Books: Sheed's Specters of the Past

THE BLACKING FACTORY and PENNSYLVANIA GOTHIC by Wilfrid Sheed. 246 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $5.50.

When Charles Dickens was twelve, his debt-hounded family yanked him from school and sent him to work in a ratty London warehouse where blacking paste was made. His ordeal lasted only a few months, then he returned to school. But, as Wilfrid Sheed notes in a preface to this brace of new fiction pieces, a sense of shock and abandonment stayed with Dickens the rest of his life. He could not even bring himself to mention the episode until 25 years later, when he wrote bitterly...

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