Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks. -Charles Dickens, novelist (1812-1870)

(photo by freeloosedirt http://www.flickr.com/photos/freeloosedirt/5300199763/sizes/z/in/photostream/)

Happy 200th birthday, Mr. Dickens!

Dickens himself was quite the man about town, a writer who was famous in his own lifetime, beloved for the characters he created in weekly newspaper installments and the predicaments that befell them. He was popular on the lecture circuit in Britain, Europe, and the U.S., and accounts tell us that he enjoyed the adulation.

His works were important for exposing the difficulties of the Victorian Age--child labor, the plight of the poor, the hypocrisy of the upper class--and helped to change things for the better. He is read and remembered today for the unique quirky characters he created. Miss Havisham, Magwitch, Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and many, many more live in our memories as real people. Many of his character names became common English words, as reviewed in A.Word.A.Day last week.

Dickens Festival, Rochester. (Colin Smith) / CC BY-SA 2.0

A friend and I were fortunate to visit the Charles Dickens Museum decades ago. The museum is in Dickens' London home and contains many original furnishings. Also on display are manuscripts and letters. I was especially interested in reading handwritten correspondence between Dickens and another writer of the day, Hans Christian Andersen!

Take your own little trip here, and wish Mr. Dickens a happy birthday!

The Charles Dickens Museum from martinib.eu on Vimeo.

Which Dickens story or character is your favorite?