Writing to thank George Meredith for sending him a copy of The Shaving of Shagpat: An Arabian Entertainment, Dickens said, ‘I … shall not be unworthy to enter on its perusal, as one of the most constant and delighted readers of those Arabian Entertainments of older date that they have ever had, perhaps. A new Arabian Tale is charming to me in the promise it holds out …’1 That Dickens was indeed steeped in this favourite childhood classic of his and that it played an enormously important role in the development and play of his imagination has long been recognised. ‘Except for the plays of Shakespeare,’ wrote K. J. Fielding in 1958, ‘no other work so stirred his imagination, or is so constantly referred to in his works.’2 More recently, Harry Stone has explored in considerable depth the centrality to Dickens’ art of fairy tales, fables and legends, and he points to the particular appeal that the Nights would have had for early Victorian children: ‘Everything was exotic, yet somehow believable too, for the stories and all their trappings came out of a mysterious East where soft fountains and hanging gardens, harems and pleasure domes, sultans and scimitars, did most veritably exist.’3
KeywordsEnglish Literature Fairy Tale Christmas Tree Happy Childhood Iron Ring
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