Celebrations mark birth of Charles Dickens

Prince Charles led global celebrations on Tuesday marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, one of English literature’s most revered novelists who wrote Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities.

Britain’s heir-to-the-throne visits the Charles Dickens Museum in London where US actress Gillian Anderson, who played Miss Havisham in a BBC adaptation of Great Expectations, will read from the novelist’s work.

The prince then goes to Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the grave of a writer whose stories and characters have lived on in countless stage and screen adaptations.

There actor Ralph Fiennes, Dickens biographer Claire Tomalin and the author’s great-great grandson Mark Dickens will be readers at a special service in Poets’ Corner, where Dickens was buried in 1870 alongside Geoffrey Chaucer, Tennyson, Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling and other great writers.

The event will mark the largest ever gathering of Dickens’ descendants, with over 200 family members attending.

Social justice
“This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day,” said the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, referring to Dickens’ preoccupation with social justice in his work and life.

The British Council is staging a global “read-a-thon” with 24 readings from 24 Dickens texts in 24 hours, starting in Australia and taking in countries including Iraq, China and Pakistan.

Ongoing events coinciding with the anniversary include exhibitions in Zurich, New York and across Britain, theatrical performances by professional actors and school children alike and an online tribute from bloggers in Spain.

Dickens’ lasting international appeal stems from the fact that his gripping and vivid stories remain relevant today.

His early experiences labouring as a child in a factory while his father sat in prison for unpaid debts fuelled his ambition and inspired some of his most famous characters and settings, probably including Fagin in Oliver Twist.

Whiff of scandal
Dickens’ first short story appeared in 1833, around the time he became a parliamentary reporter in London.

His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was serialised in 1836 and became a success, and was followed by Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.

The author travelled to the US in 1842 and 1867 on reading tours, and in between produced some of his most acclaimed books — Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.

He carried with him the whiff of scandal when, in his mid-forties, he met teenager Ellen Ternan, and their relationship led to his separation from Catherine, his wife and mother to his 10 children.

The author died at his home near Rochester in Kent in 1870 aged 58, and was buried in Poets’ Corner inside Westminster Abbey. Thousands of people visited his open grave to pay their respects and throw flowers before it was closed. — Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Mike Collett White
Guest Author

Related stories

Sochi Olympics kick off with a glitch before fairy tale show

One Olympic ring failed to unfurl but President Vladmir Putin nonetheless declared Russia's Winter Games open under a burst of fireworks.

JK Rowling steps into unknown with adult debut

JK Rowling has taken a step into the unknown with the publication of her debut adult novel "The Casual Vacancy".

South Korean film wins Venice as Hoffman, Phoenix honoured

Pieta, an ultra-violent story of a loan shark confronted by a woman claiming to be his mother, has won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival.

Curtain raises on 65th Cannes Film Festival

Comedy will dominate the opening of the Cannes film festival, with Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Sacha Baron Cohen's anarchic General Aladeen.

Adele adds more trophies to her cabinet at Brit Awards

The biggest awards night in British music honoured artists often left out of other international ceremonies.

The restless genius whose life reads like a novel

Two hundred years after Charles Dickens's birth on February 7 1812, his energetic, blazing life still fascinates us, writes <b>Jenny Uglow</b>.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Durban city manager says NPA erred in his bail conditions

The corruption-fraught metro is coming to grips with having a municipal manager who is on bail for graft, yet has returned to work

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday