Welcome one and all to my beach hut

Grab a deck chair, Tea or coffee and help yourself to a buiscuit but you'd better mind the seaguls or they'll grab them first. Just look at that view and doesn't the sea look inviting.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

200 years of Dickens


2012 Celebrates 200 years since the Birth of Charles Dickens and there are lots of things going on all over the country in our libraries and museums to celebrate this fact.

Charles Dickens is much loved for his great contribution to classic English literature. He was the quintessential Victorian author. His epic stories, vivid characters and exhaustive depiction of contemporary life are unforgettable.

His own story is one of rags to riches. He was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens. The good fortune of being sent to school at the age of nine was short-lived because his father, inspiration for the character of Mr Micawber in 'David Copperfield', was imprisoned for bad debt. The entire family, apart from Charles, were sent to Marshalsea along with their patriarch. Charles was sent to work in Warren's blacking factory and endured appalling conditions as well as loneliness and despair. After three years he was returned to school, but the experience was never forgotten and became fictionalised in two of his better-known novels 'David Copperfield' and 'Great Expectations'.
Like many others, he began his literary career as a journalist. His own father became a reporter and Charles began with the journals 'The Mirror of Parliament' and 'The True Sun'. Then in 1833 he became parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronicle. With new contacts in the press he was able to publish a series of sketches under the pseudonym 'Boz'. In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of George Hogarth who edited 'Sketches by Boz'. Within the same month came the publication of the highly successful 'Pickwick Papers', and from that point on there was no looking back for Dickens.
A Christmas Carol, the first of his Christmas books, was published in 1843. The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future remains one of the most popular stories ever written in the English language.

As well as a huge list of novels he published autobiography, edited weekly periodicals including 'Household Words' and 'All Year Round', wrote travel books and administered charitable organisations. He was also a theatre enthusiast, wrote plays and performed before Queen Victoria in 1851. His energy was inexhaustible and he spent much time abroad - for example lecturing against slavery in the United States and touring Italy with companions Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins, a contemporary writer who inspired Dickens' final unfinished novel 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'.

He was estranged from his wife in 1858 after the birth of their ten children, but maintained relations with his mistress, the actress Ellen Ternan. He died of a stroke in 1870. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.


Should you find yourself in Chatham, England, be sure to stop by Dickens World, which has to be the only Charles Dickens-themed amusement park on the planet. Attractions include the Great Expectations Boat Ride, a replica Victorian schoolhouse (complete with snarling teacher) and a haunted house. No word on whether they offer smallpox face-painting, or sell gruel at the concession stand.

Charles Dickens was the first literary superstar - his popular works reached a wider audience than any writer before him. With classics like Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and David Copperfield, Dickens dominated the literary life of 19th-century England and the United States. But like many remarkable people, Dickens was a complex, multi-layered individual, full of peculiar quirks and odd habits.

When The Old Curiosity Shop was published in serial form in 1841, readers all over Britain and the United States followed the progress of the heroine, Little Nell, with the same fervor that audiences today follow Harry Potter. When the ship carrying the last installment approached the dock in New York, 6,000 impatient fans onshore called out to the sailors, "Does Little Nell die?"

Charles Dickens captures perfectly what life was like at the start of the Industrial revolution and he outlines the changing world around him with for instance the coming of the Railways.
Writers like Dickens and painters like Turner were among the first to view the railways as symbolic of change. The railways could be both heroic and revolutionary and yet destructive. They transformed both the rural landscape and townscapes with new bridges, cuttings and embankments.

William Turner's famous painting Rain, steam and speed, Great Western Railway reminds us of the initial impact the railways and their trains and engineering had on artists. A little later, Charles Dickens was including a scene on the building of the railways in Dombey and Son, where he describes the railway works cutting their way through Camden Town.

On 10 June 1865, the train in which Dickens and his mistress Nelly Ternan were riding careened off the rails on a bridge in France. Seven of the train's eight cars plunged into the river, killing many passengers, while Dickens's car dangled off the bridge. The writer remained calm, offering brandy to shaken passengers and working to free those trapped in the cars below.

I was inspired to read many of Dickens popular novels in my teenage years mainly because there were at the time some very good adaptations of his books being made for television. One of the first of his books I read was Great expectations and it was interesting to see a new adaptation in 3 parts being televised this Christmas (though I must admit I was not too happy with some changes to the story made near the end).

I still enjoy reading Dickens and am presently reading Bleak House one of Dickens novels I have previously never read. I hope also to get the new autobiography of his life. Now that I own a Kindle I can get all of his classics and most of them I am able to download for free. Dickens characters are as real and relevant today as they were 200 years ago and will continue to give pleasure to readers for hundreds of years more.

1 comment:

  1. I read that there is to be more adaptations of Dickens novels on television later this year

    ReplyDelete