Today is the birthday of Charles Dickens.

He of my favorite authors.

He grew up in poverty and misery, witnessing firsthand social injustice and awful conditions. Many of his works are intentionally bleak to make his readers aware about conditions in England in the 19th century.

He often wrote in segments for magazines. He was the J.K. Rowling of his time. People would wait for the latest segment of a story. A famous story is people waiting on a New England dock for an English ship to arrive with the latest installment of “Old Curiosity Shop”. People shouted to the sailors as they docked “Is Little Nell dead? (the heroine in the series)”. When Queen Victoria wrote a book of her own, she was told it had ‘outsold Dickens” which was some feat.

Nowadays Dickens is a challenge to read. 21st century minds have been trained to have short attention spans; it is hard to concentrate on 19th century novels. I have to admit Dickens can be ‘wordy’ at times. Sometimes I prefer to hear a Dickens novel by way of CD.

My favorite Dickens novel is Bleak House.

Here is a clip from the BBC production – please watch it – it is stunning.

His characters are not two dimensional as is sometimes assumed. They are predominantly of one temperament, but we all know people like that. Dickens had compassion for his characters; his villeins can be as tragic as Shakespeare.

Sometimes when patients wonder what makes life worth living I joke –

Shakespeare

Mozart

The Marx Brothers

and

The Novels of Charles Dickens

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