Charles Dickens turns 200…I almost missed wishing him a Happy Birthday!

Well, it’s still the 7th of February on the west coast, but I missed it for the rest of the country! My best intentions didn’t pan out. Today marked the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth and I would have enjoyed reminding everyone much earlier, but I had a very busy day. Even belatedly, it’s still a good opportunity to talk about one of the world’s most famous authors.

Dickens wasn’t short on words! His books were published in installments, making them the pulp fiction of the day, which also made them more affordable. Some critics review his books as cheap soap operas. Oscar Wilde said that you would have to have a heart of stone to read of the death of little Nell without laughing! Oh well. I don’t really agree, but I don’t think Dickens needs my defense.

I don’t know that I have a valuable book collection, but I have an interesting one.  I’ve collected books all my life, and was particularly fortunate to acquire several wonderful sets and editions when we purchased this house. One of the collections that most pleases me is a 30 volume Complete Works of Dickens. The editions don’t have a publication date, but the previous owner of the books dated one volume 1917.  They are in excellent, readable condition, and they are valuable to me anyway!

I also have a large Illustrated Works of Dickens which includes six of the more popular titles. This book is in good condition–considering it was published in 1879–just nine years after Dickens’ death.

There was a time, and not that long ago, when many households had volumes similar to those in my collection. But library space today is at a premium. Also, we are unusual in that we have lived in our home for more than 35 years. If we ever choose to “downsize” I’m in real trouble with my books!

Dickens may officially belong to the English, but he is celebrated in countries all over the world. When I was in high school Dickens was a mandatory read! I would love to know if that is still true or if he has been bumped to make room for more current authors–perhaps those who were born less than 200 years ago!

I am fairly sure that school children today must find Dickensian language, settings and characters rather archaic–no Harry Potter, that’s for sure, but I’m old…to me the stories are  really  timeless and I kind of relish the “flowery” language and  Victorian settings.   I say that, and yet I haven’t read more than the most famous titles. I didn’t really think of how many I have yet to read until I looked on my bookshelves this evening. It may take me the next 200 years, but I like a good challenge and hope to one day say that I’ve read them all.  I’d better get started!

I’d love to know if you have a current interest in putting Dickens in that huge pile of books that sits next to your bed.  You know, the one that never gets any shorter, no matter how much you read? I know…I have one of those, too.

I’ll close for now… I need to have a little time to read before I close out my day! Debra


27 thoughts on “Charles Dickens turns 200…I almost missed wishing him a Happy Birthday!

  1. Ah, yes! I haven’t read Dickens since I was in high school. Seen many movies made from his works, but you make me want to read something of his again. It is like traveling back into another age and another pace. Lovely! 🙂

    • I admit I was a little shocked to realize it was the bicentennial of his birth! That really is a very long time ago–but perhaps like to Shakespeare there will always be an allegiance! It is like traveling back, Rita, and I think it’s nice to read the language and realize we haven’t lost the ability to appreciate it! I hope you will read something soon, if just to see how much the movies leave out! 🙂 Debra

  2. Pingback: Memories: Reading Charles Dickens In The Best & Worst Times… | Mirth and Motivation

  3. Well, happy birthday, Chuck! It’s been ages since i picked up one of his books but it was always a treat to do so. I really do need to reacquaint myself with his works again. Thanks, Debra, for the reminder. That is some collection of his work that you have there!

    • I’m glad I brought him back to your attention, John. Chuck! That’s hilarious. I read somewhere that Dickens really liked nicknames, but I think he had them for other people. I don’t know if anyone had pet names for him! In our abundant reading time (ha!) we should begin to move through his works again. It was fun to simply pay attention to him! 🙂 Debra

  4. I grew up reading Dickens and wrote a post about that. It is amazing how prolific he was, and how widely read his books were … and that they remain popular today. Great post. 🙂

    • He was prolific! That’s for sure! I have been glad to hear so much consideration for his works, not just a reverence for the longevity of his reputation. When we are in social settings we don’t often say “I’m currently reading Dickens,” but maybe I will sometime, and encourage the dialogue further. I’d love to read what you wrote, Elizabeth. I will check that out 🙂 Thanks! Debra

  5. I read Christmas Carol just before the holidays — it’s a treasure to reread the classics. Mr. Dickens knew how to develop characters, that’s for sure. Thanks for your post and WOW that’s a lot of Dickens on your shelves!

    • I do have a lot, Natalie…and it’s been there for more than thirty years! I don’t have an excuse for not having read it all by now, do I? I feel very challenged to make a further dent! I read Christmas Carol again this year, too, and it had been awhile. I have been thinking of the collection since that time, realizing I have a little treasure that I should appreciate a bit more. Thanks so much for sharing! Debra

    • I agree, Andra. I don’t want to encourage e-Readers over the beauty of the books themselves, but I discovered over the holidays that I didn’t want to carry my copy of Christmas Carol with me. The books are in good condition, but they really are old–so I downloaded the book to my Kindle app…free. There are no copyrights associated with Mr. Dickens. I don’t know exactly how I feel about that, but that IS what I did. So there are many easy ways to bring a little of that wonderful voice into 2012. What would he think about that! 🙂 Thanks for your sharing, Andra. I like that! Debra

  6. I, too, love Dickens…. I have a series of 10 old volumes… but I too have read only the more famous titles… Agatha Christie viewed Dickens as one of her two muses…. I’ll have to have another look at my neglected volumes… 🙂

  7. Dear Debra,
    Okay! You talked me into it. I’m going to put “Little Dorrit” on my bedside table. I once took a class on Dickens and George Eliot at the University of Dayton. (This was back in 1968.) I learned so much an so enjoyed those two authors, so I think I’d best put “Middlemarch” on that table too. Thanks for the nudge. And happy 200th Charlie!


    • Oh good, Dee! That is an excellent choice. The class you took sounds like a winner! I would have enjoyed something like that, but at this point, I think I’ll have to do a self-study! 🙂 Enjoy your own massive reading pile! Debra

  8. You definitely don’t need to defend Dickens. But what a nice tribute to make to his anniversary! I think his language is rather archaic, but his stories are still important and valid. Yes, the settings are from old days, but he writes about human conditions and experiences that are still very much important today.

    • I really like your analysis, Otto. You are so right! Dickens did write about human suffering and the social conditions of his day. That sets him in a very special timeless category of author, I believe. Thank you for that! Debra

    • Yes I read your post about Dickens, Kate, and love that you and Maddie are reading Great Expectations. I have previously commented, however, on my belief that you are a tad exceptional in the way you pay such close attention to cultivating the arts and sciences in your home! At least you are exceptional from the average American home…my belief anyway! Debra

  9. Hi debra, i am new to your pages and loved your last line, of course Dickens too but when you said that you must close so that you could go and read you reminded me of myself. i close the computer at EIGHT every night, nothing will stop me reading before bed! c

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Celi. You’re a little more disciplined than I am to turn it all off at 8! But we have the same goals, I think! I just checked out your site, too, and love the focus on sustainable gardening and living with such intention! I’ll be interested in learning more about your life on the prairie! Debra

  10. I would have missed his b day had you not told me and I am glad I got to read up on him as he is one of my very favorite, but then again I am 45 years old and know how to appreciate the classics…got some of them in my library.

  11. I read all the popular Dickens works in high school, Debra, but haven’t read him for a long time. I think this is partly because his works adapt so well for TV and there have been some really good productions over the years on the BBC. I really must go back to the text. 🙂

    • We could all use a little more time for reading, don’t you agree, Perpetua? My comment about the bedside pile is so true for me. I read the books you (and Penny) suggest, and want to read them all. It’s not at all realistic, and I know it, but it’s one little fantasy I won’t let go! I have put a couple of Dickens titles in my pile, and they will eventually bubble to the top! I do agree with you about the BBC productions. We feast on them when they air here! Keep sharing what you’re reading…I don’t really need more suggestions, of course, but I do enjoy! 🙂 Debra

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