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