"In a sense, Dickens was a greater mystery to his contemporaries than he is to us: they had absolutely no clue as to where it all came from -- the darkness, the passionate empathy with the disadvantaged, the massive driving energy, the overwhelming willpower. Only two years after Dickens's interment at Westminster Abbey, John Forster, exactly as Dickens had intended, in a masterly piece of posthumous stage-management, let the cat out of the bag: the source of so much in his work -- and his life -- suddenly became clear. But nothing can account for a man like Dickens. Not that there ever has been any man like Dickens: quite aside from the stupendous scope of his writing, his personality and his life are of almost overwhelming richness. It is one of the greatest of English Lives, both humbling and heart-warming, despite titanic flaws. It would be wonderful to think that there might be a second Dickens, but there have so far been no sightings."
-- Simon Callow, Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World, p. 350
Happy birthday, dear Mr. Dickens.
(You don't look a day over 200.)
(Photo from Dickens birthday celebration in Clark Park, Philadelphia, Pa., February 3, 2013. Photo courtesy of Herb Moskovitz, The Buzfuz.)