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Son of a Dickens

Today we travel to Moline, IL’s Riverside Cemetery to find the unlikely burial place of Francis Jeffrey Dickens, third son of Charles Dickens – and check out some other Dickens family graves (all of which are more about Charles than the person buried there).

Perhaps the most famous thing about Francis is that he once asked for 15 pounds, a horse and a rifle to set up as a gentleman farmer overseas. Charles wrote back that he’d be robbed of the money, he’d be thrown off the horse, and that he’d shoot his head off. We read the letter in the episode!

Modern articles about the grave invariably say that Francis was in Moline to kick off a lecture tour about his father’s life and works, but a look into Quad Cities newspapers from 1886 show that he was there on vacation, and just planning to give a talk to a local club about his time in the Canadian military. It was an easy mistake to make, though – many of Charles’ sons went on lecture tours, and not many people go to Moline on vacation.

Some pics:

The Francis Dickens gravestones in Moline, IL. Both mention is father, the “renowned author.”
The Berrien headstone was adorned with a clean pair of Nikes and featured the epitaph “I WILL COME TO YOU.” We can’t think of the non-creepy explanation, eithe! But we couldn’t find any urban legends about the grave, or anything about the Berrien family that would explain the shoes.
The Alfred Dickens gravestone at the uptown Trinity Cemetery in New York City.
The Augustus Dickens grave at Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery. Would you want your brother’s accomplishments on your gravestone? As we can see, it’s something Dickens’ relatives and descendants just had to live with. Pun not intended.

Our song for the episode is The Chuzzlewits, with “Ebenezer Walked.” In keeping with the theme of the gravestones, it has nothing to do with the sons of Dickens. It’s just… a Dickensian song about a real estate developer. You can also hear the Chuzzlewits on a previous episode with “Bring Me The Head of George Frederick Cooke.”