On Tuesday, Britain marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, who is acclaimed as one of the finest writers of the English language. Events took place around the country to mark the bicentenary, including a street party in the city of Portsmouth, on England’s south coast, where the writer was born on February 7, 1812.
Dickens’ novels were inspired by his own early experiences, from the happy boyhood he spent in Kent in southeast England, before his father was thrown into the debtors’ prison, to the childhood of poverty into which he was thrust. At a tender age, Dickens was forced to work in a blacking factory, attaching labels to bottles of leather polish, which inspired one of his best-known works, David Copperfield. Dickens’ books remain cornerstones of English literature and the latest film version of one of his greatest novels, Great Expectations, starring Fiennes and Helena Bonham-Carter, is currently in production.
Claire Tomalin, a leading biographer of the author, says there is no one to compare with Dickens today.
“He had extraordinary energy and he was extraordinarily hard-working. His first three novels — The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby — came out in monthly installments,” she told AFP.
“When he was halfway through The Pickwick Papers he started writing Oliver Twist, so each month he was writing two installments of quite different novels.”
Apart from writing classics, Dicken’s less publicised life revolved around running and financing a house for “fallen women”, offering prostitutes a new start away from their old lives in a large house in London.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2012.