Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Dickens!

While the heft of Great Expectations may strike fear into 9th graders’ hearts year after year, much of the world regards Charles Dickens as the greatest Victorian novelist who ever lived. He was prolific in both writing (15+ novels!) and in life (10 children!). There are dozens of Dickens exhibitions around the world, a “Dickens World” theme park in Kent, and nearly 50 film/miniseries adaptations of his work. Even if you haven’t read any of his stories, it’s unlikely that you’ve escaped familiarity with some of his most memorable literary contributions:

  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (A Tale of Two Cities)
  • “Bah! Humbug!” (A Christmas Carol)
  • “Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” (Great Expectations)
  • “Please, sir, I want some more.” (Oliver Twist)
  • “A loving heart was better and stronger than wisdom.” (David Copperfield)
  • Ebenezer Scrooge, Oliver Twist, The Artful Dodger, Samuel Pickwick, Philip Pirrip (Pip), and dozens of other creatively & aptly named characters.

And a few fun trivia snippets you may not know:


  • Often went by the nickname “Boz.”
  • Narrowly escaped death in an 1865 train crash.
  • Earned money as a child by pasting labels on shoe polish bottles (while his father was in debtor’s prison).
  • Was NOT the source of the phrase, “What the Dickens?” (Shakespeare used the expression in The Merry Wives of Windsor.)

If you’d like to celebrate Dickens’ bicentenary, check out Dickens2012 for a calendar of events, or visit your neighborhood Half Price Books and pick up one (or all) of the author’s famous novels. Still pining for Dickensian delights? Try the Charles Dickens action figure, Oliver Twist iPod charger, or this  t-shirt.

Have you read much Dickens? Which is your favorite of his novels?

— Kate

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