Dickens died on this date 146 years ago. As Peter Ackryod writes in Dickens, "Charles Dickens died at the very height of the 'Victorian' age, and yet in his death one of its moving spirits had crept away. Part of its soul had gone."
On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, it's worthwhile for us Dickensians to recall and appreciate his immense influence on the novelist we love. As Paul Schlicke tells us, "For Dickens Shakespeare was 'the great master who knew everything,' whose plays were 'an unspeakable source of delight.' It has been well said that 'No one is better qualified to recognise literary genius than a literary genius,' and no other author has had so profound an effect on Dickens."
I got into a debate over Dickens on a message board (as you do) some time ago. One of my fellow posters who is not a fan challenged me to explain what I love about Dickens. I promised to do a full blog post on the subject, and then I got busy doing other things and never got around to it.
But today we Dickensians celebrate our beloved author's 204th birthday. So, it occurred to me, what better way to celebrate than to answer the question: Why do I love Dickens?
In honor of Dickens's birthday, the Chatham-Kent branch of the Dickens Fellowship will host a celebration featuring dramatic readings and a talk by historians Bryan and Shannon Prince. The Chatham DailyNews reports, "The organization has invited the Princes to present original work comparing the views of slavery and abolition of Charles Dickens and Harriet Beecher-Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin." The event will be held February 19.
As I mentioned earlier, today marks the 150th anniversary of the Staplehurst Rail Crash and the 145th anniversary of Dickens's death. In honor of this dual anniversary, I shall let Dickens speak for himself on both subjects (from his postscript to Our Mutual Friend):
"On Friday the ninth of June in the present year Mr. and Mrs. Boffin (in their manuscript dress of receiving Mr. and Mrs. Lammle at breakfast) were on the South Eastern Railway with me, in a terribly destructive accident. When I had done what I could to help others, I climbed back into my carriage -- nearly turned over a viaduct, and caught aslant upon the turn -- to extricate the worthy couple. They were much soiled, but otherwise unhurt. The same happy result attended Miss Bella Wilfer on her wedding-day, and Mr. Riderhood inspecting Bradley Headstone's red neckerchief as he lay asleep. I remember with devout thankfulness that I can never be much nearer parting company with my readers for ever, than I was then, until there shall be written against my life the two words with which I have this day closed this book -- THE END."
This Tuesday, June 9, will mark not only the 145th anniversary of Dickens's death, but also the 150th anniversary of the train accident at Staplehurst that came close to taking his life. Dickens scholar Ruth Richardson has come up with the idea of sending flowers to the Staplehurst Rail Station that day, as "a gesture of THANKSGIVING for Dickens's survival." If you'd like to participate, David Perdue has posted the details at the Charles Dickens Page.
Two hundred years ago today, on May 19, 1815, Catherine Hogarth Dickens was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Thanks to The Buzfuz for the tip!)
Of all I've read about Charles Dickens's wife and all that she went through, my favorite remains Gaynor Arnold's novel Girl in a Blue Dress. Though the story is fictionalized and the names are changed, the book is full of profound emotional and psychological truth, and pays a great tribute to this woman about whom we know so much and yet so little.
And so, in honor of her birthday, here's a passage from that book about a pivotal moment in her life:
Though they didn't always see eye-to-eye, both Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope knew what it was to be a giant of Victorian literature, and both had, at some level, an appreciation of each other's talent. Dickens once wrote of Trollope (in an 1869 letter to Trollope's brother), "He is a perfect cordial to me, whenever and wherever I see him, as the heartiest and best of fellows."
So let us Dickensians wish Mr. Trollope a very happy bicentenary!
As today is both Shakespeare's birthday and St. George's Day, the Irish Timestook the opportunity to celebrate English writers -- including, of course, Dickens! Writer Eileen Battersby refers to Shakespeare and Dickens as "a formidable pairing."