He had been drinking alone at his favorite ale house since the sun had gone down. He was drunk, but not so drunk as to be unaware what his raunchy fellow drunks were saying about his long dead relative’s play that was now at The Globe. Even the strumpets had an opinion. And they all were saying the same thing . . . his ancestor was a genius!
He raised his tankard and drained its contents in one swallow. As he wiped his mouth on his sleeve and looked around the foul-smelling tavern, he knew he might have to accept that he could never match his dead relative’s writing skill. But that would signal a defeat he wasn’t ready to accept. He yelled out for another ale and slumped down dejectedly as he waited for its arrival. And then from some mysterious part of his stupor came a series of ideas.
It so excited him that didn’t drink any of the next ale placed down in front of him. Instead, on the back of a paper flyer he’d put in his pocket weeks ago, he scratched out a series of book titles. And not just any books, but books of social significance and not about royals or the elites. But books about everyday people and their triumphs and tragedies. And below each title, he wrote a precis of each book, just enough to remind him what it would be about when he sobered up.
As he finished writing, he held up the scrap of paper and smiled at his accomplishment. In a very small space, he had densely packed a huge amount of information which he assured himself would be sufficient to get him on the road to success beginning tomorrow morning.
As he picked up his tankard and started drinking ale again, one of his drinking friends sat down next to him and struck up a conversation. “Richard, I’ve been watching you. You’re up to something, you old reprobate. Let me in on the secret, won’t you?”
Slurring his words a bit, Richard Shakespeare reluctantly revealed the contents of his tomes to his friend. “These are good ideas, Charles. Take this one for instance, ‘A Tale of Four Cities’. It’s a political tale, a love story, and a mystery all wrapped into one.” And with that he laid out in detail the story he planned to start writing the next morning.
“Oh, and there’s this one, Charles. It’s a great idea and I’m calling it ‘David Twist’. It’s about downtrodden youths and the unscrupulous demons who take advantage of them.” Taking another drink, Richard then added, “And this one will be a great book. I call it ‘Oliver Copperfield’. It’s a story about the coming of age of a young man, and all the triumphs and tragedies he encounters along the way.”
Charles watched and listened closely. Soon, Richard finished his ale, put his head down on the table and started to snore. Making sure he wasn’t being watched, Charles carefully removed the filthy document from his friend's grip and secreted it in his overcoat.
Then, signaling for the barmaid, he indicated, “When my friend here wakes up, be sure he has an ale in front of him until you close.” And with that, he handed her several shillings.
“Right you are, Mr. Dickens, sir. I will sure do as you say, sir,” the barmaid answered. “And I won’t tell him where his good fortune came from neither, Mr. Dickens.”
Not that he’d ever remember any of what just happened, thought Dickens, a shrewd smile on his face.