Featured Author: Charles Dickens
This month it was my (Book Worm) turn to choose our featured author. I thought long and hard and decided that because it is the holiday season, and I live in England, there is no other author who better captures the spirit of the season in quite the same way as does Charles Dickens. Read our fun facts about Dickens, our favorite Charles Dickens books, and see my photos from the Charles Dickens festival.
Charles Dickens was born on February 7th 1812 in Portsmouth, England. He died on June 9th, 1870 from a stroke, leaving his final book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. His father was a naval clerk, his mother a teacher and he had 7 siblings. His family lived in fluctuating degrees of poverty throughout his entire childhood due to his father’s debt. As a child, he worked at a boot-blacking factory earning only six shillings a week. He was pulled out of school multiple times in order to work and make money for his family. Many of his novels were inspired by events he experienced as a child growing up in poverty. His father was the inspiration for Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield.
Dickens published 15 full-length novels, multiple novellas, numerous short stories, plays, travelogues, and newspaper articles. He began his literary career as a journalist and began submitting work to magazines and newspapers in 1833. That same year he became a parliamentary journalist for the Morning Chronicle. He published most of his novels in serialized form over several years. Over the course of his career he received a large amount of critical acclaim and his life became a rags to riches story.
For a full biography on Dickens, check out the Britannica entry here.
We could go on and on about Dickens but instead we’ll refer you the his full biography and we’ll post a few fun facts. So without further ado here is the Reader’s Room Fun Facts about Charles John Huffam Dickens:
- Dickens started worked aged 12 when his father was imprisoned in a debtors prison (anyone recognize a storyline here).
- He had a pet raven called Grip.
- Dickens is credited with introducing 247 new words or new usages into the English language.
- Dickens was afraid of bats but interested in ghosts and the paranormal.
- He had 10 children (that’s a lot of bedtime stories).
- He has appeared on the British £10 note.
- Dickens suffered from epilepsy (can you think of any of his characters with the same condition?).
- His work has never been out of print, now that is impressive!!
- There is a Dickens World theme park (note to self visit next year).
- There is a Dickens Festival in Rochester (see my photos at the bottom of this post).
And now onto our personal thoughts and books we have read. I’ll let Jen start off and then I’ll close with my thoughts and the photos I took at the Dickens festival.
Jen’s thoughts and books read: I have a special place in my heart for the works of Charles Dickens. When I was a child, my father had a wonderful library filled with beautiful books. Among his collection was the complete works of Dickens. Once I discovered the Dickens collection, I breezed through them. So I’ve read almost all of Dickens novels albeit mostly as a teenager. Little by little, I have been making my way through his works again. As I teenager, I saw them as fun and engaging novels of people facing adversity. As an adult I can see the social justice themes and sociopolitical commentary in addition to the engaging story lines. Here are the books I’ve read. Star ratings are included only for the ones I remember enough to rate:
The Pickwick Papers
The Adventures of Oliver Twist: 4 stars
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby: 4 stars
The Old Curiosity Shop
A Christmas Carol: 4 stars
The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit: 4 stars
David Copperfield: I loved this book. 5 stars.
Bleak House: 5 stars
Hard Times: 3 stars. I struggled with this one when I read it as a teenager.
Little Dorrit: 4 stars
A Tale of Two Cities: 4 stars
Great Expectations – This was one of the first of his books that I read and I loved it. It was a favorite of mine as a teenager.
Book Worm’s thoughts and books read: Dickens also has a special place in my heart. As a child growing up in England every December was, and still is, full of Dickens’ adaptations on the tv and the traditional family trip to Rochester for the annual Dickens festival (scroll to the end for my slideshow of photos from this year’s festival). The real beauty of Dickens’ books is their timeless quality. The social situations may change, but the underlying issues are still very real today. Even today, reading his books give a better view of society – the best and worst of it.
Here are the books I have read:
•The Adventures of Oliver Twist – I really enjoy this rags to riches story.
•The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – I am over half way through and must confess to being in love with Nicholas he is so kind and caring.
•A Christmas Carol – Who could fail to love this enchanted tale of redemption? One of the best things about December is all the adaptations of this classic. I must confess my favourite adaptation of this is A Muppets Christmas Carol.
•The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit – I enjoyed this although it’s not one of my favorites. The American section is just weird.
•David Copperfield: 3 stars. Despite Dickens himself saying this was his favorite book, I must confess this is one of my least favorites.
•Bleak House: I love this book and the BBC adaptation with Gillian Anderson is stunning.
•Hard Times: For These Times – another 3 star read. I just didn’t connect with it like the other books.
•A Tale of Two Cities: 4 stars and surely has the best opening paragraph of a novel ever (although if you want to argue the point I am open to suggestions).
•Great Expectations: I read and loves it as a teenager.. I saw myself as a modern day Estella. Not sure what that says about me.
•The Mystery of Edwin Drood – I intend to read this in December but I expect to be frustrated as its an unfinished novel and I hate loose ends
The Dickens festival is a magical event. Not only do the local people dress up as Dickensian characters and parade through the high street at midday but the shop keepers dress up and there is a Christmas market with guaranteed snow!! Ok so the snow may only be foam blown over everyone, but it has the same effect — white stuff floating down from the sky makes everyone smile. So without further ado here are some pictures to share the magic with you.
What do you think of Charles Dickens? Do you like his books? Why or why not? Which are your favorite/least favorite of his works?