200 Years of Charles Dickens


MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           JULY 29 , 2012           00.30 A.M.

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

Charles Dickens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago , when I was still a child , my grand father introduced me to the world of books . He bought some books from Gita Press , Gorakhpur and gave them to me . Those were illustrated books about the lives of Bhagwan Ram and Bhagwan Krishna . Each illustration was explained with the help of a couplet . I still remember the name of the books ; BAL CHITRAMAYA RAM LEELA and BAL CHITRAMAYA KRISHNA LEELA  . I read those books countless times , almost mugged up each line and I still possess those books in my library in Deoria .

Since then I was hooked to the world of books and the fascination still continues many decades later . When I was in High School , I became member of GHARELU LIBRARY YOJNA of  HIND POCKET BOOKS , which was initiated by a famous Hindi publication house , Rajpal & Sons .

I used to order books and used to receive them through post office . One muggy afternoon , when the post man delivered packet of books to me , I opened the packet with excitement . There was a book titled DO SHEHRON KI DASTAN . I glanced the book and went through the introduction and got to know the name of the writer . It was Charles Dickens . I also got to know that original name of the book in English . It was A TALE OF TWO CITIES .

It was my first introduction with the celebrated British writer . Though I could not complete the reading because I got bored . Many years later , when I was doing post graduation in Allahabad University , I got to know the writer once again . A TALE OF TWO CITIES was in my course and this time I was able to understand it properly . I then realized beauty of his prose and appreciated his style of narration . Hindi translation , which I read years ago , was not lucid enough .

 

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

When I read in the papers that 2012 is the 200th birth anniversary of the celebrated British author and novelist , I decided to note down my encounter of Charles Dickens also . These old memories , which were consigned in some dark and hither to unvisited corners of my being , rushed to the firmament and I decided to become a part of the 200th anniversary celebration of Charles Dickens .

My curiosity reached its zenith , when I read a news item in a paper . The heading was enough to draw my again to Charles Dickens .  ”  Christopher and Jonathan Nolan Explain How A TALE OF TWO CITIES Influenced THE DARK KNIGHT RISES “

Charles Dickens a.k.a. Charles John Huffam Dickens , ( 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic who is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period and the creator of some of the world’s most memorable fictional characters .During his lifetime Dickens’s works enjoyed unprecedented popularity and fame , and by the twentieth century his literary genius was fully recognized by critics and scholars . His novels and short stories continue to enjoy an enduring popularity among the general reading public .

Born in Portsmouth , England , Dickens left school to work in a factory after his father was thrown into debtors’ prison . Though he had little formal education , his early impoverishment drove him to succeed . He edited a weekly journal for 20 years , wrote 15 novels and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles , lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer , and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights , education , and other social reforms .

 

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dickens rocketed to fame with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers . Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity , celebrated for his humour , satire , and keen observation of character and society . His novels , most published in monthly or weekly instalments , pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction , which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication .The instalment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience’s reaction , and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback . For example , when his wife’s chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities , Dickens went on to improve the character with positive lineaments . Fagin in Oliver Twist apparently mirrors the famous fence , Ikey Solomon ; His caricature of Leigh Hunt in the figure of Mr Skimpole in Bleak House was likewise toned down on advice from some of his friends , as they read episodes . In the same novel , both Lawrence Boythorne and Mooney the beadle are drawn from real life – Boythorne from Walter Savage Landor and Mooney from ‘Looney’ , a beadle at Salisbury Square . His plots were carefully constructed , and Dickens often wove in elements from topical events into his narratives .Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha’pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them , opening up and inspiring a new class of readers .

Dickens was regarded as the ‘literary colossus’ of his age .His 1843 novella , A Christmas Carol , is one of the most influential works ever written , and it remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre . His creative genius has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to G. K. Chesterton and George Orwell—for its realism , comedy , prose style , unique characterisations , and social criticism . On the other hand Oscar Wilde , Henry James and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth , loose writing , and a vein of saccharine sentimentalism .

Most of Dickens’s major novels were first written in monthly or weekly instalments in journals such as Master Humphrey’s Clock and Household Words , later reprinted in book form . These instalments made the stories cheap , accessible and the series of regular cliff-hangers made each new episode widely anticipated . When The Old Curiosity Shop was being serialized , American fans even waited at the docks in New York , shouting out to the crew of an incoming ship , “Is little Nell dead ? ” Part of Dickens’s great talent was to incorporate this episodic writing style but still end up with a coherent novel at the end .

Charles Dickens published over a dozen major novels , a large number of short stories (including a number of Christmas-themed stories) , a handful of plays , and several non-fiction books . Dickens’s novels were initially serialised in weekly and monthly magazines , then reprinted in standard book formats .

Novels

Short story collections

Christmas numbers of Household Wordsmagazine:

  • What Christmas Is, as We Grow Older (1851)
  • A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire (1852)
  • Another Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire (1853)
  • The Seven Poor Travellers (1854)
  • The Holly-Tree Inn (1855)
  • The Wreck of the “Golden Mary” (1856)
  • The Perils of Certain English Prisoners (1857)
  • A House to Let (1858)
Christmas numbers of All the Year Roundmagazine:

  • The Haunted House (1859)
  • A Message from the Sea (1860)
  • Tom Tiddler’s Ground (1861)
  • Somebody’s Luggage (1862)
  • Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings (1863)
  • Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy (1864)
  • Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions (1865)
  • Mugby Junction (1866)
  • No Thoroughfare (1867)

Selected non-fiction, poetry, and plays

[ Facts of his life and list of the books , written by him , are taken from Wikipedia . I express my deep gratitude . ]

 

Charles Dickens, ca. 1865

Charles Dickens & His Famous Chair (Photo credit: Penn State Special Collections Library)

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