"Fill your glass again, with a merry face and contented heart." ("A Christmas Dinner," Sketches by Boz)
". . . It was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness . . ." (The Pickwick Papers, Chapter 28)
We'd like to offer our wishes for a very happy 197th birthday to Mr. Charles Dickens! A day for merriment indeed.
I think this is a good day to recall the very first time I remember hearing Dickens's name. It wasn't the time I read Great Expectations in ninth grade. It was when I was reading L. M. Montgomery's Anne of the Island-- the third book in the Anne of Green Gables series, the one where Anne goes to college -- when I was ten or eleven. Near the beginning of Chapter 20 was this paragraph:
Anne looked up from Pickwick Papers. Now that spring examinations were over she was treating herself to Dickens.
Anne and her roommate Philippa go on to chat a bit about Pickwick and how it's a book that makes you hungry because everyone in it is always feasting. But it was that phrase "treating herself to Dickens" that caught my eye and stuck in my memory. I must have had some vague idea that Dickens was one of those famous classic authors, because I remember how I liked the thought of a classic author that you treated yourself to, one who provided an enjoyable escape from the stresses of school and of life in general. That wasn't the way people usually talked about classic authors. It made this one sound pretty special.
So I like to think I owe L. M. Montgomery a debt of gratitude for predisposing me to think well of the great Victorian author I would meet a few years later. Thanks to her, as well as to Charles Dickens himself for nearly twenty years of reading pleasure. Here's to many more!