Lucinda Hawksley is an author, broadcaster, lecturer, and travel writer. She is the great, great, great granddaughter of Charles and Catherine Dickens and she inherited his skill at speaking to audiences. Lucinda gives lively and entertaining talks on a variety of subjects – she speaks about her books, her wide and varied travel experiences and her research into genealogy.
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Researching her books has taken Lucinda all over the world. She has written or co-authored more than twenty titles, including three critically acclaimed biographies of artists: Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel (Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4); Katey, The Life and Loves of Dickens’s Artist Daughter; and the wonderfully controversial The Mystery of Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter. She has also published several books on her great great great grandfather, Charles Dickens, including her latest book on Dickens and Christmas. Lucinda is an expert on Dickens family life, and a patron of the Charles Dickens Museum in London.
Lucinda’s books are entertaining and diverse, embracing the worlds of art history, social history, the history of London and travel writing. Her most recent titles include Bitten By Witch Fever, an exploration of the way in which arsenic pervaded Victorian society; March, Women, March, which uses diaries, letters and journalism to discover the history of the Women’s Movement; and Moustaches, Whiskers and Beards, a light-hearted look at the extraordinary history of facial hair (both men’s and women’s). For several years, Lucinda was a Travel Editor at BskyB and her recent publication, The Writer Abroad, published by the British Library, draws on that experience to explore centuries of travel writing.
Lucinda has appeared on numerous television and radio programmes and works as a voice-over artist. Her TV appearances include The One Show, Inside Out London, BBC Breakfast, Charles Dickens’ Secret Lover, Charles Dickens & the Invention of Christmas, and Queen Victoria’s Children; her global broadcasting work has included starring in a special programme made for PBS in the USA, alongside Michael York. Her radio recordings have been broadcast all over the world, from Britain to Australia. She is a frequent interviewee on Radio 4’s The Today Programme and has appeared several times on Woman’s Hour.
Katey: Dickens’s Artist Daughter
Katey was the favourite child of Charles Dickens. She grew up in a famous house, where genius was commonplace, to become a celebrity in her own right, as an artist. Nicknamed “Lucifer Box” by her father because of her furious and fiery temper, Katey grew up to become a truly amazing woman who lived to almost 90 years of age. She was friends with such luminaries as William Thackeray, John Everett Millais, George Bernard Shaw and J.M.Barrie. She was married twice – the first time to an impotent Pre-Raphaelite artist and the second time to an Italian friend of Lord Leighton’s. She lived her life to the full and challenges all our 21st-century preconceptions of Victorian women.
The Great Expectations of the Children of Charles Dickens
Charles and Catherine Dickens had ten children. One died in infancy and of the remaining nine, only four stayed in England. Alfred and Edward were sent to Australia, where Edward became an MP. Walter joined the Indian army. Frank served in India, with the Bengal Mounted Police before moving on to Canada and the newly created “Mounties”. Sydney joined the navy at the age of 13 and travelled the world – as a child, his nickname was “the Ocean Spectre”, chillingly he was to die at sea. Alfred and Frank journeyed to America to give lecture tours – and both died there. Of those who remained in England, Charley became a tea merchant, a bankrupt and a magazine editor; Mary (“Mamey”) lived a dutiful life as her father’s housekeeper, but after his death her life became shrouded in scandalous mystery; Katey became a highly celebrated artist and Henry was a barrister, a KC and Common Serjeant of London.
Lizzie Siddal, Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Siddal was the original supermodel: a skinny 19 year old from an ignominious Southwark slum who was discovered by an artist while working in a hat shop. Her face was to become one of the most famous of all Victorian women, easily recognisable even today. Years before Twiggy, Cindy, Naomi or Kate, Lizzie was living a wild, drastic and tragically short life, dying of a drug overdose at the age of just 32. The favoured model of Millais and the lover of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lizzie was also an artist and a poet who was hailed a “genius” by John Ruskin himself. Her life story proves that truth really can be far stranger than fiction.
Pre-Raphaelite artists – their lives and works
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was made up of seven precocious, talented and astonishingly forward-thinking young men who changed the face of 19th-century art and artistic society. They included in their number a Beethoven-style child genius; a romantic Italian obsessed with a long-dead medieval poet; a fervent traveller who spent years in obscure areas of the Middle East and a young man who staked everything he had on the Australian goldrush. Their lives were as extraordinary as their art and the circle in which they moved makes for a truly fascinating story.
Lizzie Siddal and John Ruskin
John Ruskin was the most famous and well-respected art critic in Victorian England. In the mid-1850s he met the Lizzie Siddal, a true rarity for being a female artist. At the age of 20, Lizzie had received barely any artistic training, but Ruskin adored the vitality of her raw talent and proclaimed her a genius, offering to become her patron before he had even met her. At the time of their meeting, Ruskin was recovering from the very public shame of his wife having asked for an annulment because their marriage had never been consummated. Their relationship was to prove pivotal to both lives.
Researching Family History
While writing her second biography, “Katey: Dickens’s Artist Daughter”, Lucinda had to research into her own family, as Kate Perugini was not only Charles Dickens’s daughter, but also Lucinda’s great-great-great aunt; there were a wealth of differences from researching her previous titles. Here Lucinda talks about how to go about uncovering family history, what it is like to separate the myths from the reality, challenging long-held family beliefs and how disconcerting it can be to discover that one’s own least-liked traits have been passed down through six or seven generations.