charles-dickens.jpg Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

On February 7th, 2012 we commemorated Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. When we think of Dickens we always think about those books we read or films we saw in our childhood such as “Oliver Twist”, “David Copperfield” or the world famous “ A Christmas Carol” but Dickens is not only a children’s writer, he is more than that.
He was born in Landport, in Portsea,later his family moved to London where he lived happily, playing in the streets, attending school and reading lots of novels, but soon his father suffered financial difficulties and all the family was imprisoned for debt except Dickens who lived in boarding houses and worked ten hours a day in a warehouse.
He reflected all these experiences in most of his novels: prison life in “Little Dorrit”, people he lived with in “The Old Curiosity Shop”, his own autobiography in “David Copperfield” etc., but he always regretted his shameful and lowly past.
He was concerned about the conditions of poor and working-class people which he showed in novels such as “Hard Times”. Later he worked in a law office, experiences which were shown in “Dombey and Son”, “Nicholas Nickleby” and “Bleak House” and then he became a journalist, he wrote serialized sketches which later became his first novel “The Pickwick Papers” which was published in weekly installments as most of his novels. As he published in this way, he could change the situations in his novels according to the public’s taste.
He married Catherine Thomson Hogarth and they had ten children, but they separated and he had a lover, Ellen Ternan, who lived with him till he died.
He travelled a lot and several times to United States where he gave many lectures, met famous writers as Washington Irving or Emerson and fought for the abolition of slavery.
He was a philanthroper, he founded a home for “fallen” women “Urania Cottage” to help them improve their situation and return to society, helped several hospitals and fought for improving the sanitary conditions in the city. By showing the horrible situation of poor people in nineteenth century England in his popular novels, he helped to change the working and living conditions.
All his writing style has a poetic, comic and satiric touch; he mixes fantasy and realism. His portraits all stages of society, depicting the most criticizing aspects of it. He created important characters with such strong characteristics that now they are common words in English language (when we say that someone is a “scrooge” we mean he is a miser). These personalities were also shown in the illustrations of his novels.
We also know that he became a member of The Ghost Club as he was interested in paranormal events. He had a strange attitude to women; he always remembered that his mother didn’t support him when he was young. On the one hand he was very demanding but on the other hand he cared about women’s rights and wanted to help poor women in trouble.
He wanted everything in his house to be clean and tidy. He loved talking to clever people with quick minds. He wanted everything in his life to be perfect, so Charles was not an easy man to live with.
He wrote more than twelve large novels,“Our Mutual Friend”,” A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations” apart form the ones mentioned above, lots of short stories, plays, Christmas stories (which created a genre), plays, journals, poetry, speeches etc. Many of his works have been adapted to theatre, cinema or TV.
He is buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey in London. Dickens is considered one of the best English writers who has had a big influence on others.
Nowadays there are a lot of festivals in UK and USA devoted to him and his works, he even had his image printed in a ten pound note.
I encourage you to read and enjoy some of his novels or at least watch some of the films and series based on his works.

"Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest."

If you want to know more, watch a video about his life and do a webquest answering some questions

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