The magic that is Charles Dickens. One of the True Greats of English Literature.

The world of Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens enthralling his audience.
Charles Dickens enthralling his audience.
Oliver Twist. "Please Sir, can I have some more.
Oliver Twist. "Please Sir, can I have some more.
 Sir Patrick Stewart played Scrooge brilliantly.
Sir Patrick Stewart played Scrooge brilliantly.

Charles Dickens. One of The Greats of World Literature.

When I was but a lad growing up in Ireland I was a bit of a bookworm. This was in the days before television had spread its insidious grip into every house, and decades before the advent of either the internet or computer games.

In those days if you wanted to broaden your horizons, or lift your mind beyond the purely mundane, the only available option was to read books. I was fortunate because my brother, who was some years older than me, had already acquired a selection of classics such as "The Coral Island" by R M Ballantyne or "Treasure Island" by the renowned RL Stevenson. These novels served to whet my appetite for stories of adventure, while opening my mind to the existence of lands and characters, far removed from the small Irish farm where I spent my childhood.

But it was when I discovered the books of the great Victorian novelist and social reformer Charles Dickens that I really got hooked on the pleasure of reading, and the great stories that he wrote, and the immortal characters that he painted so vividly, have remained a constant part of my life ever since.

Two of the great masterpieces of Charles Dickens.

The first of his books that I read was "Oliver Twist". Who, that has read it, can ever forget the story of the poor boy in the workhouse, the starving children, and the smug obnoxious Mr and Mrs Bumble. I cheered under the bedclothes,( I was one of those addicts that read when I was supposed to be asleep), when the nasty Bumbles were exposed, and forced to end their days in the very institution that they had ruled so selfishly in the days of their power. How I laughed at the antics of The Artful Dodger and the king of the thieves Fagin. But, in the midst of my mirth, the clever author would slip in a reference to a twelve year old boy being hanged for picking pockets, just to remind the reader of the realities for those who had to live out their lives on the underbelly of "the good old days".

Another one of his books that I read when very young was "David Copperfield". This was the most autobiographical of all his books. The young Dickens had to go and work in a factory to support his family, when his father was put into debtors prison, for owing a lot of money. Just as well they don’t do that nowadays, or many of us, including my good self, would be languishing behind bars. David Copperfield had to slave away in a sweathouse when his wicked stepfather, Mr Murdstone, more or less sold him early in the tale.

Of course, this book is packed full of memorable characters as well. There is the eternally impoverished Mr Micawber, who is always expecting "something to turn up", and always being disappointed. He is supposed to be based on memories of the author's own father. The scene where Mr Micawber exposes the obnoxious Uriah Heep is one of the most memorable in all literature.

The fame of Charles Dickens spread all over The World.

There are so many brilliant stories that came from the pen of Charles Dickens, and so many truly unforgettable characters, that it is way beyond the scope of this article, or the ability of this writer, to delineate them all.

There is the archetypal miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who warms our hearts by achieving redemption in "A Christmas Carol, and who would not weep when Sydney Carton goes to the guillotine to save his love rival in "A Tale of Two Cities".

"It is a far far better thing that I do now, than I have ever done".

Even a stone would shed tears.

So popular were the works of Dickens in his own day that he gave public readings all over Britain and The United States. His books were mainly serialised, which meant that if people wanted to find out what happened to a particular character, they had to purchase the next chapter. In "Oliver Twist", when Oliver got shot, his fate was not revealed until the chapter after next. This heightened the suspense to almost mania proportions. In New York people used to besiege ships, that came in from England, to see if the latest instalment was on board.

The appeal of Charles Dickens has not lessened in our era. His characters are so vivid that they are ideal for translation to either the big screen, or to the stage, or television. The Musical "Oliver" is one prime example.

There have been memorable television serialisations of several of his books. In recent years the BBC productions of "Bleak House" and "Little Dorrit" have been the best I have seen.

Patrick Stewart in "A Christmas Carol" is also well worth watching.

But however you take him into your life, whether it is through the mediums of film and the stage, or by reading his immortal words in the original books, every one of you should experience the magic that is Charles Dickens.

Without it your living can never be complete.

Some creepy bits from "A Christmas Carol".

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Comments 13 comments

authorfriendly profile image

authorfriendly 6 years ago from Charleston, SC

I also found Oliver Twist a wonderful read, and while the Musical Oliver was also entertaining, nothing beats the writing of Dickens!

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom Author

Hi authorfriendly.

Thanks for your comment, with which, I totally agree.

jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

Great hub, brought back many memories of reading Dickens when I was younger. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed his work.

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom Author

Thanks jayjay40.

He was definitely one of the greatest.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, I remember reading his books when I was small, and hating them! but as I grew up, I gave them another go, and now I find some of them really good, I must admit to liking it on TV much better though! cheers nell

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom Author

Hi Nell. Some of the TV productions were really brilliant.

They must have got him a whole new generation of fans.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I've at least read something by most big name American authors, whether it's considered Literature, as is Dickens; or just fluff fiction, like that terrible, third rate crap that Dan Brown sells. But maybe I'll have to try Dickens again, as so far as I remember, there was something about his style that just didn't grab me, or rather, the last time I'd tried, there was something about his style that annoyed me.

Of course my perspective has changed quite a lot, so I'm likely to become addicted, who knows?

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Forgive me, now I've gone off and assumed that Dickens was an America writer; and since the comment, directly after, I realize that I don't even remember if he is English, Irish, or American; and so I'm feeling sort of dim witted, I think I should go back to sleep.

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom Author

Hi Wesman.

Rather than diving in at the deep end by reading some of his books, try some of the really good television productions. You will get the flavour of the man there.

Or if you prefer to read, get a copy of "A Christmas Carol" for starters. It's not too long.

I must admit that ,nowadays, I hardly open a book any more. Most of what I need is online; or maybe I am just getting lazy.

Oh! By the way. He was English.

Thatguypk profile image

Thatguypk 5 years ago

Hi christopher. If I was already impressed by the wit of many of your hubs, my admiration has grown to mammoth proportions upon realising your love of Dickens. He is, in my opinion, the finest creator of character to have ever put pen (quill, pencil, whatever!) to paper.

My only astonishment is that you failed to mention, in this hub, Great Expectations, which I believe to be the best book I have ever read.

In endorse your belief that everyone should attempt to read Dickens, if only to witness his craft of painting a vivid picture of his characters. You don't need to have seen Sir Alec Guinness or Ron Moody playing the role of "Fagin" to know exactly how the old miser should look. It's all there on the page.

I don't know if you're a fan of Thomas Hardy, (I am!) but Dickens does the same thing with individual characters that Hardy does with landscapes. When you read a description, you can close your eyes and picture almost exactly how the author must have seen the character... or the landscape.

It is the magnificent descriptive narrative that brings the story to life and gives you a sense of knowing the character, or the setting, personally. No wonder it is so easy to get lost in a well constructed novel!

Great hub. Thanks.

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom Author


Thanks for that detailed comment. I,m glad you mentioned "Great Expectations" as it is really a brilliant book. "Miss Havisham" must be one of literature's most unforgetable characters.

When I was studying for my Leaving Cert, I had "The Mayor of Casterbridge" as part of my english course.

I remember reading it then, and thinking it was really good, but, to my shame, I haven't read any "Thomas Hardy" since.

Thatguypk profile image

Thatguypk 5 years ago

Yep, my first encounter with Hardy was also at school, and to be honest, it was his attention to detail that nearly turned me off to his writing at an early age.... but then a friend suggested that I should read "Tess of the D'Urbervilles". Well.... i can only state that I have subsequently re-read it maybe a dozen times. If you have time, christopher, give it a try. It's an amazing and beautiful book.

Aside from Dickens and Hardy, I'd also highly recommend George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss" as an excellent read.

But for God's sake don't start reading so much that you neglect your hubbing!!! ;-)

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom Author

I might do that.

Once upon a time, I read three books a week, but now I am internet addicted, and haven't read a complete "paper" book in several years.

I wont be neglecting the "hubbing". It's too much fun.

I,ve been doing a lot of editing this week, but I feel a new one coming on. Perhaps tomorrow.

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