gambling left him broke.

He sponged off old military buddies in Chicago, it was reported, and made one final push: He took $200 for his watch, a family heirloom, and tried the gambling tables to parlay enough money for a return to London. He failed, then decided to go to Moline and take advantage of [Moline physician A. W.] Jamieson's hospitality.


In Riverside Cemetery, two stones now mark Frank Dickens' grave since the Canadian police added their memorial. Both note he was the son of Charles Dickens, but the only hint of an unfulfilled life may be the inscription on the original marker:

"Take ye heed, watch and pray for ye know not when the time is."

[Read the whole story]
Especially true of one who pawns his only watch.

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