Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens!

200 years ago today, the greatest English novelist the world has ever known was born. Surviving a childhood fraught with difficulties and an adulthood burdened with immense talent, Charles Dickens is to this day known for his terrific characters, complicated plots, and intricate romances. Many novelists have come and gone, but Dickens remains rooted in our subconscious – love him or hate him, he is there, along with such unforgettable figures as Ebenezer Scrooge or Oliver Twist.

I’m not entirely certain when my own fascination with his works came about, but I do remember that the first of his literary works that I really loved was found in the form of the big screen adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Even though it differs somewhat from the source material, it was enough to draw me into Dickens’ world of secrets, lies, murder, betrayal, and astonishing revelations. I tend to like melodramatic material and it is in abundance in the world he creates, from the marshes to debtor’s prison and beyond. His villains range from the sublime and charismatic to the uncouth and horrific. One needs look no further than Mr. Tulkinghorn if you want a notoriously evil man content merely to ruin others’ lives and hopes, or to the politely deferring Skimpole for a first class glimpse of a financial leech.

Perhaps, though, what makes Dickens so marvelous is that his stories are still relevant and relatable – even though we may not have lived in a debtor’s prison, the collapse of the bank involved in a money scheme and the ruin of everyone involved is more than familiar in Little Dorrit, and it is human nature never to outgrow lust, or greed, or desire, or foolishness, as many of his other characters discover along their difficult lives. His works abound with beautiful, pure heroines, diabolical scoundrels, and enough twists and turns to make any lover of mystery novels delighted.

Thank you, Mr. Dickens, for teaching me the distinction between a good plot and a great one, for showing me a world that I very much would like to be a part of but at the same time am grateful not to be, and for inspiring me as a writer with your array of complicated and hilarious characters. Whether I am reading one of your novels or watching an adaptation of it, my heart never fails to be moved. Long may you be remembered.

Please visit Dickensblog! Gina has all sorts of exciting things going on.

More Dickens-esque things will be posted on this blog in the coming days.

For those interested, I have compiled a list of reviewed Dickens adaptations:

Bleak House (2005)

David Copperfield (1999)

David Copperfield (2000)

A Christmas Carol (2005)

A Christmas Carol (2009)

Great Expectations (1999)

Great Expectations (2011)

Little Dorrit (2008)

Martin Chuzzlewit (1994)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012)

Nicholas Nickleby (2001)

Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

Oliver Twist (1999)

Oliver Twist (2007)

Our Mutual Friend (1998)

3 Replies to “Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens!”

  1. Your list of reviewed adaptations made me remember how much I loved the 2000 version of David Copperfield…I wish that had been released on DVD in the States!

    1. I know. I’ve been hanging onto my outdated “for Emmy consideration” VHS for years. I could buy the international version (it’s really easy to hack inexpensive DVD players) but I keep holding out, hoping Hallmark gets around to releasing it on DVD.

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