According to Charles Dickens' descendant Lucinda Hawksley, "when (children) understand more about Dickens' own life they realise he was like them once" ("Dickens is more than just 'an old, bearded Victorian' ", 31 January).
There are parallels, too, between their lives and those of his fictional characters. Now that the English government is likely to test children on entry to school, after which they will be subject to a highly prescriptive literacy diet, they will be able to empathise with the students in Mr Feeder's class as depicted in Dombey and Son. They "were prematurely full of carking anxieties. They knew no rest from the pursuit of stony-hearted verbs, savage noun-substantives, inflexible syntactic passages, and ghosts of exercises that appeared to them in their dreams. Under the forcing system, a young gentleman usually took leave of his spirits in three weeks."
Not a good foundation for education, then or now.
Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria.