Monica DICKENS (1915-1992)

Monica Dickens This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 303
  • Subject No: 305
  • Broadcast date: Wed 7 Apr 1971
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 31 Mar 1971
  • Venue: unknown
  • Series: 11
  • Edition: 21

on the guest list...

  • Richard Gordon
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Compton Mackenzie
  • Please note: this is an incomplete list

production team...

  • Researcher: unknown
  • Writer: unknown
  • Director: Margery Baker
  • Producer: Robert Tyrell
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

A Novel Life

a page-turning good read

Not on your life

Press coverage of Richard Gordon's 'on air' refusal of the big red book

Richard Gordon

Compton Mackenzie

Monica Dickens This Is Your Life

Monica Dickens with guest and presenter Eamonn Andrews on This Is Your Life

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Monica Dickens, great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, had a far more privileged upbringing, her father being a barrister and her grandfather, son of Charles, Sir Henry Dickens. Eamonn Andrews surprised her when she came to London on 31 March 1971 for the publication of her twenty-first book.

Family friend Sir Compton Mackenzie, then aged eighty-eight, greeted her from his home in Edinburgh.

Though from a comfortable middle-class background, Monica showed the true Dickens spirit to come to grips with the subjects of her books. Her experiences as cook and servant girl, wartime nurse and working at a factory bench, all fuelled her writing. One Pair Of Hands – about her life below stairs – was her first novel, and it sold a million.

Her book about nursing, One Pair of Feet, inspired another hospital-based author to write his 'doctor' books – and Richard Gordon was there to tell us so.

Monica Dickens biography

Anne wellman recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in her book, Monica, A Life of Monica Dickens...

In 1971 Monica also appeared on This Is Your Life, the long-running and hugely popular programme which 'surprised' a celebrity with an account of his or her life, arranging for friends and family to appear in the studio. While the recording of Monica's programme is no longer available, it is known at least that her fellow writer from the Michael Joseph stable, Richard Gordon, was a guest – as was her dear old friend Charles Pick.

The programme was heavily criticised by Punch TV critic Bernard Hollowood, whether as regards that particular episode or because he disliked the format anyway and suddenly decided to say so. He wrote in his review that Miss Monica Dickens was 'conned' into an appearance, and had 'suffered the routine confrontations with predictable astonishment and emotion'; as viewers were not allowed to see what happened after the show, he continued, they could only guess at the problems created for Miss Dickens by Thames Television's interference in her family affairs. The programme was built on a lie and constituted a threat to individual freedom, thundered Hollowood, although Monica Dickens, 'charming and talented, gave it – or lent it – a cachet it does not deserve'.

A complaint to the Press Council about his comments was subsequently lodged by Thames Television. The show's famous host Eamonn Andrews, together with its producer, alleged that in publishing the review Punch had failed to maintain the character of the British Press in accordance with the highest professional standards. Hollowood's statements were wholly false, Thames's legal representation insisted to the Press Council. Asked if she had anything to say, Monica replied that she thought the Punch article 'fair comment'. The complaint was not upheld, the Council noting that the editor of Punch had offered one of the complainants an opportunity to rebut the views expressed by Hollowood (apparently not taken). Despite the strong language of Hollowood's review, the Council decided, like Monica, that it did not go beyond the bounds of fair comment.

Series 11 subjects

Bob Hope | Vidal Sassoon | Talbot Rothwell | Mike and Bernie Winters | Joe Brown | Patrick Campbell | Bobby Moore
Robert Soutter | Graham Hill | Sandy Powell | Edward Woodward | Moira Lister | Dickie Henderson | Wilfred Pickles
Kenny Ball | Marjorie Proops | Basil D'Oliveira | Clive Dunn | Peter Noone | Monica Dickens | Jon Pertwee
Lionel Jeffries | Adam Faith | Googie Withers | Matt Busby