Unbelievably its 150 years since the death of Charles Dickens!
Charles John Haffam Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7th February 1812 and died in June 1870, is still regarded by many as the greatest English writer and social commentator of the Victorian era.
Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education, and other social reforms.
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. Cliff hanger endings in his serial publications kept readers in suspense which was a brand-new means of audience engagement. It is said that many of the poor, who were mostly illiterate themselves, contributed half pennies to a kitty so that they could buy each new monthly episode and have it read to them thus opening up a different experience for a new kind of “reader”.
Perhaps Dicken’s most famous and most loved book is ‘A Christmas Carol’ which he wrote in 1843, together with Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, bring an insight to the Victorian way of life that no other writer has achieved. The term “Dickensian” has now become synonymous with poor social living conditions.
A trip to his home at Doughty Street in London where he wrote many of his most famous tales, is well worth a visit. The museum is now open again at weekends (Friday to Sunday) after lockdown from 10am to 4pm. Timed entry tickets can be obtained on line at the museum’s website www.dickensmuseum.com which enables government restrictions on social distancing to be observed.