Ban On Dickens Critic Lifted In Portsmouth

Portsmouth - the city in which Victorian novelist Charles Dickens was born - has decided to heal an 80-year-old rift with an author who criticised its favourite and most famous son.

In 1928, Carl Roberts depicted Dickens in a far from favourable light in his novel This Side Idolatry.

The portrayal offended the people of Portsmouth so much that the city decided to ban the book from its library.

Now as the city prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth, the local council has decided to reinstate the book in its libraries.

Dom Kippin, Portsmouth City Council's literature officer, said:

''We've decided it's time to let bygones be bygones.

''The library was acting in good faith at the time, protecting the legacy of Dickens, but we think it's important to have freedom of expression and debate. As Dickens himself would agree I'm sure.

''February 2012 is his 200th birthday and we'll be celebrating his life and work throughout the year, so it seemed an appropriate time to add another book to the fine collection of work that the library currently holds.

''Dickens's literary legacy is strongly established and this book merely adds to the rich tapestry of ideas and opinions that make him one of the English language's greatest writers.''

Although Roberts's book was a novel, he was keen to dispel the myths surrounding Dickens and it caused a scandal when it was released.

In a review, The Sunday Times said:

''The author of the novel, Carl Roberts, has made out that Charles Dickens was a hypocrite, philanderer, selfish, an egoist, vulgar, morose, and avaricious, caricaturing his friends in his books behind their backs.

''Dickens in Roberts' novel is represented as unscrupulous in his dealings with his publishers, and was always prepared to treat promises and engagements lightly, and callously jested over the death of the artist who illustrated Pickwick Papers.''