Wow! Today is Charles Dickens’s 200th Birthday!

Wow, how on earth did I miss this? But then again, I guess I didn’t. Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. Google even did a doodle inspired by the author and his work and you’ll see it if you are googling today.

Here are two articles that I enjoyed. One is for kids, but hey! Who cares? I hope you enjoy them and that you will take a moment to raised a glass to one of the greatest writers in history.

Happy Birthday, Charles!

Celebrating Charles Dickens’s 200th Birthday
By Raymond M. Lane

Charles Dickens was born at midnight on February 7, 1812, the second of Elizabeth and John Dickens’s eight children.

It was reported that the newborn baby began to cry as the clock struck 12, and many feel that his voice is as real today as it was 200 years ago. Dickens grew up to become one of the world’s most famous and beloved writers. His characters are known throughout the world.

What many kids — and adults — may not know is how famous Charles Dickens was during his lifetime. He was as a big a celebrity in the 1800s as any of today’s TV, movie or music stars.

Kids, of course, know “A Christmas Carol,” with the mean Ebenezer Scrooge and poor Tiny Tim. The story is about finding kindness in your own heart when the world seems hard and cold.

All of Dickens’s 15 novels are still being read, and have been made into movies, television shows and even plays, puppet shows and cartoons.

Today, most kids learn about Dickens by reading “A Christmas Carol.” As you get older, you might read other classics, including “Oliver Twist” or “A Tale of Two Cities.” All of his novels are powerful and sometimes a little spooky. All in some way are about children who have to overcome hardships, including growing up without their parents.

What many kids — and adults — may not know is how famous Dickens was during his lifetime. He was as a big a celebrity in the 1800s as any of today’s TV, movie or music stars.

When he visited North America in 1842 and 1867, people lined up on the streets to see him. Two presidents invited him to the White House.

“He was so handsome when he visited Boston,” said Diana Archibald, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, which is hosting a citywide party today for Dickens. “He had long hair like a woman, and they treated him like a rock star.”

Dickens loved kids, too. He and his wife, Catherine Hogarth, had 10 children and a bunch of pets, including a talking raven named Grip. With all the money he made from his books and public appearances, Dickens helped set up homes for orphans and poor women.

But Dickens wasn’t always wealthy. Six years after he died in 1870, secrets about his childhood came out that helped explain many of his writings.

Dickens was so poor that when he was 12, his parents went to jail because they couldn’t pay their bills. Dickens spent a year working 10-hour days at a factory. His pay was 6 shillings a week, or about $32 in today’s money. He slept on straw, was ragged and dirty most of that year.

“He wrote about his own childhood,” Archibald said. “He was too ashamed to reveal that this is where he gathered the material for his stories.”

— Raymond M. Lane

Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens
by Guy Jackson

BRITAIN today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, acclaimed as one of the finest writers of the English language and one whose novels have become enduring classics.

Events will take place around the country to mark the bicentenary, including a street party in the city of Portsmouth, on the southeast English coast, where he was born on February 7, 1812.

Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and actor Ralph Fiennes will be among guests at the laying of a wreath at Westminster Abbey in London to mark the occasion.

Dickens’ books remain cornerstones of English literature and the latest film version of one of his greatest novels, “Great Expectations,” starring Fiennes and Helena Bonham-Carter, is currently in production.

Claire Romalin, a leading biographer of the author, says there is no one to compare with Dickens today.

“He had extraordinary energy and he was extraordinarily hard-working. His first three novels – “The Pickwick Papers,” “Oliver Twist” and “Nicholas Nickleby” – came out in monthly installments,” she said.

“When he was halfway through “The Pickwick Papers” he started writing “Oliver Twist,” so each month he was writing two installments of quite different novels.

“Can you imagine doing that now?”

Dickens’ novels were informed by his own early experiences, from the happy days he spent in Kent as a boy, before his father was thrown into the debtors’ prison, to the childhood of poverty into which he was then thrust.

At a tender age, Dickens was forced to work in a blacking factory, attaching labels to bottles of polish, which inspired one of his best-known works, “David Copperfield,” first published as a novel in 1850.

Later, despite only intermittent schooling, Dickens found work as an office boy in a law firm. He was 15.

“The most extraordinary thing about his life is that nine years later he was famous as the author of ‘The Pickwick Papers,’” said Tomalin.

“He did it by learning shorthand, by becoming a law reporter, a parliamentary reporter and a newspaper reporter.

“He was a writer of genius. After Shakespeare he was the greatest inventor of character.”

Dickens had a less-publicised [sic] life helping to run and to finance a house for “fallen women”, offering prostitutes a new start away from their old lives in a large house in London.

This most Victorian of callings occupied years of his life, yet he still found time to father 10 children and maintain a prodigious output of books, articles and give numerous lectures.

Unlike many of the great writers and artists, Dickens was a star in his own time. Tomalin says that was because he gave readers what they wanted.

“He wanted to show that ordinary people were as interesting as rich, famous, grand people,” she said.

“He succeeded in that. He was really funny, he made people laugh. And he also wanted people to cry and he did that with pathos and by writing thrilling plots.”


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