How would one explain the Kindle to Charlie Dickens…?
No wait; that’s a separate blogpost. Let’s get to know Charlie a little better first.
Charles Dickens: The name conjures up visions of plum pudding and Christmas punch, quaint coaching inns and cosy firesides, but also of orphaned and starving children, misers, murderers, and abusive schoolmasters. Dickens was 19th century London personified – he survived its mean streets as a child and, despite being largely self-educated, possessed the genius (that trademark leftie trait) to eventually become the greatest writer of his age.
Charlie was born on February 7, 1812, the son of a clerk at the Navy Pay Office. His father, John Dickens, continually living beyond his means, was imprisoned at the Marshalsea(a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark) in 1824 for failing to pay his debts.
A 12-year-old Charles was subsequently removed from school and sent to work at a boot-blacking factory – earning six shillings a week to help support the family. This experience cast a shadow over the clever, sensitive boy, and became a defining episode in Charlie’s life. (He would later lament, “How I could have been so easily cast away at such an age.”)
This childhood poverty and feelings of abandonment, although unknown to his readers until after his death, would be a heavy influence on Dickens‘ later views on social reform; and not least on the world he would create through his fiction.
Not surprisingly, Dickens’ characters are some of the most memorable in fiction.
Often these characters were based on people that he knew: Wilkins Micawber and William Dorrit (his father), Mrs. Nickleby (his mother). In a few instances Dickens based the character too closely on the original and got into trouble, as in the case of Harold Skimpole in Bleak House, based on Leigh Hunt, and Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield, based on his wife’s dwarf chiropodist.
Their names, too, are funkier than most. Characters such as Sweedlepipe, Honeythunder, Bumble, Pumblechook, and M’Choakumchild are recognizable as Dickensian even by those unfamiliar with the stories.
Charlie’s friend and biographer, John Forster, said that Dickens made “characters real existences, not by describing them but by letting them describe themselves.” Characters such as Scrooge (miserly) and Pecksniff (hypocritically affecting benevolence) became defining terms in everyday vernacular.
He wished to be buried, without fanfare, in a small cemetery in Rochester, but the Nation would not allow it. He was laid to rest in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, the flowers from thousands of mourners overflowing the open grave.
Incidentally, among the more beautiful bouquets were many simple clusters of wildflowers, wrapped in rags.
More about him later, though; must get back to my very empowering ‘Five Point Someone’.
1. A Christmas Carol: You know the tale, you’ve seen the movies, but if you haven’t read the book you’re missing half the story. Dickens‘ little tale of human redemption has a million versions out there; make sure you get the original at INDIAreads.
2. David Copperfield: Charlie’s eighth novel was a thinly disguised autobiography, with many of the story lines mirroring Dickens‘ own life. ”Dickens never stood so high in reputation as at the completion of Copperfield.” – John Forster, Dickens‘ friend and first biographer.
3. Great Expectations: Strongly autobiographical again; though not as openly as in David Copperfield. Charlie actually reread Copperfield before beginning Great Expectations – to avoid unintentional repetition. Called Dickens‘ darkest work by some, it was very well received by Victorian readers and remains one of his most popular works today. Many consider it his greatest use of plot, characterization, and style – and a masterpiece of literary work.