Happy birthday, Charles Dickens!

Today is the bicentennial of Charles Dickens’s birth.  I have been trying to decide how best to use my blog to commemorate the day, and I haven’t come to a satisfying conclusion.  I think the problem is that there’s too much Charles Dickens.  I can’t pick just one favorite character from his teeming world, where every time you turn a London street corner you’re likely to run into an old enemy, a dear school friend, or a long-lost relative.  Or, maybe just a singular character whom you ran into on that same street corner ten years before.  I can’t pick just one favorite line from the most verbose Englishman since Shakespeare (I’m not doing an accurate word count, here; I’m just referring to the exuberant flow of language that characterizes the work of both authors), who mastered both snark and sentiment, and can still make readers who have never seen the Thames feel a creeping London fog rolling in with the night over the river.

To my readers who don’t know what I’m talking about: for the characters, read David Copperfield.  For the descriptions, read Bleak House.  For something short to start off with, read A Christmas Carol.  And let me know what you think!

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One thought on “Happy birthday, Charles Dickens!

  1. The “teeming world of Charles Dickens” – sounds like a good name for a theme park. And an apt description of his London. It seems to be geographically compressed but profusely peopled with people alive in all sorts of ways and walks of life. I should say his world, not his London, since his settings encompass many places. Perhaps it should be said that Dickens’ expanded London to populate his world, then compressed that world to fit within the close borders of the City of London.

    You should read my review of the first volume of Churchill’s history of the English speaking people (I linked the review on FB last night). In a way I hadn’t thought until I read your blog post (Happy Birthday, Mr. D, by the way), Churchill’s prose style probably owes something to Dickens, or perhaps it is that feeling I have while reading both of sitting at the feet of a master of a language and style we only inadequately borrow and call by the same name. It is effortless, and eloquent.

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