The literary icon Charles Dickens would have been 205 years old today.
If he was still with us, the Hampshire born writer would have no doubt have spent a day book signing at Waterstones, prior to moving on to his local Berni Inn for a carvery with his great, great, great, grandchildren.
After all that excitement, his evening would revolve around relaxing with the Mrs, while watching Vera on ITV1.
The man lauded for his timeless tales of Victorian fictional characters and starting every sentence with ‘Ye olde’, would undoubtedly shun a ‘knees up’. At the age of 205 years old he’d no doubt be tired when Vera had finished at 9 pm.
Unlike many of the characters he wrote about, he would have retired to bed with a full stomach and happy memories spent with his great, great, great, grandchildren.
Additionally, he’d been pleased with himself for identifying the murderer on Vera only ten minutes into the plot.
What would his take have been on today’s fictional authors? Men and women of creativity who cannot fail to have been influenced in some way by his seminal writing, that is as loved now as when it was written in Victorian times?
Dickens would no doubt despair of the laziness of writers for omitting ‘Ye olde’ at the start of each sentence. He may also have something to say about the demise of miserly men of affluence and young urchins in top hats picking pockets in London town. Although some may argue our current government are doing their utmost to bring them back! …… Except for the top hats!
The sadly missed top hat, as modelled by the Artful Dodger
Dickens was labelled a ‘creative genius’ by many of his literary peers of the time. Contemporaries like Tolstoy and Orwell waxed lyrical about the realism, social comment, innovative characters and the humour in his work.
They also gave him kudos for use of the name Chuzzlewit; a first in English literature at a time when use of names including the letter ‘z’ was frowned upon.
Dickens critics such as Oscar Wilde complained his work lacked depth. However, Wilde did reverse an earlier criticism that Dickens work wasn’t realistic, after receiving overnight visits from three ghosts one Christmas Eve.
The prolificacy of Dickens output, not just the high quality of writing, was another of his skills acknowledged by peers and readers alike. Bearing in mind he fathered 11 children, many wondered how the hell he had time to write!
A man of no significant education who left school at 15, Dickens himself admitted ”Although I am not an educated man, I am able, I am thankful to say, to have an intelligent interest in most things……. Oh and have you any idea what time Vera starts on ITV tonight?”
It is opined that the imprisonment of his father for debt when Dickens was 12-year-old, was a defining moment in his life. Charles was sent to work in a factory to help support the family, where conditions heavily influenced his thoughts on social conditions of the time.
This episode is thought to have tainted the erudite, sensitive boy and contributed significantly to everything he accomplished. He never publicly acknowledged this account of his story, but literary critics believe he did so obliquely through his fiction.
I started this monologue with a tongue in cheek look at how I believed Charles Dickens may spend his birthday, if he was around today. This wasn’t out of disrespect, as I hugely admire the man and his work.
My reasons were solely to have a creative wander around what the greatest Victorian writer would perhaps indulge in on his birthday in 2017.
I’d guess he would probably despair at the text speak in the messages from his great, great, great, grandchildren. When he received texts of ‘HB papa’, ‘Av kl bd x’ and ‘You are due a refund for being missold PPI.’ there would no doubt be a despairing shake of the head, along with a disapproving look for bastardisation of the English language.
However, that despair would abate at 8pm when, clad in pj’s, dressing gown and holding a mulled wine, he sat in his reclining chair to watch Vera on TV.
Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!
The Hampshire home Dickens was born in 205 years ago today