This week was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dicken’s birth. We here at Pioneer Book have been celebrating by throwing around quotes (as though we frequently memorize large passages of Dickens), discussing our favorites and .. I? Well I got to re-live my visit to Bloomsbury, where we found the house that Dickens lived in with his 10 children before moving to Gad’s Hill. Although I’m not a huge Dickens fan, and I haven’t read much of his writing, I’m familiar with his stories and his message, and I respect what he did as an author and a citizen of a country full of rampant classicism and no labor laws. Seeing his house gave me Author Chills, as I stood on his doorstep realizing that he had actually written some of his early work in those upstairs rooms.
Prolific and popular, Dickens is credited with the invention of many words and terms we find commonplace in our modern language, which may or may not be myth. However, he certainly was a lover and preserver of language, as he included colloquial dialect and phrases in the dialogue spoken by many of his colorful characters. Phrases like “devil-may-care,” “butter-fingers,” “messiness,” “whiz-bang,” “seediness” and “flummox” may well have died out had Dickens not immortalized them in his famous and beloved stories.
Dickens worked 10-hour days in a factory as a child, the conditions and cruelty of which he later commented on in his writing. Coming from a family that was often in debt, he was raised by friends of his family who were inspirations for characters. His background made him a crusader against treatment in Georgian and Victorian London for workers and the poor.
His works were first published as serial stories in papers, then as he gained popularity he published novels. He enjoyed reading his stories aloud in theatrical settings for adoring British audiences. He gave these readings until just weeks before his death.
His use of language and description has endured for 200 years, making his characters immortal in renditions like the Oscar-winning musical “Oliver!” and even becoming relevant to children in “A Muppet’s Christmas Carol” and “Oliver and Company.” Some of his characters have become descriptive in our culture. (Scrooge, anyone?)
Check out this article from the BBC to find out how Charles Dickens re-invented Christmas http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16184487, and post your own favorite Charles Dickens moments in the comments section below!