Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens !

Yesterday was the 200th birth anniversary of Charles Dickens, and as not surprisingly Google came up with a doodle to commemorate the occasion.

Google Doodle on 7 February 2012, in memory of Charles Dickens' 200th birth anniversary

This charming doodle evoked the era and times of the world that the characters from Dickens’ books inhabited. Surely one can see the ghost from A Christmas Carol as well as Fagin from Oliver Twist, and Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop in the doodle? And is that an adult David Copperfield in the curve of the second ‘g’ in the doodle? Or is it Nicholas Nickleby?

I love and loathe Charles Dickens or rather his characters in equal measure. David Copperfield is one of my favourite books, and I love the curmudgeonly Miss Copperfield, just as I loathe Fagin from Oliver Twist. When I read The Old Curiosity Shop, I cried over Nell’s fate and her loneliness. I found Great Expectations tedious and Nicholas Nickleby boring and worthy of a Bollywood film ! A Tale of Two Cities was incomprehensible the first time I read it; it took me a second reading of the book to appreciate the nuances and the plot. Love him or loathe him, one can never be indifferent to Charles Dickens.

That is the reason that there are so many museums and festivals dedicated to Charles Dickens across the world. One such place is  Rochester, in the Kent region of England, which hosts a Summer Dickens Festival every May, and a Dickensian Christmas every December. The Festivals give an opportunity for the townspeople to dress up in Dickensian costumes and have a good time. There is a lot of street entertainment, folk music, Punch and Judy shows, and readings from Charles Dickens’ books. In addition to this, the Swiss chalet like house that Dickens lived in while based in Rochester is open to the public.

All this makes Rochester a perfect place for tourists to visit. I was fortunate to visit Rochester in May 2009 on the last day of the Summer Dickens Festival. Some memories from that visit:

The people in Dickensian costumes seemed very much at home in Rochester in England. I was the one who felt out-of-place here in my jeans and T-shirt

More people in costume from Dickensian times at Rochester. And don't miss the restaurant's name :-)

I wonder which Dickensian character the man in brown coat represents. An adult David Copperfield perhaps?

While London does not have a festival dedicated to Dickens, it does have a Charles Dickens Museum (which to my everlasting regret I did not visit), and Dickens memorabilia in unexpected places.

A mural on Marylebone Road (London) marking the place where Charles Dickens lived for a while and created 6 memorable characters from his books

I stumbled across this charming shop in central London. No, this is not the original, Dickensian one, but only a recreation of what it must have been like !

To be honest, I never meant to write a post on Dickens or his 200th birthday for that matter. But the beautiful and charming Google doodle proved irresistible. I just had to dig into my digital library and pull out the relevant photographs associated with Charles Dickens and share them with you here. Hope you enjoyed it. :-)

P.S.: Who is your favourite character from a Charles Dickens book?

 

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30 thoughts on “Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens !

  1. Sudha, I loved the post! Talk of timely and topical! And the icing on the cake was that it was both well-written and had superb photos! I have a photo similar to the one you have posted, the one taken on Maryleborne Street.
    Long live your pen and the words that flow from it!
    God bless. Take care.
    Suma

    • Thanks, Suma. I actually have the Google Doodle to thank as it just inspired me to patch, er write this post in about 2 hours and back it up with relevant photographs that I unearthed. :-)

  2. That was a trip down nostalgia lane. i had read all of Dicken’s novels before I turned 11 — all unabridged. referring to dictionaries to understand the words, I couldn’t make much sense of them except maybe Oliver Twist. But when I read them all as a teenager, I could appreciate them. I loved the Tale of Two cities because it was part of history and that subject fascinated me back then. Also David Copperfield. I share your feelings about Nicholas Nickleby :)

    • David Copperfield is my all time Dickens favourite. I started off with an abridged version and over the years have seen movie adaptations, as well as serialised version on TV. While in London I would listen to the radio version on BBC’s Radio 4 and this was a great companion while writing my dissertation. Today I own a handsome hardback limited edition copy of this book with beautiful typography and lovely paper.

      It’s been a while since I read ‘A tale of Two Cities’ and it is time that I read it again. :-)

      BTW, I loved the phrase “a trip down nostalgia lane’.

  3. Charming post… full of nostalgia… I wish I could go back to my adolescence and immerse with all those unfinished classics which today battle for attention with marketing and business books. Though I’ve mentioned it at several occasions, but have to say it again that your simple and personal style of writing is very warm and realistic. I subconsciously associate your blogs with William Dalrymple’s travelogues [no hyperbole] :)
    Keep up the great work and if you’ve more photographs of this festival, a Flickr album will be great.

  4. I have read all except A Tale of 2 cities and The Old Curiosity Shop. i hated Oliver Twist, it seemed unbearable that such sorrow could exist. I don;t remember much of David Copperfield or Great Expectations. I liked Great Expectations though my favorite though was Nicholas Nickelby because it appealed to my Bollywood sensibilities. The one book that i never quite managed to finish was Hard Times. Too depressing :(

    • Aiyyo, too many grammatical mistakes, I meant to say I do not remember Great Expectations though I remember I liked it. My favorite was Nicholas Nickelby because it appealed to my Bollywood sensibilities

      • Bollywood senibilities, huh ? :-D

        Even I could not complete Hard Times or Bleak House, it was too depressing. And I don’t know if you would like ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ — it is just full of pathos. But try it, this one also may appeal to your Bollywood sensibilities :-)

    • Thanks, Prasant. Why don’t you try with an abridged version, if you find the size daunting? Or start off with David Copperfield, which is a semi-autobiographical book and is, in my opinion, Dickens’ best book?

  5. my first intro to dickens was when my aunt gifted me an abridged series of classics, among which was the tale of two cities… as u say, the first time around, i didnt really get the story, and it took multiple readings to actuallly understand the story! also among them were david copperfield, which i loved, and great expectations, which i didnt really enjoy… and dont even now… but for me, the best will always be the pickwick papers….. those days, i didnt buy books, since there was no place and too many books anyways, but when i scored a perfect 100 in science.. i was then in my 8th std, my mom made the mistake of asking me what i wanted.. needless to say, i wanted a book, and the book which called out to me from the store rack was the pickwick papers. over the years, i have read and re-read and re-re-read the book, god alone knows how many times, but the book never fails to lift my spirits.. today the book is in bad shapre… i have bound it a number of times… but i cant wait for samhith to grow up and read it so we can compare notes :D as of now, he loves the christmas carol, and has his own copy of an illustrated version, which he has read twice already, to my intense pride! just hope this love affair with his books goes on forever!

    • Ah, the joy of books, Anu. Knowing Samhith, I think his love affair with books will continue to grow :-)
      I have yet to read Pickwick Papers, the unabridged version, that is. So I am now going off to a book shop and try an hunt a copy for myself.

  6. Nice tribute to Charles Dickens! The Google doodle was indeed charming. Made me remember my favourite Dickens’ books, too!

    My favourite character is Mr. Micawber. I love it that he was able to be a success in thge end. :)

  7. That is a fine tribute and a charming collection of photographs remembering an author who strangely appears to be relevant to these times of our land. But then probably he is not, going by the putrid state of decadence our society is in.

    I wouldn’t say I was charmed by the characters that populate his books except probably in case of David Copperfield. As a child though, I was stirred by the hardships faced by Oliver Twist, like Zephyr. I have a question for you. If you loathe Dickens, how do you feel about Hardy?

    • Actually, I both love and loathe Dickens, or rather his characters. I have not been able to read Oliver Twist more than once, while David Copperfield charms me to pick up and read the book at least once a year.

      I read Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crow’ in school and I must confess that he bored me to death and I was not inspired to pick up his books. I did try reading Tess of D’uberville and found it terribly depressing and pessimistic and never tried reading his books after this attempt. But that was then and I was a teenager at that time. Maybe I need to read them again to see what I feel about his books now !

  8. Pingback: CHARLES DICKENS IN CATALAN « THE.CAT – LIVE FROM THE EUROZONE

  9. Loved the post. I have only started reading Dickens more now after reading abridged versions as a kid. I loved Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol and the characters have stayed on forever in my mind. Thanks for sharing pics of the Dickens festival. It all looks so quaint and real! Am really glad you gotta see that and share it with us. Btw, Did you eat in the Taste of Two Cities? :)

    • Thanks, Richa. I think its now time for me to read Oliver Twist, as an adult that is. The last time I read this book I was 17. Visiting Rochester’s Summer Dickens Festival was a real treat and I’m glad that I was able to make it there. :-)

      And no, I didn’t eat at ‘A Taste of Two Cities’, though I can’t remember why.

  10. Google’s doodles are thoughtful and I love them. Charles Dicken has to have been one of my favourite authors. You are right – some of his stories are depressing. I guess if we wrote about the poor in India today, it would be depressing too. But we don’t really see their hardship and pain and that is what he wanted to change. At the same time I do believe we’ve got to write about our own realities – the ordinary, urban, middle-class Indians. Wonder how much he has shaped our perception of ourselves and how much we try and emulate his characters – especially David Copperfield.

    • It is not just about the stories being depressing, it’s how much depressing they are and the characterisation too. All of A.J. Cronin’s books, particularly, The Hatter’s Castle, are more depressing.

      But then again, as an idealistic teenager and in my early 20s these books were not appreciated. As a realistic and mature (?) person today, I need to re-visit these books and see it my perception has changed.

  11. Lovely post! I enjoyed the Dicken’s festival photos and sure hope to be able to go there some time.

    My favourite Dickens would be Hard Times and a Tale of Two Cities,- Hard times because of its critique on formal education ( I read it at a time when I though i was a victim of such a system- my 12th standard :P) , A tale of Two cities, because i am a romantic ( atleast was in 9th standard. Cant agree more about Nicholas Nickleby. But I also hate David Copperfield, partly because I studied it one term in college as part of the English Literature course. Sometimes when you study things to death you hate it.

    I am reading the Pickwick papers too…soemthing i picked up in honour of the 200th anniversary. Many years ago, my grandmother gifted a set of Dickens complete works, 16, red, hardbound books with gold lettering, to my grandfather. Ever since its been the pride of my parent’s library. Theres extra pleasure in reading out of these love-filled, romantic gifts from a girl to a boy.

  12. Good to see you back here, Sumanya. :-) Glad you liked the post and I hope you get to visit the Dickens Festival in Rochester. It’s really wonderful.

    So now I know why I don’t like Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd”—I had the book for my 12th std. :-( Except for David Copperfield, I have read most of Dickens’ other works more than a decade back and I think it is perhaps time to re-visit them and see what I think of them now.

  13. I missed that doodle! Such a cutie it is. :)
    Oliver Twist has featured in my list of must-reads for a long time. I remember adoring the little boy and sympathizing with how tumultuous his life was. When they picked straws to ask for food and when he’d get beaten up, it would make my heart burn. When I think about Dickens’ works now, sometimes the ‘neatness’ gets on my nerves. You know, how well planned everything is and how the good guy wins in the end. But the goodness of his books and the charm of his characters is unfading.

    • Many of Dickens’ novels are dark but not always bleak. The subtle sense of humour always appeals to me. Except for David Copperfield, I haven’t read any of his books in a long time now. Time to re-read them all — except Nickolas Nickelby. I draw a line there !

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