Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens! (1812 - 1870)

Today is the official birth date of one of the greatest writers in the English language,  certainly the greatest of the Victorians - Charles Dickens. In fact, this year is the Dickens Bicentennial since he was born exactly 200 years ago today, February 7th, 1812.

In honor of the Bicentennial, I plan on reading at least one Dickens book this year and possibly two. Admittedly I haven't read any Dickens since high school (except for A CHRISTMAS CAROL), but I'm making it my mission to do so this year. I was force-fed A TALE OF TWO CITIES in my senior year and did not enjoy the experience, though I do remember crying when Sydney Carton makes his fateful speech.

Obviously, my approach (not to mention, the school's) was incorrect. But now I'm confident I will enjoy introducing myself to Dickens once again.

"I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time."

Several great links to Charles Dickens related posts here at The Rap Sheet.


  1. It might be interesting to reread A Tale of Two Cities. I find that in rereading the books I read when I was young, I have a completely different take. It's not unlike watching a movie for the second time and seeing different details.

  2. When I read PICKWICK PAPERS, my first Dickens classic, in school, I thought I was in fairyland. I loved everything about the book that had black-and-white illustrations and text in big typeface. At the time I thought all books were as lovely as this one.

  3. My first Dickens novel was Hard Times in the 6th Grade. I have read a couple of others and started and stopped with A Tale of Two Cities.

    I am equally fascinated by his life and its obvious influence on his books.

  4. Mark, I don't want to press my luck, but you may be right.

    I have BLEAK HOUSE here in a nice edition and perhaps, GREAT EXPECTATIONS will show up on my shelves.

  5. Prashant: I had a copy of Pickwick but it fell apart from age. It remained unread for all the years I owned it. Shame on me.

    I always thought I'd like it but I never sat down and gave it a chance.

  6. iluvcinema: Yes, me too. His life was a bit dramatic in his personal arrangements.

    But I believe he truly was appalled by what he saw among the poor in London. His being forced to work in a 'blacking' business (not sure what that is) as a very young child, colored his life forever.

  7. I'm planning on reading the remaining four Dickens novels I haven't read over the next year or so. I never read anything by Charles Dickens for school. The first thing I read was Bleak House for my fun reading when I was a junior in college. I love Dickens, but I don't know how I would have felt about him if I'd been made to read his novels in English class. I had to read Joyce and I don't like him one bit!

  8. I cannot bring myself to about the child labor, extreme poverty and the oppression of children in England at that time.

    I saw enough of it in the very well-written and socially conscious What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen, which took place in 1888 London.

    Dickens' reports the conditions like a journalist, a muckraker, which was all good at the time, bringing the terrible poverty to everyone's attention. This must have led to social reforms.

    I need to find other works by Dickens, perhaps The Pickwick Papers.

  9. Lauren, when you're forced to read something you're not quite ready for, it can lead to lifelong complications. :)


  10. Kathy: I tell you what, if you read THE PICKWICK PAPERS, I'll join in with you. :)

  11. I am over my head now with Michael Connelly,and have a global pile, including Aussie books on my TBR mountain, as well as lots of library loot on hold.

    I want to read The Pickwick Papers. Can we perhaps set a date to start reading, maybe May 1 or June 1 or so?

    Would you write your usual delectable, funny reviews?

    I just found out that there is a Guttenberg library online with thousands of free books available to read. I just looked up something in a Dickens' book.

  12. June sounds a good date. I hope I can squeeze it in. You know how out of hand my reading can get. But I'll do my best. I want to get my hands on a nice copy of Pickwick.

    Let's give it a try. Worse comes to worse, we set it aside and try something else. I'm determined to read at least one Dickens this year.

  13. Hello - I know this post is three years old, but I wondered whether you ever got round to reading Pickwick?

    If not, I wonder whether I can suggest something which might whet your appetite for Pickwick, and be the final spur you need to read it. You see, I have , I have written a novel about the creation and history of The Pickwick Papers. In my view, Pickwick has the most fascinating backstory of any work of fiction. My novel is called Death and Mr Pickwick, and it will be published by Random House in May (in the UK) and in June by Farrar. Straus & Giroux (in the USA).Three sites will tell you more:
    http://www.deathandmrpickwick.com – the novel’s website
    http://www.publishersweekly.com/9780374139667 – the first pre-publication review, in Publishers’ Weekly
    https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick – the novel’s facebook page, where I regularly post bits and pieces of Pickwickiana

    And now I am looking at the quote on your page: "If you don't know history you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree." I think that my novel, on Pickwick's history, will make people realise the extraordinary importance of Pickwick, if they haven't read that novel before. And if they have read it, I believe it will deepen their understanding of the novel.

    I also hope I will make many new friends by writing Death and Mr Pickwick, so if you feel like dropping me a line, please do so. I can be contacted at the website.

    Best wishes

    Stephen Jarvis

  14. Hi Stephen, sad to say, I never did get around to reading any Dickens. My fault, I just had trouble finding a chunk of time. But I've decided that come heck or high water, I must read at least one Dickens book this year and for that matter, I've also decided to read Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH. So it's going to be an auspicious year - reading-wise, anyway. I know, I've said that before, but all I can do is try, try again.

    I will definitely take a look at your website and Facebook page. DEATH AND MR. PICKWICK is a very intriguing title. I have, directly in front of me - on the wall above my desk - a very charming print. Pictures from Pickwick is, I believe, the series, 'The Start from the Bull at Rochester.' Picked it up by sheer luck at a flea market many years ago. It features Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass.


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