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  • Writer's picturePaul


“Dear Diary, you won’t believe what happened to me today...”

Charles Dickens was mugged while walking alone along Chatham harbour in Kent in 1859. But in a twist akin to Magwitch’s reappearance in Great Expectations, Dickens instantly recognised his attacker.

The man in question was Henry Tilbury, an old schoolfriend of Dickens from his formative years living in Chatham, before his family moved back to London with his father’s work in 1822.

Although little is known of their altercation, it is thought that Tilbury ran at Dickens, knocking him to the ground. Dickens was, by this time, one of the most famous men in the country, and Tilbury instantly recognised his would-be victim—whereupon Dickens, after a moment’s pause, instantly recognised his would-be assailant.

Tilbury tearfully helped Dickens to his feet, and dusted him down. The two men talked for a moment, embraced, and Dickens sent Tilbury on his way with five shillings in his pocket and a stern lecture.

Dickens later wrote that he hoped Tilbury would “find a happy conclusion” to their chance meeting. What actually became of him is unknown.


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