Friday, February 3, 2012

Dickens-isms

On February 7, 2012, people world-wide will mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth and will continue to honor his legacy throughout the year. Dickens, inarguably the most successful author of the Victorian era, not only remains popular today, but has had a lasting influence on western culture.


Picking up Carmen Agra Deedy’s newest juvenile fiction book, The Cheshire Cheese Cat and turning to the first page I read, “He was the best of toms, he was the worst of toms.” The setting is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a London pub frequented by Dickens in the mid-nineteenth century. (And yes – the main character is a cat!) As Alfred Hitchcock shows up in each of his own stories, even more so Dickens appears not only in his books but as a part of the English language. Being labeled a ‘scrooge’ is universally accepted as a negative trait in direct opposition to the far, far better thing Sidney Carton did. And if you thought Joe Friday was the first to ask for ‘just the facts,’ check out the first sentences of Hard Times.

Dickens lived or observed first hand most of the life he wrote about. His father lived beyond his means as did Mr. Micawber, also resulting in time spent in a debtors’ prison. The boot black factory where the 12 year old Dickens worked six days a week, ten and a half hours a day becomes the bottle factory of David Copperfield. A workmate, Bob Fagins, is written into Oliver Twist; his sister Fanny appears in A Christmas Carol. His sister-in-law Mary became David Copperfield’s Agnes; Lucy Manette in A Tale of Two Cities, and had a fate similar to Little Nell in that she died too young.

His environment is portrayed so vividly that “Dickensian England” brings to mind pea-soup fog , poor working conditions, low pay and long hours. How about “butterflies are free?” No, not original to the movie of the same name or to Mark Twain. You got it – Charles Dickens.

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mr. Dickens’ birth in February, come visit the library and try to guess which title the posted quote of the week came from. Prizes will be awarded each week.  You may find his ghost inhabiting surprising parts of your life too!

Quotes will be posted beginning February 6.

Nancy @ Warrenton

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