An article in the Independent gives details of Dickens's long involvement with the hospital and the various ways that he raised support for it, including "a disguised advertisement" in Our Mutual Friend.
San Francisco's annual festival began this weekend and will continue (on weekends) through December 20. Articles about the fair are here, here, and here. That last article is especially fun, as it features several interviews with people who've participated in the Fair over the years, whether playing characters, selling wreaths, or even stalking Bill Sikes!
Mitchell Kalpakgian has an excellent piece about Hard Times in Crisis magazine. Here's a short excerpt: "Dickens illustrates that the so-called 'useful' things of the world—facts, work, and money—ultimately prove to be useless in life’s major crises, while the 'useless' activities scorned by the utilitarians—play, friendship, charity, hope, and beauty—prove to be infinitely valuable and, ultimately, more beneficial than facts."
Director Guillermo del Toro has some truly glowing words for Charles Dickens in an interview with Latin Post, calling him "the greatest author that ever lived." And he doesn't stop there! Go here to read more, including how Great Expectations helped inspire del Toro's new film, Crimson Peak. Thanks to Dean for the tip.
John Mark Reynolds (whom I know personally) has an interesting blog post up about how Dickens had a "prophetic vision of Western education: the rise of Gradgrind" in Hard Times. There are some good insights here, but I'm not sure whether I wholly agree with his remark that "Against Gradgrind, Dickens had nothing positive to say" -- meaning, I take it, that he offered no alternative vision of how education should be.
It wasn't Dickens's purpose in this novel to compare and contrast differing approaches to education. But it's worth nothing that in other books, perhaps most notably David Copperfield, he did offer portraits of good schools where pupils were inspired and encouraged by good teachers, which effectively serve as a counter to the Gradgrind idea of school.
That's my opinion, anyway. Would be interested to hear some of yours!